Mother Pelican
A Journal of Solidarity and Sustainability

Vol. 11, No. 11, November 2015
Luis T. Gutiérrez, Editor
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Sustainable Development: From Oxymoron to Reality

Art by Frits Ahlefeldt, Hiking Artist, Flickr/CCL
THE 2015 & 2030 GOALS

"The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro is worth mentioning. It proclaimed that “human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development”.[126] Echoing the 1972 Stockholm Declaration, it enshrined international cooperation to care for the ecosystem of the entire earth, the obligation of those who cause pollution to assume its costs, and the duty to assess the environmental impact of given projects and works. It set the goal of limiting greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere, in an effort to reverse the trend of global warming. It also drew up an agenda with an action plan and a convention on biodiversity, and stated principles regarding forests. Although the summit was a real step forward, and prophetic for its time, its accords have been poorly implemented, due to the lack of suitable mechanisms for oversight, periodic review and penalties in cases of non-compliance. The principles which it proclaimed still await an efficient and flexible means of practical implementation." Pope Francis, Laudato Si' # 167

"The Conference of the United Nations on Sustainable Development, “Rio+20” (Rio de Janeiro 2012), issued a wide-ranging but ineffectual outcome document. International negotiations cannot make significant progress due to positions taken by countries which place their national interests above the global common good. Those who will have to suffer the consequences of what we are trying to hide will not forget this failure of conscience and responsibility. Even as this Encyclical was being prepared, the debate was intensifying. We believers cannot fail to ask God for a positive outcome to the present discussions, so that future generations will not have to suffer the effects of our ill-advised delays." Idem # 169

What will happen with the 2030 SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS?


Editorial Essay: Sustainable Development: From Oxymoron to Reality
The Care-Centered Economy - Part 4: Rediscovering what has been taken for granted, by Ina Praetorius
Setting Things Straight for the Steady State, by Brian Czech
The Decoupling Debate: Can Economic Growth Really Continue Without Emission Increases?, by Mark Burton
Appropriate Scarcity, by Robert Herendeen
The Creators of Poverty, a Complementary Truth, and Sundry Consequences, by Carmine Gorga
UN Reviews Development Goals, But Again Ignores Population Growth, by Joseph Chamie
Experts Reflect on the State and Future of Research on Family Planning and Environmental Sustainability, by Vicky Markham
Polya's Laws of Economics Expose Neoliberal Capitalism, by Gideon Polya
Global Goals: The truth about poverty and how to address it, by Rajesh Makwana
A Perspective on Uncertainty and Climate Science, by Marcia Wyatt
For Sustainable Energy, Choose Nuclear, by S. Fred Singer
The Pope, Patriarchy, and Saving the World, by Linda Gordon
'Be Joyful, Though You Have Considered the Facts', by Avi Lewis
Is Pope Francis an Ecofeminist?, by Susan Rakoczy
Is Patriarchy the Religion of the Planet?, by Susan Shaw
Nuptial Complementarity in the Priesthood and the Episcopate, by Luis Gutierrez


Advances in Sustainable Development (news, pubs, tools, data)
Directory of Sustainable Development Resources (1000+ links)
Strategies for Solidarity and Sustainability (mitigation/adaptation)
Best Practices for Solidarity and Sustainability (business/governance)
Fostering Gender Balance in Society (peace, food, health, energy)
Fostering Gender Balance in Religion (religious traditions, spirituality)

Sustainable Development: From Oxymoron to Reality

This month we try to summarize some basic concepts are realities that pertain to sustainable development and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the context of cultural evolutionary trends and the encyclical Laudato Si' (LS).

The Oxymoron

The concept of infinite material growth in a finite planet is an unrealistic oxymoron. More realistic is the concept of degrowth followed by steady state population and consumption, which is fully compatible with unlimited inner growth of each and every human person (LS # 18, 109, 191). In terms of fostering international cooperation, the SDGs are the best we have, but they are not sufficient unless the idol of material growth is dismantled (LS # 167, 169).

The Root-Cause of the Ecological Crisis

The root-cause of the ecological crisis is the patriarchal concept of irresponsible domination of nature, which became the prevailing culture in conjunction with the agricultural revolution, was further exacerbated by the industrial revolution, and is now driving the information revolution (LS 102, 114, 126; the term "patriarchy" is not used, but is alluded to, cf. 67, 82, 83). It is not realistic to expect that technological breakthroughs will enable humanity to continue doing "business as usual" for a long time (LS # 1o 11, 189).

Sustainable Development Realities

Sustainable development realities are about human needs and desires: the need to sustain our physical bodies, to engage in personal relations with others, to grow and mature intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. Integral human development is the one reality that really matters (LS # 5, 15, 18). An integral ecology to enable human development to unfold is the one biophysical condition that really matters (LS # 137ff). Continued focus on GDP growth, with most of the proceeds ending up in extravagant comsumption affordable to the few at the expense of the many, is silly and increasingly counterproductive for the common good (LS # 156ff). The sensible alternative is for people to balance self-interest and the common good; and this, in turn, requires integral development of the entire human person to the point of internalizing social and ecological ethics as the norm rather than the exception. This is the beginning and the end of sustainable development (LS # 231, 240).

Human Nature and the Book of Nature

Human nature is material and spiritual. Human beings are fully integrated body-souls and must integrally develop as body-souls rather than as either soulless bodies or disembodied souls. Furthermore, "the book of nature is one and indivisible, and includes the environment, life, sexuality, the family, social relations, and so forth. It follows that the deterioration of nature is closely connected to the culture which shapes human coexistence" (LS # 6).

Families and the Human Family

Human nature is male and female. From the beginning of human history, the family has been "the basic cell of society" and both the fountain and the school of life (LS # 142, 157, 213). The current evolution from the old patriarchal family to a new family shaped by joint male-female (father-mother) headship is a sign of hope. When a sense of man-woman solidarity is learned in the family, it will propagate to all dimensions of human relations, in families and in the entire human family. "We need to strengthen the conviction that we are one single human family. There are no frontiers or barriers, political or social, behind which we can hide, still less is there room for the globalization of indifference" (LS # 52). Lamentably, advances in gender equality are still seen as a threat in some secular and religious institutions (cf. LS # 50, 155). The very real differences between man and woman should never be a pretext to ignore their fundamental unity in one and the same human nature. Humanity is male and female, not male or female. Family headship should be male and female, not male or female. This is crucial for sustainable and integral human development to go beyond oxymoronic rhetoric and become a tangible reality.

Transition to Solidarity and Sustainability

The ecological crisis entails both danger and opportunity. Nobody really knows how things are going to work out. However, it is helpful to place the unfolding transition in perspectice, using the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as points of reference. The 2000-2015 MDGs were pursued in a global "business as usual" (BAU) mode, meaning neoliberal capitalism and "development" understood as more stuff for more bodies. It seems that the same BAU will prevail in the 2015-2030 time frame of the SDGs.

Specifically, the forthcoming UN Conference on Climate Change (COP21, Paris, 30 November to 11 December, 2015) seems headed in this direction. According to reports emerging from preliminary meetings, the "developed" nations are pushing for minimizing the use of fossil fuels regardless of "undeveloped" nations legitimate aspirations for economic growth, while the latter are asking for massive financial aid as compensation for damage already inflicted by industrial pollution. Data about "climate change" and "global warming" continues to be manipulated so as to support alarmist/denialist claims, while the concept of "development" remains bounded to having more and spending more, with minimal consideration given to issues of peace with justice, integral human development, and integral ecology. In other words, the oxymoronic BAU scenario continues to prevail, while we remain blind to the realities of people struggling to make ends meet.

A more realistic scenario would be one that prescribes zero tolerance for wars, mandates social and ecological justice, and from these derives the agreements to be worked out and the actions to be taken. However, as long as there is no politically viable global authority (LS # 175) to keep the peace and arbitrate conflicts in conformance with the priciples of solidarity, subsidiarity, and sustainability, it is hard to imagine that the 2030 SDGs will be more successful than the 2015 MDGs. Working out all the necessary checks and balances between levels of governance and competing vested interest will be painful, but it is not impossible and should be done if we are to attain a civilized transition. It is time to face reality, and this is reality: "no pain, no gain."

The Clock of History

Where are we in the clock of human history? After the agricultural revolution, the industrial revolution, and the information revolution, hopefully we are now on the threshold of a radical cultural revolution (LS # 114) whereby human actions become more guided by the common good and less so by self-interest alone. A concrete sign of hope is the current evolution from the old patriarchal family to a new family structure shaped by joint male-female (father-mother) headship. May this transition in family relations eventually translate to a new system of governance for the entire human family. From the nuclear family to the family of nations, we need institutions of participative governance that "govern best by governing least" (Henry David Thoreau).

Reviews of Pope Francis' Laudato Si' encyclical on the care of our common home continue to appear worldwide, reflecting a wide spectrum of agreement, disagreement, and alternative proposals. The following are some of those published during October 2015:

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what time it is on the clock of the world."

Grace Lee Boggs (1915-2015)


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