should, of course, be restored first. However, inevitably, the time will come when society must consider which should have the highest priority—the technological or the ecological life-support system. The technological life-support system is getting almost exclusive attention, and the ecological life-support system practically none for reasons already discussed. However, assuming that the damage to the ecological life-support system cannot continue indefinitely, a time will come when trade-offs must be made between the two systems.
Until there is more robust information on the services provided by the ecological component of society's life-support system, several steps can be taken to keep options open.
- A diverse array of habitats should be maintained in as nearly pristine form as possible so that their ecosystem services can be measured. These will provide models for reconstructing damaged ecosystems and also furnish information on the impairment of ecosystem services, if any, when these habitats are used for a multiplicity of purposes as opposed to leaving them in their wild state. These pristine habitats also serve educational roles.
- The biotic impoverishment, or loss of species, that is occurring globally at a disturbing rate should be substantially decreased as a matter of prudence until more is known about the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem services. Of particular concern are migratory species, such as birds, which may provide a variety of ecosystem services, many of which are not yet recognized. The crucial issue for migratory species is the fact that a loss of habitat anywhere in their migratory cycle could result in their extinction or cause a dramatic reduction in population size and, thus, affect ecosystem services at points distant from the area of lost habitat.
- If reaching the maximum possible number of humans on the planet is a societal goal, there should be at least some discussion of whether this goal is most likely to be achieved over a long period through sustainable use or through the depletion of ecological capital as is now being done. If achieving the maximum possible number of humans is not a goal, some discussion of the desirable population size and the human condition permitted by that size is necessary.
- Enlightened discussion of the issues raised here will require a level of both environmental and technological literacy far beyond that now acquired by most graduates of educational institutions. Wholesale changes in beliefs may also be required to break the "jobs first, then environmental protection" mindset. These changes are likely to occur only following enhanced education.
- As society moves toward a global economy, it is essential to move toward global consensus on society's relationship to the ecological portion of the life-support system.
- Financial and other incentives should be devised to ensure that the appropriate data are gathered and that a group of professionals competent to make these measurements and judgments is produced by the educational system.