Solidarity, Sustainability, and Nonviolence

            Vol. 4, No. 10, October 2008
            Luis T. Gutierrez, Editor

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Violence is the main obstacle to human development. Since there is an intrinsic link between patriarchy and violence, mitigating violence requires overcoming the patriarchal mindset in both secular and religious institutions. The mission of this electronic newsletter is to provide a commented digest on current research and emerging issues related to human solidarity, ecological sustainability, and both secular and religious non-violence. Each section includes links to relevant "best of the web" content. The basic philosophy of the newsletter is Christian, but no source of wisdom is excluded. The U.N. "Millennium Development Goals" (MDGs) are used as a point of reference.

Theme of the Month

Cultural Dimension of Sustainable Development


The classical model of sustainable development is visualized as the intersection of three dimensions: economic, social, and environmental. We'll get to those in due time, but first it seems necessary to analyze the root causes of human behavior. Else, the analysis is limited to symptoms, and we all know that defining real, long lasting solutions requires digging deeper, much deeper. For human behavior is influenced by external factors, but changes in human behavior emerge from the inner life of people.

This issue focuses on the cultural dimension of sustainable development. It builds on previous issues on the human, religious, spiritual, nuptial, and ethical dimensions. Thomas Jefferson never heard about the United Nations and sustainable development, but he wrote: "Then I say the earth belongs to each . . . generation during its course, fully and in its own right ... no generation can contract debts greater than may be paid during the course of its own existence ..." (6 September 1789). This is a remarkable insight with behavior modification potential, and it emerged from within Thomas Jefferson even though he was living in a new continent with open frontiers and no "limits to growth."

The need for cultures to be enriched by cultural diversity is discussed. It is argued that both teleological unity and cultural diversity are indispensable for sustainable development to get started and be sustained. In this context, six dimensions of current global culture are analyzed: violence, patriarchy, consumerism, globalization, religion, and spirituality. Each of these had previously been analyzed individually. The reconsideration of these six dimensions in a cultural context reinforces previous conclusions. Sustainable development can unfold only in cultures that foster nonviolence, egalitarian institutions, frugal (or at least not excessive) consumption patterns, global citizenship, renewal of religious traditions, and human development rooted in spirituality.

INVITED PAPER: The invited paper this month is Engage the Powers of Destruction: Declaration of Bangalore , Feminist Discourse on Economy, Ecology and Empire. World Alliance of Reformed Churches, Bangalore, India, 18 August 2008.


  1. Culture & Cultural Diversity
  2. Cultures & Sustainable Development
  3. Cultural Issue: Violence
  4. Cultural Issue: Patriarchy
  5. Cultural Issue: Consumerism
  6. Cultural Issue: Globalization
  7. Cultural Issue: Religion
  8. Cultural Issue: Spirituality
  9. Prayer, Study, and Action
Engage the Powers of Destruction: Declaration of Bangalore , World Alliance of Reformed Churches, Bangalore, India, 18 August 2008.
Pelican Symbolism
Human Nature
Nuptial Covenant
Religious Traditions
Global News/Issues
Global Citizen
Sign of the Times
MDG Pubs & Data
SSNV Links
Two Great Books
Useful Tools
Knowledge Base
Free Downloads
Poem: Nirmala Nair
SSNV Archive

1. Culture & Cultural Diversity

There are many definitions of culture. According to Wikipedia, "culture can be defined as all the ways of life including arts, beliefs and institutions of a population that are passed down from generation to generation. Culture has been called "the way of life for an entire society." As such, it includes codes of manners, dress, language, religion, rituals, norms of behavior such as law and morality, and systems of belief as well as the art.".

Globalization notwithstanding, it would seem premature to attempt a definition of "global culture." But there is certainly a geography of cultures at the local, national, and regional levels. It is closely correlated to the geography of religions, since religion has a decisive influence in shaping a culture. Wikipedia provides descriptions of cultures by country and cultures by region.

This cultural diversity, now more observable than ever due to globalization and migration, is something to be treasured. There is no such thing as the "best culture" or the "worst culture." For Christians, the norm for a "good" culture is to be found in the Gospels. For Jews, it would be the Ten Commandments. For Muslims, it would be the Koran. For Buddhists, it would be the Five Precepts. No culture is self-sufficient. "No culture can live, if it attempts to be exclusive" (Gandhi). It is in this context of cultural diversity that sustainable development can blossom. The Declaration for Cultural Diversity (UNESCO, 2001) clearly explains why cultural diversity is required for sustainable development:


"ARTICLE 1 - Cultural diversity: the common heritage of humanity
Culture takes diverse forms across time and space. This diversity is embodied in the uniqueness and plurality of the identities of the groups and societies making up humankind. As a source of exchange, innovation and creativity, cultural diversity is as necessary for humankind as biodiversity is for nature. In this sense, it is the common heritage of humanity and should be recognized and affirmed for the benefit of present and future generations.

"ARTICLE 2 - From cultural diversity to cultural pluralism
In our increasingly diverse societies, it is essential to ensure harmonious interaction among people and groups with plural, varied and dynamic cultural identities as well as their willingness to live together. Policies for the inclusion and participation of all citizens are guarantees of social cohesion, the vitality of civil society and peace. Thus defined, cultural pluralism gives policy expression to the reality of cultural diversity. Indissociable from a democratic framework, cultural pluralism is conducive to cultural exchange and to the flourishing of creative capacities that sustain public life.

"ARTICLE 3 - Cultural diversity as a factor in development
Cultural diversity widens the range of options open to everyone; it is one of the roots of development, understood not simply in terms of economic growth, but also as a means to achieve a more satisfactory intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual existence.

"ARTICLE 4 - Human rights as guarantees of cultural diversity
The defence of cultural diversity is an ethical imperative, inseparable from respect for human dignity. It implies a commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms, in particular the rights of persons belonging to minorities and those of indigenous peoples. No one may invoke cultural diversity to infringe upon human rights guaranteed by international law, nor to limit their scope.

"ARTICLE 5 - Cultural rights as an enabling environment for cultural diversity
Cultural rights are an integral part of human rights, which are universal, indivisible and interdependent. The flourishing of creative diversity requires the full implementation of cultural rights as defined in Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in Articles 13 and 15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. All persons have therefore the right to express themselves and to create and disseminate their work in the language of their choice, and particularly in their mother tongue; all persons are entitled to quality education and training that fully respect their cultural identity; and all persons have the right to participate in the cultural life of their choice and conduct their own cultural practices, subject to respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

"ARTICLE 6 - Towards access for all to cultural diversity
While ensuring the free flow of ideas by word and image care should be exercised that all cultures can express themselves and make themselves known. Freedom of expression, media pluralism, multilingualism, equal access to art and to scientific and technological knowledge, including in digital form, and the possibility for all cultures to have access to the means of expression and dissemination are the guarantees of cultural diversity.

"ARTICLE 7 - Cultural heritage as the wellspring of creativity
Creation draws on the roots of cultural tradition, but flourishes in contact with other cultures. For this reason, heritage in all its forms must be preserved, enhanced and handed on to future generations as a record of human experience and aspirations, so as to foster creativity in all its diversity and to inspire genuine dialogue among cultures.

"ARTICLE 8 - Cultural goods and services: commodities of a unique kind
In the face of present-day economic and technological change, opening up vast prospects for creation and innovation, particular attention must be paid to the diversity of the supply of creative work, to due recognition of the rights of authors and artists and to the specificity of cultural goods and services which, as vectors of identity, values and meaning, must not be treated as mere commodities or consumer goods.

"ARTICLE 9 - Cultural policies as catalysts of creativity
While ensuring the free circulation of ideas and works, cultural policies must create conditions conducive to the production and dissemination of diversified cultural goods and services through cultural industries that have the means to assert themselves at the local and global level. It is for each State, with due regard to its international obligations, to define its cultural policy and to implement it through the means it considers fit, whether by operational support or appropriate regulations.

"ARTICLE 10 - Strengthening capacities for creation and dissemination worldwide
In the face of current imbalances in flows and exchanges of cultural goods and services at the global level, it is necessary to reinforce international cooperation and solidarity aimed at enabling all countries, especially developing countries and countries in transition, to establish cultural industries that are viable and competitive at national and international level.

"ARTICLE 11 - Building partnerships between the public sector, the private sector and civil society
Market forces alone cannot guarantee the preservation and promotion of cultural diversity, which is the key to sustainable human development. From this perspective, the pre-eminence of public policy, in partnership with the private sector and civil society, must be reaffirmed."

In brief, cultural diversity is not unlike biological diversity. An ecological system is healthier and more resilient as long as biodiversity is high. If biodiversity decreases, the ecosystem becomes less resilient and more vulnerable to external perturbations. Likewise, human societies that encourage, or at least tolerate, cultural diversity are better able to remain stable in response to adversity. Sustainable development is required for the consolidation of both human rights and human development.

Selected references on culture and cultural diversity:
  1. What is Culture?, Washington State University, 1999.
  2. Reflections on the Politics of Culture, Michael Parenti, Monthly Review, 1999.
  3. Position Paper For East West Cultural Development Centre, East West Cultural Development Centre, January 1999.
  4. Definitions of Culture, Eric Margolis, Arizona State University, 2000.
  5. Declaration for Cultural Diversity, UNESCO, 2001.
  6. Culture and Civilization in Modern Times, Dictionary of the History of Ideas, University of Virginia, 2003.
  7. International Network for Cultural Diversity, INCD, 2003.
  8. Unity in Diversity, Richard Sidy, SNS Press, Vol. 4, Number 3, March 2005
  9. Compilation of 100+ Definitions of Culture, Define Culture Website, 2006.
  10. Global Culture: Essays on global issues and their impact on culture, Global Culture Website, 2007.
  11. Culture, Wikipedia, last modified on 22 September 2008.
  12. Cultural Diversity, Wikipedia, last modified on 17 September 2008.
  13. Cultures of the World, Wikipedia, last modified on 5 July 2008.
  14. Centre of Intercultural Learning (CIL), CIL Website, last updated 19 June 2008.
  15. Center for East Asian and Pacific Studies (EAPS), EAPS Website, University of Illinois, 2008.
  16. East Asian Studies Center (EASC), EASC Website, Indiana University, 2008
  17. Global Voices Online, Ethan Zuckerman and Rebecca MacKinnon, Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Harvard University, September 2008.

2. Cultures & Sustainable Development

Granted that cultural diversity is instrumental for sustainable development, cultures can be diverse in many ways. One feature that all cultures seem to have in common is the perpetuation of some form of inequity. There are many forms of inequity (racial, ethnic, gender, etc.), and different cultures exhibit different inequities, but all cultures share the disgrace of hosting one or more forms of inequity. Needless to say, "inequity" is being used here in the sense of lack of equality due to factors beyond human control; such as gender inequity, whereby women are considered to be inferior to men regardless of personal accomplishments.

Such inequities are not ontologically intrinsic to the human condition. They are manufactured by human hands, not by God. The reason we can be certain about this is that social inequities inevitable lead to some form of violence and some form of social injustice; and this is not what God desires. According to chapters 1 and 2 of the Book of Genesis, both male and female human beings fully share the same human nature and the gift of being imago Dei. This is reiterated in Genesis 5:1-2: "This is the written account of Adam's line. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were created, he called them "man." (note that "man" is used for both men and women, i.e., all human beings). Sexism, racism, elitism, and all other "isms" came later, and each of this "isms" is a cultural obstacle to sustainable development; for sustainable development can materialize if, and only if, all human gifts and talents work together as a teleological unity fueled by cultural diversity (see "unity in diversity").

In brief, as succinctly stated by Istvan Meszaros:

"If development in the future is not sustainable development, there will be no significant development at all, no matter how badly needed; only frustrated attempts to square the circle, as in the last few decades, marked by ever more elusive "modernizing" theories and practices, condescendingly prescribed for the so-called Third World by the spokesmen of former colonial powers. The corollary to this is that the pursuit of sustainable development is inseparable from the progressive realization of substantive equality. It must also be stressed in this context that the obstacles to be overcome could hardly be greater. For up to our own days the culture of substantive inequality remains dominant, despite the usually half-hearted efforts to counter the damaging impact of social inequality by instituting some mechanism of strictly formal equality in the political sphere."

This concept is by no means academic, but one that is shared by all religious cultures of the world. Consider, for example, the Five Precepts of Buddhism:

1. I undertake the training rule to abstain from taking life.
2. I undertake the training rule to abstain from taking what is not given.
3. I undertake the training rule to abstain from sexual misconduct.
4. I undertake the training rule to abstain from false speech.
5. I undertake the training rule to abstain from drinks and drugs that cause heedlessness.

The Eight Precepts are a bit more demanding:

1. I undertake to abstain from taking life (both human and nonhuman).
2. I undertake to abstain from taking what is not given (stealing).
3. I undertake to abstain from all sexual activity.
4. I undertake to abstain from telling lies.
5. I undertake to abstain from using intoxicating drinks and drugs which lead to carelessness.
6. I undertake to abstain from eating at the wrong time (the right time is eating once, after sunrise, before noon).
7. I undertake to abstain from singing, dancing, playing music, attending entertainment performances, wearing perfume, and using cosmetics and garlands (decorative accessories).
8. I undertake to abstain from luxurious places for sitting or sleeping.

And the Ten Precepts are for those who seek self-discipline:

1. Refrain from killing living things.
2. Refrain from stealing.
3. Refrain from un-chastity (sensuality, sexuality, lust).
4. Refrain from lying.
5. Refrain from taking intoxicants.
6. Refrain from taking food at inappropriate times (after noon).
7. Refrain from singing, dancing, playing music or attending entertainment programs (performances).
8. Refrain from wearing perfume, cosmetics and garland (decorative accessories).
9. Refrain from sitting on high chairs and sleeping on luxurious, soft beds.
10. Refrain from accepting money.

The repeated use of words such as "abstain" and "refrain" is significant. The reader is invited to meditate on these precepts and compare them with the "instant gratification" mentality of consumerist societies. In particular, "refrain from killing living things" would seem to preclude killing humans, animals, trees, ecosystems, biomes, .... and, suddenly, sustainable development becomes feasible (indeed, desirable) for both humanity and the human habitat.

Selected references on cultures and sustainable development:
  1. Changing Direction Toward Sustainable Culture, Northwest Report, January 1996.
  2. Principles of Sustainable Development, F. Douglas Muschett and C. Lee Campbell, CRC Press, 1997, 176 pages (Google Book)
  3. Culture and Sustainable Development, Mohamed Ali Al Abar, Department of Economic Development, Dubai, 9 April 2000.
  4. The challenge of sustainable development and the culture of substantive equality, Istvan Meszaros, Monthly Review, 2001.
  5. Moving Beyond North-South Divide: An Effective Approach to Sustainable Development, Ms. Yoriko Kawaguchi, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Japan; Financial Times, 26 June 2002.
  6. Sustainable Development Strategy for the Seas of East Asia, PEMSEA, 2003
  7. The Sustainable Development of East Asia and Accompanying Issues, Makoto Sakurai, ESRI, 2003.
  8. Sustainable Development is Nature’s Way, Richard Sidy, SNS Press, Vol. 5, Number 7, July 2006
  9. Sustainable Development: Implementation in Urban Water Systems, Ali Bagheri, Report No 1035, Lund Institute of Technology, Sweden, May 2006.
  10. Culture as a Tool for Sustainable Development: The Case Study of the Pinelands Creative Workshop, UNDP
  11. Culture as the Fourth Pillar of Sustainable Development, Institute of International Relations, University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago, June 2006
  12. Fair culture – culture for sustainable development ~ Background Paper on Cultural Sector and Development Work in the Nordic Countries, Basiru Suso, Ministry of Education, Finland, 2006.
  13. Religion, Culture, and Sustainable Development, Roberto Blancarte Pimentel, El Colegio de México, México, 18 April 2007.
  14. Book of Genesis, Chapters 1, 2, 5, Wikipedia, last modified on 25 September 2008.
  15. Sustainable Development in Southeast Asia, Education Abroad Network, 2008.
  16. Culture in Sustainable Development, David Throsby, Professor of Economics, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia, 14 January 2008.
  17. Cultural Heritage in Sustainable Development, World Bank, 2008.
  18. Environmentally Sustainable Development in the Developing World, Information for Action Website, 2008

3. Cultural Issue: Violence

"I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.... Nonviolence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man." (Gandhi).

So much for "Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs)." Granted that a nonviolent response to 9/11 may have been politically unfeasible, the unfolding of violent conflict in Iraq since the American invasion in 2003 confirms the wisdom of hidden in the "violence paradox": violence begets violence, nonviolence begets nonviolence.

It is important to understand the full meaning of the term violence:

"Violence is the exertion of force so as to injure or abuse. The word is used broadly to describe the destructive action of natural phenomena like storms and earthquakes. More frequently the word describes forceful and intentional injury to people, and verbal and emotional abuse towards others. Warfare is large-scale organized violence carried out by one state against another, although states attempt to control violent crime by the rule of law. The causes of violent attitudes and behavior are important topics of study in psychology and sociology."

There are so many forms of violence that they cannot be enumerated: domestic violence, gender violence, ethnic violence, racial violence, religious violence, physical violence, psychological violence, economic violence, political violence, terrorist violence, scapegoating violence, and son on, ad nauseam. The Gandhi maxims quoted at the beginning of this section apply to all of them, the amount of harm done being generally proportional to the intensity of the violence and the depth of the wounds induced. And violence, like sin, has tail, the length of the tail also being generally proportional to the intensity of the violence and the depth of the wounds induced.

It is appropriate to examine violence in the context of current events. Consider, for example, the current financial crisis in the USA. This is a case of crude financial violence. It is a circus of scapegoating that combines personal and corporate greed, government regulatory negligence, the addiction to excessive consumption made possible by easy credit beyond the borrowers' capacity to repay the debt, financial manipulations pursuant to make the very rich even richer, a national deficit inflated by the cost of an illegal war. To add insult to injury, the basic proposal of the Bush administration was to let the taxpayers pay. This at a time when the USA is giving only a small fraction of the 0.7% of GNP requested by the United Nations for the MDGs; and this at a time when the USA has refused to sign the Kyoto protocol and other global environmental protection agreements because doing so "would hurt the economy." The bottom line is that, no matter what "solution" is found, the poor will be asked (again!) to bail out the rich, in particular those who have already bailed out with "golden parachutes."

Another example worth considering is the recent statement at the United Nations, by a major Christian church, declaring that achieving the Millennium Development Goals is a 'crucial moral obligation':

"In these days we are witnessing a debate on an economic rescue aimed at resolving a crisis that risks disrupting the economy of the most developed countries and leaving thousands and thousands of families without work. This rescue of enormous proportions, which amounts to many times the whole of international aid, cannot but raise a pressing question. How are we able to find funds to save a broken financial system yet remain unable to find the resources necessary to invest in the development of all regions of the world, beginning with the most destitute? For this reason, the globalization of solidarity through the prompt achievement of the MDGs established by the Millennium Declaration is a crucial moral obligation of the international community."

And what about MDG3, the promotion of gender equality? The continued refusal to ordain women (thereby giving them access to roles of religious authority) is theologically baseless and contributes to perpetuate the old patterns of domestic violence, gender violence, educational discrimination against girls, and job discrimination against women. And what about the enormous wealth of that this institution of 1B+ people has all over the world? What financial contribution are they planning to make in order to mitigate the impact that the financial crisis will have on the poorest of the poor?

As usual, hypocrisy and greed seem to have the upper hand, and the net result is worldwide violence of all kinds. How can this pattern -- and its propensity to generate violence -- be reversed? How can it be reversed nonviolently?

Selected references on the culture of violence:
  1. The Genealogy of Violence: Reflections on Creation, Freedom, and Evil, Charles K. Bellinger, Oxford University Press, 2001.
  2. Environmental Movements in the Global South: Issues of Livelihood and Beyond, Ranjit Dwivedi, Institute of Social Studies, The Hague, 2003
  3. South Asia in the World: Problem Solving Perspectives on Security, Sustainable Development, and Good Governance, Ramesh Chandra Thakur, Ramesh Thakur, Oddny Wiggen; United Nations University Press, 2004, 451 pages.
  4. The Meanings of Violence and the Violence of Meanings, Polylog Website, 2004.
  5. New Development Threats and Promises, Barbara Harriss-White, Rosemary Thorp et al., Oxford University, July 2005.
  6. NGOs and Their Role in the Global South, Monsiapile Kajimbwa, The International Journal of Not-for-Profit Law, Volume 9, Issue 1, December 2006
  7. Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, Final Report, 1 June 2006.
  8. M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, University of Rochester, 2007.
  9. UN declares 2 October, Gandhi’s birthday, as International Day of Non-Violence, United Nations General Assembly, 15 June 2007.
  10. Global South Anglican, Michael Nai Chiu Poon, 2008
  11. Technology and Sustainable Development in North South Perspective (TSD), University of Twente, The Netherlands, 2008.
  12. NCCR North-South - Research Partnerships for Sustainable Development, University of Bern, Switzerland, 2008.
  13. Effects of Western Development, Information for Action Website, 2008
  14. Causes of Unsustainable Development, Information for Action Website, 2008. See also the Kids Page.
  15. Violence, Wikipedia, last modified on 24 September 2008.
  16. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Wikipedia, last modified on 24 September 2008

4. Cultural Issue: Patriarchy

Gender violence is the most pervasive kind of violence, with 50% of humanity abusing the other 50%. Gender violence goes both ways: men abuse women, and women abuse men, in different but equally harmful ways. But it is fair to say that the subordination of women to men has been the main behavior pattern since times immemorial (e.g., Genesis 3:16).

UNIFEM has just released (18 September 2008) a very informative report, Progress of the World's Women 2008/2009, with subtitle "Who Answers to Women? Gender and Accountability". It states that "governments and multilateral organizations must do a better job of answering to women for commitments made .... stronger accountability needed to move from commitments to results, including achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Women must be included in all oversight processes; gender equality must become standard against which public performance is assessed."

This is, of course, what MDG3 is all about. The intent of MDG3 is to overcome the cultural mindset that perpetuates the subordination of women to men, by violent means if necessary (and this includes both physical and psychological violence). In this newsletter, we have examined this issue several times, and the reader may wish to go back and take another look at the following: Cross-Gender Solidarity, May 2005, The Phallocentric Syndrome, June 2005, Patriarchy and Mimetic Violence, March 2006, and MDG3-Promote Gender Equality, March 2007. A refreshing view of the same issue is reiterated by the 2008 UNIFEM Report:

"Progress of the World's Women 2008-2009 shows that if commitments to promote gender equality and women's rights are to be achieved, women must be able to demand accountability from national governments, justice and law enforcement systems, employers and service providers as well as international institutions. Accountability from a women's rights perspective exists when women are able to get explanations from those in power for actions that affect them, and can set in motion corrective actions when those responsible fail to promote their rights." Inés Alberdi, Executive Director, UNIFEM

It is good to see that many secular institutions are beginning to accept women as equals. But it is lamentable that certain religious institutions continue their refusal to overcome patriarchy. Their exclusion of women from roles of religious authority has a nefarious influence on human affairs at all levels, starting with families and propagating out to international relations. But why keep beating a dead horse? Let bishops and ayatollahs cling to their phallagocentric mentality. The signs of the times are clear that this is not what God desires. Religious patriarchies will evolve, just as secular patriarchies are already evolving toward cross-gender solidarity in all dimensions of human life and, specifically, sustainable development.

Selected references on patriarchal cultures:
  1. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Mary Wollstonecraft, Boston: Peter Edes for Thomas and Andrews, 1792 (Google Book).
  2. Religion and women's sex role traditionalism, M. McMurry, Sociological Focus. April 1978, 11(2):81-95.
  3. The effects of gender, race, religion, and political orientation on the sex role attitudes of college freshmen>, I. L. Lottes IL and P. J. Kuriloff, Adolescence. Fall 1992; 27(107):675-88.
  4. On Male Domination, Pierre Bourdieu, Le Monde diplomatique, October 1998.
  5. Cattle ownership makes it a man's world, Shaoni Bhattacharya, New Scientist, 1 October 2003.
  6. The Male Condition, Simon Baron-Cohen, The New York Times, 8 August 2005.
  7. Gender Equity, Human Rights and Development, Christine Obbo, CODESRIA Bulletin, Nos 3 & 4, 2005
  8. Theories of Patriarchy, Lindsey German, International Socialism, 2006.
  9. Feminist Politics in the Age of Recognition: A Two-Dimensional Approach to Gender Justice, Nancy Fraser, New School for Social Research. Studies in Social Justice, Volume 1, Number 1, Winter 2007.
  10. Patriarchy, Wikipedia article as of 25 September 2008
  11. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Mary Wollstonecraft, Boston: Peter Edes for Thomas and Andrews, 1792. Wikipedia article as of 6 September 2008
  12. Is the Gap More Than Gender? A Longitudinal Analysis of Gender, Gender Role Orientation, and Earnings, Timothy A. Judge and Beth A. Livingston University of Florida; Journal of Applied Psychology, 2008, Vol. 93, No. 5, 994–1012.
  13. The MDGs and Gender, UNIFEM Website, 2008.
  14. Progress of the World's Women 2008/2009, UNIFEM, 18 September 2008, 162 pages. To read the press release, click here. To download the full report, click here.

5. Cultural Issue: Consumerism

The following graph depicts one of the factors that makes it possible to infect people with consumerism and the dubious financial manipulations to reinforce consumerism:

Source: Alan Heston, Robert Summers and Bettina Aten,
Penn World Table Version 6.2,
Center for International Comparisons of Production, Income and Prices
University of Pennsylvania, September 2006.

The New Road Map Foundation Dream has provided a very informative list of examples related to excessive consumption in the USA and other countries of the First World. This obsessive consumption behavior started in the 1950s (perhaps 1960s) and has been growing exponentially ever since. This growing consumption rate requires growing consumption rates of natural resources and leads to growing amounts of toxic wastes and air pollution, with nefarious environmental impacts such as global warming. The "financial crisis" currently underway in the USA (with worldwide ramifications) may be a warning sign that the party is over.

In his essay, Consumerism and the New Capitalism, Rip Cronk aptly defines consumerism as follows:

"Consumerism is the myth that the individual will be gratified and integrated by consuming. The public fetishistically substitutes consumer ideals for the lost acculturating experiences of art, religion and family. The consumer sublimates the desire for cultural fulfillment to the rewards of buying and owning commodities, and substitutes media-manipulated undulations in the public persona for spiritual rebirth. In the myth of consumerism, there is no rebirth or renewal. And there are no iconic symbols to evoke transcendent truths."

The reader is encouraged to consider the following, specifically Christian, characterization of consumerism , written by Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury:

"Consumerism identifies a lifestyle in which a large number of individuals obtain more than is needed, more than is necessary for fulfillment, and more than God's Earth can sustain. Because consumerism intensifies pollution and resource depletion leading to an immense degradation of God's creation, this lifestyle is at the heart of what Christians are called to question and confront. As people of faith, we understand our responsibilities to protect the sacred gifts given by God and to be good stewards of these gifts. How we live our lives and make purchasing decisions have profound environmental and justice impacts on God's creation."

Excellent visualizations of consumerism are provided by, among others, Chris Jordan. Visit his photographic arts website, Intolerable Beauty - Portraits of American Mass Consumption. Make sure you go into the Intolerable Beauty gallery. There are 42 portraits in this gallery. Take time to look at them, one by one (clicking on the thumbnails brings up an enlarged image). These portraits add reality to the definitions by Cronk and Williams.

It should be kept in mind that the extravagant consumption behavior of the very rich is at the expense of the very poor. While billions are spent in trivialities, grim realities are shaping the future of humanity. Consider the following chart:

Source: Wikipedia 2007 and CIA World Fact Book 2004

Clearly, fertility rate decreases as GDP per capita increases. Why? Because fertility rate decreases as education increases, and education increases as GDP per capita increases. The poverty trap that precludes raising the educational level of the population also precludes family planning to reduce fertility rate. Why? Because "the bed is the only consolation of the poor." It does not follow, however, that minimizing the fertility rate is always good. Lowering the fertility rate is one way to escape the poverty trap. But negative population growth becomes counterindicated for developed nations. After escaping the poverty trap, further development becomes unsustainable if there are no humans to keep going forward. Australia is giving financial incentives and other benefits to couples who bring children into the world. Europe and Japan may soon need to start advocating the need for more pregnancies. There is a time for the discipline of practicing abstinence (or using contraceptives for those who lack self-discipline) and there is a time to fully enjoy both the gift of love and the gift of life.

The current manner of financing the addiction to consumption in the developed countries is neither ethical nor sustainable. The resulting abuse of the human habitat is neither ethical nor sustainable. The social injustice made evident by the growing gap between developed and developing nations is neither ethical nor sustainable. Kudos to the U.S. Congress for resisting to approve legislation that would bailout the rich and transfer the burden to the American taxpayers and the poor all over the world. Those persons and institutions (both secular and religious) who want to be bailed out can bail out themselves by voluntarily lightening their pockets. The US should appoint a especial prosecutor to investigate the roots of this crisis and, if it is found that fraudulent practices were used, force the guilty persons and institutions (both secular and religious) to return any funds that may have been acquired by tricky financial manipulations. Too bad some European governments are falling into the trap of bailing out. Indeed, the party is over in America, and let's hope it will be over soon in all developed nations of the world.

Selected references on consumerism and unbridled capitalism:
  1. Consumerism and the New Capitalism, Rip Cronk, Art on the Rebound: A Collection of Essays on Art and Culture By R.Cronk, 1996
  2. The story of the stuff we consume, from extraction to disposal, Annie Leonard, Story of Stuff Website (educational 20-minute video, free downloads).
  3. All-Consuming Passion: Waking up from the American Dream, New Road Map Foundation, EcoFuture, 17 January 2002
  4. Intolerable Beauty - Portraits of American Mass Consumption, Chris Jordan Photography, Chris Jordan Website, 2003-2005.
  5. As Consumerism Spreads, Earth Suffers, Hillary Mayell, National Geographic News, 12 January 2004.
  6. Are We Consuming Too Much?, Kenneth Arrow et al., Journal of Economic Perspectives, Summer 2004.
  7. Consumption: It Is Time for Economists and Scientists to Talk, Betsy Taylor, Journal of Industrial Ecology, Volume 9, Issue 1-2, Date: January 2005, Pages: 14-17.
  8. The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less, Barry Schwatz, 2004. Book Review, Paul C. Stern, Journal of Industrial Ecology, Volume 9, Issue 1-2, Date: January 2005, Pages: 293-295.
  9. Population & Economic Development Linkages 2007 Data Sheet, Population Reference Bureau, 2007.
  10. Shrunken Sovereign: Consumerism, Globalization, and American Emptiness, Benjamin R. Barber, World Affairs Journal, Spring 2008.
  11. The End of Credit Card Consumerism: A new frugality could remake the U.S. economy—and American life, Kimberly Palmer, US News & World Report, 8 August 2008.
  12. Consumption and Consumerism, Anup Shah, Global Issues Website, 3 September 2008.
  13. Technology and Sustainable Development in North South Perspective (TSD), University of Twente, The Netherlands, 2008.
  14. Consumerism, Wikipedia, last modified on 23 September 2008.
  15. The New Anti-Consumerism, David Horowitz, Sustainable Enterprises Website, 2008.
  16. Consumer Solidarity Movement, Consumer Solidarity Website, 2008.
  17. The Century of the Self, Wikipedia, last modified on 25 September 2008
  18. The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less, Barry Schwartz, 2004. Wikipedia article last modified on 28 September 2008.
  19. Consumerism, Shopping and Faith, Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury. Eco-Justice Programs, NCC-USA, 29 September 2008.
  20. 2008 World Population Data Sheet, Population Reference Bureau, 2008.
  21. Congress rejects US bailout plan, triggering Wall Street slide, National Business Review, NZ, 30 September 2008.
  22. European banks bailed out as global credit crunch focus shifts, National Business Review, NZ, 30 September 2008.
  23. A first person account from Wall Street, Sheela Bhatt, Rediff News, NY, 30 September 2008.

6. Cultural Issue: Globalization

Wikipedia defines globalization as follows:

"Globalization (or globalisation) in its literal sense is the process or transformation of local or regional phenomena into global ones. It can be described as a process by which the people of the world are unified into a single society and function together. This process is a combination of economic, technological, sociocultural and political forces. Globalization is often used to refer to economic globalization, that is, integration of national economies into the international economy through trade, foreign direct investment, capital flows, migration, and the spread of technology."

The following is the initial paragraph of a more comprehensive definition offered by Globalization 101 of the Levin Institute, State University of New York:

"Globalization is a process of interaction and integration among the people, companies, and governments of different nations, a process driven by international trade and investment and aided by information technology. This process has effects on the environment, on culture, on political systems, on economic development and prosperity, and on human physical well-being in societies around the world....."
more ....

The reader may want to visit other websites to gain an appreciation for the wide spectrum of perspectives about globalization. For example, the following are recommended: The Globalization Website (Emory University), the Globalization Home Page (Worldbank), the Global Policy Forum (UN Headquarters), the incisive Globalization and Beyond: The Future of Poor Nations by Sherrow O. Pinder (CSU Chico), the Globalization article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy), and The Globalization Guide of the Australian APEC Study Centre (Monash University).

Globalization is a double-edged sword. In terms of sustainable development, it opens new vistas to collaboration opportunities that would have been unthinkable a generation ago. ICT enhances the channels of communication in all directions, and therefore enhances new opportunities for the exercise of human solidarity. The possibilities for education are endless. Migration is breaking down barriers of cultural diversity. On the other hand, the developing countries become vulnerable to the controlling power of huge multinational corporations seeking quick profits. Jobs are moved around to take advantage of cheap labor. Resource extraction is having detrimental impacts on priceless natural resources such as the Amazon rain forest. International business travel and transportation of cargo is bringing the nefarious effects of pollution and toxic wastes to the all corners of the planet.

But the process of globalization is irreversible. The need for some form of global sustainable development governance will continue to increase, and eventually will prevail no matter how much resistance is generated by those with a vested interest in quick fixes and quick profits. Due diligence then requires the identification of the most critical global issues. Joseph Stiglitz (Columbia University, Nobel laureate 2001) refers to global warming as the most global issue. Let us hope that global warming will serve as a catalyst for all nations -- developed and developing -- to start collaborating in reducing emissions. Significant initiatives in this regard have been proposed by the Coalition for Rainforest Nations: environmental sustainability, reducing carbon emissions, and sustainable forestry.

Selected references on globalization, migration, and corporate cultures:
  1. The Globalization Website, Emory University, 2001.
  2. Globalization Home Page, Worldbank, 2001.
  3. The Globalization Guide of the Australian APEC Study Centre, Monash University, 2002.
  4. Development and Globalization: Facts and Figures, UNCTAD, 2004.
  5. Environmental Values, Thomas Dietz et al., Michigan State University. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, Vol. 30: 335-372, November 2005.
  6. Peak Oil and Energy Imperialism, John Bellamy Foster, Monthly Review, July-August 2008.
  7. Globalization article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of philosophy, 2006.
  8. Globalization and Beyond: The Future of Poor Nations, Sherrow O. Pinder, CSU Chico, 2007.
  9. The Third Wave in Globalisation Theory , Luke Martell, University of Sussex. International Studies Review, 9, 2, Summer 2007, pp 173-196.
  10. Disciplining Global Society, Tony Evans, University of Southampton. Studies in Social Justice Volume 1, Issue 2, 2007
  11. The Knowledge Economy, Gender and Stratified Migrations, Eleonore Kofman, Middlesex University. Studies in Social Justice Volume 1, Issue 2, 2007.
  12. The Most Global Issue, Joseph Stiglitz, Columbia University, 2007.
  13. Bracing The Challenges Of Global Financial Crisis, MySinchew, 16 September 2008.
  14. Corporate Deception & The Consumer Debt Crisis, Barbara Woodcox, Consumer City, 2008.
  15. Globalization, Wikipedia, last modified on 30 September 2008.
  16. Anti-Globalization, Wikipedia, 29 September 2008, at 20:30
  17. International Food Policy Research Institute, IFPRI Website, 2008.
  18. 2007–2008 world food price crisis, Wikipedia, last modified on 30 September 2008.
  19. Globalization 101, The Levin Institute, State University of New York, 2008.
  20. Global Policy Forum, GPF at UN Headquarters, 2008
  21. Coalition for Rainforest Nations, 2008.

7. Cultural Issue: Religion

Culture is deeply influenced by religion and religious institutions. The religious dimension of sustainable development was the theme of the first issue of this series, Solidarity, Sustainability, and Nonviolence, Vol. 4, No. 1, January 2008. Let us reconsider the influence of religion in each of the cultural issues of sections 3 to 6.

The Calamity of Religious Violence

Thank God, it seems that 9/11 was an aberration, and most religious people in the world are aware that it was such. But there has been religious violence in human history, and it could come back; for religious intolerance entails some people believing that they have "the truth, all the truth, and nothing but the truth." It doesn't take much for such mentality to degenerate into a pathological anxiety to "convert" the entire world to the "one true religion." Statements such as "Christianity is the best religion" or "those who are not Muslims are infidels" are the echo of millennia of blood and tears. Sustainable development requires a radical renunciation of any form of religious absolutism and religious violence. This doesn't mean that believers should believe in either anything or nothing. It does mean that believers should be free to believe in their religious tradition, but without any attempt to make any particular religious tradition dominant. Religious freedom, and freedom of conscience, are the "ninth" MDG. Without religious freedom (and religious tolerance, and freedom of conscience, and friendly inter-religious dialogue) the kind of human solidarity that is required to attain sustainable development is impossible.

The Perpetuation of Religious Patriarchy

There is growing consensus that human solidarity as required for sustainable development must include cross-gender solidarity. The patriarchal party is over. MDG3 specifically refers to the promotion of women, and this must include gender balance in structures of religious authority. Some religious traditions and institutions are beginning (not without paying the price of internal resistance and dissension) to recognize the full humanity of women and the fact that they are, exactly to the same extent as men, imago Dei. Other traditions and institutions, notably some of the Christian churches and most Islamic communities, are adamant in their arrogant refusal to even consider the issue. The refusal to even consider the issue may be due to the lack of evidence that the perpetuation of religious patriarchies is what God desires. As long as they remain attached to this phallagocentric mindset, they are sending the wrong message to both men and women worldwide; and they remain an obstacle to the MDGs and any other transition path from domination to solidarity and sustainability. The perpetuation of religious patriarchy is, in fact, a new disguise for religious violence. It is the violence of exclusion: exclusion of women from official ministries, exclusion of lay people from participation in making decisions, exclusion of those who "do not belong" from sharing in worship.

The Consumerism of Religious Institutions

It is noteworthy, that the same religious institutions that are dragging their feet on the issue of gender equality are also dragging their feet regarding the issue of reversing consumerist behavior. Wealth accumulation in all forms is still a top priority. Prayers and money flow upward, indoctrination and rules flow downward. New church buildings keep going up in places where there are already one or two church buildings. Expensive Italian mosaics continue to be added to churches and cathedrals. The largest church building in the world was built recently in one of the poorest countries of Africa (Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast). The worldwide infrastructure of some religious institutions may be the strongest and best maintained in the world. There has been some lip service given recently to the MDGs (better late than never) but no concrete initiative to save fuel or otherwise reduce consumption of goods and services in churches and mosques. If the religious establishments are not willing to reduce consumption and pollution, why should the faithful be concerned about the damage being done to humanity and the human habitat?

The Global Need for Religious Freedom

This needs to be reiterated: religious freedom is a fundamental human right, and so is freedom of conscience. At a time when all credible data sources show that sustainable development requires a low fertility rate, we still hear pontifications about the bliss of having large families. Freedom of conscience has been recognized as a fundamental human right, but still people are being told that practicing any method of family planning other than abstention leads to eternal damnation. Indeed, abstention is the best and healthiest method of avoiding unwanted pregnancies either in marriage or out of marriage. It also requires more spiritual discipline than taking a pill or using a condom; and spiritual discipline is good for the soul. But insisting that only what is spiritually ideal is morally permissible is ludicrous and reveals that we are still pathetically ignorant about matters of human sexuality and human reproduction. It ignores, as stated above, the "the bed is the consolation of the poor." In the Islamic world, the sexual abuse of girls is a traditional practice going back to the legend about Muhammad's "child bride". In the Christian world, after the recent scandals of priests (or ministers) sexually abusing minors, and priests (or ministers) sexually abusing women (including nuns), plus evidence that this has been going on for God knows how many years under the protective cover of the highest religious authorities, who can blame young people and married couples for making their own decisions in conscience?

The ancient religious traditions have contributed much to human and social development in the past, especially when members of religious institutions are motivated by authentic spirituality. Nevertheless, at this turning point in human history, it is worrisome that many religious institutions seem to be more interested in perpetuating old practices (now recognized to be irrational) than finding how the old practices have to be renewed going forward. The root cause of this inordinate attachment to the past may be an unwillingness to forgive, as Richard Sidy has pointed out:

"Hope for the future can only be built upon a foundation of forgiveness. The world is in a seemingly endless cycle of hate and revenge because the past has such a tremendous hold upon humanity. People must renounce the age-long bitterness and hurt that is perpetuated by those who constantly inflate people's fears, suspicions, and insecurities with negative memories and hostility. Forgiveness is needed in order to release people from the deep-rooted grievances of heart and mind and to move on to a positive future. When people forgive, give up the desire for retaliation, and try to help others improve their conditions, then the misdeeds and injuries of the past will cease to have such a strong negative influence on international relations. Hope grows out of actions which build goodwill, forgiveness of past wrongs, trust and friendship." World Diplomacy, XI, "Hope for the Future," p. 166.

Selected references on the cultural influenced of organized religion:
  1. Hope for the Future, Richard Sidy, SNS Press, Vol. 1, number 9, September 2002.
  2. A Green Future for Religion?, Bron Taylor, The University of Florida, 2004
  3. Inspiring Progress: Religions' Contributions to Sustainable Development, Gary Gardner, Worldwatch Institute, 2008, 211 pages.
  4. Faith and Globalization, Yale University, 2008.
  5. Yale Center for Faith and Culture, Yale University, 2008.
  6. 2008 Report on International Religious Freedom, US Department of State, 19 September 2008.
  7. Religion, Wikipedia, last modified on 30 September 2008
  8. World Religions, Religion Facts, 2008.
  9. Facets of Religion, Facets of Religion Website, 2008.
  10. Religious Dimension of Sustainable Development, Solidarity, Sustainability, and Nonviolence, Vol. 4, No. 1, January 2008
  11. 2008 Report on International Religious Freedom, US Department of State, 19 September 2008.
  12. Religious Intolerance, Wikipedia, last modified on 29 September 2008.
  13. The Jewel of Medina, Sherry Jones, Random House, August 2008. Article in Wikipedia, last modified on 3 October 2008.
  14. You Still Can't Write About Muhammad , Asra Q. Nomani, Wall Street Journal, 6 August 2008.
  15. Center for Religion & Spirituality, Loyola Marymount University, 2008.

8. Cultural Issue: Spirituality

The common practice of analyzing sustainable development in three dimensions (economic, social, environmental) is insufficient. These three dimensions are more readily observable, but human behavior is only partially explained at this superficial level. And, when situations require behavioral changes that must emerge from the renewal of old habits and mindsets, then unobservable inner factors are decisive. This is the reason we are researching first the things that really matter: human nature, the limitations of the human condition, horizontal human relations (patriarchy, solidarity), vertical human relations (religion, spirituality), and the ethical and cultural patterns rooted in the collective unconscious.

Spirituality is essential for integral human development. It is also essential to avoid religious institutions becoming a heavy burden rather than a blessing, as Jesus pointed out in one of his discussions with the religious authorities of his time (Matthew 23). The spiritual dimension of sustainable development was the theme of the second issue of this series, Solidarity, Sustainability, and Nonviolence, Vol. 4, No. 2, February 2008; and the human dimension of sustainable development was the theme of the third issue of this series, Solidarity, Sustainability, and Nonviolence, Vol. 4, No. 3, March 2008.

Let us reconsider the combined influence of spirituality and religion in human development and, therefore, sustainable development. The behavior of institutionalized religion may or may not be for the glory of God and the good of souls. But spirituality should never be a private personal project. Spirituality must be embedded within a religious tradition in order to avoid the spiritual person becoming a victim of his/her own delusions. From a Christian perspective, Sandra M. Schneiders defines spirituality as "the experience of conscious involvement in the project of life integration through self-transcendence toward the ultimate value one perceives." She unpacks this concise definition as follows:

"In its most basic or anthropological sense, spirituality, like personality, is a characteristic of the human being as such. It is the capacity of persons to transcend themselves through knowledge and love, that is, to reach beyond themselves in relationship to others and thus become more than self-enclosed material monads. In this sense, even the newborn child is spiritual while the most ancient rock is not. But we usually reserve the term “spirituality” for a somewhat developed relationality to self, others, the world, and the Transcendent, whether the last is called God or designated by some other term...."

Spirituality and religion are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they need each other. In his review of Schneiders' exposition, Bosco Peters provides an excellent summary of the relationship between religion and spirituality:

"Sister Sandra concludes that at best religion and spirituality are at their best in partnership. Religion provides the context that makes spirituality possible for the majority of people. “It makes it possible to initiate people into an authentic tradition of spirituality, gives them companions on the journey and tested wisdom by which to live, and supports them in times of suffering and personal instability.” She argues that both for the individual and the community, the quest for God is too complex and too important to be reduced to a private enterprise. Religion at its best provides the authentic rooted heritage, the healthy guidelines, the sacred texts and rites that nourish our spirituality in a profound way and provide deep communion with a whole faith community, past, present, and future."

So why is spirituality so important for sustainable development? The following answer is given from a Bahá'í's perspective, but a similar answer would emerge from any of the religious traditions:

"Development, in the Bahá'í view, is an organic process in which "the spiritual is expressed and carried out in the material." Meaningful development requires balancing the seemingly antithetical processes of individual progress and social advancement, of globalization and decentralization, and of promoting universal standards and fostering cultural diversity. In our increasingly interdependent world, development efforts must be animated by universal values and guided by a vision of world community."

Selected references on human development and spirituality:
  1. Toward a Viable Global Ethos, Harry R. Halloran, Jr. and Lawrence S. Bale, 1997.
  2. Perspective: Spirituality in Development, One Country, Volume 9, Issue 4, January - March 1998
  3. Religion and Spirituality: Strangers, Rivals, or Partners?, Sandra M. Schneiders, I.H.M., Jesuit School of Theology/Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, California. The Santa Clara Lectures, 6 February 2000.
  4. Sustainable Development: The Spiritual Dimension, Statement by the Bahá'í International Community to the first session of the Preparatory Committee of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, 30 April -2 May, 2001, New York
  5. Sustainable Development: The Spiritual Dimension, Statement by the Bahá'í International Community to the first session of the Preparatory Committee of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, 30 April -2 May, 2001, New York
  6. Ethical and spiritual dimensions of sustainable development stressed by Bahá'ís at Johannesburg , One Country, Volume 14, Issue 2, July-September 2002
  7. Obstacles to the Right to Development, Stephen Marks, Harvard University, 2003.
  8. Religions in Renewal: Dialogue, Reform, Re-vision, Ingrid H. Shafer, last revised 2003.
  9. The Myth of Sustainable Development, Nirmala Nair, The Berkana Institute, 2 September 2004.
  10. Spirituality and Religion, Bosco Peters, Liturgy Website, 2007.
  11. Spiritual Dimension of Sustainable Development, Solidarity, Sustainability, and Nonviolence, Vol. 4, No. 2, February 2008
  12. Human Dimension of Sustainable Development, Solidarity, Sustainability, and Nonviolence, Vol. 4, No. 3, March 2008
  13. Women's groups push passage of RH bill, Manila, Philippines, 22 September 2008.
  14. Spirituality, Wikipedia, last modified on 1 October 2008.
  15. Center for Religion & Spirituality, Loyola Marymount University, 2008.
  16. The Trinitarian Self: The Key to the Puzzle of Violence, Charles K. Bellinger, Princeton Theological Monographs, 2008.

9. Prayer, Study, and Action

Let's keep in mind that "prayer, study, and action" is not simply a phrase that connects three modes of human behavior which are otherwise independent of each other. On the contrary, prayer, study, and action become sustainable if, and only if, they reinforce each other along the path of life, day by day. In isolation from the others, any of these "dimensions of spirituality" will languish and cease to be a factor in the inner life; and this usually happens rather rapidly. A visualization of this process is as follows:


Some version of the prayer-study-action cycle can be found in most religious traditions. Needless to say, prayer and reflection should lead to nonviolent action. The colors indicate that there is a difference between prayer, study, and action. The feedback loop means that each dimension provides positive reinforcement to the others, and this is further emphasized by the positive signs in the arrows. Suggestion to the reader: get a pencil and a piece of paper and draw a similar diagram many times (perhaps as many as 100 times?) until the process becomes fully memorized; then start doing it, for it will never become internalized unless it is practiced day after day, one day at a time.

Selected references on prayer, study, and action:

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The Pelican Web
The pelican is a legendary symbol of commitment to the service of others, especially those who are weak and most vulnerable to physical and/or psychological violence. More about pelican symbolism ....

Human Nature

Human Beings ~ Man and Woman
(Plaque in the Pioneer Spacecraft)
Sources: Wikipedia and NASA

Nuptial Covenant

Nuptial Covenant between Humanity and the Human Habitat
Art by Farid de la Ossa, Colombia
Source: Australian Catholic University

World Religions

Symbols of the major religions. For more information, see World Religions.

Global News/Issues

Recent news, emerging issues,
significant events, new resources on
Solidarity, Sustainability, and Nonviolence

Sustainability Starts in Your Own Back Yard -

Corruption affects the poor most

Blow to government coal policy as climate campaigners are acquitted in the UK

There Is an Alternative to Corporate Rule

In the face of poverty

Why the Critics of Globalization Are Mistaken

The Payoff Of Energy Research

Global economic slowdown to push 100 million into poverty

New Global Poverty Estimates

Schools and Sustainability

Bolivia crisis summit for Latin American leaders

Boutros Boutros-Ghali gives his take on the United Nations, the War on Terror and democracy here at home (Egypt)

Greed 101 - The Trillion Dollar Meltdown

Globalisation is gender-insensitive

Wrong Path to Conservation in Papua New Guinea

Focus on broad economic growth is best way to reach anti-poverty goals, UNCTAD chief says

Youth for Sustainable Development

Shanxi summit looks at coal's future

Has the “Population Bomb” Finally Exploded?

Reforming the Vatican

Africa: Green Revolution Could Help ontinent to Feed Itself

Billions 'wasted in emergency aid'

Globalization nourishes and starves us

Eco/Feminism, non-violence and the future of feminism

Huge Gender Gap Between Rhetoric and Reality

Growing Footprints

Religious Leaders Convene in New York as Heads of State Review the Millennium Development Goals

Conservation and Human Development Goals Can Be Mutually Beneficial

Angola chooses homegrown economic remedy

Globalization and Politics

Liberty or Sustainable Development? 1
Liberty or Sustainable Development? 2
Liberty or Sustainable Development? 3
Liberty or Sustainable Development? 4
Liberty or Sustainable Development? 5
Liberty or Sustainable Development? 6
Liberty or Sustainable Development? 7

10 Years Of Internet Images

Blair says religion has potential to harm, heal

Most Catholics want free contraceptives

Governance and Globalization

Globalization Through Outsourcing Trends

Re-focusing the MDG targets

Accra Agenda for Action

Millennium Development Goals Top Agenda for UN General Assembly

Philippines - Women's groups push passage of RH bill

America Must Never Succumb to Islam's Sharia Law

Psychologist leads global task force on poverty

Bracing The Challenges Of Global Financial Crisis

World Leaders, Financial Experts Highlight Microfinance Successes in Africa, Emphasize U.N. Roadmap to Bring Financial Access to World's Poor

To Go Green Initiative's School of the Week: Fox Middle School in Arnold, Missouri

The Go Green Initiative’s School of the Week: Fox Middle School in Arnold, Missouri!

UN experts: Employment vital to reduce poverty

World leaders pledge to reinvigorate ‘global partnership of equals’ to end poverty, hunger, underdevelopment in Africa

'Quality of education should be the focus'

Proposed Legislation To Disallow Sharia Courts In USA

Millennium Development Goals at Midpoint: Where do we stand and where do we need to go?

2008 Report on International Religious Freedom

Is the Gap More Than Gender? A Longitudinal Analysis of Gender, Gender Role Orientation, and Earnings

"The World Needs a Third Industrial Revolution"

Magazine Featuring Female Pastors Pulled From Shelves, 'Treated Like Pornography'

WARC and WCC Conclude Patriarchy Workshop

Twenty Questions: Social Justice Quiz 2008

One More Step Towards Sustainable Development

Venezuelan lay group rejects Chavez’s authoritarian laws

The Bush Administration's Banking Rescue Plan

New MDG backed

Humanity's Footprint 1961-2003

CSR Asia - Corporate Social Responsibility in Asia

Upheaval on Wall St. Stirs Anger in the U.N.

Gender inequalities must be tackled immediately

Economic storms threaten development

The Dark Side Of Globalization

A Battle That Never Ends

Development Redefined

UN World Investment Report 2008

Religious leaders add their voice to UN drive to end violence against women

Gender equality still elusive  

Time to inject new energy into global partnership for development

Explainer: The Millennium Development Goals

How Elitism is Holding Liberia Back from Achieving Democracy

Accountability Equals Sustainable Development

Wall Street crisis: Poor to bail out the rich again

Achieving Millennium Development Goals is a 'crucial moral obligation'

Tragedy in the Making in Washington and on Wall Street: The Canadian Solution

UN Seeks Accountability for Women's Rights

Gandhi's Birthday Embraced as Symbol of International Day of Non-Violence

Flaunting Opulence With ‘SUVs’ ‘Jeeps’ in the Midst of Abject Poverty in Sierra Leone

UN Millennium Development Goals Expand to Include Biodiversity

Brazilian Government Largest Illegal Logger in the Amazon

Peak Oil and Energy Imperialism

The End of Arrogance: America Loses Its Dominant Economic Role

USA - The Bailout: An Owner's Manual

No “Bailout” for the World’s Poorest

Ecuador places new Constitutional ban on military bases

Why blame family size?

Why gender equity trumps religious rights

Collaboration Tools

Peaceful Revolution: Real Economic Change That's Logical, Not Pathological

Crisis of Capitalism Deepens, We Need Alternate Model of Development

Who needs a lifeline?

Cost of the War in Iraq
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Editor's Note: For more news sources, visit the SSNV News Sources and RSS Feeds Page. See also the SSNV Knowledge Taxonomy & Links Database and the SSNV Tools Directory.

Google Search Customized for
SSNV Research

Google Custom Search

Global Citizen

Kazi Nazrul Islam
A Voice and Beacon of Global-Belonging
India & Bangladesh, 1899-1976

On the oneness of humanity:
"I sing the song
Of equality,
Where all status and class
Become triviality.
The Rendezvous of Hindu, Buddhist,
Muslim or those of Christianity,
I sing the song
Of equality!"

On gender equality:
"I sing the song
of equality;
In my view gender difference
is essentially a triviality. ...
Not very far
is that cherished day,
when with homage to man,
to woman also homage, the world will pay."

Kazi Nazrul Islam, Biography, Wikipedia
Kazi Nazrul Islam, Biography, NationMaster Encyclopedia
Woman (Nari), Kazi Nazrul Islam, 1925
The Egalitarian (Shammyobadi), Kazi Nazrul Islam, 1926
Complete Works of Kazi Nazrul Islam, NationMaster Encyclopedia
The Spirit of Global Belonging: Perspectives from Some Humanity-Oriented Icons, Mohammad Omar Farooq, 2006

MDGs + 1


8mdggoals PLUS GOAL 9:
Universal Religious Freedom

Global MDG resources:
U.N. MDGs Home Page
MDG Core Documents
MDG Basic Indicators
U.N. Millennium Project
MDG Targets & Indicators
Human Rights and the MDGs
Governance and the MDGs
MDG Atlas
MDG Dashboard
MDG Monitor
MDG Slideshow
MDG Progress Report 2008
MDG GMR 2008
GEO Report 2007
HDR Report 2007-2008
Earth Charter
Youth and the MDGs
Health and the MDGs
State of the World Children 2008
State of the World Girls 2007
Gender Equity Index 2008
UNESCO Yearbook 2008
World Energy Outlook 2008
World Disasters Report 2007
World Health Statistics 2008
MDG-Net and DGP-Net
World Resources 2008
National MDG Resources
Local MDG Resources
High Level UN MDG Blog

Sign of the Times

St. Therese of Lisieux
France, 1873 - 1897

The Little Flower
"Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love."

Vocation to Priesthood
"If I were a priest, how lovingly I would carry you in my hands when you came down from heaven at my call; how lovingly I would bestow you upon people’s souls. I want to enlighten people’s minds as the prophets and the doctors did. I feel the call of an Apostle. I would love to travel all over the world, making your name known and planting your cross on a heathen soil." (Story of a Soul)

Thérèse_de_Lisieux, Biography, Wikipedia
The Story of a Soul (L'Histoire d'une Âme): The Autobiography of St. Thérèse, Project Gutenberg
The life, writings, spirituality, and mission of St. Therese of Lisieux
St. Therese of Lisieux, Homily, John F. Russell
St. Thérèse and the Question of the Ordination of Women, John Wijngaards

Therese rejoices that her dream is becoming reality, albeit not yet in her own church:


SSNV Links

Resources worth visiting:

Earth Charter

Platform for Sharing Information
on Gender Equity

Humiliation Studies of Evelin Lindner

Mimetic Theory of René Girard

Socioeconomic Democracy
Robley E. George, Director
Center for the Study of Democratic Societies

Map and Portal of Knowledge
By Chaim Zins,
Knowledge Mapping Research
Jerusalem, Israel




The Damietta Peace Initiative

Green Index of Sustainable Consumption
Greendex Map of the World
Greendex Calculator
Greendex Report 2008 Full Report (50MG)

State of the World 2009:
Into a Warming World
Forthcoming January 2009
Worldwatch Institute

Green Books for Green Living

Global Footprint Network

Read this FREE online!
Full Book | Podcast
K-8 Science Education

Southern Poverty Law Center

State of the Future 2009 (SOF2009),
Jerome C. Glenn, Director
The Millennium Project, WFUNA

Atlas of Population & Environment,
Edited by Victoria D. Markman, AAAS
Free Registration, Customization,
and Download



By Victoria D. Markham
Center for Environment and Population
Columbia University

Click here to download report

Two Great Books

Two great books on the roots of violence:

The Genealogy of Violence:
Reflections on Creation, Freedom, and Evil
Charles K. Bellinger,
Oxford University Press, 2001

The Trinitarian Self:
The Key to the Puzzle of Violence
Charles K. Bellinger,
Princeton Theological Monographs, 2008

Useful Tools



VADLO is a search engine for biologists. Currently a free beta service. Queries can be submitted for searching by keyword(s), protocols (methods, techniques, essays, procedures, reagent recipes, plasmid maps, etc.), tools (calculators, servers, prediction tools, sequence alignment and manipulation tools, primer design etc.), seminars (powerpoint presentations, lectures, and talks), databases (data repositories, taxonomies, compilations, lists etc.), and software (codes, scripts, algorithms, executables, downloadable programs). Search results include daily "life in research" cartoons. Biologists and other life scientists can submit their links for consideration (only http:// links at the moment).



The developer of this freeware is Glenn Scheper. The following abbreviated description is adapted from his web site:

Words Extended (WordsEx) is a powerful Internet text information discovery, retrieval, extraction, and display tool. It includes ranking heuristics that speed you to the choicest information. Minimal motion right hand operation, smooth scrolling and big fonts make it easy. This version is the first release on CNET

Windows 2000, XP, or Vista users can try WordsEx immediately by clicking HERE. It comes with a concise but clearly written user's guide as well as some additional software documentation. The tool can be used to find, retrieve, and rank online information on any subject matter, but several sample analyses supported by WordsEx are provided in Glenn's page.


Given a paragraph or list of keywords, WORDLE generates a collage like the one shown below. The collage conveys a sense of relationships between the keywords. For instance, the input for the example below was a list of dimensions for sustainable development. The tool provides several options relative to layout, font, and color scheme, and a link that can be embedded in any web page. Click on the image to see a larger version.


The WSF 2009 will happen in Brazil, in the city of Belem, state of Para, from January 27th until February 1st, 2009. Please visit the WSF 2009 website. The point of contact is Escritório Belém-Pará-Brasil.

Scheduled for 15-19 February 2009, New York City. Theme: "Exploring the Past, Anticipating the Future." See the conference website. The conference co-chairs are Sabine Carey and Gerald Schneider.

The 2009 ASEH conference theme is: "Paradise Lost, Found, and Constructed: Conceptualizing and Transforming Landscapes through History." The conference takes place in Tallahassee, Florida, February 25 - March 1, 2009. For more information: Michael Lewis, Chair, Salisbury University.

Sponsored by the Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean (CERLAC). March 5-7, 2009, York University, Toronto. Sub-theme: "Regulation, Dispossession, and Emerging Claims." Organizing committee: CERLAC.

Global conference 13-16 March 2009, Salzburg, Austria. Sponsored by the Forgiveness: Probing the Boundaries project. Points of contact: David White, and Rob Fisher. For more information visit the conference website.

Annual conference of the Association of American Geographers (AAG). Las Vegas, Nevada, 22-27 March 2009. Call for papers: "Gendered Geographies of Transition in Southeast Asia." There is more information on the AAG website, and you can contact Annual Meeting AAG2009. The organizer of this session is Katherine Brickell: Katherine Brickell RHUL and Katherine Brickell LSE (please send to both as she is currently between posts).

The inaugural meeting of the Society for Environmental Law and Economics will be held on March 27 and 28, 2009, at the University of British Columbia Faculty of Law in Vancouver, Canada. Points of contact: Shi-Ling Hsu and Brian Czech.

Managing the Social Impacts of Change from a Risk Perspective, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, 15-17 April 2009. See the SCARR web site. For details contact Jens Zinn or Peter Taylor-Gooby.

Unite For Sight 6th Annual Global Health Conference. Theme: "Achieving Global Goals Through Innovation." Saturday, April 18 - Sunday, April 19, 2009, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA. Complete information is available in the conference website. Contact: Unite for Sight.

Villanova University is hosting an international interdisciplinary conference on Sustainability, April 23-25, 2009. The conference aims to bring together scholars, activists, and government and corporate professionals from across the United States and around the world to learn from each other in exploring the multiple dimensions of Sustainability. Points of contact are Chaone Mallory and Paul Rosier.

International Conference on Organizational Learning, Knowledge and Capabilities (OLKC), Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 26-28 April 2009. See the OKLC conference website. The points of contact are Marleen Huysman (conference chair) or Marlous Agterberg (conference organizer).


The 7th Open Meeting on the Human Dimension of Global Environmental Change (IHDP), 26-30 April 2009, Bonn, Germany. The theme of this meeting, "Social Challenges of Global Change," responds to important changes in the perspective of the scientific community on the challenges that we are currently facing and outlines the new research agenda for IHDP’s second decade. Four major social challenges have been identified which are both paramount for future living conditions of human beings and good entry points to demonstrate IHDP’s preparedness to contribute to the new research perspectives: 1. How do we deal with demographic challenges? 2. How do we deal with limitations of resources and ecosystem services? 3. How do we establish social cohesion while increasing equity at various levels? 4. How do we adapt institutions to address global change? Points of contact: Ruben Sondervan, Jens Marson, and Prof. Oran R. Young (Chair, IHDP Scientific Committee).


International conference on ecology and professional helping, with interdisciplinary dialogues on person, planet, and professional helping. University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, 7-9 May 2009. Abstracts (in English or French) due 12 September 2008); submit via email to John Coates. For more information visit the conference web site. Additional points of contact: Fred Besthorn or Mishka Lysack.

International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC). May 20-24, 2009, Washington DC, USA. ISSR Conference, Santiago de Compostela, Spain, 27-31 July 2009. Theme: Making Marine Science Matter. For more information see the conference website or contact Ellen Hines, Chair, IMCC 2009.

The 23rd annual meeting of the Society for Conservation Biology, "Conservation: Harmony for Nature and Society," will be held from 11-16 July 2009 in Beijing, China. Complete instructions for submitting proposals are available at the meeting website or by contacting SCB 2009.

An inter-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary conference on "Decent Work and Unemployment" will be hosted by the Center for Ethics and Poverty Research (University of Salzburg), Salzburg, May 26-29 2009. It seeks to examine and explore the connections of "decent work" and unemployment. Please send your paper together with a short CV to CEPR.

Gendered Cultures at the Crossroads of Imagination, Knowledge and Politics, 4-7 June 2009 Utrecht, The Netherlands. Visit the conference web site. For more information: 7thfeminist.

This conference is to be held in Aix-en-Provence, France, 12-13 June 2009. Sponsored by LERMA, Université d'Aix-Marseille, in collaboration with Queen Mary University, London. The conference languages will be English and French. Points of contact: Dr Laurence Lux-Sterritt and Dr Claire Sorin. For more additional conference information see the women history website.

EKSIG 2009: Experiential Knowledge, Method and Methodology International Conference. Theme: "Experiential Knowledge, Method and Methodology." Friday, 19 June 2009. Hosted by London Metropolitan University. For more information see the conference website. Contact: EKSIG 2009.

Third International Conference of the International Society for the Study of Religion, Nature & Culture (ISSRNC). University of Amsterdam, 23–26 July 2009. The conference director is Kocku von Stuckrad. For more information: ISSRNC 2009.

International Society for the Sociology of Religion, 30th Conference in Santiago de Compostela (Spain), 27-31 July 2009. Theme: "The Challenges Of Religious Pluralism." See the conference website for more information. The point of contact for the conference is Hilde Van Meerbeeck-Cravillon. For specific sessions: Jean-Paul Willaime, Karel Dobbelaere, and Jean-Pierre Hiernaux. For the panel on religion and consumerism: François Gauthier and Tuomas Martikainen.

The first World Resources Forum will be held in Davos, Switzerland, 16 September 2009. Theme: From the Natural Sciences to Economics. See the WRF Planning Poster. Contact: Dr. Lorenz M. Hilty.

The Association for Feminist Ethics And Social Theory (FEAST) invites submissions for the Fall 2009 conference, 24-27 September 2009, Clearwater Beach, Florida. FEAST 2009 will also include two invited panels: "Environmental Feminism," with Chris Cuomo, Trish Glazebrook, and Chaone Mallory, and "Evolutionary Psychology," with Carla Fehr, Letitia Meynell, and Anya Plutynski. Questions may be directed to Lisa Schwartzman.

The International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP) announces the XXVI International Population Conference, 27 September - 2 October 2009, Marrakech, Morocco. For the CFP and paper submissions visit the marrakech2009.

The Second International Seminar on Islamic Thought (ISoIT2) will be held at the National University of Malaysia, Bangi, Selangor, Malaysia. The date for the event is 6-7 October 2009. For points of contact and other information, please visit the conference website conference website.

International Conference AfricaGIS2009, 26– 29 October 2009, Kampala, Uganda. Conference theme: "Geo-Spatial Information and Sustainable Development in Africa: Facing Challenges of Global Change." For further information please visit the AFRICAGIS2009 conference website. For general inquiries please contact AfricaGIS 2009.

Sponsored by the International Association for the History of Religions (IAHR). The theme for the Congress has been chosen to encourage discussion of religions and religious phenomena across traditional geographical and temporal boundaries. August 15-21, 2010, Toronto, Canada. See the conference website for further information. The conference director is Professor Donald Wiebe.

The International Association for the Study of the Commons (IASC) is still accepting preliminary proposals from individuals and organizations interested in HOSTING our 13th Biennial Conference, scheduled for the summer or autumn, 2010. For more information contact Jim Robson and visit the

Knowledge Base

The SSNV Knowledge Taxonomy has been updated. As of 20 May 2008, it provides links to 2131 web sites that contain evidentiary data and knowledge content that is relevant to global issues of human solidarity and nonviolence, environmental sustainability, and sustainable human development.

Each link is classified by the following categories:

  • Mega-Disciplines
  • Disciplines
  • Specialties
  • Sub-Specialties
  • UN MDGs

Currently, the database is sorted by mega-disciplines, disciplines, and specialties. The sub-specialties field is temporarily being used for knowledge source (often using institutional or facility acronyms). Many resources are applicable to two or more of the MDGs. This is work in progress, and both the taxonomies and the links will continue to evolve, but the reader may find something useful by clicking HERE. For a more comprehensive map of knowledge, see Knowledge 2008, by Chaim Zins.


Knowledge Taxonomy
Links Directory

The SSNV-MDG knowledge taxonomy and links database can be downloaded as either an HTML web page or an EXCEL spreadsheet with embedded table-building HTML code that can be modified to fit the user needs.

Download the
HTML Web Page

Download the
EXCEL File with URLs and HTML Code

The Myth of
Sustainable Development

The Myth of Sustainable development
Nirmala Nair, The Berkana Institute

They told me
Our life is no good
In the bundus,
In the villages,
In the deeps
Beyond the cities

Eating like my elders did
Living like my elders did

It took me a long time
To change the way I live.

But change - I did
To develop myself
And my children
To become civilized Modern,

My elders
They tilled their soil
waited for the moon
Listened to the birds
looked for signs
in the meadows
when to sow
and what to sow

No slave to money and machines,
They lived long and healthy
In the mountains and meadows
Valleys and creeks
With reverence to the sacred land
That nurtured their soul
That fed their body

My elders were called ignorant
Primitive and backward
So they sent me to school
To become modern and forward
To become civilized and developed

I changed my food
Eating food I no longer
know where from
Whose farm
No-name food
no-man’s land

Food Fed by poisons
Shaped by machines
Slick and smart
With artificial colorants and flavors

It no longer feeds my soul
Just bloats my stomach
Sluggish and sick
With no real energy

I became a bundle of ailments
My GP my medical-aid
Happy and smiling
Making a living
On perpetually sick living

Then came the day
When I was sent off to
Some big meetings

Full of experts and
Know-it-all talkers
real do-gooders

By the time they finished,
I felt cheated and robbed
While pretending to be the experts
All they gave was
The story of my elders.

First they told my people
They were backward and primitive
Then they made my generation sick and lost
Then they stole the wisdom from my elders
And now they sell it back to me and my children For a price
A big price
And call it

Sustainable development

But they can't read
the signs
They don't follow the moon
Nor do they know
How to read weather
From the blossom’s on the meadows

Tell me how can they sustain
This thing called Sustainable development
When it has never been lived
By the experts.

Tell me how
Tell me how

Nirmala Nair, India
2 September 2004

SSNV Archive

Links to archived newsletters
May 2005 - September 2008:

Cross-Gender Solidarity
The Phallocentric Syndrome
From Patriarchy to Solidarity
Patriarchy and Solidarity
From Solidarity to Sustainability
Dimensions of Sustainability
Analysis of Objective Evidence
Solidarity and Subsidiarity
Solidarity and Sustainability
Sustainable Human Development
Patriarchy and Mimetic Violence
Violence in Patriarchal Religions
Violence in Patriarchal Religions-2
Violence in Patriarchal Religions-3
Violence in Patriarchal Religions-4
Violence in Patriarchal Religions-5
Sabbatical Activity~September-06
Sabbatical Activity~October-06
Sabbatical Activity~November-06
Sabbatical Activity~December-06
MDG1-Reduce Extreme Poverty
MDG2-Ensure Universal Education
MDG3-Promote Gender Equality
MDG4-Reduce Child Mortality
MDG5-Improve Maternal Care
MDG6-Mitigate HIV/AIDS Epidemic
MDG7-Environmental Sustainability
MDG8-Develop Global Partnership
Integrated Analysis of the MDGs
Analysis of the 2015 MDG Targets
If Not the MDGs, Then What?
2007 State of the Future Review
Religious Dimension of Sustainability
Spiritual Dimension of Sustainability
Human Dimension of Sustainability
Gender Dimension of Sustainability
Nuptial Dimension of Sustainability 1
Nuptial Dimension of Sustainability 2
Nuptial Dimension of Sustainability 3
Nuptial Dimension of Sustainability 4
Ethical Dimension of Sustainability

"No culture can live, if it attempts to be exclusive."

Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)


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Copyright © 2008 by Luis T. Gutierrez


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