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GEO-3: GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT OUTLOOK  
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... but not for all

These developments, along with improvements in medical science and healthcare, enhance the lives of many. At the same time, these trends create new or intensify existing social and environmental concerns. Advances in biotechnology and genetic engineering, both in combating disease vectors and creating hardier crops, open up areas of Africa and other regions to intensive exploitation by large-scale commercial agriculture and ranching. This jeopardizes both natural and agro-biodiversity and it leads to far worse land degradation than before, destroying harvests and livelihoods and driving even more people into poverty.

Improvements in information technology help draw attention to the vast differences between how different people live, often causing great frustration among the less well off. In the polar regions, resource exploitation speeds up as a result of technological advances and easier access due to climatic changes, putting ecosystems in those regions at greater risk. More use is made of hydropower resources in the Arctic, as well as in Asia and the Pacific, Latin America, parts of Europe, and Africa. Water is also transported over increasing distances to drier regions to cater to soaring demand. This trend is highlighted by the initiation of large-scale projects in the 2010s to move water from the Great Lakes and the Pacific Northwest to the arid regions in the southwest of North America. These steps are followed by similar efforts in Europe and parts of the Asia and the Pacific region.

At the heart of all these market-led concerns is a seemingly never-ending obligation on society to muster enough technological and structural progress to catch up with the skyrocketing demand for goods and services. Meanwhile, environmental conditions are constantly shifting. The effects of climate change are becoming clearer, particularly in the polar regions, in poorer countries and along the world's coastlines. Plans are already being made to evacuate some small island states. Other environmental changes, including imbalances in the nitrogen cycle and the continued dispersion of persistent organic pollutants, are also having their impacts, evidenced by the 'red tides' that hit the Mediterranean in the 2010s and the Indian Ocean in the 2020s.

'The economic advances that have characterized the past few decades begin to slow noticeably. More and more effort is needed simply to maintain the achievements realized so far.'

Prolonged (though decelerating) population growth in Africa, West Asia and parts of Asia and the Pacific and increasing urbanization in almost all regions, aggravate problems such as biodiversity loss, water stress and the frequent breakdown of basic services. These are reflected, in turn, in persistent regional conflicts and migration pressures. As a consequence, the economic advances that have characterized the past few decades begin to slow noticeably. More and more effort is needed simply to maintain the achievements realized so far. Social and environmental goals, which are still in the minds of many even though other concerns have relegated them to the back seat, seem to be moving further beyond reach every year.