families are able to invest relatively more in a smaller number of beloved children, trying to prepare them for a better future.”*
SUSTAINABILITY OF THE NATURAL WORLD AS EVERYONE'S RESPONSIBILITY
n addressing environmental problems, all countries face hard choices. This is particularly so when it is perceived that there are short-term tradeoffs between economic growth and environmental protection, and where there are limited financial resources. But the downside risks to the earth — our environmental life support system — over the next generation and beyond are too great to ignore. Current trends in environmental degradation from human activities combined with the unavoidable increase in global population will take us into unknown territory.
Other factors, such as inappropriate governmental policies, also contribute in nearly every case. Many environmental problems in both rich and poor countries appear to be the result of policies that are misguided even when viewed on short-term economic grounds. If a longer-term view is taken, environmental goals assume an even higher priority.
The prosperity and technology of the industrialized countries give them greater opportunities and greater responsibility for addressing environmental problems worldwide. Their resources make it easier to forestall and to ameliorate local environmental problems. Developed countries need to become more efficient in both resource use and environmental protection, and to encourage an ethic that eschews wasteful consumption. If prices, taxes, and regulatory policies include environmental costs, consumption habits will be influenced. The industrialized countries need to assist developing countries and communities with funding and expertise in combating both global and local environmental problems.
Mahmoud F. Fathalla, “Family Planning and Reproductive Health: A Global Overview,” invited paper presented at the 1993 Science Summit, Delhi, India, 26 October 1993.
Mobilizing “technology for environment” should be an integral part of this new ethic of sustainable development.
For all governments it is essential to incorporate environmental goals at the outset in legislation, economic planning, and priority setting; and to provide appropriate incentives for public and private institutions, communities, and individuals to operate in environmentally benign ways. Tradeoffs between environmental and economic goals can be reduced through wise policies. For dealing with global environmental problems, all countries of the world need to work collectively through treaties and conventions, as has occurred with such issues as global climate change and biodiversity, and to develop innovative financing mechanisms that facilitate environmental protection.
WHAT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY CAN CONTRIBUTE TOWARD ENHANCING THE HUMAN PROSPECT
s scientists cognizant of the history of scientific progress and aware of the potential of science for contributing to human welfare, it is our collective judgment that continuing population growth poses a great risk to humanity. Furthermore, it is not prudent to rely on science and technology alone to solve problems created by rapid population growth, wasteful resource consumption, and poverty.
The natural and social sciences are nevertheless crucial for developing new understanding so that governments and other institutions can act more effectively, and for developing new options for limiting population growth, protecting the natural environment, and improving the quality of human life.
Scientists, engineers, and health professionals should study and provide advice on:
Cultural, social, economic, religious, educational, and political factors that affect reproductive behavior, family size, and successful family planning.