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Human ecology and development in Lychnos 4

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Issue number 4 of the journal Lychnos, published in March 2011, is devoted to another of Fundación General CSIC’s strategic lines: Human ecology and development. This special issue therefore explores some of the diverse facets of the topic, such as energy, water, transport, risks and their prevention, and agriculture and nutrition.

The subject is introduced by Joan Martínez-Alier, a founding member of the International Society for Ecological Economics, for whom Human Ecology is a subject which can only be understood in terms of both the natural and social sciences together.

Next, changing the energy model is explored in turn by Rafael Moliner, a CSIC research professor, and Domingo Jiménez Beltrán, an advisor at the Observatorio de la Sostenibilidad en España (OSE). Both authors conclude that one of the challenges facing humanity is the exhaustion of fossil fuels and the need to look for alternative ways of meeting our energy needs.

Sergi Sabater, Alícia Navarro-Ortega and Damiá Barceló, researchers on the SCARCE project, which aims to predict and assess the effects of global change on the quantity and quality of water in the rivers of the Iberian Peninsula, examine the importance of achieving a balance between humans and the ecosystem as regards resource usage, in this case, water. The article entitled «The Joint-Programming Initiative: the challenges of water in a changing world» identifies two major problems requiring research efforts, within the context of the European Research Area: the quantity and quality of water, and the events it causes. Enrique Playán, José María Sánchez-Puelles, José Luis García López, Almudena Aguero, Lourdes Armesto and Rosa Rodríguez Bernabé analyse the economic, social, ecological and technological challenges which need to be faced in this area.

For Luis M. Jiménez Herrero, executive director of the Observatorio de la Sostenibilidad en España (OSE), sustainable transport has become a priority at all levels: local, national, European and global. In an interview, Antonio Monfort argues that transport policy needs to be subordinate to sustainability policy, given the overarching nature of the sustainability issue.

Jorge Olcina, professor of Regional Geographical Analysis at the University of Alicante, warns that our world is at risk. Thus, thousands of people are affected by extreme natural events each year. And many die as a result. He argues that the forecasts for the coming decades (in a context of population growth, climate change and the advance of urbanisation) do not suggest that improvements in the situation are likely, and Spain is among the countries most at risk from natural hazards in Europe. In her article, Pilar Gallego, director-general for Civil Protection and Emergencies, describes how prevention, training, new technologies, the involvement of the public, and cooperation are decisive factors in achieving a civil protection service for the 21st century meeting the public’s needs.

In the agriculture and nutrition field, Lychnos 4 includes contributions from Daniel Ramón, CEO of Biópolis, S.L., and Pere Puigdomènech, a CSIC research professor. Both authors agree that feeding the human race will depend on the ability of science to devise new and more efficient ways of producing food, applying all the possible technologies. In particular, genetic modification promises to be a powerful tool in balancing the planet’s nutritional imbalances.

Finally, in the Forum section, Federico Mayor Zaragoza, honorary president of the Fundación General CSIC, reflects on the interaction between humans as creators and the environment they live in.