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"Куда идет мир? Каково будущее науки? Как "объять необъятное", получая образование - высшее, среднее, начальное? Как преодолеть "пропасть двух культур" - естественнонаучной и гуманитарной? Как создать и вырастить научную школу? Какова структура нашего познания? Как управлять риском? Можно ли с единой точки зрения взглянуть на проблемы математики и экономики, физики и психологии, компьютерных наук и географии, техники и философии?"


Sharing the planet Population - Consumption - Species
Sergey P. Kapitza Russian Academy of sciences, Moscow, Russian Federation

international issues, and Gro Brundtland’s report «Our common future», on the environment published in 1987. In this report it was already explicitly stated that ‘we need a transition from quantity to quality’. The report fully recognizes the profound transition being experienced by civilization and the change in attitudes and values it is to bring. It emphasizes the necessity to develop not only an understanding of these global issues: for only with the appearance of stronger socially oriented governments and the emergence of global governance can these problems be resolved. The report assures that there are enough resources in the world to sustain a decent quality of life for all. In terms of energy the authors recommend limiting the pollution of the atmosphere, changing the technology of industry and modifying the human demands on energy, encouraging energy saving measures.

An essential feature of the demographic transition, already seen in developed countries, is the age structure, where societies are getting much older. This will lead not only to the demand for means to support the older generations, including growing expenditure on health and finding a place in society to gainfully use their expertise. The new age structure will necessarily lead to the development of new values in society, lacking the inertia of growth of human numbers, changes that can be expressed as the pursuit of quality of life. Thus the report outlines a positive future and in no way shares the apocalyptic pronouncements of modern Cassandra’s. A point put strongly is that only by a fundamental change in governance, executed on a global scale, can these visions be realized.

As a consequence of the rate of transition, the state of society is far from equilibrium. In these conditions, when there is no time for the adjustment of the social infrastructure, large disruptions can be expected both at a personal level and in society itself. The high divorce rate, criminality and collapse of long established moral values may be traced to this rate of change. This can also be seen in the disintegration of empires and the breakdown of governance, with the great multiplication of NGO’s. These disruptions exclude any long term planing and socially relevant developments in a world dominated by short range market forces. The crisis of the UN system, that has not evolved since its origin more than 50 years ago, may also be attributed to this transitory stage of world history. It may be simplistic to explain these facts of modern life in such terms, but definitely a significant contribution of the transition should be taken into account in projecting the global future in search for a new world order.

In the foreseeable future armies will change. In countries that have passed through the transition there are fewer demographic resources for conscription to man the huge armies of the recent past. On one hand, the low growth rates and stagnant populations do not create conditions for conflict, for large scale world wars, as happened in the recent past. On the other hand, science and high technology have changed the character of arms in modern warfare. Could the mission of these new armed forces be the containment of peace, or controlling migration, fighting organized crime and terrorism, rather than large scale operations leading to territorial gains and a new world order? Still, the last sources of a large scale conflict are the countries just entering and passing through the demographic transition. This should be seen as the source for conflicts, rather than a ‘clash of civilizations’, a war between Islam and Christianity. That the Islamic world is at a rising stage of the demographic transition and lagging in its economic development is what really matters. Finally, in the information and knowledge society a new set of values and priorities will develop, that may have a significant impact on our future, including attitudes towards the environment, consumerism and population growth and control.

After the Rio 1992 International Conference on Development the concept of sustainable development was put forward. The idea of sustainability was mainly developed in the Brundtland Report and is formulated as ‘meeting the demands of the present without infringing the rights of the next generation in satisfying its demands’. The concept of sustainability should be seen in connection with the demographic imperative. All history has unequivocally shown that the growth of population had precedence over the environment. Mostly under economic pressure people moved and resettled, migrated to other parts of the world in search of space and resources. But what matters and creates the disparities and misery is not a global lack of basic resources, but there distribution. In a stabilized world with a slowing down of development, a new ecological consciousness is appearing, with outspoken criticism of consumerism. At the same time the developing world is experiencing rapid economic growth, urbanization, and growing regional tensions of wealth and poverty. It is difficult to expect that these countries will follow the demands of sustainability, as they are seen in the West, and change their pattern of development in energy and their impact on the global environment, before they go through a phase of extensive development during the demographic transition to a stabilized population.


1) Kapitza S., Global population growth and biodiversity, in «Nature and human society. The quest for a sustainable world». Ed. P. Raven, Report of US National academy of sciences on biodiversity. National academy press, Washington D.C., 2000
2) Kapitza S., A model of global population growth and economic development. «Voprosy economiki,» N12, 2000. (in Russian, an English translation in preparation)

Address: Institute for physical problems, RAS, 2 Kosygina street, 117 334, Moscow, RF
E-mail: Sergey@ Kapitza. RAS.RU FAX: (7095) 938 2030