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How Many Humans can Nature Endure ... and How Much Nature Can People Tolerate?

Air pollution, acid rain and the expansion of nuclear power were the environmental issues of the 1970s and '80s. What is the status of nature in Germany today? Have we learned any lessons?

Environmental protection and conservation have grown more complex. Sometimes it may even seem as if we'd overshot the mark. Many people wonder how it could possibly serve the cause of environmental protection to hand the Bavarian Forest over to the ravages of the bark beetle. The reappearance of wolves in central Europe has also caused some alarm – as has the invasion of new species of flora and fauna.

The questions arising today are different from those of thirty years ago. Just what kind of nature are we supposed to be protecting? What is the standard or original state that we can use to measure the degree of change to the natural environment? Conflicts between the interests of conservation, tourism and forestry have only added fuel to the debates pitting rigid protection against natural changes to dynamic habitats. Should humans take action against the natural erosion of Rügen's chalk cliffs, for example? Can people complain about flooding when they've built their houses right on the river banks? How many humans can nature endure and how much nature can people tolerate?

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