Session 3. The Conflict Between Man and Nature

18.10.2017

On October 18, the Programme of the 14th Annual meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club began with the third session, titled "The Conflict between Man and Nature". The experts discussed the causes and consequences of global environmental changes, climate and natural disasters, as well as possible answers to these increasingly acute challenges.

According to one of the scientists, the era of climate stability, which arrived 10 thousand years ago and provided the emergence of humanity, is coming to an end. The climate system is becoming more mobile, which is manifested by frequent hurricanes and other natural disasters. Judging by the whole spectrum of indicators, the significant and inevitable influence of man on nature played a big role, especially in the period after the Second World War. At present, the Earth's ecosystem is changing irrevocably; a new era in the history of the planet begins. There is an interlacing between the history of mankind and the history of the planet, since man has become a new force capable to change the planet.

According to another expert, humanity as a self-organizing system cannot exist without destroying the natural environment. All living organisms, being on different levels of food chains, destroy each other. The existence of the biosphere is possible only because of the activity of these cycles of living matter, which are strictly ordered and in detail "adjusted" to each other. He noted that the historical process of violent socio-economic changes inevitably led to aggravation of the contradictions between nature and man - a conflict of global character and significance.

Experts noted that over the past 25 years 10% of the wildlife was destroyed. The area of the lost wildlife almost everywhere exceeds the area of the territories, which were put under protection. On a global scale, 3.3 million square kilometers were lost, and 2.5 million square kilometers are now guarded. Taking into account that the world population will increase from 7 billion to 9 billion people by 2040, and the number of the middle class consumers will increase by 3 billion people in the next 20 years, the demand for resources will increase exponentially.

One of the experts also cited data, that by 2030 the world's need for food will increase by at least 50%, for energy - by 45%, and for water resources - by 30%. All this will happen at the moment, when thresholds of the environment state impose new restrictions, and climate change affects all aspects of the well-being of man and the planet.

The ability of the biosphere to produce resources has fallen due to the growing needs of mankind. If all the inhabitants of the Earth consume at the US level, humanity would need three planets like Earth to get the resources.

It is noteworthy, that the most vivid human reaction to climate change is the determination not to think about it and deploy a number of psychological protections against the warnings of scientists - thus, to behave as if nothing serious is happening. This is especially true in the United States, where a significant part of the population, as well as representatives of intellectual and political circles, prefer not to pay attention to the climate science. There is a process of denying the science that studies the climate.

Also, experts drew attention to the contrast between the attitude of Americans and Europeans to the issue of shale gas production. While Europeans want security guarantees to start drilling, Americans need proof of harm to stop it.

As condition to eliminate the conflict between man and nature, the experts called the inadmissibility of the fact that humanity in its current development is like a "cancerous" cell capable of destroying its organism - the biosphere. The improvement of the human life quality, they said, is related to the possibilities of the surrounding ecosystems and is limited by the capabilities of the Earth's biosphere.

One of the experts noted, that humanity needs to follow the path of socio-economically effective and environmentally secure creation, based on a single value perception of nature and the development of nature-friendly technologies.

Also, according to one of the participants, for sustainable development in harmony with nature there is a lack of common ethical norms that need to be worked out. Among them the expert named the Earth Charter, which calls on humanity to establish universal cooperation at a critical moment in our history and aims to move towards a sustainable way of life and sustainable human development. He expressed regret that the Earth Charter had not been considered by the UN General Assembly.

As one panelist noted, for decades the public opinion was dominated by the meaning that economic development is primary compared to the environmental issues. Now it's time to turn this logic around, because only when the ecology can protect the economy, it will develop. As a positive example, he cited the fact, that the negative trend in the growth of greenhouse gas emissions has been changed due to the competent policy of the states over the emission control.

For effective work it is necessary to discuss the risks, faced by specific regions. Experts also agreed with the need to involve the military in the discussion on the environmental problems, so that they begin to speak of them as a threat to the national security in their countries. This will significantly increase attention to the problems.

As a positive trend, the experts called the fact, that big companies and corporations already put environmental goals; private business pays more attention to sustainable development and environmental problems.

According to the participants, the only solution can be a pragmatic approach that will reduce the burden on the climate system. They agreed, that the leading positions in the future will be occupied by those countries that will develop new technologies, reducing the burden on the environment.

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