Mother Pelican
A Journal of Sustainable Human Development

Vol. 7, No. 5, May 2011
Luis T. Gutiérrez, Editor
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The Coupling of Gender Equality & Clean Energy

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Two leaps forward are needed to attain the transition from consumerism to sustainability: a leap from sexism to gender equality, and a leap from fossil fuels to clean energy. The April 2011 issue was focused on gender equality for human development. This issue reiterates the need for gender equality and addresses another crucial need: the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy. It is argued that both issues are tightly coupled, and that jointly pushing for both gender equality and clean energy is the best global strategy at this point in human history.


The outline for this issue is as follows:

Page 1. Editorial Opinion ~ The Coupling of Gender Equality & Clean Energy
Page 2. Conscious Leadership for Sustainability, Barrett C. Brown
Page 3. Urgent Appeal to Change the Mindset, Roberto Bissio
Page 4. Do We Need a Scientific Revolution?, Nicholas Maxwell
Page 5. From Footprints to Thoughtprints, Stephen K. Goobie
Page 6. Ignorance or Compassion?, Heiner Benking
Page 7. Biological Diversity: A Common Heritage, Priyan D. Rajan
Page 8. Sustainability and Economics 101, Susan Santone
Page 9. How we live, David & Helga Orton
This issue also includes the following supplements:
Supplement 1: Advances in Sustainable Development
Supplement 2: Directory of Sustainable Development Resources
Supplement 3: SDSIM 1.5 to 2.0, Human Development, and Clean Energy
Supplement 4: Status of Gender Equality in Society
Supplement 5: Status of Gender Equality in Religion
Happy Mother's Day to all mothers on earth, and specially to those who take good care of their children without counting the cost!

Editorial Opinion

The Coupling of Gender Equality & Clean Energy

"Leap" by Jimpsie Ayres
Memphis, Tennessee, USA

Jimpsie Ayres works from a spiritual perspective. In this body of work, she strives to convey the value of servant leadership, of 'leading with the heart', and of walking in love, as Christ loved us.

Politicians generally plan for the next election. It is time for citizens to demand that politicians start planning for future generations. In fact, it is time to demand that politicians start planning for the next generation. And the time for citizens to start making such a demand is the next election in the USA and every other democratic country in the world. At a time when people in many countries are struggling to outgrow dictatorships, citizens in democratic countries should start acting in a socially responsible manner and remove politicians who fail to do so.

Leadership: Willingness to Leap Forward

Acting in a socially responsible manner takes generosity and courage. Generosity, because it requires a willingness to act for the common good rather than self-interest. Courage, because acting for the common good inevitably will bring about a reaction - and often a visceral reaction - from those who fear to lose privileges and the chance to accumulate even more privileges; and this can happen in both secular and religious milieux. Leaps forward are seldom devoid of danger. But is it time for ordinary citizens to learn that the more you give yourself away, the more you become who you are.

At this time in human history, all citizens of the world are called to leadership: the kind of leadership that entails leaping forward from apathy to action, from consumerism to sustainability, from ecological abuse to ecological justice. This includes, as Vandana Shiva has pointed out, reversing the situation in which "resources flow from the poor to the rich, and waste flows from the rich to the poor." Politicians won't do it. It is unreasonable to expect that they will do it on their own initiative. They won't do it until they get a mandate to do it. But the time of granting absolute power to anyone has passed, because "power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely" (Lord Acton). The leadership that will be needed for the "consumerism to sustainability" leap forward cannot be entrusted to a single individual or group. It will require some form of democratic global governance and the active involvement of all global citizens.

The Coupling of Gender Equality and Sustainable Development

Actually, two leaps forward are needed: one from sexism to gender equality, and another from fossil fuels to clean energy. The editorial for the April 2011 issue focused on gender equality for human development. The same reasoning will not be repeated here, but it boils down to answering a very simple question: how much longer can humanity afford to keep treating 50% of all humans as second-class citizens - if not worse? Sexism must be exorcised from all human relations in all kinds of institutions (including religion!) and sooner better than later. For Christians, the original unity of man and women has been not only restored but enhanced (Matthew 23:37, 27:51; Mark 16: 1-9; Luke 13:34; John 20:11-14). The veil in the temple has been split open, signifying the removal of all barriers between humans and God. The stone has been rolled away, exposing a tomb emptied of all barriers made by human hands. Sexism, like any other form of oppression, makes no sense after the resurrection. Twenty centuries later, what are we waiting for? For Christians and non-Christians alike, the signs of the times cannot be more eloquent. The leap forward from sexism to cross-gender solidarity is the only way forward - here and now.

Nuptial Covenant
Husband and Wife
Humanity and Human Habitat

Farid de la Ossa Arrieta
Sincilejo, Colombia
Another leap forward that is unavoidable is the transition from consumerism to sustainability. Overcoming sexism is also part of this other leap, for patriarchy corrupts both the husband-wife nuptial covenant and the humanity-planet nuptial covenant. In either case, a patriarchal corruption of the covenant induces a one-sided domination mentality, and the "stronger" side might seem to win for awhile but the "weaker" side eventually breaks or find ways of defense that are seldom conducive to sustain a mutually faithful covenant. A rubber band can be stretched up to a point, and then it breaks. Are we not getting to the point in which humanity is stressing the planet to the point of bringing about global warming, climate change, and other indications that the "rubber band" is about to break? The command to fill the earth and subdue it (Genesis 1:28) has been taken to mean "fill the earth and exploit it" while the command to tend and care for it (Genesis 2:15) is seldom mentioned. Indeed, most natural resources are treated in corporate balance sheets are "externalities" that have no value.

Sooner or later, humanity will have to face reality. But the current human predicament should not lead to the conclusion that the end of the world is around the corner. It may be, but only God knows when the "end of time" will come. In a recent article, Prophets of the Environmental Apocalypse, Peter Laarman has argued convincingly that the "end of time" is not to be expected as an inevitable result of the current problems facing humanity, no matter how severe they are or might become. And he concludes: "The End Is Near! But it is the end of a lifestyle that was weighted down with overconsumption in the first place. No need to be so grim and (dare I say it?) so apocalyptic in our approach to changing it up." If we really believe in a God that loves humanity, Tagore's insight is more reasonable: "Thy infinite gifts come to me only on these very small hands of mine. Ages pass, and still thou pourest, and still there is room to fill."

Clean Energy for Sustainable Development

The sensible thing to do is to let God be God and work for peace, justice, and a healthy planet for future generations. In conjunction with fostering gender equality, another key priority for sustainable development is clean energy. The transition from consumerism to sustainability cannot happen as long as institutions are driven by men alone, and it cannot happen unless we let go of our addiction to fossil fuels. Easier said than done, but it must be done. Politically, it is risky to say this, let alone push for concrete actions such as transferring subsidies from development of polluting energy to development of clean energy. Politicians who look at the energy flow chart for the USA - and the global flow chart would not be very different - would hesitate to push too hard for clean energy if they want to be re-elected. And yet, somehow it has to be done because both energy and the planet are needed for all human activity. It is self-evident that transitioning to clean energy will be salutary for the environment by reducing pollution. Furthermore, the transition
USA Energy Flow 2009
LLNL & Dept. of Energy
Livermore, California, USA
to clean energy will have a rippling multiplier effect throughout the worldwide socioeconomic system. It will reinforce the incentive for adaptation in all sectors of the economy, because all production systems need energy; and it will also foster a social evolution toward more planet-friendly lifestyles, because people will moderate extravagant consumption when they have to pay for the extravagance.

Global citizens need to push for laws that eliminate tax loopholes and free "externalities." Subsidies for polluting forms of energy must be cancelled, and it is encouraging to hear that Barack Obama, President of the USA, is urging Congress to actually do it. Technologies already exist for development of clean energy, and new technologies would certainly emerge if proper incentive is provided. Therefore, subsidies for clean energy must be increased as much as necessary to make it profitable in the short term; for this is the only way that we can bestow the legacy of a healthy planet to our children and our grandchildren. To this end, it would be timely to reconsider existing proposals that have been mostly ignored - or implemented only to a very limited extent - such as Henry George's proposal for a single land/resource value tax and Robley George's (no relation) proposal for minimum income and maximum wealth thresholds.

In brief, it is hereby proposed that jointly pushing for gender equality and clean energy via tax reforms is the best way to overcome the most complex and dangerous issues facing humanity: too much violence and too much waste. Let us pray and work ("ora et labora") for a critical mass of global citizens endowed with both generosity and courage to take risky leaps forward. Both society and religion will be enriched if we keep pushing for solidarity and sustainability. May the day come soon when we take to heart Tagore's parable of the beggar and the queen:

"Once there was a beggar who used to sit by the side of the road with a begging bowl. Most people went by and gave him nothing. A few would would drop a small coin, a piece of candy, or some other thing of little value. But one day the beggar saw the royal chariot coming his way, and he jumped up hoping to get a more generous gift.

"The chariot stopped before him, and what a surprise! Instead of giving him something, the queen leaped out of the chariot and extended his hands towards the beggar, asking for alms. The beggar was confused, and feared that the queen might be insulted if he gave her any of the trifles he had in the bowl. But the queen insisted, so out of his bowl he took one grain of rice and put it in the queen's hand. The queen accepted it graciously and went away in her chariot.

"In the evening, when he went back to his shack, the beggar emptied the bowl and noticed a small but glowing object among the coins and other donations he had received that day. Could this be a jewel? But who would give him a jewel? So he took it to a friend, who confirmed that it was a highly priced jewel - made of pure gold and diamonds - of the kind that would be found in the crown of a king or queen.

"Then the beggar started crying when he realized that, if he had given her everything he had in the bowl, now he would be the owner of many highly priced jewels, and he would not have to go begging anymore; for God is never outdone in generosity!"

Adapted from the works of Rabindranath Tagore (India, 1861-1941)


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