On several issues regarding efforts toward a sustainable society
Environmental issues and the future sustainability of society are among the greatest concerns facing society today. How to formulate a pathway toward a sustainable society is a critical question. Several issues associated with this question are presented and discussed. First, a structuring of the issues is presented. The environment can be said to consist of three systems—the natural, social, and human—and their interactions; environmental problems may therefore be defined in terms of perturbations of the interactions among the three systems. A sustainable society can be realized by restoring these interactions. Next, the characteristics of the issues are discussed. Because environmental issues relate to the future, forecasts of the future are essential. Because it is impossible to predict the future with complete accuracy, however, we should develop a method of using information about the future with allowance for error. It should be noted that error characteristics differ according to their time-scale. Third, the relationship between environmental issues and society is discussed. To take collective action on these issues we need society-wide consensus, which requires a reliable and objective platform. Here, more attention must be paid to the distribution of knowledge across society, because scientific knowledge in a modern society tends to be monopolized by research organizations. The role of the media is therefore important. Another important factor is the commitment of the general public; user-friendly ways of galvanizing such commitment should be developed.