Chapter 5: Options for Action

The future is now
Role of information
Changing policies and strengthening implementation

The year 2002 is the beginning of the fourth decade since the international community laid the foundation in 1972 for collective global action to mitigate adverse impacts on the environment. It finds one of the three pillars of sustainable development - the environment - seriously listing because of the distortions placed on it by the actions of a human population that now numbers more than 6 000 million. The importance of the environment is often underplayed even though its value to human survival and development is incalculable. The collapse of the environmental pillar is a serious possibility if action - from local to global - is not taken as a matter of urgency to address human impacts, which have left:

  • increased pollutants in the atmosphere;
  • vast areas of land resources degraded;
  • depleted and degraded forests;
  • biodiversity under threat;
  • increasingly inadequate freshwater resources of deteriorating quality; and
  • seriously depleted marine resources.

The environment is under siege. Unless both shortand long-term changes are instigated, sustainable development will remain a chimera - possibly only in the haze on a distant horizon. There is need for a balanced approach towards sustainable development. All three pillars - social, economic and environmental - are mutually supportive and all three are essential. Neglecting any one, and this is all too frequently the case with the environmental pillar, is not only shortsighted but leads to a policy dead end. The disintegration of the environmental pillar will lead to the inevitable collapse of the other, more charismatic pillars of sustainable development to which policy makers everywhere pay particular attention.