The Sustainable Development Paradox
The paradoxical nature of sustainable development is already discernible in the Brundlandt Commission Report (Chapter 2, Section 1, Item 15), United Nations, 1987: "In essence, sustainable development is a process of change in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological development, and institutional change are all in harmony and enhance both current and future potential to meet human needs and aspirations."
It is in balancing the social, economic, and environmental dimensions that all dimensions of the process come into play. As part of the series on "dimensions of sustainable development," this issue is a reality check on the feasibility of integrating all the dimensions using the current paradigms in the social, economic, and environmental sciences. The twelve monthly issues during 2008 provide evidence that such integration should take place in the collective social mindset ("collective unconscious"), and this can happen only after it has taken root in the individual hearts and minds of human beings.
All the evidence collected thus far strongly indicates that, as long as the current paradigm of economic development (money is the one thing that really matters) remains normative, or as long as the current paradigm of social behavior (male domination, also known as patriarchy), or as long as the current paradigm in environmental management (use and abuse of natural resources) remains normative, attempting such an integration is an exercise in futility. To make the integration feasible, homo economicus must become homo solidarius.
The invited paper this month is The Cult of the Patriarch by Glenda P. Simms, a Jamaican educational psychologist. It is a concrete example, in time and space, that the patriarchal social system is incapable of taking human development beyond a certain point. This example is replicated in all cultures and all phases of human history. Therefore, thinking inductively, it is legitimate to conclude that the patriarchal paradigm is intrinsically perverse and must be overcome. The same line of reasoning applies to the current economic development paradigm and the current environmental management paradigm.
Just as oil and water don't mix, the prevalent socioeconomic and socioecological paradigms don't mix. And they don't mix at any place or any level, for they are rooted in a conception of humanity that has become obsolete. The conclusion is that the sustainable development paradox is not to be resolved by mixing mutually incompatible paradigms, but by the advent of new paradigms (first in the human sciences, and then in the social, economic, and environmental sciences) that are mutually compatible and amenable to integration.
1. Dimensions of Sustainable Development
At this point in the current series on Dimensions of Sustainable Development, let us interrupt momentarily the analyses of single dimensions to reassess how the various dimensions fit into the "big picture." The reader may want to take a quick look at the themes and outlines for the twelve issues of 2008 and notice the year long focus on the basics of human and social behavior.
A classical visualization of sustainable development dimensions is a Venn diagram in which social, economic, and environmental factors overlap so as to produce a system that is sustainable in that it is socially bearable, economically equitable, and environmentally viable:
Figure 1. Basic Sustainable Development Dimensions
Source: Wikipedia - Sustainable Development
This diagram is conceptually reasonable at the highest level of aggregation. Social, economic, and environmental systems have a life of their own, and even more so the intersection of the three systems. However, the behavior of the total system is not independent of human behavior, either individually or collectively. Furthermore, careful examination of the sustainable development process at lower levels of analysis reveals that there are many other dimensions that contribute to sustainable development. In fact, it is hard to find a knowledge domain that has nothing to do with sustainable development. The reason is the increasingly tight coupling between human behavior and the human habitat. The mission of the recently created International Network of Research on Coupled Human and Natural Systems (CHANS-Net) is to foster collaborative interdisciplinary research pursuant to improved understanding Complexity of Coupled Human and Natural Systems:
"Integrated studies of coupled human and natural systems reveal new and complex patterns and processes not evident when studied by social or natural scientists separately. Synthesis of six case studies from around the world shows that couplings between human and natural systems vary across space, time, and organizational units. They also exhibit nonlinear dynamics with thresholds, reciprocal feedback loops, time lags, resilience, heterogeneity, and surprises. Furthermore, past couplings have legacy effects on present conditions and future possibilities."Jianguo Liu et al., Science, Vol. 317, No. 5844, pp. 1513-1516, 14 September 2007.
Understanding this complexity is required for improved management of the sustainable development process. Sociologists, economists, and environmentalists need inputs from anthropologists, political scientists, social psychologists, theologians, philosophers, the physical sciences, the life sciences, and many other disciplines. This knowledge integration is indispensable to understand the counterintuitive behavior of social systems; behavior that is, in the ultimate analysis, rooted in human behavior.
2. The Sustainable Development Paradox
Sustainable development, as the name implies, requires development that is sustainable in the sense that it can unfold in harmony with the human habitat. The paradoxical nature of this process is already discernible in the Brundlandt Commission Report (Chapter 2, Section 1, Item 15), United Nations, 1987:
"In essence, sustainable development is a process of change in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological development, and institutional change are all in harmony and enhance both current and future potential to meet human needs and aspirations."
A very appealing and conceptually clear summary and visualization of this paradox was provided in 1999 by Willard R. Fey and Ann C.W. Lam, who refer to it as the ecocosm paradox:
"The ecocosm paradox is the set of dilemmas that arise from the compound hyper-exponential growth of annual world human consumption. The two main characteristics of the ecocosm paradox are:
This paradox is best represented by a diagram showing the major system feedback loops that perpetuate it."
- If human consumption growth continues, the planetary life support system will be disabled and humanity will itself become endangered.
- If consumption growth is stopped, the viability of the world's economic and financial systems will be threatened, and the stability of governments and society will deteriorate.
In a recent open letter, Bill Powers, developer of the Perceptual Control Theory (PCT), describes the paradoxical choice between development and sustainability as follows:
Excerpt of Open Letter from Bill Powers, 5 December 2008
"This is a letter that needs to be conveyed to as many people who make economic decisions as possible. OUR ECONOMIC SYSTEM CONTAINS DESTABILIZING FEEDBACK LOOPS THAT CAN DESTROY IT. WE NEED TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO REMOVE THEM AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE. This is a true time bomb. It is perfectly obvious, and it is to my shame and that of everyone who understands the dynamics of control systems that it was not noticed, publicized, and corrected long ago. It is very simple and we are watching it operate every day that this recession deepens.
"Its cause is some set of policies or principles that are thought to be necessary to maintain the viability of a business, but which, when generally adopted, have the effect of exaggerating swings in the market and, if widespread enough, throw the market into a state of dynamic instability that feeds on itself. Increases in market activity cause a piling-on effect which drive the increases even further and induce more frenzied market activity. The same underlying relationships work the other way, too: when the market peaks and starts downward, this cause the enthusiasm to wane and the market activity to slow down, and the slowdown causes an even more dampening effect, which makes the slowdown accelerate.
"Whichever way the market tends to change, the change is exaggerated by this feedback effect. The initial result when the amount of feedback is small is that the economy displays "boom-and-bust" cycles of relatively small amplitude, which die out after a time. When the degree of this effect becomes large enough, the swings start to get larger and can enter a region in which a runaway effect occurs. Then the only way to stop the growing oscillations is for something in the system to be damaged enough to reduce the feedback effect below the fatal threshold of sensitivity." For the complete text of the letter, visit the CSGNET LISTSERV.
Bill Power's letter is a timely contribution to increase awareness about the increasingly increasing urgency of reformulating social and economic development in an environmentally sustainable way. A limitation of his letter, however, is that consideration is given only to feedback dynamics generated within the economic sector, and no consideration is given to the web of feedback loops that tie the economic, environmental, and social sectors together.
3. Dynamics of Human & Social Behavior
During the last century or so, most of the development work has been focused on economic growth, i.e., the economic subset in Figure 1. In recent years, the planet has started giving some signs of stress, such as climate changes; and we are barely beginning to pay some attention to the environment subset (better late than never). The social subset, however, has received attention only to the extent that it might have some financial impact. The question then arises as to whether or not humans can adjust their individual and social behavior to avoid further environmental deterioration and ensure a future of socio-economic justice for humanity; and the answer is a cautious "yes." In the words of the Economics for Equity and the Environment (E3) Network:
"The wealth and power of humanity in the 21st century could be used to create a far better world. We are economists who are troubled by environmental and social injustice, by the wide and growing inequality of wealth and income in America and in the world, and by the harmful impacts of the globalized economy on the natural ecosystems that surround and support human activity. In order to change what is wrong with the economy, we must change what is wrong with economics as it is currently taught and practiced. Economics for Equity and the Environment (E3) promotes a vision of an engaged, practical economics, in which an understanding of social equity and environmental protection cannot be separated." E3 Network, 2007.
Consumerist human behavior is the primary cause of both the current financial crisis and the current environmental crisis. It is the fundamental cause of the current financial meltdown, because the desire for profit maximization in the short-term -- sometimes exacerbated by the desire to have a free lunch whenever possible -- has been more powerful than the desire for acting with social and environmental responsibility. When human behavior is driven by short-term gain and the desire for instant gratification, any consideration of environmental stewardship becomes irrelevant. And it is easy to rationalize consumerist behavior, for there is always the hope (delusion?) that some technological breakthrough will come to the rescue and "fix" the consequences of financial speculation and environmental abuse.
"Current concern over global climate change stems, in part, from the predominant evidence that its causes are anthropogenic: the result of human behavior. What is less widely recognized is that the solutions are also rooted in human behavior. Instead, the first and most common response from the public and policymakers alike is to look to technology to provide the answers. And, when available technologies aren’t adopted, we look to the field of economics to explain why not. This simplistic “techno-economic” approach is insufficient for solving complex environmental problems that are rooted in equally complex social structures and that involve multi-dimensional behavioral elements that extend beyond the realm of economics.
"Effective solutions must draw on a broader understanding of social systems and human behavior. This knowledge, when used in conjunction with economic insights, can help by: 1) ensuring the development of appropriate technologies, 2) increasing the adoption of existing technologies, 3) improving the effectiveness of economic policies and forecasts, and 4) identifying noneconomic mechanisms for catalyzing the types of social change required to reduce CO2 emissions and moderate climate change. Therefore, the question that economists must ask is: How can a more holistic understanding of the drivers of human behavior inform global climate change models and policy?" Changing Human Behavior to Reduce Climate Change: Moving Beyond the Techno-Economic Model, Karen Ehrhardt-Martinez, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), E3 Network, 2007.
Since human behavior is the cause of the problem, and human beings are rational creatures ("homo sapiens sapiens"), it follows that behavior modification is feasible. Easier said than done, but not impossible. The first step is to recognize the multi-dimensional nature of the sustainable development paradox. The second step is to seek a new paradigm that, while still including technological and economic factors, gives top priority to the social and behavioral factors that generate the dynamics of the sustainable development paradox:
"Social scientific research has succeeded in identifying and measuring some of the important social dimensions of energy use and conservation that are not captured by the techno-economic model and in suggesting alternative frameworks that provide a more realistic and accurate picture of the relationship between energy consumption, information, incentives and disincentives, and a variety of social influences and structures that channel human behavior. Additional work is needed to assess the breadth and nuances of the research that has been completed, as well as to identify knowledge gaps and promising areas of future research. Only through a more comprehensive understanding of the non-economic variables that shape social preferences will it be possible to effectively catalyze the level of social change required to reduce energy consumption and forestall global climate change." Changing Human Behavior to Reduce Climate Change: Moving Beyond the Techno-Economic Model, Karen Ehrhardt-Martinez, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), E3 Network, 2007.
Actually, there are several sets of complex interactions that must be better understood:
The impact of social preferences on economic choices (and vice versa).
The impact of social preferences on environmental changes (and vice versa).
The impact of economic choices on social preferences (and vice versa).
The impact of economic choices on the environment (and vice versa).
The impact of environmental changes on social preferences (and vice versa).
The impact of environmental changes on economic choices (and vice versa).
All the above concurrently and dynamically over time.
All the above plus many more we have yet to discover.
Conceptually, Figure 1 becomes something like this:
Figure 2. Web of Sustainable Development Feedback Loops
Reference: Wikipedia - Complexity
Within the economic sector, the relevant feedback loops might look, for example, like Valentino Viana's model of a macroeconomic system. Similar feedback loop diagrams could be postulated separately for the social and environmental sectors. But what about feedback loops that cross sector boundaries?
Analyses of social preferences and economic choices require inputs from all the living human sciences. Analysis of environmental changes requires inputs from all the living non-human and physical sciences. It follows that analysis of loops that cross the boundaries require inputs from all the sciences. At this level of complexity it has long been noted that new modes of dynamic behavior emerge that cannot be explained by the interaction of factors within each of the basic social, economic, environmental dimensions. Rather, they emerge from the interaction of many social factors with many economic factors and many environmental factors. Furthermore, as Jay Forrester has pointed out, these emerging modes of behavior are often counterintuitive. This means that "tweaking" the system here and there may induce no change in dynamics behavior (this is what happens most often), or induce behavior that is better, or induce behavior that is worse. Highly complex systems are generally insensitive to "tweaking," and "tweaking" may actually be counterproductive. A new, GREEN socio-economic and democratic paradigm may be needed.
4. Renewable & Nonrenewable Resources
It is well known that natural resources can be either renewable or non-renewable. Not so well known is the fact that renewable resources can become non-renewable if the rate of utilization exceeds the capacity of the planet to recycle them. Therefore, excessive consumption can lead to limits in the availability of both renewable and non-renewable resources, and consumption itself can become unsustainable.
"Asserting that "current global consumption patterns are unsustainable," and that "efficiency gains and technological advances alone will not be sufficient to bring global consumption to a sustainable level," a recent report issued by the Business Role Focus Area of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) calls on business to work in partnership with its customers and stakeholders to define sustainable products and sustainable lifestyles. The report, entitled
Sustainable Consumption Facts and Trends: From a Business Perspective, observes that global consumption levels are increasing due to such factors as rapid population growth, a rise in global affluence, and a culture of consumerism among higher-income groups." Source: Report Warns of Unsustainable Consumption, Robert Kropp, Social Funds, 24 December 2008.
Basically, this means that wasteful lifestyles will have to change. There is an increasing awareness of this, but the number of people who have actually changed their consumption habits remains minimal. It is not simply a matter of greed or gluttony. Complex social and psychological factors play a role in inducing this "resistance to change."
"The WBCSD report finds that consumers are increasingly concerned about environmental, social and economic issues, but because of a variety of factors such concerns do not always translate into sustainable consumer behavior. The WBCSD calls on business to encourage sustainable consumption by developing products and services that maximize social value and minimizing environmental cost, by marketing campaigns that enable consumers to choose and use products more sustainably, and by removing unsustainable products and services from the marketplace." Source: Report Warns of Unsustainable Consumption , Robert Kropp, Social Funds, 24 December 2008.
It would be unfair to blame the business community for the entire mess. Surely, profit maximization in the short-term is part of the problem. But profit maximization at the expense of sustainability would not remain popular if consumers learn to become less responsive to advertising and more discerning in choosing suppliers that are both socially and environmentally responsible. Thus the practical importance of quality management standards like ISO-9000 and environmental management standards like ISO-14000.
Secular and religious leaders also have a decisive role to play. Even in the absence of corruption, it is hard to find politicians willing to tell their constituents that the common good requires them to change their consumption habits. And this applies to religious leaders as well. The practice of building expensive churches, mosques,
and synagogues, as well as other
luxurious religious buildings, is becoming part of the problem. If political and religious leaders remain addicted to wealth accumulation and excessive consumption, why should we expect the general public to do otherwise?
5. Money as the Driver of Human Behavior
That money is a primary driver of human behavior is well known. Money itself is morally neutral; it is how we obtain it and how we use it that really makes a difference. The idolatry of money usually correlates with selfishness. But money can be used in socially positive ways and for the common good. If so, recent research seems to indicate that money is not only a driver of human behavior but also a factor that contributes to inner peace and happiness.
"Money has been said to change people's motivation (mainly for the better) and their behavior toward others (mainly for the worse). The results of nine experiments suggest that money brings about a self-sufficient orientation in which people prefer to be free of dependency and dependents. Reminders of money, relative to nonmoney reminders, led to reduced requests for help and reduced helpfulness toward others. Relative to participants primed with neutral concepts, participants primed with money preferred to play alone, work alone, and put more physical distance between themselves and a new acquaintance." The Psychological Consequences of Money, by Kathleen D. Vohs, Nicole L. Mead, Miranda R. Goode. Science, Vol. 314. no. 5802, pp. 1154 - 1156, 17 November 2006.
See also Money Is Material, by Carole B. Burgoyne and Stephen E. G. Lea. Science, Vol. 314. no. 5802, pp. 1091 - 1092, 17 November 2006. Summary: "The psychology of money is now being studied experimentally. Even thinking about money changes behavior in reliable ways." But the following conclusion is the most interesting:
"Although much research has examined the effect of income on happiness, we suggest that how people spend their money may be at least as important as how much money they earn. Specifically, we hypothesized that spending money on other people may have a more positive impact on happiness than spending money on oneself. Providing converging evidence for this hypothesis, we found that spending more of one's income on others predicted greater happiness both cross-sectionally (in a nationally representative survey study) and longitudinally (in a field study of windfall spending). Finally, participants who were randomly assigned to spend money on others experienced greater happiness than those assigned to spend money on themselves." Spending Money on Others Promotes Happiness, by Elizabeth W. Dunn, Lara B. Aknin, and Michael I. Norton. Science, Vol. 319. no. 5870, pp. 1687 - 1688, 21 March 2008.
This insight encapsulates one possible way to resolve the sustainable development paradox. The emerging empirical evidence confirms ancient religious wisdom (for example, in the Bible, see Acts 20:35: "it is better to give than to receive") and contradicts the notion that further economic growth is incompatible with sustainable development. Growth per se is not unsustainable. It is the misuse of growth and wealth accumulation that is unsustainable; either because the growth is not managed for conservation of renewable and non-renewable resources, or because it fails to reverse the cycle of violence and the cycle or poverty, or both. In particular, the failure to reverse the trend toward the richer becoming richer and the poor becoming poorer is a sure sign that something is wrong. In fact, the effects of growth driven by selfish consumerism are measurable and clearly visible: "Resources tend to flow from the poor to the rich. Pollution tends to flow from the rich to the poor." (Vandana Shiva in Raoul Weiler's "No Limits to Knowledge, but Limits to Poverty: Towards a Sustainable Knowledge Society," WSSD, Johannesburg, 2002, page 28)
In brief, the sustainable development paradox is not an insurmountable dilemma. It is a matter of managing growth in order to meet the basic needs of all human beings, now and in the future. The sustainable development paradox can be resolved if growth is managed to attain both social and environmental justice. This is "simple, but not easy." It will require significant revision of current paradigms in the social, economic, and political sciences.
6. Need for Socioeconomic Human Development
A radical change is needed in the concept of economic development. We had grown accustomed to thinking about economic development in terms of economic growth, with economic growth being measured by increasing value of GDP and other measures of wealth accumulation. But research in the social sciences has shown that more is not necessarily better, and more is often worse. The central issue is (surprise!) conspicuous consumption.
The term conspicuous consumption was coined by Thorstein Bunde Veblen in his book
The Theory of the Leisure Class, published in 1899 (yes, 1899). More recently, many scholars and activists have expressed the same concern with increasing urgency:
The Current Trend Of Excessive Consumption Is Creating A Consumer Culture That Values Quantity Above Quality, by Ralph Nader, CommonDream News Center, 2000.
Are We Consuming Too Much?, by Kenneth Arrow et al, Stanford University, Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 18 no. 3, page(s) 147-172, Summer 2004.
The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less, by Barry Schwartz, HarperCollins, 2004 (Google Book)
Consumption: It is Time for Economists and Scientists to Talk, by Betsy Taylor, Journal of Industrial Ecology, Volume 9, Number 1-2, pp. 14-17, 2005.
Taylor, writing years before the current financial crisis, offers a hopeful perspective that the transition to a new mindset of consumption moderation is already underway: "Although economists, elected officials, and far too many traditional environmentalists refuse to examine the inexorable links between consumption and ecological problems, an economic and cultural transformation in consumption and production has already begun. ... A new economic model is emerging, but it could be sped on by academics doing holistic research projects with greater practical application. The new path must be supported by elected officials, economists, and private sector leaders willing to face the conundrum of our times: that increased consumption is literally bringing our biological home into ruin and yet, without consumption, millions fear for their security. It is time for economists and scientists to talk. Fortunately, despite the taboo on dialogue about a revamped economy, there are many business leaders, local elected officials, consumer activists, and others quietly modeling and championing the new way."
The following are selected indices that attempt to show the effect of excessive consumption and combine consumption with other quality of life indicators:
The Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) developed by Redefining Progress.
The Human Development Index (HDI) of the UNDP.
The Social Development Indicators - Measuring Human Well-being research program at
The Wellbeing of Nations: A Country-By-Country Index Of Quality Of Life And The Environment, by Robert Prescott-Allen.
The Population, Health and Human Well-being variables at the World Resources Institute (WRI).
The Spiritual Capital Research Program of Metanexus Institute.
The Globalization of Human Well-Being, by Indur M. Goklany,
Combining Social, Economic and Environmental Indicators to Measure Sustainable Human Well-Being, by Alex C. Michalos, Social Indicators Research.
Social Indicators Research Centre (ZSi) at the Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences.
Gross Domestic Welfare, Takashi Kiuchi, Big Picture TV, 2006. See also Integrating Economic and Ecological Indicators, by J. Walter Milon and Jason F. Shogren, Greenwood, 1995, page 172.
Towards a Socio-Economic Paradigm, Amitai Etzioni, in "Advancing Socio-Economics: An Institutionalist Perspective ed. J. Rogers Hollingsworth, Karl H. Muller and Ellen Jane Hollingsworth Rowman and Littlefield, 2002, pages 37-49.
Sustainable Society Index, Geurt van de Kerk and Arthur R. Manuel, Encyclopedia of the Earth, 29 December 2008. Note: This article provides a comprehensive review of socioeconomic sustainability indicators. See also the Sustainable Society Index web site.
All the indicators point in the same direction: economic factors alone are insufficient as measures of progress. Economic factors must be combined with social and environmental factors in order to become meaningful measures of progress. In the social dimension, the bottom line is human development: the opportunity for people to develop physically, psychologically, and spiritually so that, by homo economicus becoming homo solidarius, they can in turn work for themselves, their families, and the common good, and contribute to socioeconomic development with social and environmental justice. This, however, is practically impossible without the support of a political system in which socioeconomic (as opposed to only economic) goals pursuant to human development are the standard basis for government policy.
7. Need for Sociopolitical Human Development
In a recent article, Professor Soodursun Jugessur of the University of Mauritius suggests that it is time to replace GDP (Gross Domestic Product) by some form of GDW (Gross Domestic Welfare) measure that takes into account the quality of life and the integrity of the human habitat:
"Our development has been marked by our mastery of science and technology (S&T) that have been the primary tools for changing our lives and ensuring basic needs. As tools, S&T are neutral. It is up to us to decide on what type of tools we develop, and what use we make of them. S&T on their own are ineffective. It is the economic, social and political visions that dictate their development and use. Unless we have sound economic, social and political orientations, we are likely to fall into a trap of inappropriate development, and soon destroy ourselves, and our planet. We need changes in our economic and social policies and a new vision for political development at the global level." A New Development Paradigm, Soodursun Jugessur, Mauritius Times, 26 December 2008.
In the previous section, an overview is given of new socioeconomic paradigms. What about new sociopolitical paradigms? Some are beginning to emerge:
A Democratic Paradigm, Anders Sandberg, 1991.
The Future of the Universe and the Future of Our Civilization, by V. Burdyuzha and G. Kohzin, World Scientific, 2000, page 24.
Middle Eastern "Democratic" Paradigm in the 21st. Century, Davood N. Rahni, Pace University, 2003.
A democratic paradigm must take shape, Sadeq Jawad Sulaiman, 2005.
Elites and Regimes in Comparative Perspective: Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia, William Case, University of New South Wales, Australia, 2005.
21st century post-modern global paradigm, Dhirendra Sharma, Philosophy and Social Action, Vol. 31 No.1 Jan-March 2005.
Muslim-Jewish-Christian Alliance for 9/11 Truth, Kevin Barrett and Faiz Khan, MUJCA-NET. Note: "MUJCA-NET is a group of scholars, religious leaders and activists dedicated to uniting members of the Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths in pursuit of 9/11 truth. We choose to respond grounded in love rather than fear and will not be indifferent to those who have suffered from policies based on unlikely explanations of 9/11."
Toward a Bioregional State: Political Theory and Formal Institutional Design in the Era of Sustainability, Mark D. Whitaker, iUniverse, 2005.
Socioeconomic Democracy: An Advanced Socioeconomic System, by Robley E. George, Center for the Study of Democratic Societies, Praeger, 2002. See also A Democratic Socioeconomic Platform in search of a Democratic Political Party, Robley E. George, Center for the Study of Democratic Societies, July 2008.
Bringing deep democracy to life: an awareness paradigm for deepening political dialogue, personal relationships, and community interactions, Amy Mindell, Psychotherapy and Politics International, September 2008
The Architecture of Government: Rethinking Political Decentralization, by Daniel Treisman, Governance, 22 December 2008.
A review of this literature indicates that the pieces of a new sociopolitical paradigm are beginning to emerge. There are many variations, but the general direction is toward homo economicus becoming homo solidarius in order make it politically feasible to work for improvements in democratic systems, more collaboration, more transparency, social responsibility, environmental stewardship, and distributive justice. The Socioeconomic Democracy of Robley E. George deserves further scrutiny, as it is the only one that attempts to define both the pieces and the democratic system in which the pieces are to be embedded. Furthermore, it postulates a platform for a political party that could implement a socioeconomic democracy. George summarizes "socioeconomic democracy" as follows:
"Socioeconomic Democracy is a model economic system, or more precisely, socioeconomic subsystem, in which there is some form of Universal Guaranteed Personal Income (UGPI) as well as some form of Maximum Allowable Personal Wealth (MAPW), with both the lower bound on personal material poverty and the upper bound on personal material wealth set and adjusted democratically by all society."
"UGPI. In the idealized state of the model, each participant in this democratic socioeconomic system would know that, regardless of what he or she did or did not do, a democratically determined Universally Guaranteed Personal Income (UGPI) would always be available. Put another way, society would guarantee each citizen some minimum amount of purchasing power, with that amount determined democratically by all of society and with citizenship the only requirement for eligibility to participate.
"MAPW. In the ideal theoretical model, all participants of the democratic socioeconomic system would understand that all personal material wealth above the democratically determined allowable amount would, by due process, be transferred out of their ownership and control in a manner specified by the democratically designed and implemented laws of the land.
"Hence, a rational, self-interested, and insatiable (as the neoclassical saying goes) extremely wealthy participant in the democratic socioeconomic system, who is at or near the upper bound on allowable personal wealth and who further desires increased personal wealth, would be economically motivated, that is, have economic incentive to actively increase the well-being of the less materially wealthy members of society. Only in this manner can these (still-wealthiest) participants persuade (a majority of) the also rationally self-interested less wealthy participants of the democratic society to vote to raise the legal upper limit on allowable personal wealth -- thus allowing those wealthiest participants to legally acquire and retain the increased allowable amount of personal net wealth and worth they so crave." Socioeconomic Democracy: A Very Brief Introduction, Robley E. George, Center for the Study of Democratic Societies, June 2002.
In other words, people who are at the MAPW level would have a propensity to desire a higher MAPW, and the only way to accomplish this is to promote the socioeconomic well-being of those who are at the UGPI level, and this includes protection of the environment and conservation of natural resources. Conversely, if they fail to do so and those at the UGPI level regress into unacceptable economic and environmental poverty, their MAPW might decrease in order to give them additional incentive to provide more and better education and access to jobs for those at the bottom of the ladder. People who are at the UGPI level would have a propensity to desire a higher UGPI, but this would not happen if there are job opportunities available that they do not take. In a socioeconomic democracy, the UGPI might actually be reduced if people prefer not to work. But MAPW and UGPI adjustments would have to be made democratically, so there may be a need for a new kind of institution that can make these adjustments in a timely manner and under the supervision of elected officials.
Could this be a new paradigm? Would this be the new paradigm of choice to deal with the complex local, regional, and global issues that increasingly make front page today? That remains to be seen. Politically, paradigm changes are difficult and often turbulent, especially if they require a restructuring of political and economic institutions. The following is George's description of the socioeconomic democracy political platform:
"The purpose of this Democratic Socioeconomic Platform (DSeP) is to present a new, fundamentally just, democratic and systemically consistent political platform capable of democratically enhancing the General Welfare of All Citizens of a Democratic Society.
"One of many important differences between this DSeP, and the typical run-of-the-mill political party platform laundry list of independent and not-infrequently inconsistent political promises often offered yet seldom satisfied, is that this DSeP proposes and describes how to democratically realize/accomplish a peaceful and societally beneficial transformation of the world’s obviously malfunctioning, not to more than mention decidedly undemocratic and deadly, present patriarchal politicosocioeconomic systems.
"More specifically, the presently harmful economic incentives, invariably, inevitably and inextricably created by contemporary economic systems, with their sorry-or-not socioeconomic consequences dramatically displayed daily, are, with this DSeP, democratically redesigned to create economic incentive that positively encourages the simultaneous reduction of society’s many painful, costly yet unnecessary socioeconomic problems, as well as contributes significantly to the Positive Empowerment and Healthy Development of All Citizens of a Democratic Society." A Democratic Socioeconomic Platform in search of a Democratic Political Party, Robley E. George, Center for the Study of Democratic Societies, July 2008.
If this rings a bell, readers may recall that the invited articles in the December 2007, July 2008, and August 2008 issues of this journal, dealing with socioeconomic democracy and sustainable development, were contributed by Robley E. George. We look forward to hear more about socioeconomic democracy, how it could be implemented politically, and how GDP and GDW (or some other indicator of human development) would compare under a socioeconomic democratic political system.
8. The UN MDGs and other Case Examples
The UN MDGs do not require any paradigm change in the social, economic, and political sciences. They would remain relevant and would be adaptable to paradigm changes, and the indicators being used to monitor progress toward the 2015 targets could be used to monitor progress under various social, economic, and political systems. But making progress in the MDGs is not contingent on any radical change in human mindsets about the present or future of humanity and the human habitat. They do require, however, decisions and actions pursuant to sustainable development as defined in the 1987 Brundlandt Commission Report (see section 2).
The main obstacle to progress on the MDGs is that "sustainable development is a process of change," and there is always resistance to change. There is a saying, "change is the name of the game," so it is commonly recognized that change is intrinsic to individual and social life. And there is another saying, "the more things change, the more they remain the same," so it is also recognized that changes do not bring about the end of the world. But there is always the human attachment to what is familiar, and this applies to mental ways of thinking as well as to physical surroundings. This may be the reason:
"Cognitive dissonance theory... has shown how individuals cannot easily dismiss a belief or attitude they hold, even when the attitude is directly contradicted by evidence or events. People will sooner adopt farfetched ideas to explain events than relinquish their preconceptions. In so doing, they avoid having to face the dissonance between what they see and what they have long believed. The dismissal of plain reality can happen when people are confronted by challenges to their ingrained patriotism, their prejudices, or their religious values. Under these circumstances, they may ignore cruelty, hypocrisy, or incompetence, or create elaborate rationalizations rather than challenge the principles espoused by their leaders." Cults: Faith, Healing and Coercion, Marc Galanter, Oxford University Press, 1989, page 152.
It is safe to anticipate that the UN MDGs, let alone more comprehensive changes in social, economic, and political theories, will have to overcome the ever present "resistance to change." This resistance may be exacerbated by our predilection for "quick fixes" to problems, even if the fixes will not last long. As a football coach used to say, "the future is now." And yet, there are fragments of historical wisdom that should not be forgotten:
- "The diligent farmer plants trees of which he himself will never see the fruit."
Cicero (106-43 BCE)
- "One generation plants a tree; the next generation gets the shade."
Old Chinese Proverb
- "A custom without truth is ancient error."
St. Cyprian (3rd Century CE)
- "Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood."
Marie Curie (1867-1934)
9. Prayer, Study, and Action
The combined financial-environmental crisis that we are facing at the moment is causing many people to lose heart. The expectation of a long and difficult transition toward financial and environmental sustainability increases the level of anxiety, accustomed as we are to "quick fixes." To be sure, there is a lot of finger pointing, but not much constructive guidance on how to proceed. But quitting is not an option. There are wars to be brought to an end, and there is much violence to be mitigated. There are too many children dying of hunger. There are too many girls and too many women excluded from normal paths of human development and also excluded from roles of secular and religious authority. The human habitat continues to deteriorate. The United Nations' Millennium Development Goals are bound to be compromised, and progress toward the 2015 goals may stagnate in the midst of increasing uncertainty about the future of the global economy. One thing is clear: this is not the time to quit. The following poem, author unknown, may be helpful to those who feel discouraged.
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road your trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit
Rest if you must, but don't you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and its turns,
As everyone of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about
When they might have won, had they stuck it out.
Don't give up though the pace seems slow,
You may succeed with another blow.
Often the struggler has given up
When he might have captured the victors cup;
And he learned too late when the night came down,
How close he was to the golden crown.
Success is failure turned inside out
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far;
So stick to the fight when your hardest hit,
It's when things seem worst that you must not quit!
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~ LINK TO INVITED ARTICLE ~
Sign of the Times
Source: Gender Balance
Patriarchal structures are made by human hands, not by God. Gender balance is critical in both secular and religious institutions. Else, neither men nor women can attain full human development.
See the invited article by Glenda Simms (Jamaica) and the story of Nujood Ali (Yemen). Millions of baby girls have been aborted in Asia. Millions still suffer genital mutilation in Africa. Millions of women suffer domestic violence, sex trafficking, and other forms of abuse. It is a universal shame, and one that is pervasive in both secular and religious institutions. It is time to replace gender wars with gender equality and balance.
Source: Global Pulse
It is good to love and serve your country. But fanatical nationalism is no longer a sensible option. In this day and age, everyone is a global citizen, and we all share the global web of life.
Source: U.N. MDGs
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
DevInfo & MDGs
MDG Slides (Columbia)
MDG Slides (SlideShare)
Youth and the MDGs
Health and the MDGs
National MDG Resources
Local MDG Resources
MDG-Net and DGP-Net
MDG GMR 2008
MDG Progress Report 2008
UNEP Year Book 2008
HDR Report 2007-2008
Gender Equity Index 2008
UNESCO Yearbook 2008
UNESCO GMR 2008
World Energy Outlook 2008
World Development Report 2008
World Disasters Report 2008
World Health Statistics 2008
World Resources 2008
Human Rights Watch 2008
State of the World Children 2008
State of the World Girls 2008
State of the World 2008
State of the World 2009
Living Planet Report 2008
World Population 2008
Global Trends 2025
Selected web sites to visit:
Declaration of Human Rights
UN Development Program
UN Development Group
Millennium Development Goals
Toward Global Solidarity
Selected web sites to visit:
Brundlandt Commission Report
UN Sustainable Development
UN Environmental Program
Earth Charter Initiative
The Encyclopedia of Earth
Sustainable Development Portal
Sustainable Development HB
Fostering Sustainable Behavior
Columbia Earth Institute (CIESIN)
The 7 Triads of Sustainability
Sustainability Journal (SSPP)
Int'l Inst of Sust Dev (IISD)
Sustainable Energy E-Book
Earth Protect (Green Videos)
BP Environment Charting Tool
BP Energy Charting Tool
Selected web sites to visit:
MLK Principles of Nonviolence
Gandhi Nonviolence Institute
Global Nonviolence (CGNV)
Christian Nonviolence (CCNV)
Educators for Nonviolence (EFNV)
Dalai Lama Foundation
The Metta Center
Albert Einstein Institution
Culture of Peace (UNESCO)
Youth & Children
Selected web sites to visit:
Voices of Youth (UNICEF)
Education for All (UNESCO)
Children, Youth, and Families
Environmental Education Center
Environmental Links for Kids
Natural Resources Kids Web
Tunza for Youth & Children
Children & Youth (WB)
Environmental Websites for Kids
Child Development Index
Selected web sites to visit:
Our Common Future
Sustainable Futures Institute
Futures Research Methods
Futures Research Institute
Facing the Future
Focus on the Future
World Future Society
TRANSITIONS TO SUSTAINABILITY
First European Conference on Sustainability Transitions: Dynamics & Governance of Transitions to Sustainability, 4-5 June 2009, Felix Meritis, Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Point of contact: KSI2009.
International human ecology conference at Manchester University, UK, June 29th - July 3rd, 2009. For conference information visit the Society for Human Ecology (SHE) web site. Point of contact: Ian Douglas.
GLOBAL CHALLENGE 2009
The International Sustainable Development Research Society (ISDRS), 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, to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, 6 - 9 July 2009. For more information and points of contact, visit the SVRI Forum 2009 and the SVRI web site.
Society for Conservation Biology, 11-16 July 2009, Beijing, China. See the CONBIO meeting website or contact SCB2009 .
The 2009 conference of the International Society for Systems Sciences (ISSS), is to be held in at The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, 12-17 July 2009. Focus on sustainability. For further information and registration visit the conference website.
RELIGION, NATURE, AND CULTURE
International Society for the Study of Religion, Nature & Culture (ISSRNC). University of Amsterdam, 23–26 July 2009. Conference director: Kocku von Stuckrad. Contact: ISSRNC2009.
International Conference of the System Dynamics Society, 26-31 July 2009, Albuquerque, NM. Visit the conference website and contact the Program Chair.
OSLO SUMMER SCHOOL
The Oslo Summer School in Comparative Social Science Studies 2009. A 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. The syllabus for the course is already posted. For more information: Professor Hilde Eileen Nafstad.
RELIGION & CONSUMERISM
International Society for the Sociology of Religion, Santiago de Compostela (Spain), 27-31 July 2009. See the conference website for more information. The point of contact is Hilde Van Meerbeeck-Cravillon.
UNEP TUNZA CONFERENCE
Tunza International Children’s Conference on the Environment, Daejeon, Korea, 17-21 August 2009. For more details visit the Tunza web site or contact the Tunza staff.
PSYCHOLOGY & RELIGION
International Association for the Psychology of Religion (IAPR 2009), Vienna, Austria, 23 to 27 August 2009. Local organizing committee: Susanne Heine and Herman Westerink, University of Vienna.
Royal Geographic Society, 26-28 August 2009, Manchester University, UK. Website: AC2009. Abstracts: Louise Reid and Tom Hargreaves.
FEMINIST ETHICS & SOCIAL THEORY
The Association for Feminist Ethics And Social Theory (FEAST), 24-27 September 2009, Clear Water Beach, Florida. Panels on "Environmental Feminism" and "Evolutionary Psychology." Questions may be directed to Lisa Schwartzman.
The International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP), 27 September - 2 October 2009, Marrakech, Morocco. For more information, visit the conference website and contact marrakech2009.
International Seminar on Islamic Thought, National University of Malaysia, Bangi, Selangor, Malaysia, 6-7 October 2009. For more info visit the conference website.
WOMEN, LEADERSHIP & MOSQUES
CFP: Women, Leadership and Mosques: Changes in Contemporary Islamic Authority. Oxford University, 16-17 October 2009. Please send proposals to Hilary Kalmbach.
International Conference Africa GIS2009, 26– 29 October 2009, Kampala, Uganda. For more information, please visit the AFRICAGIS2009 web site and contact AfricaGIS 2009.
Parliament of the World's Religions, 3-9 December 2009, Melbourne, Australia. 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
International Association for the History of Religions (IAHR), 15-21 August 2010, Toronto, Canada. Visit the conference website. The conference director is Professor Donald Wiebe.
STUDY OF THE COMMONS
The International Association for the Study of the Commons (IASC) is accepting for hosting the 13th Biennial Conference, Summer or Autumn 2010. For more information contact Jim Robson and visit the IASCP website.
The International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC) will be the Harvest Festival of the Decade to Overcome Violence and at the same time a planting season for fresh initiatives. May 2011, Kingston, Jamaica. Sponsored by the World Council of Churches (WCC). Visit the IEPC web site, which provides points of contact worldwide.
Catherine of Siena
For thousands of years women have suffered from the consequences of social prejudice. This applies both to civil and religious realms. Our world is still suffering from the consequences. Liberation must ultimately come from a new self-awareness among women themselves, a self-awareness fostered by knowledge and insight.
Catherine of Siena Virtual College offers courses that will empower women to understand their own situation and to change the world for the better. These courses will also enable men to serve all members of their communities more effectively.
To view 2009 course offerings,
including new courses,
Point of contact:
Deborah & Aaron Rose-Milavec
A Great Film
Bullfrog Films has released a new film,
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 as a DVD that includes 28-minute and 45-minute versions. This film is highly recommended. Point of contact: Stephanie Miller.
Excellent Educational Resource
Facing the Future,
an A+ producer of educational materials on sustainability and global issues, has announced the availability of a new resource:
for Social Studies
Table of Contents
I. Introductory Materials
II. Unit Lessons
1. Watch Where You Step
2. Is It Sustainable?
3. Shop Till You Drop?
4. Are You Buying This?
5. What Makes a Civilization Sustainable?
6. Putting Our Community on the Map
7. Three Faces of Governance
8. Creating Our Future
III. Student Readings
1. Ecological Footprint
2. Feeding the World
3. Urban and Community Planning
4. What Is Good Governance?
"This activity-based curriculum unit for high school social studies teachers contains eight engaging and inspiring lessons that help students build the connections between economics, history, democracy, and sustainability. Each lesson in the two-week unit is aligned with the National Council for the Social Studies' curriculum standards for easy classroom integration. For every topic covered, students learn creative tools to contribute toward sustainable solutions in their local and global communities."
Available now as a downloadable PDF. Hard copies forthcoming. Highly recommended for high school teachers. Point of contact: Cecilia Lund.
10 Pillars of Knowledge
MAP OF HUMAN KNOWLEDGE|
By Chaim Zins
Overview & Rationale
Map of Knowledge
Library Classification Systems