Present problems future prospects

Public interest in the global environmental issues described in the preceding chapters has waxed and waned over the past decade (see Figure 8.1). At present, ozone depletion and global warming elicit a high level of concern, whereas drought and desertification, acid rain and atmospheric turbidity have a much lower profile than they once had. With the break-up of the Soviet Union, the re-alignment of eastern Europe and the end of the 'Cold War', nuclear winter is no longer considered a serious threat by most observers. This situation reflects current perceptions of the seriousness of particular problems. Perceptions can change, however. Since few members of the general public are in a position to read the original scientific reports which address the issues, they must depend upon an intermediary to satisfy their interest. In modern society this interpretive role has been filled by the media, and public perception of the issues is formed to a large extent by their rendition of research results. Without them, the general level of understanding of the problems would be much lower than it is, but, as a group, the media have also been accused of sensationalizing and misinterpreting the facts supplied by the scientific community. There can be no doubt that some of the accusations are valid, but scientists too may be partly to blame for allowing conclusions to be presented as firm, before all of the facts are in. Such was the case with the initial investigation of nuclear winter, and also with the discovery of the hole in the ozone layer above the Antarctic in the mid-1980s. Given the scale and complexity of current environmental issues, problems of interpretation and dissemination are inevitable. They must not be allowed to divert attention from the main task, however, which is the search for solutions to the major issues.

The Basic Survival Guide

The Basic Survival Guide

Disasters: Why No ones Really 100 Safe. This is common knowledgethat disaster is everywhere. Its in the streets, its inside your campuses, and it can even be found inside your home. The question is not whether we are safe because no one is really THAT secure anymore but whether we can do something to lessen the odds of ever becoming a victim.

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