Volume 256 Issue 5514, 17 July 1975

Opinion

News

  • News |

    When a conscientious government department requests advice on the potential environmental effects of a proposed agricultural development scheme for an area of tropical forest or of the construction of an irrigation dam in an arid area, it is a chastening experience for the “scientist” to have to admit that he has no hard and fast advice to give. Contrary to what most people believe, we neither know for sure what should be done nor, equally important perhaps, what should not be done in these kinds of situations. For, Paradoxically, although a great wealth of scientific information is avaiable, much of it is not used and, in fact, in the mono-disciplinary form in which it has been compiled, is unusable within the context of development planning. In spite of the years of work that have gone into the study of forests, deltas and estuaries, arid Zone grazing land and irrigation problems, and so on, the findings that have emerged, valuable as they are, do not provide practical answers to the sort of questions governments and decision-makers are asking, because the research approach has not been geared to consideration of the man/environment system involved. It was precisely to resolve this paradox that UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme was conceived in an attempt to develop an integrated research approach to the management problems arising from the interactions between human activities and natural systems. Michel Batisse, Director, Department of Environmental Sciences and Natural Resources Research, UNESCO, reports.

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