The general framework in which these questions will be answered is that of the earth consisting of four subsystems: air, water, land and living things. In more scientific terms: the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, the lithosphere and the biosphere.
They are visualized in the image below.
It is important to realize that these four spheres interact with each other:
For example, the CO2-emissions in the atmosphere are to a large extent absorbed by the oceans (hydrosphere), where it leads to acidification which affects the food chain (biosphere) in the sea waters, and because the warming effect of these emissions causes sea levels to rise there is loss and salination of land (lithosphere).
A powerful view on this interaction has been given by the GAIA hypothesis as proposed by James Lovelock.
The Gaia Theory posits that the organic and inorganic components of Planet Earth have evolved together as a single living, self-regulating system. It suggests that this living system has automatically controlled global temperature, atmospheric content, ocean salinity, and other factors, that maintains its own habitability. In a phrase, “life maintains conditions suitable for its own survival.” In this respect, the living system of Earth can be thought of analogous to the workings of any individual organism that regulates body temperature, blood salinity, etc. So, for instance, even though the luminosity of the sun – the Earth’s heat source – has increased by about 30 percent since life began almost four billion years ago, the living system has reacted as a whole to maintain temperatures at levels suitable for life.
The speakers will also identify the major factors affecting the situation and developments in their sphere and give their views, in general, on where positive action should be stimulated and where negative trends should be stopped.
Within the format of the symposium this cannot be done in detail – this is for the practitioners in politics, policy formulation and implementation, education, engineering, business, finance and for us as citizens, consumers and parents in our daily lives.
The diagnosis and prognosis of the symposium will help to give focus and structure to the work in practice.
As proposed by the famous ecologist Barry Commoner, there are three key factors that determine the IMPACT of mankind on the ecology of the earth:
The size of the POPULATION
What people do to sustain themselves: their AFFLUENCE or lack of it, and
How they do it: their TECHNOLOGY
Building on and visualizing the formula in which Commoner summarizes the above:
PHI (Φ) stands for the processes by which the emissions of human activities lead to actual impacts on the four spheres and, again following Barry Commoner, these processes are governed by his four laws of ecology:
Barry Commoner was honored by Time Magazine, which pictured him and his work on the front page of the edition of Feb. 2, 1970.
All interventions to remedy the ecological challenges to the earth have to consider the three factors mentioned above, and their interactions, as objects of action, taking into account the four laws of ecology. They are nothing more nor less than the way Mother Nature governs us.
Sir Francis Bacon understood this so well, when he said: