Chapter 1 Summary: Introduction: Toward a Sustainable Future
Sustainability of the world's natural resources must occur to prevent repetitions of what happened on Easter Island, where population eventually exceeded its limited resources. The population's inability to adapt resulted in the loss of natural goods and services, which further resulted in the demise of the Easter Island culture and civilization. At one time, Easter Island was home to ten to twenty thousand people. Today, Easter Islanders number just a few thousand.
All over the world, population increases result in an enlarged ecological footprint. Sustenance of the population requires more and more natural resources and services, which increases pressure on both natural and human-managed ecosystems. Our current world may have reached the ecological limit on some resources, and most of the ways we currently use resources are unsustainable.
Fossil fuels are being used at a rate that is not sustainable, and the quantity of residual chemical emissions from fossil fuel use is accelerating climate change, leading to the loss of biodiversity and even human habitats, as can be seen in places such as Fuji Island and Venice, Italy. Ecological and economic summits demonstrate that relief from hunger and poverty through the assistance of developed countries is essential to devising sustainable living practices for the well-being of impoverished people and the planet.
Stewardship of resources by the world's populations, as opposed to consumption by the world's populations, is the requisite ethic for sustainability. Globalization can bring benefits from developed countries to underdeveloped ones through shared science and technology, such as the Internet. But globalization can also do harm when corporations press developing countries to exploit their natural resources, thus escalating environmental concerns.
Sound science permits accurately represented descriptions of the world's ecosystems. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment continues to describe the status and trends of global ecosystems and how human systems affect them. As increasing populations expand ecological footprints, we continue to draw down our ecosystem capital. Sound science must guide us toward sound ecological management and government policy decisions related to our ecosystem capital, which is the goods and services (fuel, food, shelter, recreation, etc.) provided by our natural resources.