Socio-ecological crisis and its impact on society development:
Essence of the socio-ecological crisis.
Crisis is a form of historical existence of socio-ecological. It is important to note that the slow speed of integration process of the diverse research trends of the phenomenon of SEC is hindering the practical solution of the problem.
It is desirable to have full and comprehensive analysis of the essence, roots and trends of the socio-ecological crisis. My effort so led to the conclusion about current socio-ecological crisis (SEC) as a crisis of interrelations between society and natural environment, but not of the interrelating parties separately. Besides, SEC is considered as a historical normal state of the development of the system "Society-Natural environment" .Using the "ecological" approach helps to identify the roots of the challenge.
There are two types of SEC – regional, local and global. The "ecological approach" allows us to recognize causing original determinants of this phenomenon as well as perspective ways out.
Measurement of the crisis is determined by the level of adequacy of changed natural environment conditions to conservation and development of the biological and cultural and societal organization of human beings as well as by the adequacy of people’s various economic, political and their structures to the changed natural environment. This point means that we are in SEC every time when our production and supporting it social systems can’t be further developed because of the increasing lack of used particular historical natural resources. Now this resource is energy resources and self-sustainability of nature (self-clearing water and air capacity, self-balancing flora and fauna, etc.). In other words growth of human population and its economic production is challenged by the lack traditionally used natural resources.
Practically this approach permits to identify the short-term, media- and long-term programs for keeping and increasing sustainability.
Crisis is a period in development when the system is keeping its integrity, but this integrity is kept by force on behalf of slowing down the speed of new development .
Crisis is a state of the development in the process of transformation of any system. Notion of SEC is applicable to the state of the whole system, but not its components.
Recognition of the SEC as a system development’s historical period is evristically significant. Ecological approach deals with a system. Specifically SEC is a period of the development of contradiction between nature and society. It is common to analyze the development process without identifying crisis as a universal chain of the system development. Russian theorist A. Bogdanov has emphasized crisis universality of crisis in the development process.
The conception of SEC emphasizes first -the integrity of the interrelating nature and society, natural environment and people, second – existence in both elements of the socio-ecological system of opposite change trends in their relations, for example, increasing possibilities of the production development and decreasing possibilities of the natural environment, third - its duration, that SEC has time parameters, it is not a one momentum phenomenon, fourth – the destructurising character of the phenomenon, fifth - certain level of socio-ecological relations development when it threatens the system integrity, function of SEC as a way to keep the integrity of the "mankind-environment" system, sixth- its "normality", contradictory side of the SEC. So, SEC is one of the "normal" periods of the objets with system organization. SEC concern is raising philosophical and historical questions – relation in the human history of sustainability and changes, evolution and revolution.
The question of SEC is raising not only theoretical questions but rather practical ones. I would say that realization of the nature of SEC on theoretical level leads to questions of practical implementation of necessary consequences. They are political will, increase of public awareness, SEC is attracting attention of general as well as political, business communities to the issues of sustainability, balance between natural environment and human society. Traditional development lost its progressive line and variety of conceptions have appeared as a response to the SEC.
Defining SEC as a conflict of society and environment, we rather evaluate the SEC then rationally analyze it. It is significant to emphasize the difference between the essence of the SEC and its consequences.
SEC is a crisis of relations of social community and its natural environment existing as a system. Such definition permits us to identify periods of the ecological relations development and develop criteria of the SEC. It is not a crisis of the natural environment. The notion of the SEC is not a geographical one. It a notion of the new area of science – social ecology, branch dealing with highly complicated area of relations of societal system with many sub-systems with natural system, consisting also of many sub-systems. We can reach more understanding of the going processes, putting at risk our sustainability. According to the socio-ecological interpretation of the risk to sustainability we can develop a system of protecting conditions for the current development and for future development of human beings on the Earth. At the surface level there is a appearance of the SEC as a crisis of the natural environment caused by human economical growth. If we consider the ecological crisis or crisis of the natural environment we have to admit that it a permanent process and a permanent state. But SEC is a temporary and rarely happening state in the social development. The introduction of the ‘ecological" approach helps to identify historical periods of socio-ecological relations, identify the crisis period, criteria for the assessment and further development of solutions. The notion of the SEC also helps to avoid in our assessment only to the economical assessment of the current risk to the sustainability.
The roots of SEC and of the deep roots of the risk to sustainability is that we have finished the potential of the existing type of socio-ecological crisis. The socio-ecological relations is an exchange process and SEC is a crisis of this exchange process. Recognition of this leads us to cardinal measures of overcoming or even preventing the real critical stage instead of palliative measure, dealing mostly with the consequences of the problem but not with the roots of it. The notion of the SEC, based on the principle of the integrity of the society and nature and seeing it as cause in the break of this integrity and including social factors as central ones (in other words, social a as a criteria of the crisis, for example the stop of the production due to the anthropogenic environmental changes) and based on the understanding the crisis as break of interrelations in the frame of the socio-ecological integrity, gives us criteria of the crisis processes in the natural environment. It solves the problem of what changes in nature are the phenomena of the SEC what are not. Irremediability of changes on natural environment can’t be considered as criteria of the crisis till they don’t hinder the socio-ecological relations. Such irremediable change people have been producing during its whole history and they are not crisis phenomena, more over some of them are promoting development of the system "society-nature". For example, technical facilities have changes the landscape and they leading the SEC. So, essence of the SEC is not the changes in the natural environment. Crisis of the natural environment is accompanying SEC and its notion is overlapping the notion of SEC. SEC is a natural process of the development of the system "society-nature". It is included into the mechanism of the this system development. During the crisis period the existence of this system is emphasized. During the SEC we see the transformation from one form of relations in the system into another and we see the interrelations of the contradictory trends of the system. Introducing SEC as a "normal" stage of the ecological relations of society, we take the crisis model of development as a working concept. Observation, building of the algorithm of the model behaviour of the ecological system is possible on the basis of the application of the notion of critical levels, on the recognition of the possibility of the crisis. Such often used notions as critical level of the pollution and others, don’t bear real content outside of the crisis model of development.
So we take crisis as a temporary state of the systemly organized ecological object. SEC is a one of the development perios od the system. SEC is indicator of the new step in the progressive development. Mechanism of the SEC shows contradictions of the modern social and human production.
Processes that distruct natural environment and wich at certain level make a content of the SEC are pollution, distruction of the biosphere, exhaustion of the natural resources , etc. are very well showed in literature. The basic area of socio-ecological relations is material production. SEC is a whole period of social development. Its essence is rather simple. Socio-ecological crisis is a dynamic state of relations, when the interrelation itself (mainly material production) stop being a developing one (slowing of the production development speed) or stop functioning (destroy of material production) due to the finish of the certain type of relations. Exhaustion of the one historical socio-ecological relations means exhaustion of the exchange object between society and natural environment (matter, energy, information) and also of the inadequacy of the levels of the organization of the interrelating systems. The very fact that any exchange object or the exhaustibility of the natural factors as the condition of the socio-natural integrity has in itself a possibility of crisis in the relation of society and nature.
"This exhaustibility of the concrete natural environment is expressed in the existence of construction limits of the technical means functioning, limits of resources for self-production of the substance of technique and limits of the of the possible quantity of the human production inclusion"
2. SEC is a crisis of the current relations and attitude to the nature and it reflects the destructive behavior of the system "society-nature" or destructive relation. Existing type of relations destroy nature as a condition of the interrelations between society and nature by pollution, exhaustion of natural resources, destroy of flora and fauna. The anthropogenically changed natural environment becomes a barrier of the progressive social development and thus leading to loosing sustainability.
There are two types of sustainability for people – long-term and short-term. Long-term if based on the shift to a new type of socio-ecological relation of the society. Short one depends upon the conservation of the natural environment in the fame of the old paradigm of this big system’s relations. it is of course obvious that we don’t reach short term sustainability we can’t survive to reach the long-term one. In other words reaching short-term sustainability permits us pass successfully the current socio-ecological transition period. We are close to transit to a historically new "nature use" type. It is an illusion the we care about nature or conservation of the natural environment, flora and fauna. We do care about good conditions of our life. People are and should be anthropocentric. So all our talks about nature are talks about us, our survival. The transition period or SEC has its own measures. This leads to different assessment. SEC is period when the changes in the environment challenges social structures and demands deep and radical changes in economic life, legislation, science, education, public participation in policy making, etc. Changed nature demands new technological system in society and thus further development of social life. SEC shows that technological demands challenge the existing social structures. There are already New actors – civil society actors, New behavioral stereotypes, New type of relations, and New idols, and Changes in the social environment (Democracy, etc.), and attempts to respond to New challenges and expect Spin off effects, Expected outcomes, and identify New trends in development or Trend of losses as well as Change in paradigm.
Contradictions between natural environment and society (for example, decreasing amount of energy resource and increasing need of production) now are dependent from contradictions inside societal system. Humankind is not yet rationally regulating self-development and this factor is challenged. Accumulated knowledge, if applied, can create a system of protection, but it is not yet possible. Individuals as well as various communities and governments have not reached yet the needed level of freedom to subordinate the socio-ecological development.
Although there is still time to overcome the SEC or pass it easily, we are not ready to do so. SEC demonstrated to global community the necessity to change principles of economic development, legislation, culture, value system, etc. It is time for not being led, but leading our life on Earth, for being not reactive, but proactive. People can’t avoid the SEC period, but it is possible to take preventive measures and build a new type of socio-ecological relations before reaching the lower critical level and thus avoiding it. Realization of impossibility of rational global collective action (knowledge gaining globally is still a problematic issue) leads to identifying at least palliative solutions. It is not possible, having the existing contradictions inside local societies, international contradictions, dominance of economic advantages over the ecological ones, to prevent catastrophic results of SEC. We collectively are still a the medieval period of instincts (aggressiveness, growth, power, etc.)
Assessing sustainable development: to sustainable development through crisis. We should realize that we are in the period of crisis and that we can’t prevent it. . Universality of sustainability is under question because we, people on the Earth, are not united globally.
What is good for sustainable development is hardly defined. Good for whom? For what? From point of view – personal? Personal of what type of person? "Good" life for people? Do we have enough resources? Do we have that type of management? Are we ready to sustainable development for all? Sustainable for whom? – these are the basic questions to start with? Is there a common globally universal solution? Do we have enough human soul capital for realization of agreed solutions? Illusions? There are ideas, accumulated in history that can help in our attempts to understand our challenges and future: crisis theories, paradigm concept, civilization ideas, Marxist ideas, New man of Nitzshe, existentialist approach with accent on responsibility: personal versus community, Who is responsible? Who needs to be committed. "Sound solutions" –are they based on reason or instincts, on will or emotions? It is not a simple question. Assessing a shift from reactive approach of solution to proactive approach can be an important part of the assessment process.
SEC model of sustainability understanding includes measures of crisis, determined by two factors: biological organization of the human being and by the social organization of production.
The measurement consists of two components:
1) quantitative characteristics of preserving, functioning, and development of the biological organism – Homo Sapiens with all its immanent features;
2) quantitative characteristics of preserving, functioning, and development of the social organism, its structure, inter-social system, and of the development of the bigger system "society-nature". Criteria are social.
In SEC two groups of the system contradictions are revealed:
contradictions between exhaustibility of and nonexhaustibility of nature as precondition of social life development, and contradictions between opposite trends in society and natural environment during their relations. Crisis appears with the production needs are becoming higher then the opportunities of nature to satisfy them. This process is unavoidable. Exhaustibility relates not only to resources, but to capacities of nature too.
Stop in the development of the material production, caused by socially determined changes in nature can be considered as a SEC. It is revealed or expressed in various forms (pollution, exhaustion of natural resources, destroy of the ecological natural balance, etc.) the critical level is determined by the tolerance scale of human organism. Nature exists in concrete limited forms but public production is chaotically based on the assumption that natural resources, being used, have no limits. All parameters of the SEC are of global character. They are either covering the whole Earth surface or all components of natural environmental system. This is well reflected in research literature.
SEC as an ontological global phenomenon with its own qualitative characteristics is leading to recognition of the globally organized social structure, which is far from being regulated consciously be people or whatever (political, economic, legal, business, etc.) communities. Measures to be taken need also be globally organized. As far as at this historical moment there is no hope to organize globally political and business structure, at least knowledge gaining and research organization, dealing with global SEC overcoming or prevention, may be regulated globally.
Existence of the global interdisciplinary socio-ecological research and brainstorming centers may become a starting point of the effective globalization of social structures. Technologically determined challenges should be solved technologically. Global civilization development challenges humankind technologically and prepares the deep transformation of system named "society". Economically SEC puts a task to develop normal conditions for global economy development, not only certain countries, regions. Development of the one global economic system, ecological monitoring system, one global plan of the technological development is possible under only certain ad yet not existing social conditions. Period of transition to new type of future development resources probably is painful process. According to the crisis model exhaustion of natural resources is such an exhaustion, that can’t be solved economically, politically, or any other "intra-social" means, but may be solved only at the level "humankind-nature", by transition to the other type of socio-ecological metabolic process. Now, under the current socio-political, economic and technological structure of global community the possibility of the regional or local SEC is decreasing, whereas its possibility on the global is increasing.
Exhaustion of resources in one region or country is being solved at the expenses of inclusion of resources of the other region. Ecological exhaustion means that resources are exhausted absolutely, that the being used type of matter and energy came to their end . This can happen locally, regionally and globally. When on the whole planet all available types of matter and energy we can speak about their global exhaustion. Will this happen? Each year new stores are found and the time limit of their using is postponed to the future. Technology of their use is improving, waste is being reduced, etc. Globality of SEC underlines the following: it covers tall planet, all societies (independently of their internal structures, all sub-systems of nature and of society (various spheres of nature – atmosphere, hydrosphere, flora and fauna, etc, physical, chemical, etc, states of the environment, economic, political,, etc, structure of people, their health – mental, physical, etc.)ž
Classification of the SEC roots
As far as development of the socio-ecological relations go in three levels (levels "humankind - nature", "socio-economic systems - nature", "individual - nature"). Depending on the level investigation is done different approaches can be realized: ecological, economic, political, etc. Systematization of the SEC roots is linked with identifying one general approach, that creates a systematic understanding of socio-ecological relations transformation. If we can say that roots lie in the relations of the level "humankind - nature", processes at the level "socio-economic systems - nature" are impacting factors the character and speed of the first level processes.
Each level of the SEC roots has its own structure, interrelations, or hierarchy, subordination as well as with the basic ecological relations. If, for example, socio-economic relations are particular regarding the relations of society-nature, and relate to them as conditions and causes, inside of them contradictions at the production, socio-political level, reflecting contradictions of the general character, become causes, but of the secondary type. In this economic approach there are different from the ecological relations between causes of the SEC. The ecological approach permits to identify roots, causes from the moving forces of the SEC. Ecological approach helps to find direct causes, main contradictions in relations of society and nature. It is an approach with focusing main attention to exchange relations between social and natural environments.
Ecological approach integrates all other approaches, allowing to combine all levels of social and natural systems relations by the following way:
- ecological relations of society contain main, basic, essential roots or causes of SEC, necessary regularities, leading to the crisis,
- intra-societal or social relations contain concrete historical forms of society and nature relations, shaping, speeding up or slowing the ecological contradictions, but not causing them,
- individual relations contain non-significant, but still highly important behavioral stamps as regular or normal factors effecting positively or negatively ecological contradictions development.
Various approaches to SEC, being different from each other, still coincide. They may be seen as not negating each other, but rather as adding to each other approaches. Ecological approach makes it possible to systematize factors, leading to or determining SEC by identifying basic relations as roots or causes of SEC and other secondary dependent social relations as forces or consequences, thus differentiating roots from impacting forces and consequences. Ecological relations at different historical stages either promoted or hindered social development. Contemporary type of the socio-ecological relations is hindering the social development because it has exhausted those opportunities of nature, on which material production was based.
Now people search for new natural resources to meet social production needs. Probably that a new resource will be based on biological laws. New type of production and technological relations will include using the old ones and contemporary social relations will be included into the new one. Development of the socio-ecological crisis has as its immanent part a period of SEC. Transition or shift to the new type of ecological relations of society appears in a form of crisis only under certain conditions. Only a mature social organism adequate to the level of the nature complexity will ensure a transition without crisis. Current social structures in the world are successfully failing to solve a transition to new ecological type of relations without crisis or even ecological catastrophe. Contradiction between the necessity to change socio-ecological paradigm (a question of survival) and inability of society to do consciously is also revealed in the SEC. When there is a period of SEC, old social phenomenon (traditions, culture, legislation, religion, technology, values, stereotypes of personal behavior, etc.) as productions of the previous type of relations between society and nature, are transformed into causes or forces leading to or facilitating SEC. SEC is not a kind of punishment, but an expected reality which opens doors to new horizons and new dominance of people over nature. Human being as a highest level of natural complexity integrates in itself nature and becomes an active development agent not only of itself, but of the more complicated system.
Ways out of SEC
SEC challenges first of all at this period science and an old anthropocentrism of human and social beings, including wine-lose relations. it is scientific research that will find new types of metabolism processes between society and nature. Actions to be taken do not exist in time consequence, they should be simultaneous. More significant actions may follow less significant, palliative actions. System of palliative solutions (changes in legislation, culture, use of recycled technology, conservation of natural resources, etc.) safe historical time for people to survive and progressively grow.
We can note two principally different ways out of SEC. First – activity aimed at preservation of the existing system, and second – activity aimed at radical transformation of the system "society - nature". In the first case we speak about the homeostatic behavior of social system (without changes in structure), in the second case we speak about adaptive behavior. Social activity towards radical changes of its relations with nature includes in itself activity towards keeping the reached level of ecological relations, its high level of complexity, conservation of the natural environment as conditions of existence and development , homeostatic activity.
Unfortunately, reflection of the social organism has not reached a level of actual solution of the problem. External necessity for people has not yet led in case of SEC to ecological freedom. It is desirable that we, people on the Earth can implement a three part platform for actions:
- in the area of intra-social relations, changes in the society. Economic programs, political restructuring, reorientation in public consciousness, changes in value system, legal norms, etc. are one step.
- In the area of natural environment, conservation and making it healthier, etc.
- In the area of relations between society and nature or ecological relations of society.
In these areas societal programs towards solution has two tendencies:
1. In the frame of the existing type of socio-ecological relations, and
2. Transition to new type of socio-ecological relations.
The first tendency include: ecologization of material production, biologization of production, use of no-waste technologies, recycling, etc., ecological education, formation of ecological culture, orientations, introduction of ecological factors in raising new generations, community education, technical development, changes in legislation at national and global levels, changes in the international cooperation, informational relations development, further and intensive development of the prognostic functions of science. Sustainability of the socio-ecological system depends on the level of the informational relations in the system. Homeostatic behavior covers also changes in the natural environment (reduction of pollution, nature conservation, monitoring of the environment). They form preconditions for the actual solution of the problem.
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