Year XXX, 1998, Number 2, Page 101

 

 

PROTECTION AND VALIDATION OF ENVIRONMENTAL RESOURCES *
 
 
1. Environment means development.
 
The objective of socio-economic development is the rational use of all scarce resources for the welfare of society.
Resources which are subject to the right of ownership have a price which indicates their scarcity value. On the contrary, environmental resources which are common property (air, pure water and others), are not rationed by the market and therefore do not enter automatically into any evaluation of the nation’s wealth, even though their value is enormous. Government intervention designed to use and ration natural resources in the most appropriate way is essential if socio-economic development is not to become inadequate. In reality, the advanced economies with their increased income and ever-growing consumption are increasingly incorporating the improvement of the environmental heritage into their development. Only blind, and consequently short-lasting, growth could neglect this requirement.
We need to be able to organize the development of our society by changing, as time goes by, the rules of its management as suggested by the evolution of culture and science. “The closed Earth of the future in fact requires economic principles that are rather different from those of the open Earth of the past” (K. Boulding).
Parliament, government and public administration are among those bodies that play a fundamental part in this new management.
 
2. Environment means employment.
 
We now know that generally environmental policies do not reduce employment. The question should however also be considered from the reverse point of view: we should ask ourselves what the employment situation would be like in the absence of any environmental policy. Damage to health and welfare, and therefore to the workforce and productivity would surely be great. For example, how many jobs would be lost in tourist areas, and how many fishermen would be left after the year 2000 if no resource management policy existed?
We must also take into account that new technologies, especially those based on the computer, may increase present unemployment rates, at least in a transitional period.
It is therefore necessary to promote new policies and in particular to ensure the production of those goods and services which are socially useful that would not otherwise be supplied by the market. Environmental improvement needs to be considered from this point of view too; i.e. as a new sector suitable for creating new employment. This trend has already been the object of recent initiatives taken by national bodies and the EC. Thanks to the planning of public and private bodies these initiatives represent an innovative means by which the twin goals of environmental improvement and the creation of new job opportunities can be achieved jointly.
 
3. Environment means participation.
 
The survival of our planet (and in it of our countries) is the main goal of environmental policy and also the common target of all men. It also creates a general consensus as witnessed by the ever increasing number of people who give priority to the improvement of the physical and natural environment.
The governments' task is mainly to organize this participation with realistic and concrete objectives, bearing in mind that the evaluation of the environmental impact requires wide participation of citizens, whose critical contribution is needed on decisions taken by public and private bodies.
 
4. Environment means no borders.
 
"Only one World" was the motto launched by the United Nations in Stockholm in 1972 during the conference that gave the environment an international dimension. In fact, even if there are phenomena of environmental excellence or degradation which have only a local relevance, there are, however, many problems with an international and indeed a worldwide character: the "green-house effect" for example (i.e. the rise in atmospheric temperature mainly because of the waste gases arising from the use of fossil fuels), the numerous cases of transfrontier pollution, the existence of beauty spots of world importance that need to be protected and valued (from Mont Blanc to the Grand Canyon). The OECD, the EEC, UNEP and other international bodies cooperate to organize the common willingness to protect the environment. But the basis for this action must be to convince everyone that the ecological link-up helps us to become citizens not only of a single country but also of the planet Earth.
 
5. Environment means culture.
 
The Greek philosophy, the inspiring mother of the current conception on the role of labour and technology states through Plato's mouth that: "any cause which makes a thing pass from a non-existing state to an existing one is production". This powerful idea, according to which man is a blacksmith who gives life to things by forging matter in his work, has been passed down through the centuries to the present one. It was expressed in Genesis ("all existing things on earth and the fishes of the sea are consigned to your hands") and by Karl Marx (who shares with Plato almost photographically the idea according to which labour makes things pass from a non-existing state to an existing one).
Nature conservation, on the contrary, is based on the principle that the intact object may be even more precious than the one that is produced. In fact the untouched article or environmental wonder takes its value from naturalness, or wilderness, beyond every transformation made by man. Furthermore, the earth is like a space shuttle in which there are no infinite waste containers and where today's work must not subtract from tomorrow's by the excessive use of non-renewable resources.
The two positions which have been mentioned meet up in the new culture based on the environmental relationships for which conceptual instruments are obtained from, among other things, modern environmental economics. This economics is founded on the social value of things (and not just the value for the individual) and consequently, where necessary, goes beyond market valuations. It is based on the valuations of the interest also of future generations.
 
6. Environment means future.
 
"There exists much notable historical evidence to suggest that a society which loses its identity with posterity and which neglects the positive image of the future will also lose the capacity to face the current problems and will rapidly break-up" (W. Baumol). The protection of the environment not only means work for the present, but also for the future of our children and grandchildren. Through its policies for the protection of nature society identifies itself with the distant future and finds the inspiration and strength to plan welfare in the fullest meaning of the word, that is in relation to all resources for all generations.
 
Emilio Gerelli


[*] This is the final document drawn up in November 1987 by the Commission for Environmental Protection, which reported directly to the Italian Prime Minister.

 

 

 

 

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