Mother Pelican
A Journal of Sustainable Human Development

Vol. 7, No. 2, February 2011
Luis T. Gutierrez, Editor
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Technological Innovation for Human Development



The time of reckoning is coming when we must face the consequences of technological innovation geared to maximization of short-term profits regardless of social and ecological impacts. There is increasingly increasing objective evidence that we are systematically destroying the human habitat. Some (usually the most vulnerable) people are already experiencing the consequences.

Technological innovation is necessary to buy time for the human adaptation process to unfold, but the required human adaptation will not come to pass unless human development becomes top priority for all institutions, secular or religious. This entails overcoming resistance to change, fostering nonviolence and gender equality, and eradicating extreme poverty. Citizens worldwide must exert pressure to infuse government institutions with political will. Citizens worldwide must exert pressure on businesses - especially corporations - to stop the practice of treating natural resources as "externalities" that do not count as part of the cost of doing business, and get started on practices such as the triple bottom line. And believers worldwide must exert pressure on religious institutions to lead by example, especially by overcoming patriarchy, refraining from consumerism, and allowing women to serve in roles of religious authority.

Let us pray that technological innovation will buy enough time for human adaptation to hatch before it is too late, and let us all stop pointing fingers at each other and start working together for the glory of God and the common good of humanity.


The outline for this issue is as follows:

Page 1. Editorial Opinion ~ Technological Innovation for Human Development
Page 2. 2011: The year we’ll hit 7 billion, by Lisa Hyman
Page 3. A Conversation on Happiness, by Derek Ross
Page 4. Human Dignity and Diversity Training, by Susan Clark
Page 5. Globalization and Collective Violence, by Thomas Scheff
Page 5. Assessing the Impact of Increased Global Food Prices on the Poor, by Sara Gustafson
Page 6. The Biology of Globalization, by Elisabet Sahtouris
Page 7. Cancun Technology Breakthrough Should Deal with a Fatal Flaw Within, by Promode Kant
Page 7. An Ethical Analysis of the Cancun Climate Negotiations Outcome, by Donald Brown
Page 8. Sex and Nonviolence, by Symon Hill
Page 9. A Synopsis of Socioeconomic Democracy, by Robley George
This issue also includes updates of the following supplements:

Supplement 1: Advances in Sustainable Development, is a monthly snapshot of significant recent contributions to in-depth understanding of the sustainable development process in general and integral human development in particular. This supplement includes the following items:

1. Suggestions for Prayer, Study, and Action
2. News, Publications, Tools, and Conferences
3. Advances in Sustainable Development
4. Advances in Integral Human Development
5. Advances in Integrated Sustainable Development
6. Recently Launched Games and Simulation Tools
7. Visualizations of the Sustainable Development Process
8. Sustainable Development Modeling and Simulation
9. Sustainable Development and the International Community

Supplement 2: Directory of Sustainable Development Resources is an annotated directory of online resources on sustainable development and related issues. Links are provided to selected online content in the following categories:

1. Population and Human Development
2. Cultural, Social, and Security Issues
3. Financial, Economic, and Political Issues
4. Ecological Resources and Ecosystem Services
5. Renewable and Nonrenewable Energy Sources
6. Pollution, Climate Change, and Environmental Management
7. Land, Agriculture, Food Supply, and Water Supply
8. Current Outlook for the Planet and Human Civilization
9. Transition from Consumerism to Sustainability

Supplement 3: Sustainable Development Simulation (SDSIM) - General Description is the documentation and user's guide for SDSIM Version 1.4, organized as follows:

1. The Sustainable Development Paradox
2. Sustainable Development Simulation Scenarios
3. SDSIM Version 1.4 Causal Loop Diagram
4. SDSIM Version 1.4 Model Diagram
5. SDSIM Version 1.4 Mathematical Formulation
6. SDSIM Version 1.4 User Interface
7. SDSIM Version 1.4 Simulation Results
8. SDSIM Version 1.4 Comparative Analysis & Synthesis
9. SDSIM Version 1.4 Limitations & Pending Issues

Supplement 4: Budapest Call for Climate Justice, World Council of Churches, 12 November 2010.

Editorial Opinion

Technological Innovation for Human Development

Starting January 2011, National Geographic is publishing a series of articles on population growth and the environment. The first article, 7 Billion - By 2045 global population is projected to reach nine billion. Can the planet take the strain?, is a survey of the mutual interactions between humanity and the human habitat. The conclusion is right on target: there is no need to panic yet, but be aware that a major global crisis is likely unless current trends of production and consumption change dramatically. In other words, keep in mind the precautionary principle.

The precautionary principle is about choosing to act or not to act with due consideration of potential consequences on human life. There is no crystal ball. It is a matter of taking into account the common good of humanity and acting responsibly under conditions of uncertainty. Specifically, decisions pursuant to technological innovation must be driven by human needs; and not only by basic human needs such as food and shelter but by the profound need to integral development of each and every human person. In terms of Maslow's terminology for human development, this means giving each person the opportunity to attain self-actualization.

Technology, Globalization, and People

Technology is "the usage and knowledge of tools, techniques, crafts, systems or methods of organization in order to solve a problem or create an artistic perspective." And, the history of technology is "the history of the invention of tools and techniques, and is similar in many ways to the history of humanity." With mounting objective evidence that the human habitat is under stress, technology can and should be used to solve the most daunting problem humanity currently faces, i.e., how to transition from consumerism to sustainability. It is not reasonable to expect that technology alone can provide a complete solution, but it is reasonable to expect that technology will be part of the solution. Furthermore, it follows from the precautionary principle that technology can and should be used resolve the problem and should not be used to exacerbate the problem.

As anyone who has surfed the web knows, the transition from consumerism to sustainability must happen in the context of another transition, which is already underway. Globalization is "the process by which regional economies, societies, and cultures have become integrated through a global network of political ideas through communication, transportation, and trade." Globalization is an irreversible process, and transitioning from consumerism to sustainability is a global problem that will require global solutions. The precautionary principle certainly applies to solving local and national issues; even more so to global issues, for pollution and climate change are orthogonal to political boundaries. People everywhere have some basic consumption needs. Consumption requires production of goods and services. People and production require energy and generate waste. The global accumulation of waste eventually saturates the global environment and induces environmental degradation. And, sooner or later, ecosystem services also degrade and natural resources are depleted to the point in which the quality of human life is also detrimentally affected. To think that this is not an anthropomorphic process is an exercise in denial.

The fact is that the global economy and international trade are driven by homo economicus, i.e., by the incentive of financial profit. Technology can help to mitigate environmental impacts, but it cannot help in the transition from homo economicus to homo ecologicus, let alone a transition from homo economicus to homo solidarius. To clarify:

Homo economicus makes decisions on the basis of financial self-interest alone.
Homo ecologicus makes decisions taking into account both self-interest and the ecological common good.
Homo solidarius makes decisions taking into account both self-interest and the general common good,
where "general" includes all dimensions of integral human development and the good of humanity.

More specifically, technology cannot resolve the issue of natural resources being treated like "externalities" that are not counted as part of the cost of doing business. As Thomas Malthus pointed out long ago, people tend to be "inert, sluggish, and averse from labour, unless compelled by necessity." (An Essay on the Principle of Population, 1798, page 195) As long as the human habitat is treated as a "free lunch," there can be no global solution to the impending economic and ecological crisis. Perhaps, as Malthus wrote, it is the height of folly to expect homo economicus to become homo solidarius. But the transition from homo economicus to homo ecologicus is rapidly becoming a necessity.

Incentives for Technological Innovation

In the January 2011 edition of Technology Review, the following are listed as the top ten emerging technologies:

  • Real-Time Search: Social networking is changing the way we find information
  • Mobile 3-D: Smart phones will take 3-D mainstream
  • Engineered Stem Cells: Mimicking human disease in a dish
  • Solar Fuel: Designing the perfect renewable fuel
  • Light-Trapping Photovoltaics: Nanoparticles boost solar power's prospects
  • Social TV: Relying on relationships to rebuild TV audiences
  • Green Concrete: Storing carbon dioxide in cement
  • Implantable Electronics: Dissolvable devices make better medical implants
  • Dual-Action Antibodies: Fighting cancer more efficiently
  • Cloud Programming: A new language will improve online applications
  • If and when they materialize, any of these technologies can be used improve the quality of life for those who can afford them. But none of these technologies have much potential for supporting sustainable human development for all people in the context of global change. Why? Because the current incentives for technological innovation are profit, more profit, and only profit; and sooner rather than later. With very few exceptions, nothing else matters in the real world. Take a look, for example, at the following recent study: Supply Chain Chiefs: Sustainability Isn’t Key (Environmental Leader, 11 January 2011) Most business executives are still driven not only by profits, but by profits "one quarter at a time." This leads to operational concepts such as "lab to market" in the scientific research community and "time to market" in the business community; and this kind of profit-driven expediency is a constant temptation that leads to disasters such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill (see the USA GPO Oil Commission Report, January 2011).

    Old habits die hard, but awareness is gradually increasing that the single-minded fixation on profits must be overcome, and it must be overcome for good business reasons:

    "At a recent stockholders 'meeting of a major oil company, a move to adopt environmentally sustainable practices was voted down on the grounds that the company 's responsibility was to stockholders, not to any kind of "social experiment." This is a laughably shortsighted view. In fact, capitalism itself is a social experiment, and not a very old one. Its continued health depends on a developing global system that produces not only goods but customers: healthy, secure, and cash-bearing customers with the means and capacity to make choices. They will not flourish in depleted, polluted, and desperate conditions." David H. Marks, The Business of Sustainability, Technology Review, 10 October 2003.

    In a recent report, Earth System Science for Global Sustainability: Grand Challenges, the International Science Council proposes the following as "grand challenges" for science and technology:

  • Forecasting: Improve the usefulness of forecasts of future environmental conditions and their consequences for people.
  • Observing: Develop, enhance and integrate the observation systems needed to manage global and regional environmental change.
  • Confining: Determine how to anticipate, recognize, avoid and manage disruptive global environmental change.
  • Responding: Determine what institutional, economic and behavioural changes can enable effective steps toward global sustainability.
  • Innovating: Encourage innovation (coupled with sound mechanisms for evaluation) in developing technological, policy, and social responses to achieve global sustainability.
  • Note the forecasting-observing-confining-responding-innovating sequence, which is a process for integrating technology, policy making, and the natural and social sciences pursuant to maximization of human benefit for all people on earth. This re-thinking of incentives leads to serious consideration of concepts such as triple bottom line accounting, which "means expanding the traditional reporting framework to take into account ecological and social performance in addition to financial performance." But there is much resistance to actually implementing any such practice, and it is reasonable to anticipate that such resistance will remain entrenched as long as homo ecologicus is suppressed by homo economicus. In this regard, globalization can be a blessing in disguise as it helps both producers and consumers worldwide to understand that taking the common good into account is in their best self-interest, even from a purely financial perspective; and the common good includes the conservation of the human habitat. This newly emerging awareness is duly noted in National Geographics' 7 Billion article.

    Technological Innovation for Sustainable Human Development

    "Nothing in our glittering technology can raise man to new heights, because material growth has been made an end in itself, and, in the absence of moral purpose, man himself becomes smaller as the works of man become bigger. Gargantuan industry and government, woven into an intricate computerized mechanism, leave the person outside. The sense of participation is lost, the feeling that ordinary individuals influence important decisions vanishes, and man becomes separated and diminished.

    "When an individual is no longer a true participant, when he no longer feels a sense of responsibility to his society, the content of democracy is emptied. When culture is degraded and vulgarity enthroned, when the social system does not build security but induces peril, inexorably the individual is impelled to pull away from a soulless society. This process produces alienation--perhaps the most pervasive and insidious development in contemporary society."

    Martin Luther King, Jr
    The Trumpet of Conscience, 1967, pp. 43-44

    It is understandable that, back in 1967, this great man was not concerned about using gender-sensitive language. But the essence of the message quoted above is that it is time for technological innovation to become more human-centered. This is where homo solidarius enters the picture. It is not simply a matter of conserving the human habitat in order to be able to exploit it further for the sake of extravagant consumerism. Mitigation of environmental impacts is certainly a legitimate incentive that should be supported by replacing current fossil fuel subsidies with subsidies for environmental remediation and clean energy technologies. But, beyond mitigation, adaptation will be required in order to attain the transition from consumerism to sustainability. Such adaptation is contingent on people worldwide pressuring their secular and religious leaders to "keep what is good, let go of what is bad." (1 Thessalonians 5:19-32) The current lack of political will to ratify and implement global agreements for mitigation of environmental impacts (Copenhagen, Cancún) is appalling. It is a shame that the United States of America has yet to ratify the Kyoto Protocol because "it is bad for business." Interestingly the USA has never ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1979. Is this also bad for business?

    Even more shameful is the persistence of luxury and "religious pomp and circumstance" in some religious bodies, notably the Roman Catholic church and the Eastern Orthodox churches. It is saddening to see religious institutions corrupted by money, power, honors, and pride; to the point of making the ordination of women an offense comparable to the sexual abuse of children. As St. Ignatius Loyola pointed out centuries ago, money leads to honors, which leads to pride, which leads to all forms of corruption (Spiritual Exercises, 142) including the abuse of power and authority. Simply pontificating about Genesis 2.15 is no longer acceptable. Leading by example is required, today more than ever, in order to foster integral human development of the kind that leads to a mindset of human solidarity as is required for adaptation of human behavior.

    Not that everything that comes from the Vatican is bad. For instance, in his 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus, Pope Paul II stated that "besides the earth, man's principal resource is man himself." The vexing persistence of gender-insensitve language notwithstanding, this is a good thought. It would have been more appropriate for him to say that "human beings - male and female - are humanity's principal resource." But it is well know that at the Vatican they suffer from "phallus-is-sacred syndrome." The pope can be forgiven for his lack of gender-sensitive language, embedded as he was in an institution with a legal code that includes Canon 1024: "Sacram ordinationem valide recipit solus vir baptizatus." ("Only a baptized male validly receives sacred ordination.") The perpetuation of this theologically baseless patriarchal practice does harm to both men and women, and therefore degrades and constraints humanity's "principal resource."

    "Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. Tradition lives in conversation with the past, while remembering where we are and when we are and that it is we who have to decide. Traditionalism supposes that nothing should ever be done for the first time, so all that is needed to solve any problem is to arrive at the supposedly unanimous testimony of this homogenized tradition." Jaroslav Pelikan, The Vindication of Tradition, Yale University Press, 1984, page 65, and interview in U.S. News & World Report, 26 July 1989

    Well, if papal behavior is so driven by entrenched old habits, who can blame business executives who suffer from "profit-is-sacred syndrome"? Perhaps humanity is not ready for homo solidarius. But it is imperative for homo economicus to become homo ecologicus, and the sooner the better. Everything seems to indicate ("signs of the times") that this is the splendid plan that God has for humanity in the 21st century. Individuals and small groups can do a lot, but the role of both secular and religious institutions is pivotal. As any other human activity, technological innovation is guided by both secular and religious motivations. Conversely, most obstacles to human development are institutional. It is at the level of institutions that the process of human-centered technological innovation must unfold.

    The Path from Consumerism to Sustainability

    The path from consumerism to sustainability requires human-centered technological innovation. Technological innovation that is guided solely by vested financial interests and is therefore insensitive to human/social needs - including a healthy human habitat - is part of the problem rather than part of the solution. In an article published in the January 2011 issue of Sustainability, the authors provide a good synopsis of the scope, complexity, and urgency of the problem:

    "This article explores the complex relationship between environmental regulation, innovation, and sustainable development within the context of an increasingly globalizing economy. The economic development, environment, and employment aspects of sustainable development are emphasized. We contend that the most crucial problem in achieving sustainability is lock-in or path dependency due to (1) the failure to envision, design, and implement policies that achieve co-optimization, or the mutually reinforcing, of social goals, and (2) entrenched economic and political interests that gain from the present system and advancement of its current trends. The article argues that industrial policy, environmental law and policy, and trade initiatives must be 'opened up' by expanding the practice of multi-purpose policy design, and that these policies must be integrated as well. Sustainable development requires stimulating revolutionary technological innovation through environmental, health, safety, economic, and labor market regulation. Greater support for these changes must also be reinforced by 'opening up the participatory and political space' to enable new voices to contribute to integrated thinking and solutions." The Importance of Regulation-Induced Innovation for Sustainable Development, Nicholas A. Ashford and Ralph P. Hall, Sustainability, January 2011

    At a recent international conference on science and faith in Goa, India, a priest who works at the Vatican pointed out that "the Catholic Church is not against science and technology but in fact encourages and promotes it as long as it takes care of the integral development of human beings." He also said that "progress and development has to be accompanied by solidarity, especially in the marginalized part of the world." The article further states that "various ethical, sociological and moral issues that crop up as science and technology advance in the modern world were also discussed." For instance, another speaker explained "how the Catholic Church is attempting to come to terms with some shocking developments in the field of stem cell research." What is it that is "shocking"? What is really shocking is that the largest religious institution on earth has indulged in consumerism as much as everyone else, and has been prompt to cover up sexual abuse of minors. For an institution that is accustomed to a glacial pace of change, there have been no delays in embracing consumerism and hiding abuses of authority, but there is hesitation in matters such as stem cell research and gender equality. Why is it that they are so eager to build huge churches and so hesitant about having women in roles of religious authority? For more on this:

    Woman, Church, and State, Matilda Joslyn Gage, Chicago: Charles H. Kerr & Company, 1893
    On Reserving Priestly Ordination for Men Alone, Pope John Paul II, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1994
    Eve's Seed: Biology, the Sexes, and the Course of History, Robert S. McElvaine, McGraw-Hill, 2001
    The Papal No: The Vatican's Refusal to Ordain Women, Deborah Halter, Crossroad, 2004
    Put the Blame on Eve: What Women Must Overcome to Feel Worthy, Melinda J. Rising, Larson Publications, 2010

    A conference on The UN Millennium Development Goals, the Global Compact, and the Common Good will be held at the University of Notre Dame, 20-22 March 2011. Pope Benedict XVI, in the 2009 encyclical Caritas in Veritate, acknowledges the fact that free global trade has created massive amounts of wealth but laments the fact that so many people have no possibility of sharing in that wealth and exist in dire poverty." Lamentably, he fails to acknowledge that the exclusion of women from the ordained priesthood reinforces the patriarchal mentality of domination that is the root cause for many other forms of domination, including domination by way of economic hegemony and international trade manipulations. The path from consumerism to sustainability passes through every human being - men and women alike - and it cannot be overemphasized that neither secular nor religious institutions have an infinite amount of time to resolve this issue.

    The Future is Now

    Courtesy of Bizarro Cartoons

    The time of reckoning is coming when we must face the consequences of technological innovation geared to maximization of short-term profits regardless of social and ecological impacts. There is increasingly increasing objective evidence that we are systematically destroying the human habitat, as illustrated by Bizarro's cartoon on human evolution. Some (usually the most vulnerable) people are already experiencing the consequences, as shown vividly in When the Water Ends.

    Technological innovation is necessary to buy time for the human adaptation process to unfold, but the required human adaptation will not come to pass unless human development becomes top priority for all institutions, secular or religious. This entails overcoming resistance to change, fostering nonviolence and gender equality, and eradicating extreme poverty. Citizens worldwide must exert pressure to infuse government institutions with political will. Citizens worldwide must exert pressure on businesses - especially corporations - to practice the triple bottom line. And believers worldwide must exert pressure on religious institutions to lead by example, especially by overcoming patriarchy, refraining from consumerism, and allowing women to serve in roles of religious authority. For religion has a profound influence in all matters of socioeconomic and ecological justice, including choices for technological innovation:

    "The metaphors by which we live, derivative of religious perspectives, shape the ways in which we are engaged with the world around us. This is particularly evident in matters pertaining to consumption and population, factors in the calculus of global sustainability. Increasing concern over the past quarter century with environmental degradation has been paralleled by interest in the relation of religion to a developing environmental ethic. Such interest has called for sensitivity to the religious perspectives of all people, an interest that is promoting involvement in inter-religious dialogue. The significance of this for public policy comes in three areas: growing interest in patterns of social relationships, ecojustice or the way in which we live out social relationships, and growing reflection on the essential nature of religion for value formation in public life." Religion and the Quest for Equity in Consumption, Population, and Sustainability, Rodney L. Petersen, Bulletin of Science, Technology, and Society, June 1999.

    Let us pray that technological innovation will buy enough time for human adaptation to hatch before it is too late, and let us all stop pointing fingers at each other and start working together for the glory of God and the common good of humanity.

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