chapter  1
8 Pages


Humankind’s awareness of its dependence on the environment goes back to the very beginning of human history. Through the centuries, the scale, degree and location of environmental problems and awareness have evolved correspondingly.1 One can speak of structured environmental awareness since the Industrial Revolution. Less than 30 years ago, the world of science also acknowledged the severity of environmental problems. It became clear that it was no longer just a matter of incidents – such as an oil tanker accident off the coast of La Coruña in Spain – but that the existence of all of humanity was threatened by a silent global environmental crisis. In the 1980s especially, it became evident that economic development, which had brought significant prosperity, also caused not only social but environmental abuses as well. Concern for the environment has now been translated into laws; most countries are trying to pay back the environmental debts that have been incurred and stimulate preventive actions.