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Gorshkov V.G., Makarieva A.M. (2002) Knowledge of the Environment. In: Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems (EOLSS), 15.3 Human Development and Education (N.P. Tarasova and B.J. McGettrick, theme eds.). EOLSS Publishers, Oxford, UK, http://www.eolss.net. Full text (PDF, 150 Kb).
Accumulation of environmental knowledge in the form of science and technology has resulted in huge impacts as humans have transformed their environment into a state favorable for humans. Natural ecosystems have been destroyed on vast tracts of land. On the other hand, development of industry and agriculture accompanied by global population growth has led to increasing rates of anthropogenic environmental pollution. As a result, the stabilizing capacity of the global natural biota has been exceeded and global environmental changes have been initiated.
At present, most efforts are being directed at finding technological solutions to environmental problems that are based on creation of no-waste technologies and improved cleaning facilities. Yet it is not clear whether it is in principle possible to maintain a stable environment on earth by technological means, replacing the natural mechanism of biotic regulation of the environment. On the contrary, studies of information fluxes that can be processed by humankind and are processed by natural biota show that there is a gap of more than ten orders of magnitude between the two fluxes. Thus, information available to humankind will never be sufficient to maintain a stable environment on a global scale.
Thus, the further long-term development of environmental knowledge-that at present is substantially technology-biased-should be concentrated on fundamental studies of natural biota and its stabilizing properties. The ultimate goal of these studies is to quantify the ecologically permissible amount of anthropogenic transformation of natural biota that is still compatible with environmental stability. Meanwhile the technological dimension of environmental knowledge should be given serious attention when solving problems of local pollution caused by human settlement.