Skip to main content

Table of Contents


Session 1. Introduction: Economic Growth and the Biosphere

For centuries, up until about 1940, economic growth had been slow to moderate. It had been slow until the industrial revolution, which started around Adam Smith’s birth or the independence of the United States or the French Revolution. From then on it had been moderate. During the nineteenth century, the average annual growth of the products of the industrializing countries reached 2–3%. At the same time their population growth was of the order of 1% p.a., leaving per caput growth of real income at an average of 1–2%. From figures given by Zimmerman (1964), we find that between 1860 and 1913 the rate of population growth for the rest of the world amounted to 0.6% p.a. About 1940, for a typically developing country such as India, that rate had become about 1%.
Jan Tinbergen, Donald J. Kuenen

Session 2. Wither the Atmosphere and Earth’s Climates?

After a series of climatic anomalies from about 1968 onwards, with serious consequences on human welfare and economy, the problem of man-made or man-triggered climatic variability has reached general attention. For the time being we ought perhaps to avoid the term ‘climatic change’, which should be restricted to major changes (as between an ice-age and a warm interglacial period), although this is a matter of definition and of the time-scale under consideration. Rather do we prefer the term ‘climatic fluctuations’ for short-living (e.g. interannual) deviations, and the term ‘climatic variation’ for such changes as have been observed, using 30-years-averages, since the beginning of instrumental observations—;that is, after A.D.. 1650.
Hermann Flohn

Session 3. Whither Terrestrial Ecosystems and Habitats?

The subtitle of my paper, ‘Preservation of the Habitat of Man’, was chosen to place in sharper focus the general subject of this Conference, as what we are here for essentially is to discuss Man’s future prospects on Earth. His future, if any, depends very largely on his relationships with the environment in which he finds himself, and from which he cannot escape. In this sense, his environment extends throughout at least the inner 100 million miles’ radius of the Solar System, and perhaps farther out. We do not know if light and other radiation from the rest of the Galaxy have any significant effect on Man as a species. Perhaps they do. Starlight has at least a psychological effect; it also enables Man to see in times of darkness, to navigate his ships at sea, and to locate himself precisely on land. So perhaps the Universe is Man’s real environment. In the narrowest possible view, the Sun must be a part of his environment, as he is utterly dependent on its radiant energy.
F. Raymond Fosberg

Session 4. Whither Fresh Waters and Their Biota?

The subject of ‘Whither Freshwater Biota?’ implies a general and directional change in freshwater fauna and flora which is not wholly favourable and which might need checking. It also lends itself to a number of interpretations, although I prefer to consider it to refer to the effect of human activities not only on freshwater biota but also on the aquatic environments with which they are associated and which support them. It is accordingly relevant to examine these activities as causes and agents of change, and to consider the impact which they make in our particular context.
Letitia E. Obeng, Arthur D. Hasler

Session 5. Whither the Oceans and Salt Seas?

There exist today a growing number of threats to the integrity, stability, and possibly even the continuity, of marine ecosystems. Human impact on these systems is increasing both in intensity and diversity. One consequence is that, despite continuing scientific research and even a modest growth in research efforts, our apprehension as to the medium- and longterm effects of such impacts is, in many areas at least, tending to increase rather than to diminish.
Edward D. Goldberg, Sidney J. Holt

Session 6. The Pandominance Of Man

The world’s population of human beings now exceeds 4,200 million. In mid-1975, according to the United Nations’ 1975 Demographic Yearbook (United Nations, 1976), world population reached 3,967 million—;an increase of 77 million in the preceding year. That figure represented an annual growth-rate of 1.9%.
Stanley P. Johnson

Session 7. Dangerous Devegetation and Monocultures

The vegetative composition and cover of our Earth has been extremely varied ever since plant life began to colonize and conquer the dry land several hundred million years ago. Plant species evolved with varying genetic structures, composition, and morphological complexity, and species of terrestrial plants have expanded over a wide range of topography. The habitats thus acquired extend frm coastal lowland to the summits of high mountains, and the plants have colonized a great diversity of substrates, forming the main basis of a series of successions and various types of communities: swamps and grassland, brush and forests.
Sturla Fridriksson

Session 8. Extreme Urbanization Effects and Dangers

In what was probably his last paper published during his lifetime, the late Constantinos A. Doxiadis (1975) formulated the main danger of extreme urbanization in the following way:
As soon as commercial forms of energy and machines enter our settlements, they start to expand at a much greater rate than does the growing settlement’s population and economy. As the growing settlements need to add a lot of industry and many big buildings, their expansion is not directed towards mountainous areas but occurs chiefly on the plains. It is here that the best soils usually lie: thus urban growth means profligate elimination of agricultural land.
This is not an immediate problem for tomorrow, in terms of days; but it is a very big problem in terms of years and decades, as agricultural land covers a very small percentage of the global surface and we cannot afford to lose it. The danger is very great and we must act quickly if we are to avoid it. (Ibid., p. 13.)
Pierre Laconte

Session 9. Whither the Life-Support System?

The human population of the globe has been increasing according to some superexponential law. One possible form of this relationship is: where N is the total population size, and t the time in years AD. This expression was derived by fitting a model, which assumes the rate of increase to be a weak monotonic increasing function of N, to 24 estimates of the human population of the world ranging over the last 2,000 years (Foerster et al., 1960). The time, t = 2026.87, was appropriately identified as ‘Doomsday’. The assumed relationship between the rate of increase and N was logically justified on the grounds that an increasing population would reduce environmental hazards to survival by forming coalitions to combat them. By thus invoking the ‘principle’ of ‘adequate technology’, the authors concluded, sardonically, that ‘our great-great grandchildren will not starve to death. They will be squeezed to death’. It is somewhat chilling to note that current population estimates are higher than would be predicted from the above equation. This particular version of ‘Doomsday’ need not concern us, however; our food and life-support systems seem likely to give out first.
Eugene P. Odum, Eldon H. Franz

Session 10. Agriculture and World Feeding Alternatives

Food production is rarely analysed from the ecological point of view, while even more rarely are the constraints placed in clear focus. Yet these matters have to be moved to the centre-stage of the current debate around the food issue.
Georg Borgstrom

Session 11. Environmental Aspects of Energy Alternatives

Since the so-called ‘energy crisis’, practically all countries in the world have dedicated considerable attention to energy strategies. Some, such as France and Spain, have made straightforward commitments—;notably towards nuclear power—;whereas most have adopted series of measures aiming at further diversifying their primary and secondary energy sources.† All are, in addition, trying to develop ways and means to increase the efficiency of energy production, conversion and utilization. A great deal can be done in that field: indeed, a recent study carried out by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE, 1976a) indicates that the overall efficiency of the energy sector as a whole, currently about 15%, could reach 20 or even 30% in the early 1990s by the application of a set of quite stringent but feasible energy-saving measures. Economic activity of the 1990s could thus be twice as great as it is today, without requiring any increase in our present energy consumption.
Amasa S. Bishop, Claude G. Ducret

Session 12. Industrial Alternatives: Non-Waste Technology

Waste in production and in products themselves leads to depletion of resources on the one hand and pollution of the environment of Man on the other. Waste is not only non-aesthetic, it is also uneconomic. The wisdom of non-waste is seen in the old Icelandic concept of ‘thryfa’, from which, via Old Norse, come the English ‘thrive’—;to grow vigorously—;and ‘thrift’, the saving or avoidance of waste.
Michael G. Royston

Session 13. Scarcities and Societal Objectives

Scarcity is essentially an excess of population over resources. ‘One cannot insist too often’, wrote William Vogt in his classic Road to Survival (1949), ‘that… population increase is, fundamentally, as much a physical process as though one burned down storehouses containing food.’ In short, we may sum up the concept of scarcity in the simple words spoken by Grettir in Louis MacNeice’s poem ‘Eclogue from Iceland’ (MacNeice, 1938, pp. 29–39): ‘too many people.’
Claire Russell, W. M. S. Russell

Session 14. Life-Style Alternatives

‘Only the rich can have a good life’—;this is the daunting message that has been drummed into the ears of all mankind during the last half-century or so. It is the implicit doctrine of ‘development’, wherein the growth of income serves as the very criterion of progress. Everyone, it is held, has not only the right but the duty to become rich, and this applies to societies even more stringently than to individuals. The most succinct and most relevant indicator of a country’s status in the world is thought to be average income per head, while the prime object of admiration is not the level already attained but the current rate of growth.
E. F. Schumacher, Nicholas Guppy

Session 15. Environmental Management Towards Biospheral Equilibrium

The subjects discussed in the earlier part of this Conference are far- ranging indeed. There has undoubtedly been much thought given to potential disasters for the present and future generations, which may be brought about by activities of Man impinging upon the health of the biosphere, and interfering with the dynamic processes of the planet’s ecosystems.
Mostafa K. Tolba

Session 16. Ethics of Biospheral Survival

Where will human beings end up if they have no ethics, no strong rules of conduct, to guide human activities in the ecosphere? What happens when we do not have agreed-upon standards for treatment of all living things? The answer is abundantly clear to us as we look around Earth in all directions—;up and down as well as across land and water and back over the centuries of time. Western Man, especially, has predicated action upon an exploitative ethic towards the ecosphere, as I prefer to call the biosphere: ‘the world is my plum to pluck, eat, enjoy, consume—;as I see fit.’ A few enclaves can be found where people have exercised a different attitude and ethic, and their way of life has usually been equated with primitiveness and regarded as a problem.
Beatrice E. Willard, Emmanuel O. A. Asibey, Martin W. Holdgate, Yoichi Fukushima, Elizabeth David, Dodson Gray

Session 17. Common Laws for Earth and Mankind

This Conference was originally scheduled to be held in 1976. At that time the keynote paper of Session 17, ‘Common Laws for Earth and Mankind’, was to have been given by H. E. Ambassador Edvard I. Hambro, of Norway, whose premature death saddened the world community of those concerned with Nature and with mankind’s role on the Earth.
Gary L. Widman, Gunnar G. Schram

Session 18. Conclusions for the Future

Have we reached consensus in Reykjavik? If so, what are the details? Do we foresee a sounder, safer and happier outcome for mankind?
F. Kenneth Hare

Baer-Huxley Memorial Lecture

It is a signal honour to have been asked to deliver this lecture to commemorate the outstanding contributions of Jean Baer and Julian Huxley to the cause of conservation. Both of these great men devoted their genius as scientists to helping us to broaden our perceptions of the human condition and their talents as leaders to establishing the institutions needed to safeguard and to improve the conditions of life on this planet. No two individuals did more to establish the foundations on which environmental conservation can now be seen to be firmly based and dealt with as a critical global issue.
Maurice F. Strong

The Reykjavik Imperative on the Environment and Future of Mankind

On the fifth anniversary of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, held in Stockholm, we, the 130 environmental scientists and other scholars from 20 countries participating in the Second International Conference on Environmental Future, Reykjavik, Iceland, 5–11 June, 1977, have prepared† and approved† the following statement
Nicholas Polunin

The Foundation for Environmental Conservation: Auspices, Objectives and Needs

The Foundation, which had started operations unofficially some years earlier, was finally established legally in 1975 in Geneva, Switzerland, as non-profit and tax-exempt by authority of the Council of State of the Republic and Canton and perpetually under Swiss Federal Government surveillance by the Department of the Interior, Berne. Its headquarters are at 15 Chemin François Lehmann, 1218 Grand-Saconnex, Geneva, Switzerland.
Nicholas Polunin


Additional information