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
Community Dimension of Sustainable Development - Part 2
This issue is a continuation of the previous issue on the Community Dimension of Sustainable Development with special focus on issues that emerge at the global level such as global consumption growth, the impacts of such growth on the planet, and the need for some form of global governance to mitigate armed conflicts and improve financial and environmental justice.
The continued growth in global consumption and the refusal by many to recognize that excessive consumption in the industrial nations are destroying the planet, together with the global financial crisis that started in Wall Street and the election of Barack Obama to be the 44th President of the USA, provide abundant material for analysis and reflection. The current stagnation of the MDGs, the global geography of poverty, and gender equality remain a central concern.
Section 1 provides a brief review of the global geography of poverty. It is noted that poverty, and in particular extreme poverty, has ubiquitous repercussions that affect both humanity and the human habitat in many negative ways. The juxtaposition of this massive poverty in the developing countries, and the extravagant consumption patterns in the developed countries, generates an outlook of confrontation and violence that is pervasive worldwide. Furthermore, empirical evidence shows that the gap between rich and poor is increasing both between rich and poor nations and within the rich nations, including the USA.
Sections 2 to 7 are focused on consumption and the multi-dimensional repercussions of excessive consumption throughout the global community. Section 2 shows that population growth is not the problem; excessive consumption is the problem. Section 3 shows that consumption growth is an obstacle to human development. Using the Planet Living Index as a measure of biodiversity, and the Ecological Footprint as a measure of biocapacity, section 4 deals with consumption growth as the root cause of environmental deterioration. Section 5 examines how exponential consumption growth does not translate into progress toward achieving the MDG 2015 targets. The percentage of the population that has access to drinkable water is used as an example.
Sections 6 to 8 provide some data and analysis of how exponential consumption growth makes it impossible for humanity to grow in solidarity, sustainability, and nonviolence. Section 6 shows the absurdity of pretending that solidarity can flourish without a radical commitment to nonviolence. That sustainability cannot be attained without solidarity is reiterated in section 7. Section 8 reiterates that, at any level, nonviolence is the only path toward both solidarity and sustainability.
As usual, section 9 is focused on the spiritual dimension. It provides some selections about the Christmas season, and mentions how other religious and cultural traditions celebrate their spirituality during this last month of the year. How things are going to unfold during 2009 and beyond is a key concern at the moment. In the "Global Citizen" space, a brief essay is offered on president-elect Obama and how the increasingly increasing cost of American electoral campaigns reinforces the consumerist mindset: money can buy anything.
The invited paper this month is Global Capital and Delocalization, by Ghassan Karam, Professor of Economics, Pace University. It is reprinted with permission from
Ya Libnan, Beirut, Lebanon, 27 November 2008.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Merry Christmas 2008 & Best Wishes for 2009
1. The Global Geography of Poverty
Poverty, and the widening gap between the developed and developing nations, is the fundamental issue. Figure 1 displays a global geography of poverty. The color codes indicate the % of people in each nation living under the poverty line. It is evident that poverty has a primarily African face. It is well known that it also has a primarily female face.
Figure 1. The Global Geography of Poverty
The color codes indicate the % of people living under the poverty line
(click on the image to view a larger map and legend)
Source: Wikipedia and CIA World Factbook 2008
The repercussions of poverty are ubiquitous. For instance, consider the geography of poverty from the perspective of potable water availability, as shown in the World Water Day 2007 brochure.
The availability of clean water is also critical for improved sanitation. The World Water Day 2008 brochure states that "2.6 billion people are looking for a toilet." It is noteworthy that all worldwide maps of poverty look the same regardless of the poverty indicator being mapped.
There is another interesting phenomenon about the geography of poverty, and it pertains to the interaction between economics and politics. Empirical evidence shows that the gap between the rich and the poor is increasing both between rich and poor nations and within the rich nations, including the USA. Within the rich nations, such as the USA, the patterns of income growth, campaign spending, and voter behavior in elections interact in complex ways. Undoubtedly, the main motivators are greed and self-interest. But if greed and lack of national solidarity are disrupting the American democracy, is it realistic to expect that greed and lack of international solidarity will motivate the rich countries to "rescue" the world's poorest countries from their misery?
2. Consumption Growth & Population Growth
Population growth should not be used as the scapegoat to rationalize the lack of distributive justice between the developed and developing nations. Gandhi had the right words to describe the situation, and his insight still applies: "The earth has enough for everyone's need but not for anyone's greed." Consider Figure 2:
Figure 2. World Population Growth and Economic Growth
Note: world population grew by 75%, world consumption grew by 889%
Source: Living Planet Report 2008
Figure 3 specifically shows the trends in world consumption, and world consumption per capita, for High Income Countries (HIC), Middle Income Countries (MIC), and Low Income Countries (LIC):
Figure 4 shows the trends in world population growth for HIC, MIC, and LIC:
Figure 4. Growth in World Population
Note that the population of the low income countries is increasing must faster that the population of the high income countries, and faster that the population of the middle income countries. It is expected that the red curve will cross the blue curve in the 2010-2020 time frame.
Source: Earth Trends Database, WRI 2008,
and State of the World Population, United Nations 2008.
In brief, the developed nations are attaining enormous economic growth and small population growth, while the developing nations are experiencing modest or minimal economic growth and explosive population growth. As of this writing, this severe imbalance is being exacerbated by the global financial crisis that started in Wall Street and quickly spread to all the developed nations. Negative repercussions in the developing countries are beginning to emerge.
3. Consumption Growth & Human Development
The highest priority of sustainable development should always be meeting essential human needs. This is clearly stated in the definitive Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future, and more specifically in Chapter 2: Towards Sustainable Development:
"Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It contains within it two key concepts:
"the concept of 'needs', in particular the essential needs of the world's poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and
"the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment's ability to meet present and future needs."
One way to assess whether or not human needs are being met is by using the Human Development Index (HDI). The HDI is "an index combining normalized measures of life expectancy, literacy, educational attainment, and GDP per capita for countries worldwide. It is claimed as a standard means of measuring human development — a concept that, according to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), refers to the process of widening the options of persons, giving them greater opportunities for education, health care, income, employment, etc." It is, therefore, a good indicator of whether or not essential human needs are being met.
Figure 5. Human Development Index (HDI)
| 0.950–1.000 0.900–0.949 0.850–0.899 0.800–0.849 0.750–0.799
|| 0.700–0.749 0.650–0.699 0.600–0.649 0.550–0.599 0.500–0.549
|| 0.450–0.499 0.400–0.449 0.350–0.399 under–0.350 not available
(click on the image to view a larger map and legend)
Source: Wikipedia and UNDP HDI Report 2007/2008
Notice the similarity between the geographic distribution of poverty (Figure 1) and the geographic distribution of human development (Figure 5). This is not surprising: poverty precludes human development. But, as the following graph shows, world GDP grew exponentially during the period 1970-2005 but, during the same period, the world's HDI remained stagnant. This is a symptom that something is fundamentally wrong: material wealth is growing but is not improving human quality of life.
The HDI is a reasonable measure of human development in the sense of meeting basic human needs. It is recognized that there may be a margin of error in consolidating global data, but the point values are not as important as the trends over a significant amount of time. These trends are robust and consistent with observable realities. They consistently point toward the following conclusions at the global level:
consumption is increasing faster than population (Figure 2)
What about the impact of consumption growth on the human habitat?
consumption per capita is increasing faster than population in high income countries, slower than population in middle and low income countries (Figure 3)
in fact, the gap between consumption per capita in the richest and poorest countries is increasing increasingly and without any changes in geographic distribution (Figures 4 and 5)
consumption is increasing faster than human development, even if "human development" is limited to essential human needs (Figure 6)
4. Consumption Growth & the Human Habitat
The Living Planet Index (LDI) "is an indicator of the state of global biological diversity, based on trends in vertebrate populations of species from around the world. The LPI provides the general public, scientists and policy-makers with information on trends in the abundance of the world’s vertebrates and offers insights into which habitats or ecosystems have species that are declining most rapidly. This information can be used to define the impact humans are having on the planet and for guiding actions to address biodiversity loss." In terms of the LDI, the balance between humanity and the human habitat is 1 by definition, and the human habitat has been deteriorating since 1975 or so. Figure 7 shows the current trend:
Figure 7. World Economic Growth and the Human Habitat (Biodiversity)
Consumption grew by 889% but the human habitat is deteriorating
Source: Living Planet Report 2008
Another useful metric to track human impact on the human habitat is the Ecological Footprint (EFP), a measure of the planet's biocapacity: "Ecological footprint analysis compares human demand on nature with the biosphere's ability to regenerate resources and provide services. It does this by assessing the biologically productive land and marine area required to produce the resources a population consumes and absorb the corresponding waste, using prevailing technology. This approach can also be applied to an activity such as the manufacturing of a product or driving of a car. This resource accounting is similar to life cycle analysis wherein the consumption of energy, biomass (food, fiber), building material, water and other resources are converted into a normalized measure of land area called 'global hectares' (gha)."
Both in terms of biodiversity and in terms of biocapacity, Figures 7 and 8 display a pattern of human habitat deterioration which is undoubtedly caused by consumption growth and the inevitable byproducts: air pollution, water pollution, toxic wastes. Therefore, we can add one more to the conclusions at the end of section 3:
exponential consumption growth is inducing environmental deterioration that may eventually compromise the feasibility of sustainable development (Figures 7 and 8)
What about the impact of consumption growth on the MDGs?
5. Consumption Growth & the UN MDGs
The UN MDG Data Set 2008 includes definitions and time series data for 150 indicators. It is not possible to review all of them here, but Figures 2 to 8 provide an scenario that applies to all of them and make it clear why is it that most of them are not expected to attain the MDG 2015 goals. The reason is that most of the economic growth is consumed by the developed countries in ways that are not required to meet essential human needs, and nothing or very little trickles down to the developing nations.
In the UN MDG Data Set 2008, MDG data code 665 is the % of the population using improved drinking water sources. These data is available for most countries starting in 1990. From 1990 to 2005, world consumption (GDP) grew by 215%, but the worldwide availability of potable water (as measured by MDG data code 665) grew by only 1.3%. Figure 9 shows the trends over time, starting in 1970 for GDP (plotted on the left vertical axis) and 1990 for MDG data code 665 (plotted on the right vertical axis).
Figure 9. World Economic Growth and Potable Water Availability
Notation: GDP = World Gross Domestic Product,
MDG Code 665 (% of the population using improved drinking water sources).
Note: From 1990 to 2005, world consumption (GDP) grew by 215%, but the worldwide availability of potable water (MDG Code 665) grew by only 1.3%.
Living Planet Report 2008 and
UN MDG Data Set 2008
It must be reiterated, that this juxtaposition of extravagant consumption in developed nations and miserable lifestyle in the developing nations (specially the poorest ones) is happening at a time when the "extravagance" of consumerism has exploded into a financial crisis that started in Wall Street and has not reached global proportions. Let us hope that this worldwide financial crisis, plus global warming and other symptoms of environmental deterioration, will turn out to be blessings in disguise by making more people (specially bankers and politicians) aware that they are playing with fire; for, if lack of human solidarity leads to ecological unsustainability, the eventual result may be a planetary mix of social fragmentation and ecological dislocation that will lead to wars and terrorist violence worldwide.
This is the key question going forward: what will happen if the MDGs stagnate, and the gap between the rich and poor countries continues to increase, and natural resources continue to deteriorate while world consumption keeps growing exponentially?
Nobody really knows, but the outlook is explosive. The worst case scenario is for some form of "World War III" to happen. But if we allow it to happen, WWIII will not be limited to certain geographic regions. It may include well-armed pirates hijacking ships and airplanes to collect millions in ransom (already happening), terrorist groups attacking places where people congregate (already happening), factional and ethnic violence within countries, continued attacks and counterattacks between Islamic theocracies and secular democracies, wars between powerful drug and human trafficking cartels, 9/11-style terrorist attacks, nations with nuclear weapons using them in "self-defense," worldwide hunger and epidemics due to shortages of food and medications, worldwide economic paralysis due to shortages of energy and dislocation of financial systems, a worldwide surge of unemployment, a worldwide surge of homeless people and slum dwellers, highly degraded ecosystem services, politicians incapable of telling their constituents that the "consumerist party" is over, and so on ad nauseam. Is this the kind of world we want to leave behind for our children and grandchildren?
This is not the biblical "Armageddon"; it has nothing to do with God, even though many will try to use God as scapegoat. Like WWI and WWII, it has everything to do with human pride and human greed, which inevitably lead to violence. The catalyst for WWIII, if it happens, will be the idolatry of money, and this idol is entirely made by human hands.
6. Consumption Growth & Solidarity
The Earth Charter Guide to Religion and Climate Change, published 11 November 2008, includes an appendix with the following reflection, originally composed in 1991 by the
International Communities for the Renewal of Earth (ICRE):
I am because we are.
We have forgotten who we are
We have lost our sense of wonder
We have degraded the Earth
We have exploited our fellow creatures
And we have nowhere else to go.
In our ignorance we have disrupted the balance of life.
Now the air we breathe hurts us and
the water we drink poisons us.
All things are bound together:
If we lose the sweetness of the waters,
we lose the life of the land;
If we lose the life of the land,
we lose the majesty of the forest;
If we lose the majesty of the forest,
we lose the purity of the air;
If we lose the purity of the air,
we lose the creatures of the Earth;
Not just for ourselves but for
our children – now and in the future.
But a new spirit is being born, a new awareness of
our place in this delicate balance. This spirit calls us to:
a transformation of our hearts and minds
concrete changes in our way of life
the renewal of our religions
the creation of a global society
We remember who we are
We reclaim our sense of wonder
We acknowledge our responsibility
We commit ourselves to the Earth
We turn toward each other in friendship
We turn again together towards home.
In other words, WWIII (in whatever shape it might take) is not unavoidable. All nations of the world may have to "muddle through" a complex and painful transition from the current mess to solidarity and sustainability. All nations must stick together during the "muddling through." Otherwise, it is hard to imagine how humanity will arrive at the "promised planet" of solidarity, sustainability, and nonviolence. This is what God desires, for God never wants what is bad for humanity. And yet, it is humanity that is responsible for this transition to happen. It would be foolish to wait for "technological miracles" or "acts of God." This is what human hands and minds must do: choose to consume less and choose to share more. This is the fundamental choice, and there is no escaping it. Bailouts are for the cowards and the greedy.
7. Consumption Growth & Sustainability
Consumption is a major determinant of sustainability. If consumption of material resources increases beyond the planet's carrying capacity (i.e., the planet's capacity to recycle what humanity consumes so as to attain a steady-state balance between consumption and recycling), then sustainability becomes a mathematical impossibility. Sustainability is also compromised when pollution and toxic wastes generated as a byproduct of production and consumption activities decrease the planet's capacity for recycling renewable resources.
The main source of such pollution is the burning of fossil fuels and other non-renewable energy resources. The 2008 World Energy Outlook 2008 provides a number of very instructive trend charts/a> that show the world marching inexorably toward the precipice known as Hubbert's Peak Oil, first described in M. K. Hubbert's seminal paper, Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels, dated March 1956. There can be no doubt that fossil fuels will be depleted no matter how much drilling is done. Actually, it is to be hoped that fossil fuels become exhausted before CO2 and other emissions destroy the planet's biodiversity and biocapacity. We must remain focused on the double purpose of sustainability:
"Sustainable development marries two important themes: that environmental protection does not preclude economic development and that economic development must be ecologically viable now and in the long run. Common use of the term "sustainability" began with the 1987 publication of the World Commission on Environment and Development report, Our Common Future. Also known as the Brundtland Report, this document defined sustainable development as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." This concept of sustainability encompasses ideas, aspirations and values that continue to inspire public and private organizations to become better stewards of the environment and that promote positive economic growth and social objectives. The principles of sustainability can stimulate technological innovation, advance competitiveness, and improve our quality of life."
Below is a table that captures the Max-Neef classification of fundamental human heeds. It is noted that many entries in the table (e.g., "get to know oneself, grow, commit oneself") are "fundamental human needs" that do not require the consumption of material resources.
Table 1. Max-Neef Classification of Fundamental Human Needs
||physical and mental health
||food, shelter, work
||feed, clothe, rest, work
||living environment, social setting
||care, adaptability, autonomy
||social security, health systems, work
||co-operate, plan, take care of, help
||social environment, dwelling
||respect, sense of humor, generosity, sensuality
||friendships, family, relationships with nature
||share, take care of, make love, express emotions
||privacy, intimate spaces of togetherness
||critical capacity, curiosity, intuition
||literature, teachers, policies, educational
||analyze, study, meditate, investigate,
||schools, families, universities, communities,
||receptiveness, dedication, sense of humor
||responsibilities, duties, work, rights
||cooperate, dissent, express opinions
||associations, parties, churches, neighborhoods
||imagination, tranquility, spontaneity
||games, parties, peace of mind
||day-dream, remember, relax, have fun
||landscapes, intimate spaces, places to be alone
||imagination, boldness, inventiveness, curiosity
||abilities, skills, work, techniques
||invent, build, design, work, compose, interpret
||spaces for expression, workshops, audiences
||sense of belonging, self-esteem, consistency
||language, religions, work, customs, values, norms
||get to know oneself, grow, commit oneself
||places one belongs to, everyday settings
||autonomy, passion, self-esteem, open-mindedness
||dissent, choose, run risks, develop awareness
What is needed is a "consumption paradigm shift" such that, once the basic physical and biological needs (good food, clean water, clean air, adequate housing, adequate clothing) are met, refocuses the priorities to serve human development by consuming more education, more counseling, more experiences of human solidarity, and more challenges for men and women to become what they are, always using goods and services that are ecologically friendly and contribute to the inner development of the human person intellectually, psychologically, and spiritually. This is the path toward sustainability. This is the way to make sustainable development feasible. This is where the action is.
8. Consumption Growth & Nonviolence
Excessive consumption and violence are tightly coupled. Violence is often used to acquire wealth quickly. There is, for example, violence in the workplace, usually in the form of bullying. When the boss wants to discipline or fire an employee that is not performing as desired, bullying is easily orchestrated so that many people will start pointing fingers at the "bad" employee. Bullying is especially ruthless when the "bad" employee is "bad" because he or she is resisting something unethical or illegal that the boss wants done for whatever reason. Examples are employees being pressured to fabricate documentation and data for customers, or for the purpose of lying to auditors. Figure 10 is a cartoon by Lisa Haney. It captures very well the essence of bullying in the workplace.
Figure 10. Bullying in the Workplace
Source: Lisa Haney Illustration
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION
Just as there is bullying in the workplace and other secular institutions, there is bullying in religious institutions. Consider the following description, by eminent theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether, pertaining to bullying of Roman Catholics who are in favor of the ordination of women to the ministerial priesthood (a subject which, according to Vatican guidance, cannot even be discussed):
The Vatican’s Spiritual Violence against Women’s Ordination|
by Rosemary Radford Ruether
Circles Forum, 24 November 2008
"The Vatican has adopted what amounts to a “zero tolerance” policy against those Catholics who actively advocate for women’s ordination, particularly against anyone involved in the movement of Roman Catholic Women Priests which, for the past three years, has ordained thirty-five women in the United States. This movement began in June, 2002, when seven women were ordained by some Catholic bishops in Austria. Later several of these women were ordained bishops by these same bishops. They, in turn, have ordained more women priests. From this has sprung an increasingly organized movement, which is developing the theological vision of Church which they hope to generate and are laying down the formal rubrics for education and preparation for ministry of those aspiring to be ordained in their community.
"The Vatican summarily excommunicated the initial seven women ordained in 2002. As more women were ordained it was at first silent and then decreed that anyone being ordained in this movement, as well as those supporting it, were automatically excommunicated. This saved them the trouble of addressing each of these women individually. However, they have escalated their campaign against women’s ordination in the last month in response to Maryknoll priest, Father Roy Bourgeois, who on August 9, 2008 in Lexington, Kentucky, concelebrated the mass where long-time friend, Sevre-Duszynska, was ordained. Father Bourgeois also preached the homily at this ordination mass, where he denounced the Church’s refusal to ordain women as a sin comparable to the sin of racism. “Sexism is a sin” he declared.
"In late October Father Bourgeois received a letter from the Vatican through his Maryknoll Superiors, giving him thirty days to recant his position on women’s ordination or be excommunicated. Bourgeois refused to recant and has instead reiterated his view that his support of women’s ordination is a matter of unshakable conscience. For Bourgeois it is clear that that the Vatican is profoundly in error on this question of rejecting the ordination of women. Catholic Biblical studies have shown that there is no valid case to be made against the ordination of women from the Scriptures. Rather this rejection reflects fundamentally a sinful prejudice against women similar to traditions that believed that Blacks were inferior and should sit in the back pews of the church. It is the Vatican that needs to recant of this sinful prejudice and accept that it is God who is calling women to be ordained.
"Bourgeois has also pointed out the harshness of the Vatican’s response to women’s ordination, in contrast to their slowness to take a strong stand against priests who abused children. Apparently the Vatican takes the sexual abuse of children by priests much less seriously than the challenge coming from those who disagree with their rejection of women’s call to ordained ministry. These women’s “sin” is that they wish to serve the church in proclaiming the gospel and celebrating the sacraments. Why is the Vatican so hostile to women’s call to ministry in a church clearly suffering from a vast deficit in adequate numbers of priests to pastor the people of God? How can it construe women seeking to minister in the church, and those who support it, as such a threat to its institutional order that they should be cut off from the sacraments of the church? Such a response to this movement and its supporters is nothing less than acts of spiritual violence, the equivalent of an effort to “kill” someone with whom one disagrees, to declare them spiritually dead and not in communion with God.
"Why is the Vatican so threatened by this movement of women priests? One issue is that this movement is standing in judgment on the Vatican’s rejection of women’s ordination as both theologically in error and morally sinful, rooted in fundamental hostility to women as full human beings equally made in God’s image and capable of representing Christ as priest. If the Vatican’s teachings are wrong on this, then its claim to infallible authority is in question. Infallibility itself is an error that needs to be recanted. But the authority issue is simply the institutional façade that is in jeopardy with any challenge to any teaching. Bourgeois I think is right in recognizing that the deep roots of this rejection are indeed sexism, a fundamental unwillingness to acknowledge women’s equal humanity, an unwillingness that lurks behind all the romanticism about women’s “difference.”
"Like Father Bourgeois I think Christians today of all traditions, but specifically Catholics, need to see this issue as non-negotiable. We need to insist on women’s capacity for ordained ministry and the validity of their call to such ministry by God. This means that we need to continue to pursue parallel paths to women’s ordination as long at the Vatican refuses to acknowledge the truthfulness of this claim. We will not be deterred by escalating blows of spiritual violence from the Vatican. As long as we are firm in our convictions, such blows finally cannot harm us. This perhaps is the deepest fear of the Vatican, to recognize that its most powerful weapons against this dissent are finally impotent."
There are many forms of violence. Physical violence is the easiest to recognize. Verbal violence -- often used for bullying -- may or may not be more subtle. But psychological and spiritual violence may be even worst, because they can be more easily hidden behind smoke screens of rationalizations, and because they hurt deeper into the fabric of the human being. Any form of violence, secular or religious, has a negative social impact, degrades human solidarity and is, therefore, an obstacle to sustainable development. Nonviolence is the only path toward both solidarity and sustainability.
9. Prayer, Study, and Action
The month of December is a propitious time for prayer, meditation, and good works. Christians are observing the beautiful season of Advent in preparation for Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, "God made flesh." (John 1:14).
For meditation during the Christian season of Advent:
"Like foolish folk of old I would not be,
Who had no room that night for Him and thee.
See, Mother Mary, here within my heart
I've made a little shrine for Him apart;
Swept it of sin, and cleansed it with all care;
Warmed it with love and scented it with prayer.
So, Mother, when the Christmas anthems start,
Please let me hold your baby--in my heart."
Sr. Maryanna, OP, Marist Press, 1946
Tilting on her yearly track
John Piper, Desiring God, 1982
Advent beauty circles back,
Flying faster with the years,
Hardly giving time for tears
First to dry upon the cheek—
Has it been more than a week
In the ground now winter cold?
Has there really been a spring
When the birds began to sing?
Has there been both summer, fall
Since the Baby in the stall
Called us with a Christmas bell
to sing, O Come, Immanuel?
Tilting on her yearly track
Advent beauty circles back,
Flying faster with the years—
Ah, but overtaking fears.
Let the Lord of advent lift
Every care (an early gift!);
See the Savior and the Son
Shine in advent candle one.
For meditation while celebrating Christmas 2008:
GLORIA IN EXCELSIS DEO!
Glory be to God on high.
And in earth peace towards
men of good will.
We praise thee. We bless thee.
We worship thee. We glorify thee.
We give thanks to thee
for thy great glory.
O Lord God, heavenly King,
God the Father almighty.
O Lord, the only-begotten
Son Jesus Christ.
O Lord God, Lamb of God,
Son of the Father.
Thou that takest away the sins of
the world, have mercy upon us.
Thou that takest away the sins of
the world, receive our prayer.
Thou that sittest at the right of
the Father, have mercy upon us.
For thou only art Holy.
Thou only art the Lord.
Thou only, O Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Ghost, art
Most High in the glory of
God the Father. Amen.
Attributed to Hilary of Poitiers,
c. 300-368 CE
God our beloved,
born of a woman's body,
you came that we might look upon you,
and handle you with our own hands.
May we so cherish one another in our bodies
that we may also be touched by you;
through the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ,
Loving Word of God,
you have shown us the fullness of your glory
in taking human flesh.
Fill us, in our bodily life,
with your grace and truth;
that our pleasure may be boundless,
and our integrity complete,
in your name,
God of community,
whose call is more insistent
than ties of family or blood:
may we so respect and love
those whose lives are linked with ours
that we fail not in loyalty to you,
but make choices according to your will,
through Jesus Christ,
Janet Morley, All Desires Known, 1994
This year, Hanukkah (a Jewish holiday that means the "Festival of Lights") begins at sundown December 21st and continues for eight days in remembrance of the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem (2nd century BCE). Kwanzaa is a seven-day cultural celebration of African heritage. It starts each year on December 26th and ends January 1st. Usually, there is no Muslim holiday in December. Muslim holidays are based on the Islamic Hijri (lunar) calendar. However, the Muslim holiday Eid-al-Adha (the "Festival of Sacrifice") happens to fall on December 9th this year.
The USA has just elected a new president. He is a Christian, an African-American, and his grandfather on the paternal side was a Muslim. This Christmas we offer him and the world our best wishes for peace with justice, and we pray for tolerance and solidarity in a sustainable world.
Figure 11. Icon of the Child Christ brought to the world by his Mother
The more recent painting (author unknown) conveys the same message.
"Mary, Mother of God and first Christian priest, pray for us."
Looking ahead to 2009:
Catherine of Siena Virtual College
Course offerings, including new courses:
Point of contact:
Deborah & Aaron Rose-Milavec
USAID Global Development Commons
GlobalDevelopmentCommons.net is a pilot of the
Global Development Commons
which is an initiative of the
US Agency for International Development (USAID).
The Global Development Commons seeks to promote innovation
within USAID and the greater development community to improve the
accessibility and affordability of information and knowledge.
By increasing the availability of information and knowledge,
USAID can empower people,
both development officers and community leaders,
to make better decisions to address development challenges.
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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.
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Human Beings ~ Man and Woman
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Global Citizen ?
Barack H. Obama,
The 2008 presidential election in the USA was driven by an enormous amount of money. There can be no doubt as to Barack Obama's intelligence, eloquence, and reassuring demeanor. Nor can there be any doubt as to the superior management of his campaign. However, the collapse of the Hillary Clinton campaign in the primaries, and the subsequent collapse of the McCain/Palin campaign in the aftermath of the Wall Street financial meltdown (September 15 or so) cannot be fully explained without taking into account the overwhelming financial resources at Mr. Obama's disposal. Indeed, the plush campaign headquarters in Chicago and a ratio of 3 to 1 in the number of state offices, would seem to require a significant financial advantage early on (2007 and early 2008).
So money drives politics. What else is new? One concern is that the extravagant spending during this electoral campaign has reinforced the consumerist mindset and behavior of the American people. Going forward, even in the midst of the current euphoria about his election, it is appropriate to wonder about what are the "changes" to be accomplished by the new administration. Hopefully, by "change" is meant more than just a different person sitting in the oval office. Will there be an effective neutralization of the "old boys' network" in Washington DC? Will there be an effective neutralization of the army of corporate lobbyists who represent special interests which have little or nothing to do with the well-being of the American people, let alone the really critical issues of social and environmental justice worldwide? What is the meaning of "spreading the wealth"? Will there be a transition from "economic growth" to "sustainable development" and, in particular, "human development"? Will the new president tell the American people that the consumerist party is over?
The Global Poverty Act, co-sponsored by Senator Obama, is a sign of hope. What about the inception of auditable global regulations for the financial and environmental issues that clearly transcend national boundaries? What about supporting a thorough reform of the United Nations, and increasing American support for the UN MDGs? Will there be a radical renunciation, by the USA, of violence and war as the way to resolve international crises? Are we going to have effective leadership to achieve the paradigm shift from consumerism to frugality in the First World? What about taxing corporations so as to provide incentive for a paradigm shift from profit maximization to the Triple Bottom Line?
Querying Google with something like ["barack obama" "wall street"] should return many informative sources about the way American presidential campaigns are becoming another wasteful consumerist extravaganza. The following are a few selected references:
Consumerism is a greedy society's religion, Anthony Robinson, Seattle PI, 8 February 2008.
Obama's Money Cartel , Pam Martens, CounterPunch, 5 May 2008.
The Obama Bubble Agenda, Pam Martens, CounterPunch, 6 May 2008.
Presidential Campaign Finance Data, Federal Election Commission (FEC), 15 October 2008.
Obama breaks promise on campaign finance, Campbell Brown, CNN, 29 October 2008.
Obama Campaign's Financing, Sharyl Attkinson, CBS News, 27 October 2008. Celebrities, theologians and activists challenge Obama, Ekklesia, 13 November 2008.
Wall Street and the Rise of Obama, Ron Kinkaid, AIM Report, 20 November 2008.
Report says Obama's small-donor base claim is off, Ken Dilanian, USA Today, 24 November 2008.
The New Obama Administration: A Lot of More of the Same , Rodrigue Tremblay, The New American Empire, 1 December 2008.
Let us pray that Mr. Obama's historical election will be followed by real changes pursuant to the good of humanity and the integrity of the human habitat. Let us pray for his personal safety and well-being. Let us pray that he will find ways to tell the American people, and the world, that excessive consumerism is destroying the planet and inhibiting integral human development. Surely, scaling down the inauguration ceremonies would be a good start.
MDGs + 1
Sign of the Times
Reverend Bernice A. King (b. 1963)
Daughter of Martin Luther King Jr.
Photo: Susquehanna University
Bernice King is the youngest child of Martin and Coretta King, and the only one who has received, like her father, a calling to ordained Christian ministry. Wikipedia has a good biographical article about her which includes a chronology of her ministerial activity since her ordination in 1990. She has published a collection of 17 of her sermons as a book, Hard Questions, Heart Answers, Broadway, November 1996. One of her best articles is Uprooting the seeds of violence, The Other Side, 1 September 1997, about the death penalty. She wrote: "Revenge, although a natural human feeling, has a detrimental impact over time and fails to produce healing for crime survivors. The death penalty may provide a temporary illusion of closure and satisfaction, but eventually troubles people of conscience and may foster further violence. Losses suffered by victims' families are not redeemed through placing misery on others through capital punishment."
Another sign of the times:
"God writes straight with crooked lines."
Resources worth visiting:
Humiliation Studies of Evelin Lindner
Mimetic Theory of René Girard
Robley E. George, Director
Portal of Knowledge
Chaim Zins, Jerusalem, Israel
Global Footprint Network
Great Web Sites for Kids
American Library Association (ALA)
A Great Film
Bullfrog Films has released a new film, Water First: Reaching the Millennium Development Goals. The film is based on a real life story from Malawi. It shows that providing potable water is essential for development. In fact, it is a gateway for making progress toward all the UN MDGs. This film is an excellent educational tool for grade levels 7 to 12, college, and adults. It can be obtained from the Bullfrog Films Water First web site as a DVD that includes 28-minute and 45-minute versions. This film is highly recommended, and reduced rates are offered for activists, grassroots groups, and home video use. Point of contact: email@example.com
Book of the Month
This is a very instructive book on the widening gap between rich and poor within the USA, how this gap is reflected in the electoral process, and how economic growth and campaign spending are manipulated to influence voter behavior:
The Political Economy
of the New Gilded Age,
Larry M. Bartels,
Princeton University Press, 2008
Princeton Book Description
Table of Contents
Amazon Book Preview
Google Book Preview
European Libraries Search
Science & Tech Search
SciNet is a search engine for science and technology. Returns to a given set of keywords are on target. Users can add links. It presently has 15,000 listings in the following categories:
The UNDP web site has a search box to find information contained in the Human Development Reports (HDRs). Options are provided to search by year or for all years (1990-2008), by area (global, regional, national), by theme (10 themes, 33 subthemes), and by keywords, and the results are sorted by year or by country/region. The results are links to reports (HDRs and other more specific UN reports). Clicking on a link leads to a report summary and additional links to view the report outlines and download the reports. Given the massive amount of data and information contained in the annual HDRs, and the large number of other reports published by the UN over the years, researchers may find this tool to be a significant time saver.
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).
RELIGION AND KNOWLEDGE
British Sociological Association, Sociology of Religion Study Group Annual Conference, 30th March - 1st April, 2009
St Chad's College, Durham University. Details and booking form available at the Sociology of Religion website. Please direct all enquiries to the organizer, Dr. Matthew Guest
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).
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT INDICATORS
The conference on Environmental Accounting and Sustainable Development Indicators (EMAN 2009) will be held on April 23-24, 2009, in Prague, the Czech Republic. This year's conference will be focused indicators both at micro and macro levels. For more information please visit the EMAN 2009 website. Please direct your questions and suggestions to EMAN 2009.
HUMAN DIMENSION OF GLOBAL
The 7th Open Meeting on the Human Dimension of Global Environmental Change (IHDP), 26-30 April 2009, Bonn, Germany. The theme of the meeting is "Social Challenges of 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.
TECHNOLOGY & SOCIETY
2009 IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society (ISTAS '09). Theme: Social Implications of Sustainable Development. May 18-20, 2009, Tempe, Arizona, USA. ISTAS'09 will be held concurrently with the IEEE International Symposium on Sustainable Systems and Technology (ISSST). Visit the SSIT website for submission guidelines and more information. Program Committee Chair: Clinton Andrews, Rutgers University.
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.
WORK & EMPLOYMENT
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, 26-29 May 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.
GENDER, RELIGION, AND SECULARISM
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.
WOMEN AND SPIRITUALITY
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.
The next major international human ecology conference will take place at the Manchester University, UK, June 29th - July 3rd, 2009. For conference information please visit the Additional information is also available on the web-site Society for Human Ecology (SHE) web site. If you are interested in participating, helping to organize sessions, or would like further information please contact: Ian Douglas
GLOBAL CHALLENGE 2009
The International Sustainable Development Research Society (ISDRS) is pleased to announce its 15th annual conference to be held in Utrecht, The Netherlands, 5-8 July 2009. See the conference flyer and the conference website. Email contact: FBU Conference Office.
The Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI) is pleased to invite you to its first conference, "SVRI Forum 2009: Coordinated evidence-based responses to end sexual violence," to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, 6 - 9 July 2009. For more information and points of contact, visit the SVRI Forum 2009 web site and the SVRI web site.
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.
RELIGION, NATURE, AND CULTURE
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.
OSLO SUMMER SCHOOL
Oslo Summer School in Comparative Social Science Studies 2009. Course on "Liberation and Participation: Theory and Method for a Social and Political Community Psychology." Lecturer: Professor Maritza Montero, Universidad Central de Venezuela, Caracas, Venezuela. Dates: 27 - 31 July 2009. Limitation: 30 participants. The syllabus for the course is already posted. For more information: Professor Hilde Eileen Nafstad.
RELIGION & CONSUMERISM
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 the panel on religion and consumerism: François Gauthier and Tuomas Martikainen.
UNEP TUNZA CONFERENCE
The United Nation Environment Programme in cooperation with UNEP National Committee for the Republic of Korea will be hosting the 2009 Tunza International Children’s Conference on the Environment in Daejeon, Korea from the 17 to 21 August 2009. The conference theme will be "Climate Change: Our Challenge." It will collectively bring together about 400 participants (aged 10 to 14) from over 100 countries. For more details visit the conference web site or contact the conference staff via email at Tunza Conference.
PSYCHOLOGY & RELIGION
The 2009 Congress of the International Association for the Psychology of Religion (IAPR 2009) will be held in Vienna, Austria, 23 to 27 August 2009. Local organizing committee: Susanne Heine and Herman Westerink, Department for Practical Theology and Psychology of Religion, Protestant Theological Faculty, University of Vienna.
FEMINIST ETHICS & SOCIAL THEORY
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.
Join us for the 2009 Parliament of the World's Religions, 3-9 December 2009, Melbourne, Australia. The Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions invites all people of faith, spirit and goodwill to encounter the vast and rich diversity of the world's religious and spiritual traditions. Theme: "Make a World of Difference: Hearing each other, Healing the earth." Key topics: Healing the Earth with Care and Concern, Reconciling with Indigenous Peoples, Overcoming Poverty in a Patriarchal World, Securing Food and Water for all People, Building Peace in the Pursuit of Justice, Creating Social Cohesion in Village and City, Sharing Wisdom in the Search for Inner Peace. For more info: PWR2009.
RELIGION: A HUMAN PHENOMENON
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.
STUDY OF THE COMMONS
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 IASCP website.
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:
- 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.
Also recommended: Tools for Knowledge and Learning: A Guide for Development and Humanitarian Organisations, by Ben Ramalingam, ODI, 2006, 94 pages. The guide explains the theory and practice of many KM/KO methods and tools in the following categories:
- Strategy Development
- Management Techniques
- Collaboration Mechanisms
- Sharing and Learning Processes
- Capture and Storage
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.
HTML Web Page
EXCEL File with URLs and HTML Code
"In times of change
the learners inherit the world,
while the learned find themselves
beautifully equipped to deal
with a world that no longer exists."
Eric Hoffer (USA, 1902-1983)