Note: Items in this page are updated as information is received and as time permits. If the reader knows about new pubs/tools that should be announced in this page, please write to the Editor.
1. Suggestions for Prayer, Study, and Action
SUGGESTION FOR PRAYER
A Prayer for Humanity
And now, father/mother of us all,
I ask you to bless all of humanity.
We need your wisdom, your guidance.
You see, for so long,
humans have worked to destroy each other,
and many people only feel comfortable
when given power over others.
Bless them, show them the peace I understand;
teach them humility.
For I fear they will someday destroy themselves
and their children
as they have done so to Mother Earth
I plead, I cry.
After all, they are my sisters and brothers...
"Tracing Connections is for anyone who’s ever wondered how Systems Thinking can be effectively used to significantly and successfully transform education, business, public policy, and research. "In ten chapters, teachers, World Bank Executives, corporate consultants, researchers and college professors lead the reader through an amazing spectrum of applied System Thinking that leads to unexpected realizations and critical understanding.
"Our bodies are archives of sensory knowledge and laboratories in which to retool our senses and practices in response to changing circumstances. If global environmental changes continue at an unsettling pace, how will we make sense of the cascade of new normals, where the air, land, and water around us are no longer familiar?
"The book tackles this question by exploring situations in the recent past when state-driven megaprojects and regulatory and environmental changes forced people to cope with radical transformations in their work and home environments. The construction of dams, chemical plants, nuclear reactors, and military training grounds; new patterns in seasonal rains; and developments in animal husbandry altered the daily lives of ordinary people and essentially disrupted their embodied understandings of the world.
"This study offers a timely and prescient perspective on how humans make sense of the world in the face of rapid environmental, technological, and social change.
Report on the World Social Situation 2010: "Rethinking Poverty"
Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), United Nations, 2010
"Rethinking Poverty, the 2010 issue of the Report on the World Social Situation (RWSS2010) seeks to contribute to rethinking poverty and its eradication. It affirms the urgent need for a strategic shift away from the market fundamentalist thinking, policies and practices of recent decades towards more sustainable development- and equity-oriented policies appropriate to national conditions and circumstances. Responsible development and counter-cyclical macroeconomic policies to foster productive investments and generate decent employment must be at the core of this effort.
"The Report makes a compelling case for rethinking poverty and poverty-reduction efforts, saying that over-reliance on market forces and economic liberalization have led to neglect of nationally designed and developmentally-oriented strategies, to the detriment of the world’s poor. The most important lesson is that governments need to play a developmental role, integrating economic and social policies that support inclusive output and employment growth, while attacking inequality and promoting justice."
"Sustainability, by Stuart W. Rose, describes the massive changes happening in the world, an example of a sustainable housing project, and a vision of what sustainable living will be. An architect and developer of what many consider the most sustainable housing development in the U.S., Rose introduces the exciting, ever-changing world of sustainability, a way of life that includes creating homes and communities with materials that do no harm to, and take nothing away from, the earth's resources. He reveals how sustainable living goes beyond being ecologically and financially friendly, while saving on utility bills, and leads to a different, yet more joyful quality of life. Also fascinating is the author's recounting of architectural developments leading to his innovations, such as Garden Atriums evolving from a design created 2,500 years ago. Rose has created a book that is as much an adventure as it is encouragement for everyone desiring to live a sustainable and more fulfilling life. In this comprehensive book, readers will learn about:
A detailed picture of the global transformation that's happening;
Architectural designs from ancient China adapted for use today;
The role of currencies and governance in sustainable living;
Living sustainably in a way that's more satisfying that today's lifestyle;
Debunking the myths around alleged difficulties of sustainable living."
"The aim of this book is to provide a representation of research
findings in an accessible form for practitioners within the public,
business and the wider community sectors. We hope readers
will delve deeper into the academic papers listed at the end of
each chapter. There is much more available on our website and
we invite readers to contact our lead authors for our most recent
work. General comments can be directed to
"This book does not pretend to cover all aspects of sustainability.
It leaves out many great ideas, experiments and successes. It
does not address biophysical science, for example in climate
change, biodiversity, soils, land and urban ecosystems; that is a
feature of the work of New Zealand’s Crown Research Institutes.
Instead our research has focused on supporting New Zealand’s
and international capacity for sustainable development. We
believe that capacity has now, in C.S. Lewis’s words, begun to
hatch. We hope the insights within this book will continue to
help individuals, organisations and communities to transition
from the potential of the egg to the flight of the bird."
"Worldwatch's flagship publication, State of the World, has educated a broad audience of students, journalists, policymakers, and concerned citizens about trends in sustainable development for a quarter century. The book has been published in 36 languages, and over the years it has authoritatively assessed issues ranging from population, energy, and agriculture to materials use, health, and trade policy. Topics are covered from a global perspective, with an emphasis on innovation and problem-solving. State of the World is recognized as a classic of environmental literature, having attracted luminaries from Kofi Annan to Mikhail Gorbachev to write forewords for the book. News media, policymakers, and NGOs worldwide cite the book for its cutting-edge analysis, reliability, and careful documentation of its arguments, all marshaled to speed the global transition to a sustainable world."
For the PelicanWeb's book review of State of the World 2010, click here.
The Three Ds: Democracy, Divinity, and Drama
By Bruce A. Burton, Castleton State College, Vermont Published by Synerg Ebooks, 2010
"When we account for the thousands of years of written and institutional woman-hating right up to Democracy’s current struggle with religious despotisms, it is historically evident that where the genders shared equally, such as in the production of food, as in Neolithic societies in the Near East and America-where women domesticated and cultivated and men watered crops- Democracies flourished and Universal Peace prevailed. THE 3 DS was written, therefore, in response to the historical and to today’s continuing religious violence against women, and as an answer to Aristotle’s Iron Age negative view of women which continues to influence so many of our University and College graduates in religion, literature, drama, and philosophy today – and as a statement of confidence that Democracy based on Gender Balance will prevail against the current challenge of international terrorism in the name of religion and pave the way, for what can only be after these many thousands of years, a more humane future for the human family."
What is open-sustainability? "Open-sustainability is an approach that applies information-centric techniques to solve challenges related to sustainable development. It leverages an integrated solution approach, combining the Framework for Integrated Sustainable Development (FISDev) tool with a five phase sustainability governance framework, both of which are open-source tools freely accessible and collaboratively developed. They work in concert to enable commercial business models for sustainability and Social media business models around online advertising and e-learning. A corporate organization for open-sustainability.com exists to provide these service, but works in coordination with other organizations providing the same services."
Victoria Ingabire Umohoza, Candidate for President, Rwanda
"Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza born 3 October 1968 is a Rwandan politician. She is the Chairperson of the Unified Democratic Forces (UDF) a coalition of Rwandan opposition parties with a large base of active members in Rwanda, Europe,United States of America and in Canada. She has been elected by the political council of her party as the official candidate for the next presidential election in Rwanda in August 2010.
"Since 1997, Victoire is involved in the struggle of the Rwandan political opposition in exile. Her objective is to introduce to her country, Rwanda, the rule of law and a constitutional state where international democratic standards are respected, where nationalism will at last be the cornerstone for all public institutions and as well as in all aspect of life in Rwanda. Her political activities are centered around the idea of a state of justice where individuals choose their associations based on their shared political aspirations rather than their ethnic or regional background."
15-year review of the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995) and the outcomes of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly (2000)
For the more information about Beijing+15 and CSW54, click here.
Point of contact: UN Division for the Advancement of Women, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The World Survey on the Role of Women in Development is the flagship publication of the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women. The theme for the World Survey in 2009 is "Women’s control over economic resources and access to financial resources, including microfinance."
Human Development Report 2010
"Rethinking Human Development"
From the UNDP HDR 2010 web page:
"Human development is about putting people at the centre of development. It is about people realizing their potential, increasing their choices and enjoying the freedom to lead lives they value. Since 1990, annual Human Development Reports have explored challenges including poverty, gender, democracy, human rights, cultural liberty, globalization, water scarcity, climate change, and mobility.
"The 2010 report will seek to articulate an agenda for change to underpin a New Human Development Deal that can significantly advance development thinking and policies. It will incorporate thinking from academia and the policy world as well as new research to be commissioned or undertaken by the Human Development Report Office. It will place significant emphasis on the knowledge that comes from developing countries and regions, in particular that garnered through the national and regional human development reports. This emphasis reflects the belief that placing people at the center of development also implies putting people at the center of the generation of knowledge about development, and that this is best achieved by understanding how communities and local actors understand the practice of development."
It is time for the human propensity to avoid responsibility, and the common practice of finger pointing, to give way to collaborative efforts driven by human solidarity and a willingness to assume responsibility for individual and institutional actions. This is an area in which ICT can be helpful if properly used. A good example is the analysis of large interdependency matrices. This kind of analysis is useful in understanding both sequential and closed-loop interactions in complex systems. Let us consider the system of all the ESD activities and all the MDG activities, a total of 16 activities as follows:
ESD1-Education on Gender Equality
ESD2-Education on Human Health
ESD3-Education on Environmental Management
ESD4-Education on Rural Development
ESD5-Education on Cultural Diversity
ESD6-Education on Human Security
ESD7-Education on Sustainable Urbanization
ESD8-Education on Sustainable Consumption
MDG1-Eradication of Poverty and Hunger
MDG2-Universal Education for all Children
MDG3-Promotion of Gender Equality
MDG4-Reduction of Infant Mortality
MDG5-Improvement of Maternal Health
MDG6-Mitigation of the HIV Epidemic
MDG7-Assurance of Environmental Sustainability
MDG8-Global Partnership for Development
The PSM32 matrix analysis software, developed by Donald Steward and associates at Problematics, provides a convenient way to enter data on interdependencies between activities of any kind. When the tool is launched, the analyst must first list the activities in any order. Then the software builds a blank NxN square matrix that enables the analyst to enter data on interdependencies between activities. Basically, in the blank matrix shown below, a mark is entered in cells such that a mark in cell (row i, column j) represents a dependency of row activity i on input to be supplied by column activity j.
16x16 blank matrix built by PSM32 showing the ESDs and MDGs and rows and columns.
Courtesy of Problematics
The marks can be entered directly in the matrix. As a preliminary step, it is often a good practice to prepare a block and arrow diagram showing the input and output information flows that connect all the activities. Then, after all the stakeholders have validated the web of interdependencies, each arrow going into an acitivity can be captured in the matrix by entering a mark in cell (row i, column j) where the column j activity is the supplier of information to the row i activity. In other words, the marks are entered at the points where an arrow from activity j delivers information to activity i. The following figure shows 4 steps of analysis that are possible after the diagram of dependencies is converted to matrix format:
Steps 1 to 4 in the analysis of ESD activities and all the
MDG activities interdependencies using
Step (1) is building a diagram of dependencies between the 16 activities. Step (2) is the translation to a 16X16 matrix format. Each column entry shows what row activities are fed by the column activities. Numbers and/or colors can be used to indicate how sensitive the row activities are to inputs from the column activities. Plus and minus signs can be used to depict positive (reinforcing) or negative (stabilizing) feedback loops. For instance, the plus signs in the MDG8 column indicate that progress in MDG8 has a reinforcing effect on all the ESDs. Step (3) shows the rows and columns reordered so that the matrix becomes block-triangular, i.e., all activities are shown in square blocks around the diagonal. Activities within blocks are usually tightly coupled together and may have to be iterated several times before proceeding to the next block. Step (4) is a sanity check on all the dependencies and feedbacks.
This block-triangular matrix was derived (using Don Steward's PSM32 software tool) by setting up a 16x16 square matrix -- with the rows and columns being the eight ESDs and the eight MDGs -- and entering marks in those cells for which the column item provides input to the row item. Then the matrix is partitioned via row and column operations so as to identify the blocks of that should be worked out together. The arrows are added to show that there is a feedback loop between ESDs and MDGs as the sustainable development process unfolds.
Once the basic structure of activity interdependencies is understood, additional critical factors can be inserted for further analysis. The next figure shows the insertion of integral human development (IHD) as the the result of activities in the preceding blocks; and IHD is the ingredient that actually fuels the reinforcing feedback from the MDGs back to the ESDs.
Matrix expanded to show IHD as the critical axis of the ESD-MDG system
This 17x17 matrix is a concise representation of all the interdependencies between the ESDs, between the MDGs, and between the ESDs and MDGs. The yellow block includes all the ESD themes, which should be integrated together such that every theme includes dependencies on all the other themes; otherwise, the order in which they are listed is not essential. The next block around the diagonal (red) includes MDGs 1, 8, 2, 7, and 3; and includes nested blocks for MDGs 1, 8, 2, and 7 (blue) and MDGs 1 and 8 (green). The lowest block down the diagonal (orange) includes MDGs 4, 5, and 6, which improve in response to 1-8-2-7-3 block and in turn have a reinforcing effect on the same block.
This is an illustration of the kind of integration needed in education and planning for sustainable development. Managing the sustainable development process requires interdisciplinary knowledge integration. It requires integration of projects at the local, national, and global levels. For instance, at the global level, issues of population growth, ecological economics, and climate change need to be integrated so as to avoid costly failures and delays. Computers, and software such as PSM32, make this kind of integration possible. There is much to be gained in terms of the common good of humanity and the conservation of the human habitat. Indeed, integration requires some collaborative effort, but it is much better than pointing fingers and looking for scapegoats to avoid responsibility as global citizens.
The Millennium Village Simulation (MV Sim), developed by the Columbia University's Center for New Media Teaching & Learning (CCNMTL) and the Columbia Earth Institute, is very appealing because it supports learning about pursuing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) under conditions of extreme poverty in Africa.
According to the MV Sim web site, "the MV Sim (short for Millennium Village Simulation) was created as a teaching tool to help students appreciate the complexity of meeting the MDGs in a rural African setting, and to experience the interdisciplinary nature of sustainable development. The MV Sim does not strive to be a perfect replica of a real village; indeed, many of Africa's challenges (such as HIV/AIDS) are not present in the simulation. Instead, the MV Sim purposefully incorporates only a select set of issues to make it a manageable educational tool that models challenges cutting across the disciplines of agronomy, public health, environmental science, and economics."
The tool is freely accessible on the web, and an excellent tutorial is available and embedded below. Just click on the arrow to get started. While taking the tutorial, clicking on the four outgoing arrows (next to last in the bottom tool bar) switches to full screen mode.
Click here to register and give it a try. The simulation entails making periodic decisions about work and consumption of basic necessities by a poor familiy. After the family succeeds in sustainable living, the simulation allows for participation in sustainability decisions for the entire village. During a given simulation run, the user is given periodic reports on sustainability status for the family and village based on previous decisions, including graphs of the decisions made over time. Help text is available at each step. In addition, links are provided to access maps and other online sources of sustainable development information.
In the Maps and Graphics Library, there is (as of 5 March 2010) an amazing collection of 1841 graphics, a collection of interactive maps, and a collection of graphs from the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. These are global collections, but there are options to search by region, country, and themes (Freshwater Systems, Climate Change, Waste, Pollution,
Biodiversity & Conservation, Environment & Poverty, Environment & Security, and Urban issues). All these maps and graphics can be downloaded and used for free albeit subject to the disclaimer, copyright and usage conditions. Links are provided to other collections of maps and graphics such as DatabasiN, Globalis, the Arctic Environmental Atlas, the Marine Geophisical Data Maps (UNEP), the Baltic Environmental Atlas, and the University of the Arctic Atlas.
Click on the image to view a larger image
Percent Annual Population Growth - Africa & World
Source: UNEP DEWA/GENEVA GEO-3 and UNEP/GRID-Arendal Maps and Graphics
Cartographer: H. Ahlenius
Click on the image to view a larger image
Global Footprint: A Planet in Ecological Debt as of 2008
Source: Global Footprint Network and UNEP/GRID-Arendal Maps and Graphics Cartographer: R. Pravettoni
Samples from the Collection of Maps & Graphs, UNEP/GRID-Arenda Web Site
Click on the image to view a larger image
Millions of undernourished children projected in 2050
Source: 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and UNEP/GRID-Arendal Maps and Graphics Cartographers: P. Rekacewicz & E. Bournay
Click on the image to view a larger image
Actual and Projected Energy Demand 1980-2030
Source: International Energy Agency WEO 2008 and UNEP/GRID-Arendal Maps and Graphics
Cartographer: R. Pravettoni
Kingston, Jamaica, will be the host city for the World Council of Churches' International Ecumenical Peace Convocation in 2011.
The convocation will meet under the theme "Glory to God and peace on earth". It will be the culmination of the WCC's Decade to Overcome Violence (DOV), which has sought to network and bring attention to the peacemaking initiatives of its various member churches.
9. Sustainable Development and the "Second Wave" of System Dynamics
System Dynamics is a method for analyzing the "behavior over time" of complex systems to the extent that it is generated by the system's endogenous feedback loop structure. The origins of System Dymanics can be traced back to Norbert Wiener, who in 1948 published his famous book, Cybernetics: Or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine. Others followed, including
Jay W. Forrester and his group (especially Willard R. Fey) at the MIT Sloan School of Management. It was Forrester who - in the late 1950s and early 1960s - coined the term System Dynamics and formulated the recursive mathematics needed to simulate the dynamic behavior of nonlinear feedback-driven systems in digital computers.
This "first wave" of System Dynamics was a significant breakthrough that led to many new insights, such as the counterintuitive behavior of social systems, an enhanced awareness about the global limits to growth, and many other applications in practically all disciplines. However, as it is often the case with "first waves," the enthusiasm created by the new modeling and simulation method also led to naive claims about System Dynamics having a "prescriptive capability" to improve real-world system behavior by changing information flows and feedback loops in accordance with the results of simulation experiments. These presumptious claims were wisely challenged by many in both academic institutions and other private/public policy-making groups. For some additional material on "first wave" System Dynamics applied to sustainable development, click here.
A "second wave" of System Dynamics has been incubating since the 1980s in which the method is proposed more for collaborative learning and communication and less for policy-making prescriptions. This "second wave" was triggered by "first wavers" such as Donella Meadows' (see her self-critique of the Limits to Growth project and her insistence on balancing systems thinking with global citizenship), Barry Richmond (who wrote a novel guide to systems thinking and developed the user-friendly
STELLA software), and Peter Senge (author of The Fifth Discipline and other books about organizational learning).
The following are suggested as basic references about the "second wave" of System Dynamics:
According to Barry Richmond, there are eight critical skills in systems thinking:
high altitude thinking, to gain a view of the interdisciplinary "big picture" rather than intradisciplinary minutiae
system-as-cause thinking, to include only the factors that interact to generate the behavior of interest
dynamic thinking, to visualize behavior patterns over time, i.e., behavior modes rather than specific events
operational thinking, to capture how the system parts interact to generate the behavior patterns of interest
closed-loop thinking, to identify the web of feedback loops that link together all the interacting parts
scientific thinking, to use math models/simulation experiments as hypotheses linking behavior to feedback webs
emphatic thinking, to communicate working hypotheses effectively for individual/organizational learning
generic thinking, to understand how certain feedback structures generate the same behavior across disciplines
These critical skills apply to "systems thinking" in general, and in particular to System Dynamics. Let us consider the global human civilization-human habitat system in a "limits to growth" context. Keeping in mind that any system analysis is but a simplified abstraction from the real-world system, application of the eight skills, and in particular the "closed-loop thinking" and "scientific thinking" skills, lead to something like the following:
Closed-loop diagram and simulation experiment for the human civilization-human habitat system
Colors: blue=population, red=resources, pink=financial capital, green=pollution, yellow=human capital
The "high altitude thinking" and "system-as-cause" skills lead to the causal-look diagram on the left. The causal-loop diagram is a hypothesis based on "dynamic thinking" about system behavior (see examples in Section 6 of this page) and "operational thinking" about how the subsystems interact. The simulation plot on the right is the behavioral counterpart of the causal-loop diagram. Both together constitute a working hypothesis about why the real-world system behaves as it does. It is noted that the simulation plot does not show a dark-yellow pattern for human capital (or integral human development, IHD). This indicates that the hypothesis does not yet include the operational effect of intanglible, but highly influential, cultural factors.
Then, "emphatic thinking" is required to communicate this hypothesis to all the stakeholders and see how it bounces, in order to learn and explore options for improved system management. In this scenario, the learning and exploring probably should include further elucidation of how the blue, red, pink, and green sectors interact with culture and human development. It is good System Dynamics practice to make visible both what is included and what is not included in the hypothesis. The "generic thinking" process is not shown, as it comes into play when formulating the stock and flow equations required to generate the simulation. To provide further visibility, it would be shown in diagrams at a lower level of decomposition. The entire System Dynamics method is then one of collaborative learning and communication. It may support decision-making and policy-making as confidence increases on the validity of the working hypothesis; but this is beyond the System Dynamics method per se.
For applications of System Dynamics to the sustainable development process, see chapters 8 and 10 of Tracing Connections. For additional references, including Learning Environment: Limits to Growth - The 30-Year Update, click here.
The next challenge for System Dynamics is to take into account the intangible (cultural) factors that really matter for resisting/fostering the transition from consumerism to sustainability. The STELLA "graph functions" provide the required software functionality, but these ceteris paribus nonlinearities are yet to be identified and quantified. This is the splendid challenge awaiting the "third wavers."