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sd as a new paradigm - SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT THE NEED FOR...

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SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT: THE NEED FOR A NEW PARADIGM GEOFFREY P. GLASBY Laboratory for Earthquake Chemistry, Graduate School of Science, University of Tokyo, 7-3-1 Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-0033, Japan; 42, Warminster Crescent, Sheffield S8 9NW, England (e-mail: [email protected]) (Received 30 November 2001; accepted 27 September 2002) Abstract. At present, the term sustainable development is misleading because we actually live in a markedly unsustainable world and conditions will become even more unsustainable in the 21st century. Indeed, the 21st century will be the defining period in man’s occupation of this planet. Either we take very positive steps to ameliorate our environmental excesses now or we face the prospect of major environmental catastrophes in the future. It is a fact that advanced civilizations have collapsed twice within the last 5000 years in Europe and we must face up to the fact that a third collapse, this time on a global scale, is not beyond the realms of possibility. It is therefore up to us to begin using our considerable ingenuity to prepare for the future in a more rational manner than is presently the case. This article demonstrates clearly the dilemma that we now face. Key words: climate change, Edo period, environmental degradation, sustainable development, world economy, world population. 1. Introduction The bible commands man to ‘be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it, rule over the fish in the sea, the birds in heaven, and every living thing that moves upon the earth’ (Genesis 1, 28–30). Yet this is a tenuous proposition. If we look at European history, we see three main phases of civilization separated by dark ages: the Bronze Age within the area of the Aegean Sea (c. 3000–1200 BC) which ended with the collapse of Mycenae, the Greek and Roman civilizations which extended from c. 750 BC to c. 400 AD and the most recent phase which began in 1000 AD which was a turning point in the fortunes of western Europe (Nelson, 1999). The two dark ages have been described in the Encyclopædia Britannica (1998) as “two centuries of chaotic movements of tribes in Greece which ended in c. 900 BC” (v. 18, p. 605) and “the period between about 500 and 1000 AD which were marked by frequent warfare and a virtual disappearance of urban life” (v. 3, p. 888). History therefore tells us that advanced civilizations have collapsed twice within the last 5000 years in Europe. The question is: What is the chance of a third collapse? In fact, human history as we know it is defined by the present interglacial, the Holocene (11 500 BP-present; Roberts, 1998). The Great Flood (the flooding of the Black Sea basin between 7460 and 6820 BP; Ballard et al., 2000) is the first event to register on human consciousness. The great civilizations of India and China Environment, Development and Sustainability 4: 333–345, 2002.
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