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A View from David Appell

Earth: Critical

Yesterday the United Nations released its Millennium Ecosystem Assessment report, and it does not portend good things for planet Earth, especially the developing parts of the planet. Humans have depleted 60 percent of the world’s grasslands, forests, farmlands, rivers, and…

  • March 30, 2005

Yesterday the United Nations released its Millennium Ecosystem Assessment report, and it does not portend good things for planet Earth, especially the developing parts of the planet.

Humans have depleted 60 percent of the world’s grasslands, forests, farmlands, rivers, and lakes. By now you know the litany: biodiversity is disappearing, fisheries have collapsed, freshwater supplies are under great threats, air and water pollution threaten health, etc.

It’s easy to argue that the solution is for developing countries to get as rich as the developed countries.

But in our current technological state, becoming wealthy is correlated with energy use, which in turn is correlated with greenhouse gas emissions, which causes the granddaddy of environmental degradation, global warming.

Indeed, it’s through such pollution that the west, and especially the United States, has achieved its wealth and its relatively intact/recovered ecosystems.

So how are the developing countries to achieve this wealth without exacerbating the problem? Green technology, and plenty of it, seems the only answer, which is why the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment is something even technologists should be interested in.

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