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Sustainable development means satisfying the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
This does not mean going back in time and doing without the benefits of modern society. On the contrary we need to make greater use of our human inventiveness to create technologies which are environmentally friendly. Farming methods should strike a balance between the use of renewable resources and their replacement. Where resources do not renew themselves quickly or easily such as tropical hardwood trees, which take many years to grow, alternatives should be developed. We can develop low energy utilising methods of existence based on renewable sources.
Science is concerned with factual information. The truth is the sum total of many facts. We manipulate facts and science to suit our beliefs. We can use science foolishly or wisely. We can apply science to building weapons or we can apply science to solving important ecological problems. Science is a tool. We choose how and when to use it. We can strengthen our procedures for screening new products. CFCs and the thalidomide drug are examples of how lax screening has been disastrous for the environment and people. We must remove any man-made chemicals which have potential for damaging the environment.
Growth in Human Population, Energy Consumption, Information and Mobility
New chemicals need to be subjected to a more rigorous scrutiny before they may be supplied for use. They should not be available for a period of at least 20 years during which tests and a graduated introduction into the environment can be made. This may frustrate some people but it will have a tempering effect on development which is currently too rapid and riddled with safety problems.
We do not understand the complex relationship between human activities (including the synthetic chemicals we produce) and the environment and need more research in this field. We need greater caution. We should not wait until we have 100% scientific proof that a material is dangerous. The discovery of the ozone hole in 1975 and its link with CFCs is a case in point. On the contrary we should have 100% conclusive knowledge that a chemical or genetically modified organism is safe before releasing it on the environment. We need efficient monitoring of the environment for changes in air, water, soil and numbers of flora and fauna.