Il mondo finirà seguendo il nostro stile di vita

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Coltivazione di tè

Presto la Natura finirà se il mondo continuerà a seguire il modello di sviluppo occidentale. È questo il messaggio che arriva da una ricerca di Roberto Cazzolla Gatti (Bio-Clim-Land Centre, Biological Institute, Tomsk State University, Tomsk, Russia). La ricerca critica i modelli storici di sviluppo globale e suggerisce come cambiare paradigma per salvare la biodiversità

Una ricerca condotta dal biologo italiano Roberto Cazzolla Gatti, professore associato presso la Tomsk State University, in Russia, sostiene che, contrariamente a quanto molti economisti suggeriscono, lo sviluppo non è sempre un bene per la Natura. Che la biodiversità e gli ecosistemi siano fondamentali per sostenere l’umanità e la vita sulla Terra è una fatto ormai accertato, ma nel corso degli ultimi secoli questi sono sottoposti a forti pressioni a causa dell’eccessivo sfruttamento. Allo stesso tempo la protezione ambientale sta ricevendo maggior considerazione a causa della miglior comprensione delle interconnessioni tra il benessere umano e la salute degli ecosistemi.

Palm oil  deforestation in Indonesia

Deforastazione in Indonesia causata dalla coltivazione di olio di palma

 

«Il problema – ha dichiarato Roberto Cazzolla Gatti, professore associato in ecologia e la biodiversità presso la Tomsk State University (Russia), in un articolo pubblicato questa settimana sull’International Journal of Environmental Studies – è che, anche se la volontà di seguire uno stile di vita sostenibile nei Paesi occidentali è in aumento, molte società in via di sviluppo stanno vivendo la loro fase di crescita economica in questo momento, minacciando e sfruttando eccessivamente il loro ambiente. E questa sarà una catastrofe per l’intero Pianeta!».

Sintesi. Anche se la volontà di seguire uno stile di vita sostenibile nei paesi occidentali è in aumento, molti Paesi in via di sviluppo stanno vivendo la loro fase di crescita economica, minacciando e sfruttando eccessivamente il loro ambiente. Questo studio mette a confronto il Living Planet Index (LPI) e l’indice di sviluppo umano (HDI), e suggerisce che le società seguono modelli comuni di sviluppo, partendo da uno stile di vita indigena verso società sottosviluppate, attraverso una fase di crescita, verso uno stato di completo sviluppo. Seguendo queste fasi comuni, ogni società sfrutta le risorse naturali locali, regionali e globali per alimentare la sua crescita economica. Se, però, i Paesi in via di sviluppo non adotteranno strategie per saltare la fase «intermedia» di sovrasfruttamento delle risorse naturali durante la loro fase di crescita, gli ecosistemi potrebbero non essere in grado di mantenere in vita la biodiversità globale, e fornire i servizi ecosistemici che sostengono l’umanità.

Deforestation in South-east asia

Deforestazione nel sud-est dell’Asia

 

Original Articles

Trends in human development and environmental protection
DOI: 10.1080/00207233.2016.1148447
Author: Roberto Cazzolla Gatti, Bio-Clim-Land Centre, Biological Institute, Tomsk State University, Lenin ave. 36, Tomsk 634050, Russia

Abstract

Even if the will to follow a sustainable lifestyle in the Western countries is increasing, many developing countries are experiencing their phase of economic growth, threatening and overexploiting their environment. This study compares the Living Planet Index and the Human Development Index, and suggests that societies follow common patterns of development, from the indigenous lifestyle to undeveloped society, through a developing stage, towards a developed state. According to these common steps each society exploits local, regional and sometimes global natural resources to nourish its economic growth. If developing countries will not undertake strategies to skip the ‘intermediate’ stage of overexploitation of natural resources during their growing phase, Earth systems may not be able to keep alive the global biodiversity, and provide ecosystem services that sustain humanity.

Contrary to what many economists suggest (see, for example, a 2013 The Economist’s special issue on biodiversity, titled “Hang on”),  “development is not always good for Nature”, a Tomsk State University’s biologist argues. That biodiversity and ecosystem are fundamental to sustain humanity and the life on Earth is a well-accepted evidence, but during the last few centuries they are undergoing heavy pressures due to overexploitation. At the same time environmental protection is raising consideration because of the increased understanding of the interconnections between human wellness and ecosystem health.
“The problem – says Roberto Cazzolla Gatti, associate professor in ecology and biodiversity at the Tomsk State University (Russia), in a paper published this week (Cazzolla Gatti R., Trends in human development and environmental protection. International Journal of Environmental Studies, 73(3), 2016) – is that, even if the will to follow a sustainable lifestyle in the ‘Western countries’ is increasing, many developing countries are experiencing their phase of economic growth, threatening and overexploiting their environment. And this will be a catastrophe for our Planet”.
In this study, by comparing the trends of Living Planet Index (LPI) and the Human Development Index (HDI) in an economic-ecologic historical analysis, the TSU’s ecologist suggests that societies follow common patterns of development from the indigenous lifestyle to undeveloped society, through a developing stage, towards a developed state. According to these common steps each society exploits local, regional and sometimes global natural resources to nourish its economic growth.
“Nowadays, – Cazzolla Gatti writes – we observe the higher latitude countries, populated by 2 billion people, which are consuming the whole environmental capital in one year and the lower countries, where more than 5 billion people lives, which are depleting resources at a growing rate that will reach, in few years, the Western standards. If developing countries will not undertake strategies to skip the ‘intermediate’ stage of overexploitation of natural resources during their growing phase, Earth systems could not be able to keep alive the global biodiversity and provide ecosystem services that sustain humanity”.
Our Planet is facing a series of challenges that could lead to a loss of ecosystems’ integrity. These challenges are caused by human demand and consumption of natural resources and space. The recent agreement signed at the United Nations climate summit in Paris (December 2015) has been hailed as historic, ground-breaking, and unprecedented. At the same time, the targets seems to be so ambitious that many climate analysts do not believe it will change the current climatic situation. The agreement aims to limit temperature increase to a level below 2°C, above pre-industrial levels, and recognizes that avoiding 1.5°C of warming “would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.” Unfortunately, the emissions reduction commitments made by the participating countries are not significant to achieve these targets because it seems quite impossible to avoid the 1.5°C limit without “negative emissions”, such as absorb carbon dioxide out of the air, using technologies that are still unavailable or rather ineffective.
“In addition to climate change – Cazzolla Gatti writes in his paper – the major cause of biodiversity loss in recent times is the associated rates of habitat destruction and degradation. More than half of the estimated original extent of temperate broadleaf forests had already been converted to agriculture, forest plantations and urban areas prior to 1950. In contrast, deforestation and land-use change accelerated in the tropics after 1950. The use of freshwater ecosystem services is now well beyond levels that can be sustained even at current demand. Moreover, forecasts consistently suggest that demand for water (e.g. human water footprint) will continue to rise in most parts of the world. Furthermore, the impact of an increasing global demand for palm oil products continues to be one of the main driving factors behind a recent dramatic decline in forest cover of South-east Asia. For instance, figures suggest that the two orang-utan species have already undergone a tenfold decrease in population size during the 20th century and many populations are now at very low numbers. In the marine domain a high demand for fish and fish products combined with overcapacity in the global fishing fleet and inefficient fishing techniques have driven to massive overfishing”.
This study suggest that societies seems to follow common development patterns and currently we see a situation where few civilizations live in a sustainable stage and the majority are in the process of overexploitation of natural resources and ecosystem services. This situation is unsustainable but will not end soon – or painlessly. As 5-7 billion people will develop in the next years following the global patterns described in this study, ecosystems and biodiversity will be subject to a high level of stress with no assurance of resilience.
The concerned scientist, author of this research paper, advices: “Keeping in mind the trends I show in my study, the only solution – which must be undertaken together with technological inventions and ecosystem innovations – for human and environmental survival in a healthy state is that the countries that currently are living in the “developed-unsustainable state” quickly shift to a ‘low-environmental pressure stage’, putting in action a series of mechanisms that move towards an efficient and renewable energy supply, a closed waste cycle, with biodegradable chemicals carbon neutral transport systems, an organic diet, a severely reduced level of consumption of natural resources, a series of environmental protection regulations, and the development of wildlife conservation measures. At the same time – as the necessary condition – it is fundamental that the countries that are shifting into the minimal-impact state provide developing countries with know-how and sustainable technologies; teach them hygienic-healthcare principles; supply environmental and sexual education; and give them the same right to develop as the “developed countries”, but avoiding to pass through environmental-overexploitation phase, which will not be able to sustain the consumption of natural resources and ecosystem services of the expected 7-9 billion people, an equivalent of 5 planets in the next 3-4 decades”.
Finally, the study suggests that the best lifestyle for environmental protection in the world is that of indigenous people, which is even higher of that of “sustainable economies”. This is because the deep interconnection of indigenous people with their environment and their high level of knowledge of nature (e.g., traditional medicaments, food resources, fibres, mythology, etc.) that is lacking even in sustainable societies. “This means – concludes Cazzolla Gatti – that if non-indigenous societies (civilized world) will continue to destroy the last indigenous cultures and will consider the ‘sustainable traditional civilized societies’ as the unique possible level of environmental protection, even though it is the most sustainable for developed civilizations, all humanity will lose a piece of fundamental knowledge that only indigenous people preserve. Developed countries have their own environmental sins that can only be expiated impeding that developing societies do the same they did, without preventing those people to reach a better lifestyle. I suggested a way to achieve it learning from human economic and ecologic history, but actually hoping for Nature preservation”.