Need to integrate human ecology and nature

Green Futures -- Agenda for the 21st Century Sara Parkin Publisher: Fount Paperbacks, Harper Collins, London Price: £ 2.99

By Rakesh Kalshian
Published: Saturday 15 May 1993

IT IS TIME for a grand reconciliation between nature and us. Ecological economists fear we may have already entered an era of "uneconomic growth", which impoverishes rather than enriches. They remind us that however sophisticated our technology may be, it cannot hold back the sea or replace lost topsoil.

A positive green revolution, says erstwhile UK Green Party spokesperson Sara Parkin, is a necessity because the only alternative would be another dark age. Yet, there is a paralysis of will and imagination, especially among politicians, that ignores the overwhelming odds.

How do we shake off this inactivity and turn the next era in a positive direction? Parkin lays down in Green Futures a manifesto for all ecological minded political parties and governments.
Green priorities Topping this green agenda is a "historic compromise" between the rich and the poor, which is based on the premise that all countries are living beyond the means of the planet, that a path other than "development" -- greater consumption of energy and materials -- is accepted by both rich and poor countries, and that the rich will start repaying what they owe the poor.

Redefining security comes next. Worldwide, nearly 20 million people are thought to have died in armed conflict since 1945. But today 20 million die annually from hunger. The state of the environment, therefore, poses a greater threat to life than any war. And human security ought to be defined in terms of the number of communities that are able to satisfy the needs of its members near their homes, rather than in terms of battalions.

Redefining economics and moving towards ecological economics is integral to the green manifesto. Both ecology and economics come from the Greek word oikos or house, which should make us realise that economics should be all about good planetary housekeeping.

A green economy's production system must be based upon minimum use of energy and raw materials, maximum retention and minimum waste and pollution. And the starting point of switching to ecological economics will mean adoption of a more realistic method of measuring human well-being.

This agenda requires the integration of human ecology with the ecology of nature, for which it is important to control the human populations in poor as well as rich countries, and to rethink our political institutions and aim at sustainability over thousands of years rather than over a few decades. This will require a system whereby decisions can be taken at the smallest appropriate level, and cooperation rather than competition governs relationships at all levels.

However, does the green agenda have a chance of being adopted and implemented? Parkin acknowledges the recommended steps will put governments into an intensely uncomfortable position. "It means acknowledging that there is something wrong with the current notions of progress and success."

Thus, how the 21st century unfolds is a question of political and personal choices to be made by governments and by individuals. However, despite the enormity of the task, Parkin's manifesto nevertheless treats the global situation today as a great opportunity rather than a terminal crisis.
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