Recent issues have dealt with gender equality and clean energy as two necessary ingredients to attain the transition from cosumerism to sustainability. Other ingredients may be necessary, and it is impossible to isolate the combination of ingredients that would be sufficient. However, the ultimate goal of the transition must be made clear, and this goal is integral human development that can be sustained. All other goals, no matter how desirable and how legitimate, are to be pursued to the extent that they support integral human development. The term sustainable human development is defined as
development that promotes the integral human development of people today without compromising the integral human development of people tomorrow. This definition is patterned after the Brundtland Report (1987) and Amartya Sen (1999) definitions with additional of emphasis on the integration of the physical and psychological needs of people. Maslow's hierarchy of human needs is used as the basis for "integrating" human development. For each level in Maslow's hierarchy, some of the applicable interdisciplinary resources are mentioned and the effort required to use them is assessed, with emphasis on fostering gender equality and clean energy.
Integral Human Development
Integral human development (IHD) is a concept derived from Catholic social teaching. It entails holistic development of each human person, not in isolation but in solidarity with other people to foster justice and peace. Thus IHD entails holism, solidarity, and peace with justice:
Holistic: Integral Human Development promotes the good of every person and the whole person; it is economic, social, political,
cultural, ecological and spiritual. It also promotes the integrity of creation.
Solidarity: Integral Human Development promotes the rights and responsibilities of each person and of every person to one another.
Justice and Peace: Integral Human Development promotes a just and peaceful society that respects the dignity of every person.
Integral Human Development, Catholic Relief Services, 2008.
The concept of integral human development goes back to the emergence of Homo sapiens. It is certainly a biblical concept (Cf. Mark 8:36) rooted in the human vocation to be imago Dei. It encapsulates all dimensions of human well-being. It fully takes into account that humans must live in harmony with the human habitat. It is of course a central theme of Catholic social doctrine, but is by no means restricted to the Catholic ethos.
Definition of Sustainable Human Development
The Brundtland Report (1987) defines sustainable development as "a form of development which satisfies the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." Even though this was not necessarily the intent of the Brundtland Commission, sustainable development has been narrowly associated with economic development pursuant to meet the material needs of people. In his seminal work, Development as Freedom (1999), Amartya Sen put this misconception to rest by showing that the top priority is to enable people to develop their capabilities to the maximum possible extent. Sen perceives freedom (both physical and psychological) as fundamental for individual and social development.
recent presentation about the 2011 Human Development Report (due out November 2011), Eva Jespersen has proposed the following definition of sustainable human development: "The preservation – and whenever possible expansion – of the substantive freedoms and capabilities of people today while undertaking reasonable efforts to avoid risks that would seriously compromise the capability of future generations to have similar – or greater – freedoms." This is a further elaboration of Sen's definition to stress distributive justice, the need to ensure - as much as possible - the freedoms required for further development of human capabilities, and the need for careful analysis of the risks and uncertainties associated with technological development and plans for required substitution of resources. It is a good step forward, both conceptually and analytically. However, it is possible to go even further.
The term sustainable human development is defined here as development that promotes the integral human development of each and every human person today without compromising the integral human development of people tomorrow. This definition is patterned after the Brundtland Report (1987) and Amartya Sen (1999) definitions, albeit with additional of emphasis on the integration of the physical, psychological, and spiritual needs of people. People need bread, but they need more than bread. People need respect and esteem, but they still need more. People need freedom to develop their talents and capabilities, but they also need to use freedom and capabilities responsibly. People need to grow in solidarity with others, for it is only in self-giving to others that humans become fully human. This fundamental insight, which is shared by all ethical and religious traditions, must be kept in mind at all times; for sustainability without solidarity is a social impossibility.
"The part cannot be well until the whole is well." Plato, 428-348 BCE
Maslow's Hierarchy of Human Needs
Abraham Maslow (USA, 1908-1970) created the "hierarchy of human needs" in the 1940s. Maslow's model explicitly takes into account the physiological, safety, emotional, love/belonging, esteem/self-esteem, and self-actualization stages of integral human development. The hierarchy of human needs is usually represented as a pyramid, with the most basic needs at the bottom and the socialization needs at the top. There are many variations of the pyramid: one is shown to the right and others can be easily found. Going upward, the progression for each human being is to satisfy (1) the basic physical and physiological needs, (2) the need for safety and security, (3) the need psychological well-being, (4) the need for self-actualization (self-esteem, social responsibility), and (5) the need for self-giving to others which, if lived to a heroic degree, leads to people like Francis of Assisi and Teresa of Calcutta. For further discussion of Maslow's "levels of human development" - and other models of human development - the reader is referred to the May 2010 issue of Mother Pelican. It is suggested that
embracing the ethic of solidarity is practically impossible under level 3, and generally requires level 4. What about sustainability?
Outgrowing Homo economicus and becoming Homo solidarius
The ethic of solidarity is basically the ethic of reciprocity. In the Christian tradition, it is also known as the Golden Rule, i.e., "do to others whatever you would like them to do to you" (Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31). The ethical concept of solidarity in modern economics started with the publication of Ethics and the National Economy (Heinrich Pesch SJ, 1918). Outgrowing Homo economicus, and becoming Homo solidarius, basically entails applying the Golden Rule to economic decision-making. In one form or another, the Golden Rule is recognized as a basic norm of human behavior in
most religious traditions. It is, however, seldom practiced in today's economic world of neo-liberal capitalism. Homo economicus must become Homo solidarius. People must adapt to the ethic of solidarity. Institutions must adapt to the same ethic. It is hard for people to change as long as institutions don't change, and institutions don't change because people don't change. This is the vicious cycle that must be broken.
"Do to others|
you would like them
to do to you."
Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31
See also Luke 10:30-37
Outgrowing Homo economicus and becoming Homo ecologicus
An ethic of solidarity is also needed in the relationship between humanity and the human habitat. Actually, taking good care of the planet is but one application of the ethic of solidarity; for abusing the planet eventually leads to harming people. This has been so the emergence of Homo sapiens (Genesis 2:15), and remains true today; except that today the harm done to people is more observable in terms of health and climate change impacts. Therefore, becoming Homo solidarius and becoming Homo ecologicus is one and the same process. Human solidarity is meaningless if it excludes taking good care of the very natural resources that are indispensable for human survival. Another term for Homo ecologicus is Homo sustinens, i.e., humans capable to living in a sustainable manner. Again, people must adapt to the ethic of sustainability, and institutions must adapt to the same ethic. Else, the vicious cycle of extravagant consumerism and resource exploitation will lead to an increasingly unsustainable outlook for human civilization.
"Is it not enough for you|
to feed on the good pasture?
Must you also trample the rest
of your pasture with your feet?
Is it not enough for you
to drink clear water?
Must you also muddy
the rest with your feet?"
Dimensions of Sustainable Human Development
Two dimensions of sustainable human development are crucial going forward: gender equality and clean energy. Gender equality is crucial because it is the most universal form of human solidarity. As long as cross-gender solidarity is lacking, how can we expect any other form of solidarity to be sustainable? Clean energy is critical because the environmental predicament confronting humanity is fueled by the burning of fossil fuels. As long as we keep abusing the planet, how can we expect any level of human development to be sustainable?
Transition from Gender Inequality to Gender Equality
It is hard to imagine sustainability without solidarity, and it is hard to imagine sustainable solidarity without gender equality:
As Amartya Sen has pointed out, "development that is not engendered in endangered." The wisdom of this statement is confirmed in the World Health Organization's Getting to grips with gender inequality and many other analyses and reports, notably the United Nations' Human Development Reports and Human Development Index.
Transition from Fossil Fuels to Clean Energy
The following time frame was initially offered for consideration in the June 2011 issue of this journal, and has been further refined as follows:
Note: The following acronyms, and terminology are used in this transition concept and subsequent discussion:
A brief synopsis of this transition concept is provided below. For further energy transition analysis click here.
Financial Transaction Tax (FTT)|
Global Citizens Movement (GCM)
Human Development (HD)
Human Development Index (HDI)
Human Development Report (HDR)
Integral Human Development (IHD)
Land Value Tax (LVT) or Resource Value Tax (RVT)
Maslow's Hierarchy of Human Needs (MASLOW)|
Non-Governmental Organization (NGO)
Principle of Solidarity (SOLIDARITY)
Principle of Subsidiarity (SUBSIDIARITY)
Principle of Sustainability (SUSTAINABILITY)
Sustainable Development (SD)
Sustainable Human Development (SHD)
There are four phases in this transition concept:
- The first phase (2011-2020) is concientization to enable incentivation. The objective is to create widespread popular support for the required revisions of tax codes and energy subsidies. In other words, the first phase is about creating a collective mindset of social responsibility. The global citizens movement has received new impetus with the recently launched Widening Circles initiative. The new ISO 26000 guidelines on social responsibility can also be instrumental in fostering a mindset of solidarity and sustainability in business and government.
- The second phase (2021-2030) is incentivation to enable redistribution. The objective is to reform tax codes and energy subsidies to expedite the transition to clean energy. Applicable reforms include shifting taxes from earned income to unearned resources (via "Land Value Taxes" or, more generally, "Resource Value Taxes") and taxing financial transactions of dubious social value (via "Financial Transaction Taxes"). These resource usage revenues and financial transaction revenues should be set high enough to yield a surplus after public services and clean energy subsidies. This surplus should then be distributed to all citizens via a guaranteed basic income (next phase).
- The third phase (2031-2040) is redistribution to enable democratization. The objective is to institutionalize democracy with distributive justice. Applicable reforms include adopting a Universally Guaranteed Personal Income (i.e., a basic minimum income rather than a minimum wage) and a Maximum Allowable Personal Wealth (i.e., an upper limit on financial wealth accumulation) that can be adjusted periodically. This democratic reform is required to reverse the unsustainably widening rich-poor gap but should not be confused with state socialism. Minimum income and maximum wealth thresholds are to be used as checks and balances against both left-wing and right-wing extremism.
- The fourth phase (2041-2050) is democratization with widely institutionalized solidarity, sustainability, and subsidiarity. The principle of subsidiarity has already been included in the constitution of the European Union. It prescribes decisions to be made at the lowest possible level consistent with governance capabilities and the common good of the global commonwealth. In other words, a world government would only act (i.e. make laws) if, and only if, any possible action by individual countries is insufficient. Keeping the peace between nations, and formulating laws pursuant to the ecological integrity of the planet, are the two areas where some form of democratic global governance is required. Global problems require global solutions. National problems require national solutions. Local problems require local solutions. There may be regional problems that require regional solutions.
These four phases are further analyzed in the Status of the Transition to Clean Energy supplement (still work in progress). The four phases are sequential to some extent, but overlaps and iterations are to be
expected. Clearly, the concientization phase should start immediately but will have to be sustained indefinitely. It is hard to envision the incentivation and redistribution phases happening sequentially. Only God knows if a global democracy can be achieved by 2050, but we must try. The biggest temptation, for nations as well as individuals, is to succumb to cynical pessimism.
Human Development is not Free
Freedom is required for human development, but human development is not free. Experience confirms that human capabilities tend to decrease in dictatorial states. But even under total freedom, human development takes human effort and integral human development even more so. The era of "externalities" ("free" natural resources) is rapidly coming to an end, and so is the era of extravagant energy consumption at a low cost. It will not be simply a matter of working longer hours and postponing retirement until age 75, although some such adjustments may become necessary. What is bound to increase is the investment in mental and emotional effort, because people will need to adapt their ways of thinking and behaving to changing conditions. In making decisions they may be compelled to think about the common good and act accordingly. The consequent inner conflicts may in turn induce many to undertake the inner journey earlier in life. This is more difficult than simply running around in pursuit of material gratifications, for it requires overcoming fear: "It takes more courage to dig deep into the dark corners of one's own soul than it does for a soldier to fight on the battlefield." (William Butler Yates, Ireland, 1865-1939)