Ecology and the Environment

A Nurturing Potential report


". . . to provide leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and people to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations".

This is part of the mission statement of The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

UNEP  was established to protect and promote the enhancement of the human environment. The first decision of the Governing Council in 1973 stated clearly  " . . . that the quality of human life must constitute the central concern of this Programme" and went on to say that in implementing the major functional responses of the Programme it should take into account the need to:

improve human health and well being;

conserve and enrich the productive resources that sustain life on this planet;

understand the effect of man's interaction with other components of the biosphere;

ensure a more efficient integration of developmental and environmental concerns; and

give special consideration to activities which benefit developing countries.

Unlike other UN specialised agencies and projects, UNEP does not have primary responsibility for executing projects at ground level.  Rather, it coordinates and stimulates activity and achieves its goals with many partners.  Its central task is to work within the system but it also works through intergovernmental and non­governmental organisations and with the scientific community, through research centres and institutes in many countries. 


When its Governing Council first met in 1973, after its inaugural meeting in Stockholm in 1972 [1], it further described UNEP's objectives as:

1. To provide, through study of natural and man­made ecological systems, educated management of the resources of the biosphere, and safeguards for human well­being as well as ecosystems.

2. To encourage and support planning and management of development, including that of natural resources, so as to take account of environmental consequences, to achieve maximum social, economic and environmental benefits.

3. To assist countries, especially developing countries, to deal with their environmental problems and to help to mobilise funding to support technical assistance, education, training and the free flow of information and exchange of experience that promotes the participation of developing countries in global efforts to preserve and enhance the environment.


Twenty years later, in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, the  UN Conference on Environment and Development - popularly known as the Earth Summit, confirmed  this as the role of the organisation. Now, a quarter century after the Stockholm Conference,  UNEP faces its strongest challenge: to implement an environmental agenda for sustainable development.


What is a sustainable community?

It is one which

recognises the environmental limitations to growth;;

respects cultural diversity;

educates the community in shared values;;

integrates environmental criteria into all aspects of governmental, business and personal decision-making processes; 

encourages the utilisation of local resources.

uses renewable and reliable sources of energy;

protects the natural environment;

does not compromise the sustainability of other communities.


Is this still possible?

There is considerable debate about whether or not we might already have passed the point at which present standards of production and consumption may reliably support the world's population, even when sustained.  

Industry and commerce in the developed world have much to learn about the need to eliminate waste.  If the most populous regions of the world (in the main they are the least developed) were to utilise natural resources at the same rate as their richer neighbours, Mother Earth would be hell bent to self-destruction i, rapidly outstripping the capacity of the earth, water, forests and agricultural lands to meet the needs of the population.

As stated above, it may already be too late for sustainability to rescue Earth from ecological disaster and all that may be possible is to delay this happening by the implementation of sensible policies, while other options are being explored.  How to achieve this without stringent governmental intervention, when the major industrialised nation on Earth is the largest and most wasteful culprit, and its Government steadfastly refuses to acknowledge its culpability, is another matter.

Here is the way Refrigerated Transportation [2] ends: "And so industry does not appear to be waiting, with bated breath, but continues to pursue the course of producing and using such refrigerants as are available, and presumably for as long as they remain available, permissible, and effective; and, possibly, even after only two of those three criteria are applicable.  The time must come when decisions will have to be made, but any major decisions will undoubtedly be deferred until they become inevitable.

"As Scarlett O'Hara said in Gone With the Wind: 'After all, tomorrow is another day'"


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You might be excused for thinking that this is already the case.


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[1] The complete declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm in 1972 may be found here.

[2] Refrigerated Transportation by Joseph Sinclair, second edition 1999, published by Witherby, London.


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Resources United Nationns Environment Programme an incredibly comprehensive list of links. a ecology site with a lot of information, wrapped up in a fun style, that will replay a lengthy browse.

And what is possibly the most exhaustive links list of all