Messages in respect of the Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems

“A major issue for all is that of conservation of resources, raw materials, energy. It requires the giving up of careless and wasteful behavior in a throw-away society. It is a question of individual and collective attitudes and not a consequence of science and technology. Science provides the knowledge and technology the means of action. The decision about how to make use of them is ours, as individuals. …. The question is, what change and at what rate?: an answer is to call for a responsible management of the biosphere. …. Technology transfer should thus be effected in advanced levels; it implies to introduce photovoltaic or nuclear electricity generators, not coal-fueled power stations, high performance materials not steel mills, etc. Such high tech transfer related to energy, materials and health implies that we do the research that these countries cannot do at present (for instance on tropical diseases) but also that we set the course that will allow them in the future to make advances in technologies, and this requires education and the transfer of knowledge. Beyond the general progress of knowledge and the technological development, the most important impact science can and must have on society is the spirit that it implies, the scientific, rational approaches towards the world, life and society. Education, science and technology may collide with tradition and disturb beliefs or social structure. We must be prepared for that and take it into account so as to overcome it. A very real issue concerns the situation of the scientist with respect to ethics and society. It is my strong opinion that the scientist has first of all a general responsibility to the truth, and only then is there responsibility to the society and to the world at the particular time in history. Ethics is a function of time, location and knowledge. Pursuit of knowledge and truth supersedes present considerations of what nature, life or the world are or should be, for our own vision can only be a narrow one. Ethical evaluation and rules of justice have changed and will change over time and will have to adapt. Law is made for man, not man for law. If it does not fit any more, change it…. Some think that it is being arrogant to try to modify nature; arrogance is to claim that we are perfect as we are! With all the caution that must be exercised and despite the risks that will be encountered, carefully pondering each step, mankind must and will continue along its path, for we have no right to switch off the lights of the future…. We have to walk the path from the tree of knowledge to the control of destiny.

- Jean-Marie Lehn, Nobel Laureate - Chemistry (1987), Collège de France, Paris and Université Louis Pasteur, Strasbourg, France

“EOLSS is concerned with the Life Support Systems: Water, Energy, Environment, Food and Agriculture. Each of these systems is a very complex one. …. we have to think of all these “systems” as closely related “subsystems” of the Planet Earth System. The situation is extremely different in most of life support systems modeling…. the results are not needed with the same degree of precision …. but they should be robust (and valid) for very different time horizons. There is not one model, but a hierarchy of models. Examples of these situations will be given throughout the Encyclopedia. .… More delicate are the global problems, involving several goals, with possible conflicts of interest. ….Rational decisions will be more and more possible to envision if one will be able to couple the physical modeling to economic and financial models and to human factors …. These delicate and fundamental questions will deserve a lot of attention in the Encyclopedia.”

- J. L. Lions, President, French Academy of Sciences, Japan Prize Recipient in Applied Mathematics Galileo Galilei Chair at the Ecole Normale Supperieure de Pisa

“The demographic revolution as a fundamental change in the paradigm of our development will be accompanied by basic changes in the age profile, a change that never before happened in the history of humankind. The impact of this rapid transformation is critical for the understanding of many of the problems now facing the world. The population of our planet and its development over the ages sets the scene for considering all global problems and it is reasonable to begin their discussion with population growth. …. Thus we are dealing with an interdisciplinary problem in an attempt to describe the total human experience, right from its very beginning. But without this perspective of time it is not possible to objectively assess what is happening today and provide an objective view of the present state of development, the challenge now facing humanity. …. Of other global problems energy will be considered most. Energy in all its forms is the main factor determining the production of food, support of industry and transportation, the general well-being of humans and the security of societies.”

- S. P. Kapitza, UNESCO Kalinga Laureate, Institute of Physical Problems, Russian Academy of Sciences

“Scientific curiosity and technological endeavors are deeply rooted aspects of human nature. They are responsible for the development of human society and welfare. But they are also responsible for much of the environmental problems we are facing today. Solutions for these shortcomings are inconceivable without full scientific and technological support. EOLSS has the goal to provide a firm knowledge base for future activities to prolong the lifetime of the human race in a hospitable environment.”

- Richard R. Ernst, Nobel Laureate - Chemistry (1991), Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule, Zurich, Switzerland

“The focus on Science for all the reasons listed in your effective ‘mission statement’ for the EOLSS is not only appropriate, but it is imaginative and, to my knowledge, unique. Much of what we can write about science, about energy, about our far-ranging knowledge base, can indeed be found in major encyclopedias, but as I understand your vision, never as a central theme; the theme of humanity, embedded in nature and constrained to find ways of maintaining a relationship with nature based upon understanding and respect. I believe it will be important to explore the far reaches of this knowledge base, even those areas which may never be applicable to issues of life-support systems, environment, economics, development, but are essential to the culture which drew humankind into the effort to understand the universe from the infinitely distant cosmos to the infinitesimally small micro-world. Of course, in our history such efforts proved to be crucial to any capability we now have towards sustainable development of life support systems. This mysterious and always surprising relevance of the most abstract knowledge must be a strong theme, too.”

- Leon M. Lederman, Nobel Laureate - Physics (1988), Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, Batavia, IL, USA

“Contemporary development pathways have opened up unusual opportunities for a better and longer life. However, they are also associated with serious social, environmental and economic problems such as increasing damage to our life support systems of land, water, forest, biodiversity and the atmosphere, increasing the rich-poor divide with 84% of the global annual income going to one billion of the world’s population, expanding joblessness and increasing poverty and economic inequality of the female. All these problems indicate that we must adopt a change of course in developmental strategies. Such a paradigm shift should help us to maintain continuity in areas where there are positive advantages, and change in areas where harmful effects are seen. For achieving such a process of continuity coupled with change in human and economic development, it is essential that we impart a pro-nature, pro-poor, pro-female and pro-employment orientation to science and technology development and dissemination. The International Commission on Peace and Food in its Report titled “Uncommon Opportunities: An Agenda for Peace and Equitable Development” (published by Zed Press, London, 1994) has brought out new and unique opportunities now available for working for a better common present and future for mankind. Ecotechnology involving appropriate blends of traditional technologies and the ecological prudence of the past with frontier technologies such as biotechnology, information technology, space technology, new materials, renewable energy technology and management technology, can help us to promote global sustainable development involving harmony between humankind and nature on the one hand and tolerance and love of diversity and pluralism in human societies on the other. We need shifts in technology and public policy which can lead to both unsustainable life styles and unacceptable poverty becoming problems of the past. This is a challenging task to which the Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems should address itself.”

- M. S. Swaminathan, Ramon Magsasay Laureate and World Food Prize winner, M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, Madras, India