[OUTLOOK]The 'ecology World Cup' nearing

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[OUTLOOK]The 'ecology World Cup' nearing

The 8th International Congress of Ecology will be held at the COEX Exhibition Center in Seoul from Aug. 11 to Aug. 18, hot on the heels of soccer's World Cup, which begins at the end of this month.

The biggest sporting event in the world will open in this country. That fact is very meaningful and my heart overflows with excitement. The ecology congress is also held every four years and for ecologists it is as important as the soccer World Cup. These days I am busy waiting for this "ecological World Cup."

South Korea has been to five consecutive World Cup finals. But at the same time, we have a disgraceful record, for we have never ever won a game. At this World Cup, I really hope that we win one game at least, and if possible, that we make the last 16 or even the last 8 of the tournament. My heart is already racing when I think of people rushing into the streets and shouting with joy at Korea's first-ever World Cup triumph.

I think it is an honest evaluation to state that we don't deserve to host the World Cup as far as soccer ability is concerned. But we acquired the right to host the World Cup and thus all Koreans are trying to make the event wonderful.

Thus, I have no doubt that there will be great results and that soccer's World Cup will be a large boost to South Korea's economy.

In terms of qualifications, we also don't deserve to host the ecology World Cup. According to the Environmental Index of the United Nations, South Korea ranks 136 out of 142 countries in the world in environmental achievements. How can we host a festival of ecologists with such a poor standing?

But South Korean ecologists secured this event and are proudly preparing a meaningful gathering for thousands of ecologists from around the the world. This bodes well for Korea's future standing among the great environmental powers.

Not long ago I inquired at a research institute on how I might get an advanced science grant. The institute said that my idea was meaningless because ecology was not one of the advanced sciences the institute supported.

The word "advanced" in "advanced sciences" is cheomdan in Korean. Koreans originally used cheomdan to translate the expression "cutting edge" into Korean. The phrase "cutting edge" has the same meaning as "leading edge," and that means "advanced" rather than "pointed" or "minute."

Human existence today is being seriously threatened because of various environmental problems including the exhaustion of biodiversity.

Ecology is a science that can save us from this crisis. If that kind of science is not an advanced science, I wonder what an advanced science might be. What kind of advance science research can be done when human beings are removed from the planet Earth?

I can assert that there is no more urgent advanced science in our time than ecology.

Fortunately, the Ministry of Environment recently became aware of the importance of ecology. The ministry made plans for an investigation project of the basic resources of national ecology and of securing sovereign power over biological resources, as well as supporting the 8th International Congress in Seoul.

The ministry is now waiting for budgetary allocations.

I am very glad that the Ministry of Environment decided to push forward with this project, which other research institutes have disregarded in the interim. It is a much more important project than any events the ministry has planned or done.

I have often heard the slogan "Let's make this World Cup into an environmental World Cup." Even though Korea has realized a dream of joining the last 16 soccer World Cups, if we show foreigners the impression of a less developed country, with a low quality of life, the 2002 World Cup will be an event with many more losses than gains.

I believe that if the World Cup soccer matches are combined with the ecology World Cup, we can make an environmentally wonderful World Cup.


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The writer is a professor of biological science at Seoul National University.

by Choe Jae-chon

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