Impact loops in the biosphere-centred network of interrelations C 1.3 25 HYDROSPHERE ATMOSPHERE PEDOSPHERE Sea-level rise Changes in loads of particulate and dissolved matter Stratospheric ozone depletion Loss of fertility (organic matter, nutrients) Salinization, alkalization Changes in ice-caps and glaciers Changes in oceanic circulation Freshwater scarcity Changes in water quality (pathogens, nutrients, toxins) Changes in local water balance Changes in groundwater level Zunehmende lokale Luftverschmutzung Enhanced greenhouse effect Tropospheric pollution Global and regional climate change Increase in trace gases Erosion, morphological changes Surface sealing Compaction Overfertilization Acidification, contamination Increased deposition and accumulation of waste POPULATION Rural exodus Urbanization Population growth International migration Urban sprawl Increasing damage to health Loss of biospheric sinks Substance overload of natural ecosystems Fragmentation of natural ecosystems BIOSPHERE Increase of anthropogenic introduction of species Damage to ecosystem structure and function Reinforcement of biospheric sources Resistance formation Overexploitation of biological resources Conversion of natural ecosystems Genetic and species loss Increased food production Expansion of agriculturally used lands Intensification of agriculture Decline of traditional agriculture Expanding monetary sector Increase of environmentally sound economic processes Increased tourism Increased consumption of energy and resources Enhanced labour productivity Enhanced resource productivity Tertiarization Increasing protectionism Expansion of traffic routes Globalization of markets ECONOMY Enhanced capital intensity International indebtedness Industrialization Increasing world trade Growing traffic volume Growing environmental awareness Increased mobility Growing interest in participation Sensibilization to global problems PSYCHOSOCIAL SPHERE Demand for higher standards Women's emancipation Growth of fundamentalist movements Spreading of western lifestyle and consumption patterns Widening national social and economic disparities Widening international social and economic disparities Individualization Mounting poverty Decline of traditional social structures Institutionalization of social services SOCIAL ORGANIZATION Increasing significance of NGO's Increasing regional conflicts Democratization Increasing international agreements and institutions Increasing environmental protection at national level Structural unemployment on the rise Growing importance of national economic policy strategies Knowledge and technology transfer Intensification of education and capacity building Progress in information technology Advances in environmental engineering Development of renewable energies and resources Construction of technical megaprojects Medical progress Mounting technological risks Automation, mechanization Progress in biotechnology and genetic engineering Development of new materials, material substitution SCIENCE / TECHNOLOGY = amplifying effect = attenuating effect Figure C 1.3-4 Network of interrelations for the positive impact loop in the biosphere. Source: WBGU
26 C The biosphere-centred network of interrelations receiving more attention from the public (Sections E 3.1 and I 2.5).As a result, environmental awareness is strengthened, and in recent years sensitivity to global problems has also been increasing: the crossborder character of many environmental changes (eg climate change) is becoming clearer. These concerns manifest themselves in the growing significance of environmental NGOs andthe growing pressure on political decision-makers. They react with strengthened national environmental protection policies (eg environment ministries) and, at international level, these fears and insights have now led to a number of institutions and environmental agreements (WBGU, 1996; Section I 3). The work ofthe environmental institutions is always directed at awareness-raising in society: it may thus have an effect on environmental awareness. But there are also direct successes measurable in the environment: environmental policy certainly has an attenuating effect on the trends towards the loss of biodiversity. One example is the protection of wetlands, which has at least slowed down the disappearance of ecosystems and species as a result of relevant regulations (national nature conservation legislation, Ramsar Convention). CITES, too, (Section D 3.1) has been successful: thanks to international trade bans, the populations of individual species of some plants and animals have recovered. This closes the circle of a positive, self-reinforcing feedback. Industry has reacted to this pressure from politicians, NGOs andthe media by increasing environmentally sound economic patterns. Examples of this include the efforts to certify wood products from sustainable forestry or voluntary commitments for environmental protection on the part of industry. This ‘conservation loop’ clearly shows that man and society are not helplessly at the mercy ofthe negative developments in the biosphere, but that there is most certainly a potential for reaction and adaptation. Recognizing these processes and consciously encouraging them is therefore an element of national and international environment policy. However, these positive approaches must not conceal the fact that it has so far only been possible to halt the conversion and degradation of ecosystems to an insignificant extent.