Note: In this issue, homo sapiens sapiens is abbreviated as hss.
The essence of human nature is that we are made "in the image of God" (Genesis 1:27). Human nature is essentially a "body-soul" (or "flesh-spirit," or "spirit-soul-body") unity. This unity is not simply additive (body + soul, or flesh + spirit). Rather, it is a fusion of body and soul, flesh and spirit, into a single and unique reality that is both alive and rational. Here we take, as starting point, the understanding in the Book of Genesis:
"The Bible states that humanity was created in the image of G-d, but what does it mean to be created in the image of G-d?
"Clearly, we are not created in the physical image of G-d, because Judaism steadfastly maintains that G-d is incorporeal and has no physical appearance. Maimonides [Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon] points out that the Hebrew words translated as "image" and "likeness" in Gen. 1:27 do not refer to the physical form of a thing. The word for "image" in Gen. 1:27 is "tzelem," which refers to the nature or essence of a thing, as in Psalm 73:20, "you will despise their image (tzel'mam)." You despise a person's nature and not a person's physical appearance. The word for physical form, Maimonides explains, is "to'ar," as in Gen. 39:6, "and Joseph was beautiful of form (to'ar) and fair to look upon." Similarly, the word used for "likeness" is "damut," which is used to indicate a simile, not identity of form. For example, "He is like (damuno) a lion" in Ps. 17:12 refers not to similar appearance, but to similar nature.
"What is it in our nature that is G-d-like? Rashi explains that we are like G-d in that we have the ability to understand and discern. Maimonides elaborates that by using our intellect, we are able to perceive things without the use of our physical senses, an ability that makes us like G-d, who perceives without having physical senses." Human Nature, Judaism 101, 2001.
Being an image of God makes hss unique, and this uniqueness is not dependent on any physical or non-physical attribute of human beings. In the physical dimension, human beings have a large brain and walk in the erect position. In the mental dimension, human beings have the use of reason and experience feelings and emotions. In the social dimension, human beings communicate via speech, symbols, and body language. In the spiritual dimension, human nature is evidenced by self-awareness as a human person. In the psychosomatic dimension, human nature is evidenced by a personal conscience that guides behavior. Between birth and death, there is physical and mental growth, psycho-social growth, and spiritual growth. But what makes hss unique, and what makes human nature unique, is that each individual is made in the image of God.
Genesis is not a history book. It is a reflection on hss becoming an image of God and, therefore, fully human. We really don't know at what point in human evolution hss became an image of God, and it really doens't matter. The religious person may want to meditate further on the mystery of creation. For the purpose of this study, what really matters is that we are hss and that, within the limitations of the human condition, we carry in ourselves the image of God.
2. Human Nature: Psychosomatic-Spiritual Diversity
Homo sapiens sapiens is androgynous. Homo sapiens sapiens is also male and female (Genesis 1:26-27, 2:21-23, 5:1). This is the most fundamental and most universal differentiation. It is, however, a differentiation that does not cancel the original and perpetual unity of man and woman. The male/female differentiation does not cancel the unity of the hss subspecies. Both men and women are hss. Unity does not preclude diversity. Diversity enriches unity without destroying unity. It is critical to understand that male hss = female hss = hss.
[The] "idea of man's androgynous nature is an old one that has often been expressed in mythology and by the great intuitive spirits of times past. In [the 20th] century, C. G. Jung is the first scientist to observe this psychological fact of human nature, and to take into account in describing the whole human being.
Jung called the opposites in man and woman the anima and the animus. By the anima he meant the feminine component in a man's personality, and by the animus he designated the masculine component in a woman's personality. He derived these words from the Latin word animare, which means to enliven, because he felt that the anima and the animus were like enlivening souls or spirits to men and women." John A. Sanford, The Invisible Partners, Paulist Press, 1980, page 6.
So there is now scientific evidence that there is man in woman (Jung's animus), and there is woman in man (Jung's anima). There are other, more superficial, forms of diversity: racial, ethnic, personality, intelligence, and other attributes that add to human diversity. Still more superficially, diversity increases when cultural factors are taken into account. For instance, there is male/female sexuality and male-female genders. Human beings are intrinsically male and female in the sexual dimension. But male/female genders, and the so-called gender roles in family and society, are extrinsic to hss and human nature; in other words, they are culturally conditioned and change with culture as culture changes. This cultural conditioning can influence, for example, how men express their masculinity and how women express their femininity; but each member of the hss subspecies is still both male and female.
"The most important contribution Jung makes in his concepts of the anima and the animus is to give us an idea of the polarity that exists within each of us. We are not homogeneous units of psychic life, but contain an inevitable opposition within the totality that makes up our being. There are opposites within us, call them what we like -- masculine and feminine, anima and animus, Yin and Yang -- and these are eternally in tension and are eternally trying to unite. The human soul is a great arena in which the Active and the Receptive, the Light and the Dark, the Yang and the Yin, seek to come together and forge within us an indescribable unity of personality. To achieve this union of the opposites within ourselves may very well be the task of life, requiring the utmost in perseverance and assiduous awareness. Usually men need women for this to come about, and women need men. And yet, ultimately the union of the opposites does not occur between a man who plays out the masculine and a woman who plays out the feminine, but within the being of each man and each woman in whom the opposites are finally conjoined.' John A. Sanford, The Invisible Partners, Paulist Press, 1980, page 112.
Generally speaking, attributes that are intrinsic to human nature are observable as both/and diversity, while attributes that are extrinsic to human nature are observable as either/or diversity. Each and every human being is both flesh and spirit, and is both male and female. But any given human being can be black or white, physically strong or physically weak, mentally healthy or mentally ill. At this superficial level, current trend of globalization is bound to increase human diversity in many different ways. But still, deep down, a human being is a human being -- male and female.
Human behavior/misbehavior is generally driven by personal conscience and influenced by social incentives and constraints (the "collective sub-conscious"). Section 1 provided a synopsis of what is known about human nature, and section 2 amplified with what we know about human nature as common to hss, male and female. Human relations between men and women constitute (directly or indirectly) 100% of all human relations. Therefore, as it is impossible to consider all kinds of human relations one by one, let us focus on human relations between men and women. In doing so, all forms of human behavior and misbehavior will be taken into account; for all forms of human behavior and misbehavior are derivatives of good or bad relations between men and women. In this regard, all forms of violent behavior are bad, but gender violence is the worst because it has a very long tail of rippling effects in all dimensions of individual and social life. In that they produce the deepest wounds and the wounds with the widest repercussions, gender violence induced by religion is the worst of the worst.
Most religions (the Baha'is are a shining exception) have a long history of abusing women. This may be due to the influence of testosterone, or the so-called "phallocentric syndrome," or some other reasons; but these are reasons made by human hands, not by God's. In the secular world, perhaps the most significant "sign of the times" is the women's movement, and some progress is being made in exorcising societies and cultures from the curse of sexism. Ironically, some of the religious institutions are the most adamant in perpetuating sexist practices. In theory, they say that men and women are equal in dignity. But in practice, many of them still exclude women from the dignity of representing God in religious discourse, and especially in public worship.
Sections 4 and 5 will explore how human behavior and social dynamics are influenced by the behavior of secular and religious institutions, respectively. As a case example, let us consider the influence of Christian institutions in the West, specifically regarding their treatment of women. The following is a penetrating analysis written years ago by a distinguished Christian theologian:
"The New Testament discloses to us that women were educated in the scriptures and that they assumed leadership roles of sufficient magnitude to attract many women into Christian congregations. Their participation was, however, not without problems. Although attitudes toward women in the New Testament reflect both theologically and socially a first-century Jewish religious and cultural cast, Paul's theology of equivalence in Christ provided a vehicle for building a new religious and social basis for women-men relationships in the future. This radically new theology of women, however,
became obscured in the later epistles. What Paul had understood as a kind of temporary status-quo ethics--in the context of the imminent end times--became translated two generations later into moral guidelines for keeping things as they are forever.
"The later Church, when it lost the vision that the Kingdom was coming, also lost the theology that enabled it to live as though the Kingdom were at hand. As a consequence, it inherited two seemingly widely divergent messages: the theology of equivalence in Christ; the practice of women's subordination. In attempting to reconcile them, it maintained a status-quo ethics on the social level through the subordination of women, and it affirmed the vision of equivalence on the spiritual level by projecting it as an otherworldly reality. Throughout the history of the Church this has led to complex and confused theological arguments, with their consequent social distortions, the sum of which is that men belong to this
world and do the work of the Church, while women belong to the next world and act in the Church only as hidden helpers and servants to men." Rosemary Radford Ruether, Religion and Sexism: Images of Woman in the Jewish and Christian Traditions, Simon and Schuster, 1974, page 146.1974.
Here she is referring specifically to the Roman Catholic Church. In this institution, women were considered to be inferior to men until rather recently (see Mulieres dignitatem, 1988). Men and women are now considered to be equal in everything except when it comes to roles of religious authority, for which ordination is indispensable. This brings to mind George Orwell's satirical novel, Animal Farm: A Fairy Story, and his famous insight to the effect that "all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."
Since Animal Farm is a satirical novel, and humans are rational animals, it is not hard to imagine that Orwell was using the farm as a metaphor for human society, a society in which
"All humans are equal, but some humans are more equal than others."
It is self-evident that excluding women from priestly ordination is a form of gender violence. Many women are examples of heroic holiness under these conditions, but this is not the point. The point is that women being allowed to act "in the Church only as hidden helpers and servants to men" sends a message to society that is incompatible with gender equality. And the Roman Catholic Church is heavily subsidized in many countries, including the USA. Is it right to subsidize (with tax payer's money) an institution that excludes women from its governance? Or, in the words of Janice Gross Stein, "Does it matter that the Catholic Church, which has special entitlements given to it by the state and benefits from its charitable tax status, refuses to ordain women as priests?"
It does matter. It matters a lot. The patriarchy that has absolute power in the Roman Catholic Church is still the normative model for many Catholic families. The same patriarchal model is reinforced in the minds of children in (otherwise excellent) Catholic schools. It is reinforced even more every Sunday, when those who go to Mass must worship under the leadership of male-only clergy. Furthermore, by Vatican edict, the issue is taboo and cannot be discussed. Over one billion people are still constrained to suffer this indoctrination under pain of excommunication (which for many still has the connotation of "going to hell"). In the secular world, the process of women's emancipation is irreversible. Not so in the religious world, especially in Islamic countries where religion and society are tightly coupled. It is pathetic. For more on religious patriarchy, see the series on mimetic violence in patriarchal religions (starting with SSNV April 2006), the analysis of religious influence on Millennium Development Goal 3 (SSNV March 2007), the issue on the gender dimension of sustainable development (SSNV April 2008), and the series on the nuptial dimension of sustainable development (starting with SSNV May 2008).
It is stressed that religious gender violence is not just a religious issue, but one that has profound (and mostly negative) social implications. It diminishes the ability to distinguish between good and evil. It is an obstacle to freedom of religion and freedom of conscience. It perpetuates the misconception that men are superior to women; distorts the conscience of infants, children, and young people; diminishes the nuptial gifts of love and life; encourages domestic violence and a culture of domination and oppression in both religion and society; induces confusion between the value of heroic acts and passively suffering many forms of oppression; feeds irrational acts of religious violence (the crusades, the inquisition, 9/11, etc.); and the enumeration of nefarious social repercussions could go on and on. Indeed, all forms of violence are bad, but gender violence is the worst, and religious gender violence is the worst of the worst.
It is generally known that human behavior is influenced by culture and, in particular, by the social institutions that play a significant role in a person's life. But there is a paucity of empirical evidence about how specific actions by social institutions induce a behavioral response from individuals. In a recently published paper, the concept of evidence-based kernels ("fundamental units of behavioral influence") is proposed as a framework for classifying and organizing evidence on the effectiveness of actions taken to influence behavior.
"This paper describes evidence-based kernels, fundamental units of behavioral influence that appear to underlie effective prevention and treatment for children, adults, and families. A kernel is a behavior–influence procedure shown through experimental analysis to affect a specific behavior and that is indivisible in the sense that removing any of its components would render it inert. Existing evidence shows that a variety of kernels can influence behavior in context, and some evidence suggests that frequent use or sufficient use of some kernels may produce longer lasting behavioral shifts. The analysis of kernels could contribute to an empirically based theory of behavioral influence, augment existing prevention or treatment efforts, facilitate the dissemination of effective prevention and treatment practices, clarify the active ingredients in existing interventions, and contribute to efficiently developing interventions that are more effective. Kernels involve one or more of the following mechanisms of behavior influence: reinforcement, altering antecedents, changing verbal relational responding, or changing physiological states directly." Evidence-based Kernels: Fundamental Units of Behavioral Influence, Dennis D. Embry and Anthony Biglan, Clin Child Fam Psychol Rev., September 2008, 11(3): 75–113.
In a secular context, the authors provide 52 examples of behavior influence methods for which there is one or more peer-reviewed papers that provide empirical evidence of behavior influence effectiveness. Readers may want to click on the thumbnail for Table 1 of the Embry-Biglan paper in order to view the 52 test cases. It would seem that changing psychological states directly should be considered a behavior influence method, and there may be other methods. But the merit of the Embry-Biglan paper is that it enables researchers in the behavioral sciences to organize the data in a form suitable for comparative analysis and possibly even relational analysis when the data is stored as a relational database. If their proposal for a "database of kernels that influence human behavior" comes to pass and the database grows to include hundreds or even thousands of unique valid test cases, it would be possible to isolate, for example, the category of kernels that is most effective in inducing a given behavior change, and even the kernel application method that is most effective in inducing the desired behavior change.
Useful as a database of evidence-based kernels could be, what is really needed is a general theory of human behavior that would obviate the inevitable hair splitting in correlating kernels (by type and/or implementation method) with behavior modification results. The closest thing to such a general theory is the mimetic theory of René Girard.
"In the science of [humanity] and culture today there is a unilateral swerve away from anything that could be called mimicry, imitation, or mimesis. And yet there is nothing, or next to nothing, in human behavior that is not learned, and all learning is based on imitation. If human beings suddenly ceased imitating, all forms of culture would vanish. Neurologists remind us frequently that the human brain is an enormous imitating machine. To develop a science of [humanity] it is necessary to compare human imitation with animal mimicry, and to specify the properly human modalities of mimetic behavior, if they indeed exist." Imitation, Mimetic Theory, and Religious & Cultural Evolution, René Girard, 1978
More about imitation:
"Imitation is often thought of as a low-level, cognitively undemanding, even childish form of behavior, but recent work across a variety of sciences argues that imitation is a rare ability that is fundamentally linked to characteristically human forms of intelligence, in particular to language, culture, and the ability to understand other minds. This burgeoning body of work has important implications for our understanding of ourselves, both individually and socially. Imitation is not just an important factor in human development, it also has a pervasive influence throughout adulthood in ways we are just beginning to understand." Imitation, Mimetic Theory, and Religious & Cultural Evolution, Susan Hurley & Nick Chater, 2005
The March 2006 issue provided an introduction to mimetic theory. Some additional references are listed below.
Human behavior is influenced not only by culture and social institutions, but also by the religious institutions that people are affiliated with. The influence of religious institutions is amplified when doctrines and "dogmas" that require "religious assent" induce collective pressure for submission to "the truth." Regarding the influence of religion on behavior, systematic documentation of empirical evidence is even scarcer than it is for secular culture. The reason may be that, for authentically religious people, it is often "politically incorrect" to discuss any subject that has been declared "definitively closed."
For instance, the mimetic theory of René Girard provides are the required elements to unveil gender violence in religious institutions. But it is hard to find in Girard's writings any reference to it. He has provided extensive literary analyses of a gradual decrease in violence as the Old Testament unfolds, and has shown that the Gospels put an end to religious violence -- albeit some acts of violence reappear in subsequent books of the New Testament. But the specific issue of gender violence is never considered, or at least this writer has not been able to find anything about it in the Girardian corpus. Susan Nowak, 1994 and Rebecca Adams, 2000, 2006 have provided some leads. But a Girardian theory of gender violence and, in particular, religious gender violence, remains to be developed.
The Embry-Biglan paper is also restricted to behavior modification kernels in a secular environment. An adaptation of the Embry-Biglam table for one text case about the non-ordination of women in the Roman Catholic Church is in preparation, and the current draft can be viewed by clicking here.
Sometimes a concrete real life example is more instructive than the most rigorous abstract reasoning. Such is the case with a recently (25 February 2009) article published by a missionary Jesuit priest. It describes some personal experiences of religious sexism in Malaysia and clearly articulates the nefarious social impacts. A brief excerpt is provided below, but the reader is encouraged to read the entire article.
"The attitudes that men have towards women are formed very early in their development. We are socialized within our families, in our church communities, in our schools. If Catholics are told that only men can be, for sacramental purposes, in persona Christi, standing in the place of Christ at the Eucharist, are we seriously meant to believe that this does not lay down the germ of an idea, namely that women are inferior to men, even in the order of God's grace? If all the discernment and decisions that affect women in the Church are made only by celibate men, are we to conclude that this has no effect at all on the attitudes of Catholic men towards women?" Beheading and Religious Profiling, Aloysious Mowe, Washington Post, 25 February 2009.
This article is a powerful resource for understanding the pathology and social consequences of religious gender violence. It comes at a time when things are coming to a head in the United Nations between those in favor of MDG3 (the promotion of gender equality) and those who still believe in patriarchy as a divine norm and forget that "a custom without truth is ancient error" (St. Cyprian, 3rd century CE). In preparation for this debate, a very useful Ecumenical Women's Guide to Advocacy: Faith at the UN - Gender in the Church has been prepared by Ecumenical Women at the United Nations.
"Power is embodied in man-woman relationship. Male members of the society enjoy a historical experience of superiority and power, while female populations encounter a historically bitter experience of subordination, powerlessness, and violence against them. From childhood, boys and girls are tainted with superior/inferior complexes respectively as well as associated power and pride in boys and guilt and shame in girls. To maintain the status quo of the subordination of women, the structures of oppression work through the systems and institutions in society— family, educational, political, religious, law – to require that women conform to their traditional gender roles. The perceived gender roles and identities shape the vision and action in all spheres of life. Men as heads of households, husbands, and fathers, and as religious-political-social leaders, gain the power to control woman’s body, her psychology, wealth and property, and space of existence. With their patriarchal structure and gender-biased reflections and interpretation of Scriptures, religions play a vital role in the process of maintaining and transmitting this gender imbalance.....
"In conclusion, the inferior and subordinate social status of women in society is culturally and socially determined. The systematic creation of oppressive structures that function through all social institutions, including Church, and the unequal power relations between men and women, deny women their right to equal opportunities, both socio-economic and political. They deny the healthy participation of men and women together in worshipping God and in the ministry and administration of the Church. Addressing theology with a gender perspective helps discern and denounce the oppressive structures. Biblical hermeneutics with a gender perspective provides us with a rationale for speaking about gender equality that affirms a holistic, systematic, and ecological paradigm and provides alternative interpretations that help in the processes of deconstruction and reconstruction – in the reformulation of theological concepts and symbols." Faith at the UN - Gender in the Church, Catherine Bordeau, Emily Davila, Alison Killeen, Rev. Kathleen Stone - Ecumenical Women, 2009.
Religious institutions that are opposed to MDG3 often use the specter of abortion as the rationale for their resistance. Readers may refer back to the issues (starting May 2008) on the nuptial gift of love and the nuptial gift of life to verify the pro-life convictions reflected in this journal. Only God can judge personal intentions, but there is no question that killing babies in their mother's womb is a crime, just as it is a crime to kill a person at any point in life. Indeed, life is sacred from conception to natural death. But this prompts some additional questions. For instance, what about the time a person starts vocational discernment?
Suppose the person is a Christian woman and she feels Christ is calling her to ordained ministry. But she is told that the church will not test her vocation because she is female; which is a ludicrous absurdity, since Christ assumed human nature and women fully share human nature. Insisting that the church cannot ordain women because Christ has not given permission amounts to making Christ the scapegoat. In some places, they abort baby girls just because they are girls. In the Roman Catholic Church (and many other patriarchal religions) women are excluded from roles of religious authority. Specifically in the Roman Catholic Church, the priestly vocations of women are aborted just because they are women. Isn't this a form of abortion? Isn't this vocational abortion? And isn't that equivalent to killing the vocational dimension of a person's life? Absolutely. It is not unlike partial birth abortion, except that it is not physical but psychological; and we now know that psychological violence is even worst than physical violence.
In brief, all human beings are equal in sharing human nature, and no human beings are "more equal than others" (as are some "animals" in Orwell's Animal Farm). Patriarchy, either secular or religious, is a source of great harm for humanity. It diminishes cross-gender solidarity. It harms both men and women, boys and girls. And it is a great obstacle for sustainable human development.
Genesis 1:28 and 2:15 remain as the best possible guide of human behavior toward the human habitat: use it (1:28) but do not abuse it (2:15). The human abuse and abuse of the human habitat begins and ends with human decisions and actions. Human behavior influences social behavior. Social behavior influences the way economic institutions work. This in turn influences the way government institutions work. Human, social, economic, and governance activity inevitably have an impact on ecosystems and the biosphere. The ecological and biospheric reactions accumulate to the point of affecting the behavior of the entire planet as manifested in climatic changes and other dislocations. Humans eventually become aware of this and, often after a long period of denial, must face the music and decide whether to do nothing or do something.
When people are in denial, a common rationalization for doing nothing to mitigate abuses of the human habitat is uncertainty about all the possible repercussions of doing something. Doing nothing generally means "business as usual," and this in turn means going ahead with new initiatives for economically profitable ventures. In such situations, it is wise to consider the "precautionary principle":
"When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically. In this context the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof. The process of applying the precautionary principle must be open, informed and democratic and must include potentially affected parties. It must also involve an examination of the full range of alternatives, including no action." The Precautionary Principle, Wingspread Conference on the Precautionary Principle, SEHN, January 1998.
In other words, to do nothing is not an option unless there is virtual certainty that the socioeconomic value of the initiative is very high and the risk of environmental damage is very low. In managing the use of the human habitat, and more generally in managing all phases of sustainable development, it is also wise to make decisions, and implement them, at the lowest possible level where it can be done and where people know best the short-term and long-term effects on the human habitat. This is the so-called "subsidiarity principle," which has been embraced by the European Union and defined as follows:
"The principle of subsidiarity is defined in Article 5 of the Treaty establishing the European Community. It is intended to ensure that decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen and that constant checks are made as to whether action at Community level is justified in the light of the possibilities available at national, regional or local level. Specifically, it is the principle whereby the Union does not take action (except in the areas which fall within its exclusive competence) unless it is more effective than action taken at national, regional or local level. It is closely bound up with the principles of proportionality and necessity, which require that any action by the Union should not go beyond what is necessary to achieve the objectives of the Treaty." The Subsidiarity Principle, Article 5 of the Treaty establishing the European Community, 1992.
Before the industrial revolution, the use and abuse of the human habitat was of little consequence. The population of the planet was relatively small, and industrial technology had not started to magnify the impacts of human activity. As we all know, the situation has changed dramatically in the last few decades, with population growing exponentially and environmental change agents (such as emissions from burning fossil fuels) growing hyper-exponentially. The precautionary and subsidiarity principles are a matter of common sense: accelerate or slow down development on the basis of careful trade-off analysis of social and environmental impacts (precautionary principle) and undertake new sustainable development projects at the level where such trade-offs are best understood (subsidiarity principle). Needless to say, fully participatory democracy is the only system of governance where the precautionary and subsidiarity principles can be effectively applied.
Resolution of the sustainable development paradox requires adherence to basic norms such as the precautionary and subsidiarity principles. Such adherence is hard to imagine unless the pendulum of human affairs stops swinging between the extreme left (where too much government is the problem) to the extreme right (where too little government is the problem) and stabilizes in the center, where democracy and solidarity abide together. Two transitions are required: the transition from consumerism to sustainable consumption and the transition from consumerism to environmental stewardship. These two transitions will induce a third transition: the transition from the industrial revolution to the sustainable development revolution.
1. Respect Earth and life in all its diversity.
a. Recognize that all beings are interdependent and every form of life has value regardless of its worth to human beings.
b. Affirm faith in the inherent dignity of all human beings and in the intellectual, artistic, ethical, and spiritual potential of humanity.
2. Care for the community of life with understanding, compassion, and love.
a. Accept that with the right to own, manage, and use natural resources comes the duty to prevent environmental harm and to protect the rights of people.
b. Affirm that with increased freedom, knowledge, and power comes increased responsibility to promote the common good.
3. Build democratic societies that are just, participatory, sustainable, and peaceful.
a. Ensure that communities at all levels guarantee human rights and fundamental freedoms and provide everyone an opportunity to realize his or her full potential.
b. Promote social and economic justice, enabling all to achieve a secure and meaningful livelihood that is ecologically responsible.
4. Secure Earth's bounty and beauty for present and future generations.
a. Recognize that the freedom of action of each generation is qualified by the needs of future generations.
b. Transmit to future generations values, traditions, and institutions that support the long-term flourishing of Earth's human and ecological communities.
II. ECOLOGICAL INTEGRITY
5. Protect and restore the integrity of Earth's ecological systems, with special concern for biological diversity and the natural processes that sustain life.
a. Adopt at all levels sustainable development plans and regulations that make environmental conservation and rehabilitation integral to all development initiatives.
b. Establish and safeguard viable nature and biosphere reserves, including wild lands and marine areas, to protect Earth's life support systems, maintain biodiversity, and preserve our natural heritage.
c. Promote the recovery of endangered species and ecosystems.
d. Control and eradicate non-native or genetically modified organisms harmful to native species and the environment, and prevent introduction of such harmful organisms.
e. Manage the use of renewable resources such as water, soil, forest products, and marine life in ways that do not exceed rates of regeneration and that protect the health of ecosystems.
f. Manage the extraction and use of non-renewable resources such as minerals and fossil fuels in ways that minimize depletion and cause no serious environmental damage.
6. Prevent harm as the best method of environmental protection and, when knowledge is limited, apply a precautionary approach.
a. Take action to avoid the possibility of serious or irreversible environmental harm even when scientific knowledge is incomplete or inconclusive.
b. Place the burden of proof on those who argue that a proposed activity will not cause significant harm, and make the responsible parties liable for environmental harm.
c. Ensure that decision making addresses the cumulative, long-term, indirect, long distance, and global consequences of human activities.
d. Prevent pollution of any part of the environment and allow no build-up of radioactive, toxic, or other hazardous substances.
e. Avoid military activities damaging to the environment.
7. Adopt patterns of production, consumption, and reproduction that safeguard Earth's regenerative capacities, human rights, and community well-being.
a. Reduce, reuse, and recycle the materials used in production and consumption systems, and ensure that residual waste can be assimilated by ecological systems.
b. Act with restraint and efficiency when using energy, and rely increasingly on renewable energy sources such as solar and wind.
c. Promote the development, adoption, and equitable transfer of environmentally sound technologies.
d. Internalize the full environmental and social costs of goods and services in the selling price, and enable consumers to identify products that meet the highest social and environmental standards.
e. Ensure universal access to health care that fosters reproductive health and responsible reproduction.
f. Adopt lifestyles that emphasize the quality of life and material sufficiency in a finite world.
8. Advance the study of ecological sustainability and promote the open exchange and wide application of the knowledge acquired.
a. Support international scientific and technical cooperation on sustainability, with special attention to the needs of developing nations.
b. Recognize and preserve the traditional knowledge and spiritual wisdom in all cultures that contribute to environmental protection and human well-being.
c. Ensure that information of vital importance to human health and environmental protection, including genetic information, remains available in the public domain.
III. SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC JUSTICE
9. Eradicate poverty as an ethical, social, and environmental imperative.
a. Guarantee the right to potable water, clean air, food security, uncontaminated soil, shelter, and safe sanitation, allocating the national and international resources required.
b. Empower every human being with the education and resources to secure a sustainable livelihood, and provide social security and safety nets for those who are unable to support themselves.
c. Recognize the ignored, protect the vulnerable, serve those who suffer, and enable them to develop their capacities and to pursue their aspirations.
10. Ensure that economic activities and institutions at all levels promote human development in an equitable and sustainable manner.
a. Promote the equitable distribution of wealth within nations and among nations.
b. Enhance the intellectual, financial, technical, and social resources of developing nations, and relieve them of onerous international debt.
c. Ensure that all trade supports sustainable resource use, environmental protection, and progressive labor standards.
d. Require multinational corporations and international financial organizations to act transparently in the public good, and hold them accountable for the consequences of their activities.
11. Affirm gender equality and equity as prerequisites to sustainable development and ensure universal access to education, health care, and economic opportunity.
a. Secure the human rights of women and girls and end all violence against them.
b. Promote the active participation of women in all aspects of economic, political, civil, social, and cultural life as full and equal partners, decision makers, leaders, and beneficiaries.
c. Strengthen families and ensure the safety and loving nurture of all family members.
12. Uphold the right of all, without discrimination, to a natural and social environment supportive of human dignity, bodily health, and spiritual well-being, with special attention to the rights of indigenous peoples and minorities.
a. Eliminate discrimination in all its forms, such as that based on race, color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, language, and national, ethnic or social origin.
b. Affirm the right of indigenous peoples to their spirituality, knowledge, lands and resources and to their related practice of sustainable livelihoods.
c. Honor and support the young people of our communities, enabling them to fulfill their essential role in creating sustainable societies.
d. Protect and restore outstanding places of cultural and spiritual significance.
IV. DEMOCRACY, NONVIOLENCE, AND PEACE
13. Strengthen democratic institutions at all levels, and provide transparency and accountability in governance, inclusive participation in decision making, and access to justice.
a. Uphold the right of everyone to receive clear and timely information on environmental matters and all development plans and activities which are likely to affect them or in which they have an interest.
b. Support local, regional and global civil society, and promote the meaningful participation of all interested individuals and organizations in decision making.
c. Protect the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, peaceful assembly, association, and dissent.
d. Institute effective and efficient access to administrative and independent judicial procedures, including remedies and redress for environmental harm and the threat of such harm.
e. Eliminate corruption in all public and private institutions.
f. Strengthen local communities, enabling them to care for their environments, and assign environmental responsibilities to the levels of government where they can be carried out most effectively.
14. Integrate into formal education and life-long learning the knowledge, values, and skills needed for a sustainable way of life.
a. Provide all, especially children and youth, with educational opportunities that empower them to contribute actively to sustainable development.
b. Promote the contribution of the arts and humanities as well as the sciences in sustainability education.
c. Enhance the role of the mass media in raising awareness of ecological and social challenges.
d. Recognize the importance of moral and spiritual education for sustainable living.
15. Treat all living beings with respect and consideration.
a. Prevent cruelty to animals kept in human societies and protect them from suffering.
b. Protect wild animals from methods of hunting, trapping, and fishing that cause extreme, prolonged, or avoidable suffering.
c. Avoid or eliminate to the full extent possible the taking or destruction of non-targeted species.
16. Promote a culture of tolerance, nonviolence, and peace.
a. Encourage and support mutual understanding, solidarity, and cooperation among all peoples and within and among nations.
b. Implement comprehensive strategies to prevent violent conflict and use collaborative problem solving to manage and resolve environmental conflicts and other disputes.
c. Demilitarize national security systems to the level of a non-provocative defense posture, and convert military resources to peaceful purposes, including ecological restoration.
d. Eliminate nuclear, biological, and toxic weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.
e. Ensure that the use of orbital and outer space supports environmental protection and peace.
f. Recognize that peace is the wholeness created by right relationships with oneself, other persons, other cultures, other life, Earth, and the larger whole of which all are a part.
In the midst of the current financial and environmental crises, it is self-evident that, at this point in human history, hss is homo economicus. The decisions and actions of homo economicus are driven by self-interest alone. In order to shift gears so that human decisions and actions attempt to balance self-interest and the common good, we need to outgrow homo economicus and become homo solidarius. For homo solidarius emerges when hss becomes aware of the entire web of life in which he/she abides, and recognizes that, for his/her own good, self-interest must be in harmony with the common good of the entire web, including both humanity and the human habitat.
Solidarity is a necessary condition for sustainable development
Sustainable development is impossible without solidarity. The reason is that, without human solidarity, money and quick profits are the only thing that really matter; and, when money is the one and only incentive, anything goes regardless of impact on the environment or other people.
Solidarity is a sufficient condition for sustainable development
Sustainable development is possible with when human solidarity is a higher priority than individual self-interest. The reason is that a mindset of human solidarity attaches at least equal priority to both self-interest and the common good; and, when this is so, nothing goes unless it has been shown to be for the benefit of both individuals and the entire web of life.
Overcoming the traditional lack of cross-gender solidarity is where human solidarity starts. How this lack of cross-gender solidarity came about is inconsequential. It has already been explained that the original unity of man and woman is clearly established in the Book of Genesis and (starting with Carl Jung) confirmed by modern psychological science. What matters now is the restoration and perpetuation of this unity; for cross-gender disunity deeply wounds 100% of humanity, and human solidarity cannot flourish as long as cross-gender solidarity does not flourish. In this regard, it is lamentable that some religious institutions persist in their inordinate attachment to cross-gender disunity, in particular when it comes to having women in roles of religious authority.
Authentic human solidarity nullifies all forms of social/religious violence. An authentic mindset of human solidarity rejects and ridicules (in the sense of making it culturally unacceptable) all form of physical violence, including physical gender violence. Likewise, it rejects and ridicules all form of psychological violence, including psychological gender violence. Psychological violence may be subtle or not so subtle. In terms of psychological gender violence, perhaps the most pestilent manifestation of gender violence is the refusal of some religious institutions to exclude women from leadership roles in worship.
On the other hand, authentic human solidarity embraces and practices nonviolence in all manner of human affairs. This includes both nonviolence between humans and nonviolence of humans toward the biosphere. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. pointed out, "nonviolence is power." It is, in fact, powerful enough to create, via homo solidarius gateways to improving human and social well-being, giving top priority to human development, and taking good care of the human habitat.
This is by no means a new line of thinking. The German economist Heinrich Pesch (1854-1926) used terms such as "solidarism" and "solidarist economics" in his attempt to instruct homo economicus about issues of social and environmental justice. He influenced some Vatican documents on Catholic social doctrine, but hardly anyone else was ready to take him seriously. More recently, however, prompted by the increasing urgency of ecosystem deterioration and climate changes (a blessing in disguise?), many authors have brought up the need for hss to outgrow the insatiable appetite for material wealth is favor of something more human and more conducive to sustainable development: Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, 1962; Kenneth Boulding, The Economics of Spaceship Earth, 1966; Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, The Entropy Law and the Economic Process, 1971;
Gro Harlem Brundlandt, Our Common Future, 1987; Mary E. Clark, Ariadne's Thread: The Search for New Modes of Thinking, 1989; Donella Meadows, Beyond the Limits, 1992; Fritjof Capra, The Web of Life, 1997; Herman Daly, Ecological Economics, 2004, and so many others. The reader can verify that this literature increasingly refers (albeit using different terminologies) to changes in human priorities and attitudes that we have re-baptized as going from homo economicus to homo solidarius. A recent addition is noteworthy for focusing even more on the human and social dimensions of sustainable development:
"We are fast approaching a place where the path forks. We got to this fork through a long history dominated by two great and related struggles -- the struggle against scarcity and the struggle to subdue nature. To win in these struggles we created a powerful technology and forged an organization of economy and society to deploy that technology extensively, rapidly, and, if need be, ruthlessly. And we succeeded at subduing nature and creating wealth far beyond our ancestors imaginings. So successful were these systems and accomplishments that we were swept up in them, mesmerized by them, captivated, even addicted. We thus continued pell-mell ahead -- ever-grander, ever-larger, ever-richer, doing what once made sense but no longer did.
"There were warning signs along the way, but we did not notice them, or when we did, we paid them no heed. These signs said things like: being, not having; giving, not getting; needs, not wants; better, not richer; community, not individual; other, not self; connected, not separate; ecology, not economy; part of nature, not apart from nature; dependent, not transcendent; tomorrow, not today. We ignored these warnings to the point that, as we now approach the fork ahead, we are perilously close to losing the most precious things of all. We are rapidly hollowing out nature, ourselves, and our society." James Gustave Speth, The bridge at the edge of the world: capitalism, the environment, and crossing from crisis to sustainability, Yale University Press, 2008, page 236.
Another recent addition to the literature is Glenn Adelson's Environment: an interdisciplinary anthology, Yale University Press, 2008. An important feature of this book is that it gives even more weight to the human and social factors. The economic and environmental dimensions are still there, but as elements or boundaries rather the core of sustainable development. The additional emphasis on the human and social dimensions is evident by just looking at the table of contents:
Environment: an interdisciplinary anthology Abbreviated Table of Contents
Part One - Concepts and Case Studies
Ten chapters, one of them aptly titled "The Paradox of Sustainable Development."
Part Two - Foundational Disciplines and Topics
I - Biological Interactions
Chapters on Biodiversity and Conservation Biology; Soil and Agriculture; Air and Water; Energy; Toxicology
II - Human Dimensions
Chapters on The Inner Life; Ethics, Philosophy, and Gender; Poetry; History and the Environment; Nature Writing.
III - Social Connections
Chapters on Politics and Public Policy; Law and Environmental Justice; Economics; Human Population; Anthropology.
Just the outline speaks volumes. The final chapter, "Conviction and Action," is an appeal for all men and women to become, in effect homo solidarius. To reiterate, overcoming the sustainable development paradox will not be a matter of bringing in new technologies or inventing new economic and political arrangements. These will come, but will come only after hss, while remaining hss, decides to leave behind homo economicus to become an even more mature hss. Homo solidarius seems to be an apt designation for this new level of human maturity. Homo solidarius is the one and only solution to the sustainable development paradox, and the one and only transition path to the sustainable development revolution.
As we all know, eight millennium development goals were approved by the general assembly of the United Nations in 2000, and the first official checkpoint on progress made will be in 2015. The eight MDGs are listed on the left below. These goals have been analyzed in a previous series, including eight issues to analyze each MDG one at a time (January 2007 to August 2007), one issue that provides an integrated analysis of all the MDGs (September 2007), one issue to analyze the feasibility to attaining the 2015 targets (October 2007), and one issue that offers an overall assessment of the UN millennium project (November 2007).
Some readers may want to go back and revisit this material. At this point, the reader may be wondering how the transition from homo economicus to homo solidarius would affect human behavior along the path toward reaching the goals in due time (most probably after 2015). Clicking on the table icon on the right below will enable you to view a readable table with a comparative analysis of known behavior of homo economicus and anticipated behavior of homo solidarius while working for each of the MDGs.
The United Nation's Millennium Development Goals
MDG1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
MDG2. Achieve universal primary education
MDG3. Promote gender equality and empower women
MDG4. Reduce child mortality
MDG5. Improve maternal health
MDG6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
MDG7. Ensure environmental sustainability
MDG8. Develop a global partnership for development
According to a recent Oxfam report, the number of hungry people is approaching one billion:
"High food prices have brought into sharp focus an existing global food crisis that affects almost one billion people. Lasting solutions to the problem include adequate investment in agriculture, fairer trade, the redistribution of resources, and action on climate change. But hungry people cannot be fed on the hope of long-term solutions. Governments, supported by aid agencies and donors, must act now to provide systematic emergency assistance and longer-term support to those in need, and to better protect people in chronic poverty against shocks such as drought, floods, and market volatility." A Billion Hungry People, Oxfam Briefing Paper, January 2009.
Prayer suggestion of the month (you may want to replace the poem below with an appropriate prayer from your own religious tradition):
A Prayer in Spring
Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.
Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.
And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.
For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfil.
"(1) Regulate food prices and provide safety nets for the impoverished;
"(2) Promote environmentally sustainable higher-generation biofuels that does not compete for cropland and water resources;
"(3) Reallocate cereals used in animal feed to human consumption by developing alternative feeds based on new technology, waste and discards;
"(4) Support small-scale farmers by a global fund for micro-finance in developing diversified and resilient ecoagriculture and intercropping systems;
"(5) Increase trade and market access by improving infrastructure, reducing trade barriers, enhancing government subsidies and safety nets, as well as reducing armed conflict and corruption;
"(6) Limit global warming; and,
"(7) Raise awareness of the pressures of increasing population growth and consumption patterns on ecosystems."
Assuming that you are, or want to become, homo solidarius, this is the suggestion of the month for action based on prayer and study:
What have you done?
What are you doing?
What can you do?
Don't just wait to see what happens. Start adjusting your lifestyle. Start discussing green issues with friends and relatives. Start doing what you can. Start doing something!
Patriarchal structures are made by human hands, not by God. Gender equality and balance is required for both men and women to attain full human development. Therefore, gender equality and balance is critical in both secular and religious institutions, and there can be no doubt that this is what God desires. Consider the following report by the Ecumenical Women at the UN:
Excerpt: "Power is embodied in man-woman relationship. Male members of the society enjoy a historical experience of superiority and power, while female populations encounter a historically bitter experience of subordination, powerlessness, and violence against them. From childhood, boys and girls are tainted with superior/inferior complexes respectively as well as associated power and pride in boys and guilt and shame in girls. To maintain the status quo of the subordination of women, the structures of oppression work through the
systems and institutions in society— family, educational, political, religious, law – to require that women conform to their traditional gender roles. The perceived gender roles and identities shape the vision and action in all spheres of life. Men as heads of households, husbands, and fathers, and as religious-political-social leaders, gain the power to control woman’s body, her psychology, wealth and property, and space of existence. With their patriarchal structure and gender-biased reflections and interpretation of Scriptures, religions play a vital role in the process of maintaining and transmitting this gender imbalance." Faith at the UN - Gender in the Church, Catherine Bordeau, Emily Davila, Alison Killeen, Rev. Kathleen Stone - Ecumenical Women, 2009.
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. This is a religious as well as a social issue.
"The 3rd WFTL will be a meeting for a theology of sustainable life on Earth. It will have to make a theological reflection and discourse on the basis of a very concrete and organic meaning of life, since the analysis of the social and political reality in the Amazonian context promotes a direct relationship with the earth, water and biodiversity and reveals the limits and alternatives of the relation of human beings with their immediate environment."
"The World Social Forum is an open meeting place where social movements, networks, NGOs and other civil society organizations opposed to neo-liberalism and a world dominated by capital or by any form of imperialism come together to pursue their thinking, to debate ideas democratically, for formulate proposals, share their experiences freely and network for effective action. Since the first world encounter in 2001, it has taken the form of a permanent world process seeking and building alternatives to neo-liberal policies."
"The World Economic Forum is an independent, international organization incorporated as a Swiss not-for-profit foundation. We are striving towards a world-class corporate governance system where values are as important a basis as rules. Our motto is ‘entrepreneurship in the global public interest’. We believe that economic progress without social development is not sustainable, while social development without economic progress is not feasible. Our vision for the World Economic Forum is threefold. It aims to be: the foremost organization which builds and energizes leading global communities; the creative force shaping global, regional and industry strategies; the catalyst of choice for its communities when undertaking global initiatives to improve the state the world."
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.
AFRICA CONFERENCE The international IMPETUS Africa Conference, "Global Change in Africa - Projections, Mitigation and Adaptation," will be held from June 2nd to 5th 2009 at the University of Cologne, Germany. For further information, please visit the conference website or email Africa Conference.
AIR & WASTE MANAGEMENT The Air & Waste Management Association’s 102nd Annual Conference & Exhibition (ACE), 16-19 June 2009, Detroit, Michigan. For more information visit the AWMA-ACE2009 conference web site or contact AWMA-ACE2009.
CHINA AND GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE Conference Dates: 18-19 June 2009. Location: Lingnan University, Hong Kong, China. Sponsored by the Centre for Asian Pacific Studies (CAPS) and the Environmental Studies Programme (ESP) at Lingnan University, Hong Kong. Visit the conference website for more information, or contact CAPS.
SEXUAL VIOLENCE 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.
SYSTEM SCIENCES 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.
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.
GREEN ECONOMICS The 4th Annual Green Economics Conference will take place at Mansfield College, Oxford University, 31 July to 1 August 2009.
Please email us at Green Economics Institute if you want to book or speak or reserve a place.
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.
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.
CLIMATE CHANGE The world's climate neutral Scientific Climate Conference, 2-6 November 2009 online. Organized by the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences. For more information, visit the CLIMATE 2009 conference website and contact the conference staff at CLIMATE 2009. Note: the website already includes a listing of climate studies available at the Climate Change Studies Library (CCSL).
EARTH SYSTEM GOVERNANCE "Earth System Governance: People, Places, and the Planet." 2009 Amsterdam Conference on the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change. Amsterdam, 2-4 December 2009. Launch event of the Earth System Governance Project, a new ten-year research programme under the auspices of the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP). For more information, visit the conference website or contact Frank Biermann.
PARLIAMENT OF THE
WORLD'S RELIGIONS 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.
PEACE CONVOCATION 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.
SOCIOLOGY CONGRESS International Sociological Association (ISA) World Congress of Sociology, 11-17 July 2010, Gothenburg, Sweden. Session on "Peace, Conflict, and Climate Change" currently scheduled for Wednesday 14 July 2010. See the conference web site for more details or contact the conference chair, Hans Joas, Universität Erfurt, Germany.
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.
SUSTAINABILITY SCIENCE CFP on Sustainability Science. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS). PNAS has launched a new section of the journal dedicated to sustainability science, an emerging field of research dealing with the interactions between natural and social systems, and with how those interactions affect the challenge of sustainability: meeting the needs of present and future generations while substantially reducing poverty and conserving the planet’s life support systems. PNAS seeks original research contributions for this new section on both the fundamental character of interactions among humans, their technologies, and the environment, and on the use of such knowledge to advance sustainability goals relevant to water, food, energy, health, habitation, mobility, and ecosystem services. PNAS welcomes outstanding sustainability science papers addressing spatial scales from the global to the local and drawing on a wide range of disciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches. For more information, please contact Josiah Armour.
Catherine of Siena Virtual College
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.
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:
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.
"The UNEP Year Book 2009 presents work in progress on scientific understanding of global environmental change, as well as foresight about possible issues on the horizon. The aim is to raise awareness of the interlinkages among environmental issues that can accelerate the rates of change and threaten human wellbeing.
"The UNEP Year Book 2009 examines in six chapters new science and developments, and discusses the cumulative effects expected from degradation of ecosystems, the release of substances harmful to those ecosystems and to human health, the consequences of our changing climate, the continued human and economic loss resulting from disasters and conflicts, and the overexploitation of resources. It calls for an intensified sense of urgency for responsible governance in the face of approaching critical thresholds and tipping points."
The complete title is: "Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2009: Overcoming inequality - why governance matters." Free download. Five chapters:
1. Education for all: human right and catalyst for development
2. The Dakar goals: monitoring progress and inequality
3. Raising quality and strengthening equity: why governance matters
4. Increasing aid and improving governance
5. Policy conclusions and recommendations
Annex: The Education for All Development Index
From the UNESCO web site:
"Despite much progress since 2000, millions of children, youth and adults still lack access to good quality education and the benefits it brings. This inequality of opportunity is undermining progress towards achieving Education for All by 2015.
Who are these individuals and groups? What are the obstacles they face? How can governance policies help break the cycle of disadvantage and poverty? What policies work? Is education reform integrated into the bigger picture? Is the international community making good on its commitments?"
New Book on Sustainable Consumption
This book was released January 2009 by Palgrave MacMillan. The complete title is The New Economics of Sustainable Consumption: Seeds of Change. It bridges the gap between new economic theories and the new consumption patterns that will be required for sustainable economies to materialize. The author is Gill Seyfang, an Environmental Social Scientist at the University of East Anglia's Centre for Social and Economic Research on the Global Environment (CSERGE).
The book is a comprehensive (and very readable) discourse on the impending transition from consumerism to sustainable consumption. It has eight chapters:
1. Introduction: A Consuming Issue
2. Sustainable Consumption: A Mainstream Agenda
3. Sustainable Consumption and the New Economics
4. Grassroots Innovations for Sustainable Consumption
5. Sustainable Food: Growing Carrots and Community
6. Sustainable Housing: Building a Greener Future
7. Sustainable Currencies: Green Money from the Grassroots
8. Conclusions: Seedbeds for Sustainable Consumption
The book conveys a cautious but positive outlook for the future of humanity. It shows that the transition from consumerism to sustainable consumption is only as complex and dangerous as we want to make it. This is a transition that should be faced and managed with due diligence, but without fear. There may be some surprises here and there, but nothing that humans cannot handle. There is no need for some earthshaking technological breakthrough to save the planet from oblivion, nor is there a need for some magic or witchcraft to overcome dark mysteries not accessible to the human mind.
The author argues, persuasively, that the transition from consumerism to sustainable consumption will in fact bring about opportunities for grassroots innovation and the social renewal of local communities, both of which that have been suffocated by the frenzied global growth of recent decades. And citizens in the local communities can still exercise their "global citizenship" via global networks such as the Global Ecovillage Network (mentioned in page 185).
The book recognizes the inevitable difficulties, but conveys an attitude of serenity in facing the future.
Technically, the content is informative, and the figures are good; but the most useful feature of this book may be the eleven tables that summarize the entire content in a form ready to be used in meetings and discussions. The tables are also amenable to adaptation depending on the audience and local circumstances. Table 1.1 (page 8) on theoretical approaches to consumer motivation, and Table 3.1 (page 62) on indicators of sustainable consumption, are synoptic jewels. This book is highly recommended for personal study and/or teaching at the high school and college levels.
This book has just been release by Peter Lang Publishers. The book reports "the emerging set of complex relationships between creativity, design, research, higher education and knowledge capitalism." The author is Michael Peters, Professor of Educational Policy Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. For more information about the content, click here.
Very comprehensive, 31 chapters grouped in 8 sections:
II. Six Areas of Greater Progress
III. Consumption, Population, and Poverty
IV. Conservation and Management of Natural Resources
V. Waste and Toxic Chemicals
VI. Land Use and Transportation
VII. International Trade, Finance, and Development Assistance
VIII. State and Federal Governance
Second Public Review Draft of the Unified Synthesis Product
Global Climate Change in the United States
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