Environment and Sustainable Development
The exasperating effects of over fifty years of capitalistic and consumerist policy have led to the well-known phenomena caused by the deterioration of environmental resources, the energy crisis, social inequality and so on. From the post-war years to today, a great debate has been opened on the environmental question and on its collocation in the dynamics of world socioeconomic policy.
What is the environment? What does it represent for man? Why does it suffer from man’s presence? Can society live together with it? Questions such as these can find serious and concrete answers by going over and correlating scientific, socioeconomic, and ethical questions. Dealing with the environment is not only a “technical” question but involve the same questions which man has with regard to his place in creation. If we understand these then it will also be possible to understand the ties which keep nature and man as a creature united and inseparable. The environmental question, which up until the 1950s was largely unknown in the sense of its ethical repercussions, has slowly become a theme which is increasingly present in public opinion. In this, the system within the system takes on particular importance. The System which guarantees every form of life the possibility to be born, to grow and to reproduce. The system which permits man, the creature above all creatures, to be born, to grow and to know. We are of course speaking about the Ecosystem, a term which is relatively new and increasingly present today in our discussions and in our culture.
The term ecosystem was proposed for the first time in 1935 by the English ecologist, Tansley, even if the concept of ecosystem as the idea of a single entity comprising organisms and the environment goes back to ancient times.
The fact that this term was coined only in the twentieth century demonstrates the resistance that it has met in order to enter into official scientific jargon.
The birth of the environmental movement, the proliferation of magazines and publications which regard it or deal with topics close to it are symptoms of a great need felt by man which finds its origin in the imbalance that the consumerist era has produced on the social, biological and climatic components of our planet. For the first time man finds before him the need to find links which rationalise his relationship with the environment and nature.
From the birth of Galileo’s scientific method, made up of measures and numbers, this is the first time that there is the need to resolve more complex functions, not simple quantities but global qualities, wholes.
The introduction of the term sustainable development (or unsustainable development) has found wide circulation and, too often, scant scientific and technical content, so that it can be understood by all, in publications, television programmes, other media and common debate.
The concept of development, in a more modern interpretation, includes in the growth process a series of categories which are not strictly economic, for example social aspects; thus abandoning an economic vision which originally measured development only in terms of the GDP (gross domestic product) pro capita and placed the emphasis solely on man’s economic well-being.
The final result of the process is sustainable development. The expression “sustainable development” became very popular at the end of the 80s. In fact, in 1987 the Brundtland report was published. This was elaborated by the United Nations and in it for the first time is found the fundamental definition of sustainable development: “Development is sustainable if it satisfies the needs of the present generation without compromising the possibility of future generations to satisfy their needs.”
Ten years later, this declaration of the principle is still largely unheeded, so much so that we continue to speak about environmental crises as economic crises.
This means that it is necessary to expand the notion of well-being and economic development to encompass the environmental value.
To understand better the whole problem it is necessary first to understand a basic aspect: the concept of externality *.
It can be positive if the economic activity brought into being by an individual brings benefits (not only in economic terms, but also in global ones) to other subjects or to the community in general; in the opposite case it has a negative value. A chimney which pollutes, even if it creates profit within its structure, results in negative externality because of the fumes it emits.
To understand this concept better it is necessary to compare individual benefits with social costs. For example, to make the externality decrease a tax could be introduced to offset the social costs caused by pollution, but this is still too narrow a measure and unsustainable in the long run. The environmental repercussions of this type of economy suffer from the lack of an authority (or better still, a culture) which supplies it with the instruments to supervise or diminish externality.
It must be understood that all human activities always involve externality, no matter what (this is a principle of thermodynamics based on the concept that there can not exist unitary output and thus perpetual motion).
Notwithstanding the fact that since the 1950s over 200 treaties regarding the environment have been drawn up, the question of a single authority (and therefore above all of a social and political conscience) to regulate and supervise these complex economic functions still has not been resolved. However, in order to understand whether a country follows a policy of sustainable development or not, it is necessary to modify the evaluation of the outcomes of the economic policy of a nation.
Traditionally the growth of the GDP is among the indicators of the effectiveness of the economic policy of a country: with this term we refer to the revenue produced by a nation on the whole, that is to say, the sum of the revenue produced by all the companies, including public ones. This indicator is often erroneously considered an indicator of well-being without indicating anything about how this revenue was obtained or what paths were followed to produce it. This means of evaluation is evidently of materialistic derivation and partial.
* Reference parameter for defining how much each single human activity or function affects the external world (in terms of energy efficiency and system efficiency).
The analysis of the socioeconomic models of the so-called western world, elaborated by many research institutes all over the world, indicates that these operate with very low output and very high externality, in short operating with unsustainable models and resources which are often not renewable.
The environmental question must be framed in the sense that, in the context of the future model based on renewable resources, the environment is the structure on which the policies of sustainable development must be based on, policies like those which use models with “motors running on renewable energy”, that is, with greater energy efficiency and output.
The new frontier which mankind will have to resolve this century is how imitate more closely the thermodynamic models of the ecosystem. These systems are based on the variability and functional characteristics of each individual (component). In the past century, Albert Einstein stated that “the instrumental goods which should serve to maintain the life and health of all human beings should be produced with the least possible effort for everyone. The satisfaction of physical needs is in fact the indispensable precondition for a good existence, but that is not enough in itself. To be happy, man should also have the possibility to freely develop his intellectual and artistic faculties, to the extent permitted by the particular characteristics and abilities of each individual”.
In this new dimension, great importance is thus given not only to the human capability to implement technology which emulates thermodynamic energy systems, which are typical of the ecosystems, but also to the capability of politics to understand the importance of planning and managing the territory as if it were a place of cultural resources and materials for this new philosophical, energy and managerial model.
In short, this is the equivalent of saying that: territory-resources- planning- management and energy systems are a whole in the policy of the social and environmental development of the future.
It seems evident that judgment on how good the policy of a country is depends obviously also on the use it makes of its “natural capital”, that is to say, that patrimony which is the “fuel” of a motor running on renewable energy.
As a result, when calculating the efficiency of economic policy, algorithms will have to be introduced which will be able to correct the equations of the GDP, either by using the indicator method or the one regarding the accountability of the national environment, thus giving them their true dimension, or at least a valuation which is closer to reality. In this way, the impoverishment of environmental capital can be estimated in monetary terms, and these values can be detracted from the national revenue and the growth of this new aggregate, the Net Ecological Domestic Product, can be calculated.
When this correction becomes methodologically defined, it will have the undoubted value of leading Policy towards a remarkably different conceptual horizon (more global) when compared to the cold, levelled out systems of financial models found in capitalism.
Thus, since the Brundtland report of the United Nations in 1987 up to the Conference in Rio in 1992 and Johannesburg in 2002, sustainable development has become the declared objective of economic and environmental policy for various countries and for international agreements which regard environmental matters.
Now, in order to implement models of development which are “synchronous” to the thermodynamic ones present in the ecosystem, it is necessary to emulate socioeconomic systems which are in line with these.
The answer, as always, is principally to be found in technological development which can permit to reduce the coefficients of exploitation (or better, of use) of the environment per unit of product or service. Given that this process is neither spontaneous nor automatic, it would be opportune to remodel those cultural and ideological principals which are at the base of local, national and international policy.
Thus in order to seriously face the environmental question it is worthwhile first of all to achieve these principals. In short, these are the causes which keep present socioeconomic models distant from the principals on which the thermodynamic-energy models found in creation are constituted.
Instead, the illusion caused by a partial perspective, which, historically speaking, has lasted only for a very short period, has generated a rational materialistic model in which man as lord of the universe thought to know and follow a new development, a new era of material progress which mankind seemed destined to enjoy forever. This distortion of the understanding of man’s role in the universe has led, in recent history, to an industrial system, to a model of using the resources of this planet which is tied to knowledge which has been gained up to that moment from technology.
It is enough to consider that the great need that there is for energy under any form, not least those involving primary resources, bases itself on the concept of non-renewable energy, on man’s assault on the tangible power that there is in matter.
Non-renewable energy which, having been introduced into that great thermodynamic system which the planet Earth is, has provoked a change in balance now leaning towards a “path” which is incompatible with the biological and spiritual needs of man as a creature. The great planetary thermodynamic system, regulated by the great Universal Logic, has found itself to be suddenly influenced by the effects of a “minor creation” which are incompatible, and not concentric, nor on the same wavelength, to the dynamics of a God, conceiver and architect of creation.
Man has considered himself able to govern outside the designs of the Great Universal project. He has been able to witness for the first time in his history what it means to take nourishment from the fruit of the tree which gives awareness of good and evil.
Whoever wants to understand better what is happening today can read with profit this part of the book of Genesis and give it perhaps the fullest and most complete reading able up until today. It is opportune, therefore, to reaffirm that “between efficient causes and results there has to be a pre-established harmony”. (Leibniz G.W.).
In short, the human system has interfered in an almost transversal manner with what was and is the Great Design for Matter for man, and this is incompatible with the balance which there is on the planet. It is a thermodynamic system in which Matter has a diminished usable, and therefore spiritual, power. A thermodynamic system which unfortunately, by badly using the potential of matter, produces Tangible Pollution which leads to Spiritual Pollution. The basic error of this decrepit model of development present in the industrial era is that it has failed to see neither that there is a link between the Tangible Power of matter and the Spiritual power of Matter, nor the consequences of this.
It is the capacity (the same which led from the Big Bang to the appearance of the first logical act on the planet), starting from its whole potential, to operate through a series of physical phenomena and progressive “assimilations”, leading to the ultimate evolution which is not a material one, but one of intelligence, culture, knowledge; qualities which are not material, but perfect substances, substances par excellence. On its way back from the First Cause, Matter leads through its own “combustion” to non-tangible material, to spiritual “material”, which can not be rationalised by this technological offspring of a lame science. “The perfection of creatures and the divine have a certain similarity. For human sciences, the positive element regards those similarities which exist between God and beings” (Leibniz G.W.)
“Matter will therefore be for us a whole made up of energy, the creatures around us, the degree to which they are perceptible, sensitive, “natural” (in the theological sense) to us. It will be the common, universal, tangible, infinitely changeable and varied environment in which we are immersed.”(Teilhard de Chardin P.).
According to the notions that stem from physics, matter is organised in thermodynamic systems in which the union and integration of things, of creatures, produce more elaborate effects; matter therefore tends to interact, without doing this uselessly (this would be illogical and without sense); this passage from a potentially greater state of energy to a smaller one produces therefore two effects: on the one hand, the production of a more organized matter (produced by the reaction) which is more useful for the environment, on the other, the interaction of material substances which are at the service of the growth of the universe, nature, and ultimately, man: entropy.
Matter therefore loses a part of the potential it had at the beginning in order to lead the Universe to a final point at which, having lost its Potential energy, it will have concluded the task for which it had been conceived (planned) and created; the whole universe is therefore a thermodynamic system par excellence; everything that happens within it, the birth of stars, their evolution, their death, black holes, collisions between galaxies, are nothing but a whole series of complex nuclear and chemical reactions and physical phenomena which go from a starting point to a conclusive one. The universe therefore represents a fuel tank which, by fuelling human evolution, leads to its ultimate achievement. Between these two points (which we can place from the big bang to the end of time, whenever they are) there is a whole series of chemical-physical reactions among creatures and things. Matter is sacrificed, producing that part of energy whose Thermodynamic Equivalent is growth, man’s progression towards his ultimate destination, the supernaturalisation.
A thermodynamic system has a higher efficiency and thus renders better when it produces less non-reusable waste products, in short: entropy.
We can confidently sustain that in the logic of the universal plan, the functional models have the highest possible production and thus the lowest possible entropy produced. The thermodynamic models in life derive from a functional model in which every single component, whether biotic or abiotic, contributes to increase the efficiency of the system, going against the production of that form of “squalid” energy which is defined entropy.
In short, we can affirm that life has elaborated a system which has the highest possible efficiency, so as a result we can call these models of clean energy, seeing the axiom that (given the entropic content of thermodynamic systems) in nature an output equal to one does not exist (it would be as if we could demonstrate the existence of perpetual motion).
In contrast with these models, which are based on a well-defined logic and still require a lot of work in order to be able to enucleate the operating principals (we technicians may define them procedures), we have witnessed a model of development of socioeconomic systems, above all in so-called industrialised nations, which have thermodynamic systems that are scarcely efficient, that is, with social models which lead to an elevated quantity of entropy, in short, systems of “unclean” energy which produce a lot of by-products, a lot of waste. Systems which produce a lot of waste materials have reduced the potential energy and spiritual energy which is available from them.
Desertification, pollution in all its forms and components, the impoverishing of planetary resources, together with the emergencies that we know today, are the tangible effects of actions performed by man, the offspring of a logic which is not in line (or at least partial) with that of the Great Plan.
The environmental question therefore should make us reflect on the need to restructure our philosophy before we can restructure our culture, and before we can even begin to make scientific or technical considerations. Only then can we talk about new models of socioeconomic development which are concentric or, rather, in harmony with the Logic of creation.
We must understand that matter has been brought to us by the Planner in such a way that it will have to return to him; along this road, which is a slope whose right inclination is formed by time, it is transformed; its potential is converted into energy which is steadily lower, energy which is steadily more immaterial; along this road every monad, every creature, every entity plays its role until it goes back from whence it came. At that point it will have exhausted all its potential for that perpetual kinetic energy which is the immaterial reality of the universe. Everything will have finished, everything will have fulfilled the reason for which it existed.
The great evolution in the way of thinking which will come about in future years will involve the discovery of these Great Operating Principals and the ideological applications which will be necessary for reformulating the policy for future years.
At that point every planetary emergency will be well defined, every unbalance will have been decoded through the understanding that if materialism is applied to nature and to the environment, then this isolates man even more, making him seem to be an evil creature within creation rather than the most pre-eminent creature of all.
Speaking in this regard, Maxwell said: “if we ever learn the laws of nature, this will come about through an extremely precise comprehension of natural facts, and not by applying a philosophical guise of vague opinions of people who have no idea of the facts which above all shed light on these laws.”