THE FUTURE OF HIGHER
(All chapters are intended for continuing revision)
Volume II - Chapter Ten
(Last updated Apr. 16,, 2008)
(Can you help by suggesting links to research related to these chapters, which can be more helpful than enlarging its text?)
PLANETARY MANAGEMENT FOR A HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT
THINK BIG and plan big for the ecology of the entire planet! Polluted water, environment and other ecological problems are but two of many issues confronting those whose goal is `education for all.' Humanity's ecological and environmental problems illustrate the startling paradoxes now facing many researchers, teachers and neighborhood learners. How many scientists and scholars will move beyond their separate disciplines for transdisciplinary, international research--cooperating with many kinds of agencies even politically--to cope with the implications of the `big picture. Data provided by satellites and space probes and telescopes reveal an overwhelming challenge and there is much more to come. Diamond (2005) provides evidence of dangers confronting societies that fail to act decisively on environmental issues, from the `bottom up' (community level) as well as from the `top down' (governmentally). He reports the failure of `group decision' and the necessity for global-scale research and action, value change and courageous decision-making. Note the Global Ecology Integrity Group, <http://www.globalecointegrity.net/>, over 200 scholars in many disciplines that promotes research that "pushes the boundaries' of ecology research in a multi-disciplinary way.,
In 2005 World Watch reported on the overwhelming human and financial impacts of Hurricane Katrina that were having tremendous political and economic impact on the United States and other countries. The devastation of New Orleans revealed a tragic failure to deal with damaging alterations "of the Mississippi River and the destruction of wetlands at its mouth have left the area around New Orleans abnormally vulnerable to the forces of nature." Water temperatures in the Gulf and rising sea levels may have exacerbated the destructive power of Katrina." In any case the 2005 catastrophe along the U.S. Gulf Coast should bes a wake-up call for decision makers around the globe. "If the world continues on its current course, massively altering the natural world and further increasing fossil fuel consumption, future generations may face a chain of disasters that make Katrina-scale catastrophes a common feature of life in the 21st century."
Beginning in 2005 the
United Nations Environmental Program launched a process for "integrated, cross-section
and participatory assessment and reporting on global and regional levels, as
seen in 2005 in the Caribbean Environmental Outlook and the Pacific
Environmental Outlook. Data has been gathered and warnings issues on water
levels and many ot her issues. Meanwhile photos from outer space--with color presenting much
ecological detail--can show the ecological problems and possibilities of every
neighborhood on earth, as part of a planetary ecological map with astonishing
possibilities for research and teaching. See: <http://www.manyone.com/tomorrow/casestudy/egalactice.html>.
Also see, for example <http://www.cares.missouri.edu>
On globalization and the environment see
Is the scientific evidence not persuasive? Our land, our air, our seas and fresh water sources are sickening. Already there are cities and towns where there is no safe water to drink, and places where the air is so bad that children and the elderly nave had to wear masks. Will half the world's population sometime live with dangerous air? (Hammond 1996). How long can people and the economy thrive on a sick, storm-angry planet where health and food supplies are endangered? (Elsam 1996). What research is required to get humanity to act upon such a daunting and little-understood challenge? (Young 1994). Is it essentially a moral problem? (Rockefeller 1992). Could the planet itself become seriously sick because of an over-crowded, selfish humanity's abuse of it? A selfishness, perhaps, that results from a lack of good education? On it as a moral problem see Elliott (2002).A central issue is how to plan now how later to cope with inevitable global warming?
The United Nationshas brought together scientists, politicians and activists who examined the urgency and made plans to preserve "the genetic diversity of tropical forests, the purity of lakes and streams and inland seas and even the oceans, the quality of the air we breathe and the atmospheric gasses which keep our planet habitable." As in health care, some of what must be done is becoming clear. The political will to act decisively for the health of the planet, however, has been weak in follow-up conferences and national political planning. It is our thesis here that global-scale education is the key to success in implementing neglected plans. There is now no reason (McDonough 2002) why humanity can't now have a healthy energy-efficient environment free of products that damage human health.
Some political debate has been twisted by pressure from those who chose to obscure scientific research because they profit, for example, from fossil fuels. (Gelbspan 1997), But doesn't honest disagreement among scientists suggest the need for more comprehensive, holistic research? The potential role of new technologies can be seen in the daily global mapping of the earth's atmosphere from space. Politiciansand leaders of industry rarely take time, however, to look at high-resolution imagery showing the depleting effects of industrial chlorofluorocarbons on the ozone. A major contribution to reducing global poverty would be affordable electricity for everyone on the planet. (27% in Spain now comes from wind power.) Safe nuclear energy is a promising alternative.
Better coordinated research just to show the need is not enough. Humanity must research better ways to empower political and social action (Chadwick 1996); mega-research to prepare a persuasive, well-founded planetary ecology management plan, with details for each nation to encourage action by all citizens; (Hammond 1997) perhaps also the interlinking research on the ecological plans of every community. Cleveland (1993) pointed out that "four enormous environmentsto be further explored: oceans, outer space, the atmosphere and Antarctica" and they "are geophysically and biochemically related to one another." Keeping track of these environments, he said, requires global-scale "concepts, technologies and institutions." It may also require new institutions in cyberspace and the mobilizing of children and students. On sequel to Rio see: <http://www.benking.de/Global-Change/global-integral-agenda.html> ?
2.10.1 A GLOBAL STRATEGIC RESEARCH PLAN? (Also see 2.12.3)
The powerful technologies that have accelerated the trends toward environmental deterioration can now be used to develop a comprehensive "blueprint for mending the earth" (Baez 1995). Combinations of technologies such as satellite monitoring systems, the Internet to coordinate information and action, massive databases, and networks bringing together scientists from various disciplines, suggest what is now going to be possible. A United Nations University study proposed that the environmental summit's proposals need to be expanded into a comprehensive global strategy. It would include all research and action efforts to save the earth and to make it a better place in which to live. That millennium projecthas reported that "although the outcomes of the complex interactions among population, economic growth, environmental quality, and natural resources are uncertain, the stakes are high." It recommended computer simulations that would graphically show the urgency of the crisis. It called for research to define what is known for sure and what knowledge and data are needed for responsible decision making. A global strategic research plan will be in part a combination of national environmental research efforts; but also must include related social, political , economic (and more) data. .
Now in the 21st century, ecological problems cannot be dealt with one at a time, by any one nation alone nor apart from related issues and politics. All nations, multinational corporations, scientists, environmental activists, urban planners, technologists, economics--and more--find themselves involved in much larger issues and schemes than any had ever anticipated. Some have proposed t he need for a `Global Marshall Plan' to "make the rescue of the environment the central organizing principle for civilization." Yet, ultimately, is a focus on the environment alone enough? Will not environmental issues have to be dealt with as part of mega-research for a 21st century total `planetary management system?' That would require research on politics, in agriculture, economics, energy, transportation--the continuing vast increase in automobiles and airplanes--and much more. Duchin (1994) called for serious rethinking of industrial alternatives, as in power generation, manufacturing paper and chemicals. Mega-research might require many interrelated `strategic projects,' such as a worldwide solar energy system.
McDonough and Braungart (2002) have argued and demonstrated persuasively that there must be a `new industrial revolution' in which nearly everything will be ecologically redesigned to be recyclable as all of nature is; designing "products and systems that celebrate an abundance of human creativity, culture and productivity...that are so intelligent and safe that...our species leaves an ecological footprint to delight in, not lament." Our present system, they say, fill the air, water and soil with dangerous toxins, wastes rather than recycles, erodes and destroys natural resources and much more. On the other hand we can have a human system that cooperates with nature and that can create a much healtier and prosperous human environment..
A strategic, comprehensive planetary management system to keep earth green, clean and healthy will, among other efforts, require monitoring from space for "a total view of very large-scale natural phenomena." (Wright 1995) It would include floods, storms, ocean currents, oil spills, the ozone, over fishing, deforestation, desertification, the spread of population, industrial pollution, a more comprehensive weather forecasting system and much more. Satellite monitoring is already aided by the beginning of a `smart environment,' as suggested by the planting of computer chips in wild animals and ocean creatures not only to track them but to use them in gathering environmental data. <http://www.geohaz.org/> Shouldn't there be a carbon tax?
Scientists can now--beginning with satellite photos--map the entire earth in accurate detail as part of a management plan database. To fully understand the global environmentas illustrated by the Polar satellite's images of the Earth's aurora have helped scientists understand the transport of energy from the Sun to the Earth by solar win, part of the first phase of NASA's Solar Connections Program. It is in turn a part of the International Solar Terrestrial Physics program. <http://pao.gsfc.nasa.gov>.Thus data, being collected, can become part of a planetary management system. The quantity of data needed for such a system is becoming so large, however--and must become even much larger--that its management will require large teams. Also perhaps a mega-research strategy to enlarge data management technology to cope with it?
Orbiting satellites are invaluable for environmental monitoring and data collection. Their names are familiar: Landsat, Spot, NOAA. They `see' at night and through cloud cover as they photograph the earth's surface, land and sea in extremely minute detail. They record images of the earth in still photography, by television, scanners and radar. On one hand, they receive data from various points on earth and send it back. (Bequette 1997) On the other hand, instruments on board analyze information contained in electromagnetic radiation emitted by the earth. Thus research data are sent daily to receiving stations in various parts of the world. They are also crucial for monitoring forest fires. Such vivid pictures can motivate public support
The Global Ocean Observing System sees the horizons of this program as unlimited. It aims to create an oceanographic structure similar to that in meteorology. Ultimately this would mean a network of oceanographic research centers in every coastal nation. It would integrate existing research systems that study ocean pollution in the North Sea, or like those that monitor `El Nino' through the existing `Tropical Array of Moored Buoys.' Using ocean observing satellites, one system measures wind speed and waves, another--an infrared detector--measures sea surface temperature with surprising accuracy. Receiving data on the color of the sea is the only way scientists can monitor biogeochemical cycles, carbon dioxity absorption of the oceans, essential for the study of marine algae and fishing. Vital weather information is gathered as well as information that helps in dealing with natural disasters.
The international Earth Observing System early began to combine varied American, European and Japanese systems. However, this was only a step toward the needed comprehensive strategy that "must begin with an agreed-upon definition of what needs to be monitored and why, how and in what order." It must bring together ground-based and space-based data, a difficult task because of the large number and varied quality of ground-based observations in many countries.
All this, however, is only part of a planetary management strategy. Very accurate satellite data on land and ice cover makes better urban and agricultural planning possible. Add to that the mapping of old growth forests which have been over logged. That can make much better forest planning a part of planet management. An "integrated global observing strategy" (Kennel 1997) enables scientists for the first time in history to see, monitor and quantify earth changes that may have serious consequences. "The study of earth system phenomena and processes require international collaboration." Meteorology, oceanography, atmospheric chemistry, geography, hydrology, plant ecology, soil science and more can be integrated in the strategy along with "an international forum or other review process." National and global agencies can coordinate their efforts and more effectively begin to involve the public in political action.
As elsewhere here, the word `strategy' is often used rather than `system' to "imply a flexible and pragmatic approach." A fixed plan for an ideal observing system would soon be outdated. It is crucial "to maintain a watch on the planet's vital signs" so that data will become increasingly usable for long-range planning, even a century ahead. A strategy would continually publicize vital signs to warn the public.
Computers are beginning to fulfill their destined purpose as organizersand indexing in an age of information glut.. So some international scientific and archival organizations are making the first comprehensive inventory of all their data--in climate and hydrology, for example--and are converting knowledge from the past into consistent modern day standards of measurement and documentation.
Such data bases are becoming better coordinated globally. For instance, CIESIN (the Consortium for International Earth Science Information network)--an `information cooperative--was founded to be a distributed electronic information and data system about global environmental change and development. It has linked data from many sources, including governmental and United Nations agencies and promotes common standards and sharing of information. Being it is interdisciplinary, it has sought to "facilitate the worldwide exchange and integration socioeconomic, natural and social science data," its gateway allowing for simultaneous searching of many different kinds of databases in many countries. Compiling and interlinking of adequate information bases for a global-scale project "is possible only through the concerted efforts of many agencies and many, many individuals." The World Wide Web increasingly engages the public, millions for example accessing one set of ecological data.
Hawkes (2003) has proposed that more important that the outer space program but we one on an equally large sale to explore the oceans, the "two third of earth that have never been explored." Also the oceans are sickening and therefore can become dangerous to humanity rather than a great resource.. They are unclaimed and largely explored territory with "immense natural resources Yet we've seen only about two percent of this vast ecosystem" that likely is a storehouse of minerals and fuels. The entire US scientific community, Hawkes has reported, has only one submersible able to explore the deep and "it does not know where to go because we don't have a decent map. So he proposes a NASA-scale project to explore, map and study the oceans. Clarke et al (2004) has urged a three-pronged strategy to provide safe water for all (10 a global water alert network. (2) linked with neighborhood water action teams, and (3) research to clarify better alternatives for solving a global water crisis than many now have.
Computer networking--with an increasingly powerful Internet--can extend human understanding of the environment and of the effect of human society upon it. The Internet gives global eyes and ears to researchers and enhances their ability to comprehend the information they collect. Global thinking is a tall order and "human beings are not naturally adept at it" as yet. Computer networks--that are beginning to link the entire world--can help bring together all the information needed for a planetary strategy. Networking--to support the difficult choices required for the creation of a sustainable society--is seen in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves and its regional and thematic sub networks. <http:www.unesco.org>.
With sponsorship from NASA, CIESIN has experimented with an interactive electronic forum called a `kiosk.' It facilitated a more rapid exchange of data. Unidata, which has supplied university researchers with atmospheric data "in near real time" has been a project of the University Corporation for Atmosphere Research in Boulder, Colorado. It was a founder of the "Greenhouse Glasnost Teleconference" which linked scientists in America and Russia. It grew out of online Western Behavioral Sciences Institute discussions and developed a hypothetical global warming scenario for the year 2050. Assessment essays were prepared by Russian and American participants.
The value of such networking(3.10) was discussed in relation to the effort to create an electronic-based biodiversity network--adequate to support The Convention on Biological Diversity's international conservation efforts. The network was established to underpin and enable biodiversity research. It monitors conservation and preservation management, develops databases and establishes links among them for access to information relating to all aspects of biodiversity. It promotes the need for conservation and works to extend access in regions where computer networks do not yet exist. For example, on clean air see: <http://www.worldbank.org/cleanair>?
This Biodiversity Network has also provided access to legislators, policy-makers and public interest groups worldwide. It has collaborated with existing research centers to reduce duplication of effort and to promote efficient use of funds. This required a secretariat to arrange to publish and archive relevant data, to mirror information from other sites, to organize links to other nodes, to coordinate research activity, for policy oversight, to maintain standards and quality, and to provide library structure and a help desk.
Computer networking opens new doors for action/research, such as that seen in the Citizen's Network for Sustainable Development. As Cleveland (1993) pointed out: "We are dealing with a new class of problems; they are global, and they are also behavioral." They are `global-scale" because solutions require a widening of worldview and the involvement of "hundreds of millions of people, not just rooms full of experts and political leaders." Networking can facilitate aspects of a planet management research and political action strategy. That discussion is underway. Proposals via networking include higher taxes and import tariffs on polluting technologies and products, with revenues used to produce and promote environmentally safe technologies. Ecotaxes in the Netherlands raised taxes on the use of carbons while reducing income tax. Denmark has been experimenting with taxing many practices that are harmful to the environment. (Callan 1997). Also online are proposals to include the costs of cleaning up after pollution if it resulted from manufacture. Such proposals for laws attract the attention of the public. Cleveland proposed research on how and why humanity is doing so much damage to the environment without scientists or the public meaning to do so. "Scientific opinion often lags behind the public," he says. Could mega-research on ecology strategies reverse that?
`Echotechnie' (Bequette 1994),early illustrated a kind of small ecology co-lab that could be interconnected with many others for mega-research and be very helpful in lifelong education. It "combines ecology, economics, technology and the social sciences, a system of ethics and a plan of action" to remind ecologists of the necessity "for a global approach to nature." For example, an Echnotechnie floating seminar on the Danube--a working party involving seven countries--sought to look at the long term "effects of nature on economics." The working party was concerned about the pollution of the river, of course, but knew that humanity can always do something about the source of pollution. "What is more worrying is the (long range) impact of human beings on nature." This, they said, requires the shaking-up of long established research habits. Universities in many countries were therefore setting up an ecotechnie network to facilitate a move "away from overspecialization and to reestablish a general culture and to open up minds in very different fields" to compare theoretical problems with specific cases.
An illustration of a larger co-labhas been the `Mission to Planet Earth' project called Earth Systems Science Pathfinders. Also NASA proposed smaller, lower cost spacecraft to "provide the first global inventory of forests across Earth, using a multibeam laser-ranging device" with ten times more accuracy than existing assessments. (Isbell 1997). Such missions have sought "collectively to address all four major science research priorities of the U.S. Global Change Research Program." This scale of collaboration among international teams of scientists and the mobilizing of such technologies begins to create truly `global co-laboratories. Somoggi (2005) report on Brazil's progress in replacing high-polluting petroleum with biodiesel made from locally grown products, which decease imports and also creates many new jobs.'
One is constituted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the international earthquake studies, and the Global Observing System of the World Weather Watch. They began to exchange weather information among more than 120 countries. NOAA's environmental data about the oceans, earth, air, space, sun and their interactions are used to describe and predict the state of the physical environment.<http://www.geohaz.org/> <http://www.noaa.org>
The Global Monitoring System of the United Nations Environmental Programwas founded to facilitate joint international research in ecology and eventually to have Global Computer Resource Information Database (GRID) capability in every country. The European network for Environmental Technology Transfer (NETT), shares knowledge on pollution control. The World Resources Institute reports that the potential contribution of geographical information systems to environmental management and sustainable development in Third World Countries is increasingly significant. Hundreds, perhaps now already thousands, and soon perhaps tens of thousands of such co-labs--when interconnected and integrated--will constitute a truly global-scale research strategy and perhaps are steps toward a planetary management system.
Stanford University climatologist Stephen Schneider, in hisbook Laboratory Earth, said that in a sense the earth itself has become a giant laboratory in which people are conducting poorly researched experiments that might have catastrophic consequences. He advocated more holistic Earth Systems Science to study the planet as a whole, how its physiological, biological and social systems interact and cause global change. There need to be small, precise disciplinary studies, but public policy should be based on `integrated assessments.' In chapter 18 we ask if an entire country could be a mega-research co-lab. If, as Schneider said, the whole earth is now being treated as a lab, but a mismanaged one, should mega-research plan better ways to use the whole earth as a laboratory?
Computer-based modeling of the atmosphere has convinced most climatologists of the danger of global warming. What will it take to convince the skeptics--of current modeling used--other than those whose eyes are blinded by their business interests? Gaming/modeling can clarify the issues and uncertainty inherent in the effort to help learners understand complex human and natural systems. Modeling also has been used in Madagascar and the Philippines, for example, to show graphically the economic consequences of levels of carbon dioxide emissions. Plans exist for mmore globally collaborative environmental simulations for problem analysis, policy formation and assessment.
Can we anticipate a time when all such models and simulations can be integrated into a truly global system, more persuasive to politicians? These examples suggest the environmental research possibilities of greatly enlarging computer modeling systems. QUEST,' an Ecosystem Scenario Tool from the Sustainable Development Institute at the University of British Columbiathat has sought to integrate socioeconomic and ecological data "from different disciplines into a single framework. . .dealing with the diversity of, and interrelatedness of consequences." (McLeod 1996) It dealt with specific problems in one geographical area, modeling the impact of projected growth on the lower Frazier Valley river basin. The project has sought to overcome some difficulties involved in trying to integrate different disciplines. It has included their values and world views as well as expert views that result from their research findings--into a single framework.
The Frazier Basin Ecosystem Study reflected "upon some of the most important environmental, social and economic issues." Various governmental and NGO indicators were used to keep in touch with innovative thinking, ideas that may not yet have found their way into the policy making arena," McLeod has said. Users began by examining their own values and personal vision, as related to ecology, as they attempted to describe "how the world works with respect to three dimensions: environmental resilience, technological innovation and social adaptability." This leads to the consequences of people's choices and the magnitude of changes required to achieve their goals, local efforts affecting how people act. Studies must deal with population and economic activity across decades, seeing the effect of policy. Users may finally wish to examine the consequences of other scenarios.
Maxwell (1997) described the geographic modeling of ecosystems that is essential for getting "a relatively realistic description of past behavior and predictions of the impacts of alternative management policies." In the past the development of simulations adequate to that task was limited by the inability of existing computers to cope with such mass amounts of data and the difficulty of creating such complex computer programs. Now this is changing, he says, because of the availability of remote sensing data, of related information systems to manage the data, and the development of parallel computer systems that can support models that include economic, biological, social and other sub models. He discusses a modeling system for ecological research that can link graphics, databases with models "to allow scientists to utilize state-of-the-art parallel processing" without having to invest much time in computer programming.
Maxwell illustrated with the Everglades Landscape Model and the Coastal Ecological Landscape Spatial Simulation model. It took about sixteen person-years to develop the latter model and it has proved "to be very effective" in "guiding policy and research." The Everglades model, developed at the University of Maryland, was designed to be one of the main tools in an analysis of varying options in managing the Everglades. That very complex ecosystem has many factors to be examined: plant growth, nutrients, sunlight, flow of water, affect of fire and much more. Geographically, the modeling divides the area into a spatial grid of over 10,000 units of the landscape. Each unit is divided into a set of model sectors that simulate the important ecological dynamics. Such grids are needed for the entire world.
Realistic ecosystem models are becoming much too complex for any single team of researchers to implement single-handedly, Maxwell pointed out. So the task requires larger collaboration between species specialists, hydrologists, chemists, land managers, economists and ecologists. Models are becoming so complex, and the data so extensive, that they are difficult to explain to such a larger team. Yet few scientists are willing to trust a model they do not understand. Now systems are being developed in which the language and modules can be the same for many kinds of models, thus making it easier for scholars from various disciplines and countries to understand and use modeling. Graphics tools for visual presentation enable the modeling process to become a consensus-building tool. The graphical representation of a model can "be a blackboard for group brainstorming, allowing policy-makers, scientists and stakeholders to all be involved in the modeling process." In this way new ideas can be tested, scenarios of alternative actions can be developed, and the model can be more usable. All can see the consequences of various actions and lack of action.
The RAINS (Regional Air Pollution INformation and Simulation) model was developed to assess alternate strategies for reducing acid rain pollution in Europe. It provided valuable aid during the international negotiations on the second Sulphur Convention on Long Range Trans-boundary Air Pollution. Then the model was adapted for use in other regions of the world, first in Asia. It has provided data on energy scenarios, emission control technologies, abatement costs and atmospheric information. It could suggest costs and results for alternative strategies applied to various scenarios.
Arbib (1997) asked what ecological system should be modeled. "Many people, he said, talk of ecology--the study of the interrelations between different species of plant and animals and their environment --as a movement to restore the world to a `state of nature.' But, he asked, do they mean nature at the time of the dinosaurs? Or before the modern industrial age? Mega-research could seek to learn what must be done "to insure that this planet will be a fit home for humanity" rather than try to restore some idealistic past. A Society for Computer Simulation project was concerned with a comprehensive understanding of and improving of the quality of human life. This would require a wise use of technology including modeling "to help us learn how to balance what we consume with what we can work with nature to provide" while preserving nature. We have to take economics and other human factors into account. <http://www.vision-nest.com/cbw/Quest.html>
The Model Evaluation Consortium for Climate Assessment brought together government, academia and industry in many countries to use supercomputers to simulate atmospheric and oceanic developments. It sought to include the impact of human activities in every corner of the globe, "with impacts on coasts, agriculture, health, water resources, ecology. economics of energy production and utilization, opinions of experts and last, but by no means least, public perception and preferences." It brought together models of sea ice, ocean and atmosphere. Can we now anticipate much more? "In spite of the many uncertainties associated with such models, they alone afford scientific means for examining the range of future climate changes that may result from human activities." Some improvements are seen with the increased use of supercomputers but integration of data from earth-observing satellites is not yet adequate. (Electric Power Research Institute <http://www.epri.com>)
Smil (2003) pointed out that it will take two decades to make complex transitions to new energy systems, and that "the world's energy use is at an epochal crossroads." The OECD has warned that a comprehensive plan for 30 to 50 years ahead is needed to cope with environmental and energy needs and issues..
Can modeling assist researchers in planning for decades into the future? Bailey (1996) pointed out how difficult it has been to use computers in the most sophisticated tasks, such as to predict when and how the Nile river will flood. As more and more data were gathered across the centuries "the best indicators in the 1920's" turned out to be certain temperatures in Alaska and Samoa and the barometric pressure at Darwin in Australia. Then it was found that a vast number of unpredictable human behaviors had to be considered. That is attempted today by organizations such as the International Earth Science Network <http://www.ciesin.org>.
Research to deal comprehensively with environmental issues is going to require an integrative science and holistic view of many complex systems. And, Bailey said:: "Not all of the out-of-control floods of the modern world are happening in river valleys." Humanity is also flooded with data, much already available in digital form "but little of which has been analyzed to understand its patterns." He sees the possibility now of such analysis as one indication that humanity is on the edge of a new Great Science that will make it possible to deal more accurately and responsibly with fundamental ecological issues and help all people more clearly to see the dangers. How many models, simulations, research systems and experiments must be integrated into such a universal system?
The term `planetary management' (Wright 1996) was used at the International Telecommunication Union's Plenipotentiary Conference in 1994 to discuss the use of space systems "to keep earth green, clean and healthy," to protect the environment against natural disasters and manmade threats such as massive oil spills. (See Natzinger 2001 on humanitarian emergencies. <http://www.wider.unu.edu/wider.htm)>
The planet's main environmental problem is also its main political and economic problemand here is where learners, even at a very young age, need to be involved.. Mesarovic (1996) has discussed how integrated modeling was intended to meet the need "to consider several disciplines at the same time." An integrated model had to take better account of "the social and human domain." That would include political governance (2.15.1) and economics. (2.12.1) Different factors are in conflict and predictions for fifty years ahead are not likely to be correct. Therefore, realistic policy alternatives and political actions cannot be based on computer models alone. Computer simulations can, however, provide "useful information and guidance," Mesarovic said. On environment and poverty see: <http://www.environmenttimes.net/index.cfm>.
The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)'s research project on "Implementation and Effectiveness of International Environmental Commitments" combined historical case-study research with the development of a database of key variables in the effectiveness of international environmental agreements. It used simulating/gaming to explore political implementation issues. A major purpose was to explore political options for the international management of climate change. One fascinating idea for large-scale research is that of the Sky Trust proposed by Barnes (2001) asked for plans now to avoid battle between nations and corporations over who should control the sky and atmosphere above us, and what is likely to be the most difficult battle of all: the insufficient amount of water for large an earth population.
Satellites and space systems now make it possible "to macroengineer our planetary environment." (Pelton 1999) The importance of space-based sensors, communication satellites, and intelligent networks will increase as we "monitor the ozone hole, replenish our tropical forests, map our countries, create a global navigation and control system and generally manage our planet." On the local scale in the developing world a promising ecological experiment seeks to train local people to build their own homes out of locally available materials. (Kennedy 2004),
Chadwick (1996) pointed our that modeling on how to manage the ecological crisis (politically) is now more important than modeling its deterioration. What kinds of environmental policies will address the full range of environmental and political problems without creating new and greater ones? There must be, he said, cross-national comparisons of policy-making institutions, taking account of history, culture and international forces such as overpopulation. He used Brazil as an illustration, where satellite data confirmed that there was higher incidence of human violence in areas of greater deforestation. Time-lapsed films of deforestation were used to show that scars on the landscape were consistent with state boundaries and that the need for such data was politically important. A solution, perhaps, involves research on political action structures in cyberspace that might move the public to undertake more effective environmental action. (See Carlsson 1995 for suggestions.) The `big research picture' will ultimately also include a planetary plan for the smart and efficient use of resources, with fairness towards labor and business, a transfer of priorities in military expenditures, with a spotlight on correction in and greed in all quarters. Kiss and Shelton (2000) see the need for a comprehensive treaty of fundamental environmental norms.
A global energy policy should beat the center of planning. Clean energy for the world may include nuclear produced electricity (Storvick 2006), electric cars and other transportation, Bullis (2007) reports that a quarter of USA gasoline could be replaced with fucel from garbage. Michael Marien (2007) lists extensive reports on climate issues, new sources of energy such as hydropower, microturbines, hydrogen, biofuel, offshore wind and wave power, solar on deserts and others..
(To accomplish these things, Bright (1999) proposed the need for "a critical redesigning of education' (and what its aims would be) or perhaps "the reforming of consciousness.)" Foreman (2004) illustrated how learners introduced into a simulated ecosystem can find the experience far more valuable than listening to a lecture or reading a text. "They will be able to see and do as they "navigate dynamic immersive environments, zoom in for microscopic observations and purposefully play with relevant variables to see how the system reacts." Corcoran (2008) proposes that the development of a `sustainable way of life' will require a program of lifelong learning knowledge and skills for a sustainable way of life."
The next chapter discusses overpopulation, which is also closely related to environmental research and the moral issues that limit political action.
On the UNESCO sustainable education decade:
The Future of Higher (Lifelong) Education: For All Worldwide: A Holistic View