The sustainable development concept was formulated at a time when humankind had the technical means at its disposal to engage in pretty much any transformation of the world it wanted. No surprise then that it tends to become lost in the objectives that transformations of the kinds referred to are meant to serve. For many years now, our technical capabilities have been quite up to the task of achieving the biosphere's total destruction, and even if that does not actually happen, there remains a real and immediate prospect of the world's fossil-fuel and other resources being severely depleted or exhausted. Moreover, the state of the natural environment globally is worsening steadily (even if locally - as in Poland - certain improvements might even be observable). The disparities between rich and poor countries grow. While global production of food has remained great enough to give everyone enough, millions continue to go hungry. There is also an intensification of social conflicts whose causes must often be sought in poverty. At the same time, increasing automation is encouraging unemployment, and leading to a feeling among whole groups in society that they are somehow surplus to requirements, living on the margins of contemporary civilisation and experiencing progressing exclusion from it.
Even these selected challenges are enough to make clear just how complicated and difficult the situation today's world finds itself in really is. Is it possible that the all-too-visible crisis looming over us can be counteracted? It was precisely to do that that the sustainable development concept was formulated - not merely as yet another programme to protect the natural environment, since the scope and perspectives as regards necessary action extend so very much more widely. While the voice of the naturalist remains an important one, points of view from the philosophical, economic and technical sciences are also to be taken account of.
With all that in mind, we hereby hand to the reader this issue of our biannual journal devoted to all matters sustainable development-related and ecophilosophical. While the first four editions came under the aegis of the Man and the Environment Committee of the Polish Academy of Sciences, it is now the European Academy of Sciences and Arts in Salzburg that has taken up the reins. While it has happily proved possible to draw a whole large group of outstanding Polish scientists into this new venture, it must still be recalled that these are "early days yet".
We therefore encourage and invite you to cooperate with us in creating and shaping this journal!
Here you can find all articles (full text versions) published in the
journal "The Problems of Sustainable Development".