Aida Papikyan, Green Blogger
Why is it so difficult in this modern world to control and regulate the balance of the sphere that is called ecology? The answer probably is that environmental conditions have become paradoxical in modern society.
Throughout history, people have always lived at the expense of natural resources by consuming them. Due to the hardship of living conditions in the past because of the high mortality rate, natural resources were sufficient for the number of people living in the world. However, with the further increase of population, it has become harder to sustain everyone.
The history of mankind is a story of overcoming nature and eliminating dependence from it. With the advancement of science and the industrial revolution, people were separated from nature. Although it was not entirely possible to cut off from nature, as human needs were still met by the consumption of natural resources, it became feasible to get away from nature enough so that people came out of the circle of the ecosystem. The balance of nature was disturbed. In just 120-150 years, people destroyed hundreds of acres of forests, including livestock and plants, and non-renewable resources have reached the brink of extinction.
New substances were created to overcome the scarcity of resources, which naturally did not exist on earth, and new machines - for faster transportation and production purposes. Plastic was discovered as material necessary for the military industry. Of course, from the beginning, the purpose was not to replace paper, glass, and other materials in everyday life; it happened as a “side effect”. With an end of the Second World War, the US corporations started to use the plastic in construction, in everyday life, in production as it was cheaper as a raw material. The use of plastic to some extent contributed to the reduction of the consumption of wood and other raw materials. Furthermore, before the industrial revolution, animals were largely exploited in agriculture. With the invention of steam engine animals’ power as a means of transportation was also put an end to the widespread use. While in 1850 men supplied 15% of energy for work, animals 79% and machines 6%, in 1960 the proportion was 3.1 and 96% respectively. Unfortunately, machine production revealed its drawbacks soon through air pollution by carbon dioxide emissions.
Currently, when the planet Earth is facing serious damage due to irresponsible consumption of plastic and carbon dioxide, people have started to look back. For example, currently, banana leaves are used for packaging, bamboo sticks instead of plastic sticks. So we are facing the first paradox - what to consume? To use paper or other natural resources without the risk of polluting nature, but to consume natural resources, or to use plastic without consuming natural resources, but to pollute nature?
The developed countries have signed an agreement to support developing countries in solving their environmental problems with the money generated by the exploitation of natural resources in these underdeveloped countries. Here we are facing the second paradox. It is not a secret that developed countries, i.e. European countries or America, are economically advanced, and that their economy has developed at the expense of extracting, selling, or exploiting oil reserves or other resources mostly situated in low-income countries. The latter then receives money from international organizations to reach sustainable development goals. The financial support for sustainable development provided by these organizations has partially been generated from the exploitation of the same natural resources that should be preserved for a sustainable life. Money is in endless circulation, like everything else in the world.
And finally, there is the last paradox – the continuous increase of people's living standards on the one hand and the necessity to preserve nature on the other. The higher our standard of living, the more our natural needs, and the higher the level of needs, the more resources we consume - natural resources or artificial raw materials. In Europe, for example, basic human needs are different from those of people living in Africa. We can consider the Swiss prisons as an example. In Switzerland, the standards for human natural needs and rights are so high that prisoners are provided with all the equipment, including computers. In other words, they take care of all the needs of the people there, restricting their freedom.
As a rule, basic needs are defined not biologically, but according to culture. If they were defined biologically, we would only need to nurture our need for eating, sleeping, protection, and belonging. However, based on the way we live, we need to acknowledge that we care not only for our basic needs. We need to buy new clothes at least once a month, take care of our skin and body regularly, based on beauty standards set by the media; we long to change phones, cars, computers constantly, and so on. Here is proof that the more society develops economically, the more human needs grow.
In line with the requirements of sustainable development, the global institutes have established a need for comprehensive elimination of poverty, ensuring the fundamental human rights. But a big question arises here, that is how to define the basic needs and rights of the people? If we define them according to the conditions of each state, it is enough for Africans to provide people with water, shelter, education, etc. But in that case, the equality of all people on Earth will not be ensured, which is the other main criterion for sustainable development. This means that based on the principle of equality, all countries must reach the same level of economic development to meet their needs, but at the same time without consuming the remaining natural resources. In that case, how to balance the development of controlling development and resource consumption?
These environmental paradoxes are just some of the many obstacles for the environmental balance. That is why, despite international agreements to alleviate and overcome the climate crisis, the world is still in the same situation as it was 33 years ago (the period when the idea of ​​sustainable development was first introduced).

About the author:  Aida Papikyan is a cultural anthropologist from Armenia. The environmental issues are among her topics of interest. She is enthusiastic about writing essays where anthropology, environmentalism, and philosophy are intersected.