Mother Pelican
A Journal of Solidarity and Sustainability

Vol. 12, No. 10, October 2016
Luis T. Gutiérrez, Editor
Home Page
Front Page


Advances in Sustainable Development


This supplement attempts to be a radar screen for recent/emerging/forthcoming advances in sustainable development. In selecting items for this supplementary page, priority is given to information about publications and tools with an educational and human-centric focus. This update includes the following reminders that sustainable development has a human face:

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. Sustainability Games, Databases, and Knowledgebases
7. Sustainable Development Measures and Indicators
8. Sustainable Development Modeling and Simulation
9. Fostering Sustainability in the International Community
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.



2015-2030 Sustainable Development Goals, United Nations

Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Finalized text for adoption, United Nations, 1 August 2015

Historic New Sustainable Development Agenda Unanimously Adopted by 193 UN Members, United Nations, 25 September 2015

Libraries and Implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda, International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA), 8 December 2015

An Action Plan for the Sustainable Development Goals, Douglas Frantz, OECD, 27 April 2016

Framework for Understanding SDG Interactions, Draft, ICSU, June 2016

New tool for designing SDG strategies released , Millennium Institute, 10 August 2016

For the latest on the SDGs, visit the Post-2015 and Future Goals Tracker and DELIVER2030 websites, and the SDG Targets Tracker

1. Suggestions for Prayer, Study, and Action


Prayer for the Care of Creation

10.16.SACRAMENTAL.ECOLOGY.jpg O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned
and forgotten of this earth,
who are so precious in your eyes...
God of love, show us our place in this world
as channels of your love
for all the creatures of this earth...
God of mercy, may we receive your forgiveness
and convey your mercy throughout our common home.
Praise be to you!

Pope Francis, September 2016


Climate Change & Demographic Realities

See also Toward a Small Family Ethic, Travis Rieder, Springer, 2016


Collaborate in Fostering Global Change for the Common Good


2. News, Publications, Tools, and Conferences



Sustainability Science (PNAS)

Science of the Anthopocene

The Anthropocene Review


Environmental Research Letters

Progress in Industrial Ecology

Environmental Leader

Sustainable Development Magazine

Monthly Energy Review

The Environment Nexus

Energy and Climate News

BURN Energy Journal

Environmental News Network

Planet Ark
World Environmental News

Mother Earth News

Climate Action News

Sustainable Development Media

World Pulse


Environmental Science & Technology


WiserEarth News

New Internationalist

The Global Journal

Trade & Environment Nexus

Yes! Magazine

Human Development News

Science Daily
Earth & Climate News
Sustainability News
Science & Society News

International Institute for
Sustainable Development (IISD)
Reporting Services

Policy-Strategy Coverage

Sustainable Development Policy & Practice
Sustainable Development - Small Islands
Biodiversity Policy & Practice
Climate Change Policy & Practice
Energy Policy Issues
Multilateral Environmental Agreements
Earth Negotiations Bulletin

Theme Coverage

Sustainable Development
Biodiveristy & Wildlife
Chemicals Management
Climate & Atmosphere
Forests - Deserts - Land
Human Development
Intergovernmental Organizations
Trade & Investment
Water - Oceand - Wetlands

Regional Coverage

Lating America & Caribbean
Near East
North America
South West Pacific

Rio+20 Coverage

Sustainable Development Conference
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
4-6 June 2012

United Nations News Service
Rio+20: Making it Happen
UN Sustainable Development News
UN Gender Equality News

Value News Network

Catholic News Service

Anglican Communion News Service

Ekklesia Christian News Bulletin

Religion News Service

LiveScience News

Inter Press Service (PSI)

Triple Bottom Line
CSR News

The Progress Report

Global Health News

Kosmos Journal

Environment & Technology
Scholarly Journals

Environment & Society Section
American Sociological Association


Eldis Development Newsfeeds

General - all subjects

Newsfeeds by Subject

Ageing populations
Aid and debt
Children and young people
Climate Change
Climate adaptation
Corporate responsibility
Finance policy
Food security
Health systems
ICT for development
Influencing policy
Jobs, Events and Announcements
Manuals and toolkits
Trade policy

Newsfeeds by Region

East Asia and Pacific
Latin America and Caribbean
Middle East and North Africa
South Asia



State of Nature 2016
RSPB, UK, September 2016

World Population Data Sheet 2016
Population Reference Bureau, 2016

Frontiers in Decadal Climate Variability
National Academy of Sciences
July 2016

Annual Energy Outlook 2016
Energy Information Administration
July 2016

The Future of Jobs
World Economic Forum, July 2016

State of the World's Children
UNICEF, June 2016

Pollution in People
Environmental Working Group
June 2016

2016 Multidimensional Poverty Index
Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative
June 2016

2016 Global Peace Index
Institute for Economics and Peace
June 2016

The Price of Privilege
ActionAid, April 2016

Global Trends in
Renewable Energy Investment

UNEP, March 2016

Next Generation Earth System Prediction
NAS, March 2016

World Happiness Report
UNSDSN, 20 March 2016

One Humanity: Shared Responsibility
UN Secretary General
World Humanitarian Summit
May 2016 (Draft)

Global Trends & Opportunities
2016 and Beyond

SustainAbility, February 2016

Transitioning Toward Sustainability:
Advancing the Scientific Foundation

National Academy of Sciences
January 2016

World Economic
Situation and Prospects

UNDESA & UNCTAD, January 2016

Automation & Connectivity:
The Fourth Industrial Revolution

UBS/WEF, January 2016

Digital Dividends
World Development Report 2016

World Bank, January 2016

Global Risks Report 2016
World Economic Forum (WEF)
January 2016

Dirty Toys Made in China
Global Labor and Human Rights
December 2015

Call for an Ethical Framework for Climate Services
WMO, 12 November 2015

2015 Energy Trilemma Index
World Energy Council, November 2015

Global Wealth Report 2015
Credit Suisse, October 2015

The Challenge of Resilience
in a Globalised World

Joint Research Centre, EU, October 2015

Climate Change and the U.S. Energy Sector
US Department of Energy, October 2015

Pathways to Deep Decarbonization
UN SDSN, October 2015

Playing to Win:
The New Global Competition
for Corporate Profits

McKinsey Global Institute, September 2015

America's Future:
Environmental Research and Education
for a Thriving Century

NSF, September 2015

2015-16 State of the Future
Jerome C. Glenn, Elizabeth Florescu, et al
Millennium Project, 2015

Transforming our World: The 2030
Agenda for Sustainable Development
Finalized text for adoption,
United Nations, 1 August 2015

World Water Development Report
United Nations, July 2015

World Population Prospects
United Nations, July 2015

Climate Change: A Risk Assessment
Centre for Science and Policy
Cambridge University, July 2015

Democratic Equality, Economic Inequality,
and the Earth Charter

Steven C. Rockefeller
Earth Charter, 29 June 2015

Climate Change in the United States:
Benefits of Global Action

EPA, June 2015

Renewables 2015
Global Status Report

REN21, June 2015

Demographic Vulnerability Report
Population Institute, June 2015

FAO and Post-2015:
Nourishing People,
Nourishing the Planet

FAO, May 2015

Global Financial Stability Report
IMF, April 2015

World Happiness Report
United Nations, April 2015

National Footprint Accounts
Global Footprint Network, March 2015

Health & Fracking:
Impacts & Opportunity Costs

MEDACT, March 2015

Global Sustainable Investment
Clean Technica, 26 February 2015

World Report 2015
Human Rights Watch, 12 February 2015

Short-Term Renewable Energy Outlook
U.S. EIA, 10 February 2015

Global Risks Report 2015
WEF, January 2015

World Energy Outlook 2014
IEA, 12 November 2014

Beyond Downscaling:
A Bottom-Up Approach
to Climate Adaptation
for Water Resources Management
AGWA, October 2014

2014 Global Hunger Index
IFPRI, October 2014

The New Climate Economy
United Nations, September 2014

Living Planet Report 2014
Global Footprint Network, September 2014

Sustainable Development Goals
and Inclusive Development

UNU-IAS, September 2014

Sustainable Development Goals
and Indicators for a Small Planet
Part II: Measuring Sustainability

ASEF, August 2014

The Plain Language Guide
to Rio+20: Preparing for the
New Development Agenda

Felix Dodds et al, 28 July 2014

Human Development Report 2014
UNDP, 24 July 2014

Millennium Development Goals
Report 2014

UNDP, 7 July 2014

Global Sustainable Development
Report (GSDR)

UN DSD, 1 July 2014

Agreeing on Robust Decisions:
New processes for decision making
under deep uncertainty

World Bank, June 2014

Early Childhood Development:
The Foundation of
Sustainable Human Development
for 2015 and Beyond

UN SDSN, 4 May 2014

What’s In A Name?
Global Warming vs Climate Change

Yale Environment, May 2014

World Health Statistics 2014
WHO, 2014

The Arctic in the Anthropocene:
Emerging Research Questions
, National Academy of Sciences, 2014

Annual Energy Outlook 2014
US EIA, 30 April 2014

Global Trends in
Renewable Energy Investment 2014

UNEP-Bloomberg, April 2014

International Human Development Program
Annual Report 2013

IHDP, April 2014

Momentum for Change 2013
UNFCCC, 2014

Global Gender Gap Index 2013
WEF, April 2014

NAPAs and NAPs in
Least Developed Countries

Gabrielle Kissinger & Thinley Namgyel
ECBI, March 2014

Water & Energy 2014
United Nations, 21 March 2014

Inclusive and Sustainable
Industrial Development

UNIDO, March 2014

What We Know:
The Reality, Risks, and Response
to Climate Change

AAAS, March 2014

The State of Natural Capital
UK NCC, March 2014

Women's Lives and Challenges:
Equality and Empowerment since 2000

USAID, March 2014

Climate Change: Evidence & Causes
NAS/RS, 27 February 2014

Beyond 2014 Global Report
ICPD, 16 February 2014

World Youth Report 2013:
Youth Migration and Development

UN-DESA, 14 February 2014

State of the World's Children 2014
UNICEF, January 2014

Global Land Use:
Balancing Consumption
with Sustainable Supply

UNEP-IRP, January 2014

Sustainability Investment Yearbook 2014
RobecoSAM, January 2014



Input-Output Tables for
Regional Footprint Analysis

NTNU/TNO/SERI, January 2015

Sustainable Society Index 2014
SSI, 17 December 2014

CAIT Equity Explorer
WRI, October 20114

WBCSD Tools Box

Post-2015 SDGs Target Database
Project on Sustainability Transformation
Ministry of the Environment, Japan

Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA)
Sustainable Development Evaluation Tool

UNDP, 16 September 2014

2014 Global Peace Index (GPI)
Institute for Economics and Peace, 2014

UN CC: Learn Climate Change
United Nations, 2014

Global Consumption Database
World Bank, 2014

LEAP Scenario Explorer:
Long-range Energy Alternatives Planning

Stockholm Environmental Institute, 2014

Momentum for Change Interactive
UNFCCC, 2014

Sustainable Human Development Index (SHDI)
IFMR LEAD, Tamil Nadu, India

Environment & Gender Index (EGI)

Livelihood Strategies
Knowledge Bank

Development Cafe

Global Forest Watch System
World Resources Institute

WomanStats & World Maps
WomanStats Project

Scenario Modelling and Policy Assessment Tool

European Union

OPEN EUOne Planet Economy Network
European Union

Constitutional Gender Database
UN Women

OpenGeoSci Maps
GeoScience World

Earth Data Website


2013 Legatum Prosperity Index
Legatum Institute

Global Slavery Index 2013
Walk Free Foundation

Food Policy Network Resource List
School of Public Health
Johns Hopkins University

Water Change Modelling System

Earth Charter Virtual Library
Earth Charter Initiative

Resource & Documentation Centre
European Gender Equality Institute

Climate Justice Research Database
Mary Robinson Foundation

Distribution Centre

Climate Data, Simulations, and Synthesis
Data on Related Socio-Economic Factors

Nitrogen Footprint Calculator
ECN & Oxford University

Exploring Oil Data
Open Oil

Sustainability SWOT (sSWOT) Analysis Tool
World Resources Institute

CAIT Climate Data Explorer
World Resources Institute

Sustainable Technologies Databases
EWBI International

Renewable Energy Interactive Map

Global Transition to a New Economy
Interactive Map

New Economics Institute

Map of Climate Think Tanks

Energy Access Interactive Tool

Long Range Energy Alternatives
Planning System (LEAP)

SEI Energy Community

Industrial Efficiency Policy Database

Technology Cost Database for Renewables

Mapping the Global Transition
to a New Economy

New Economics Institute

Open Source Software for
Crowdsourcing for Energy Analysis


Adaptation Support Tool

Terra Populus:
Integrated Data on
Population and Environment

NSF & University of Minnesota

Environmental Performance Index
Interactive Map & Database

EPI, Yale University

Environmental Data Explorer

Clean Energy Information Portal

Mapping the Impacts of Climate Change

Eye on Earth
Global Mapping


Database of Actions on Adaptation
to Climate Change


Climate Scoreboard
Climate Interactive

Calculator of the
Carbon Footprint of Nations


Geospatial Toolkit (GsT) for
Integrated Resource Assessment


Climate Impact Equity Lens (CIEL)
Stockholm Environment Institute

Global Adaptation Index
Global Adaptation Institute

Gridded Population of the World
CIESIN, Columbia University

The New eAtlas of Gender
World Bank

Statistics and Tools
for Gender Analysis

World Bank

Gender Statistics Database
World Bank

Live World Data
The Venus Project

Clean Energy Analysis Software

RETScreen International

IGES CDM Methodology Parameter Data

IGES Emission Reductions Calculation Sheet

OECD Sustainable Manufacturing Toolkit

OECD Family Database

OECD Social Expenditure Database

Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services
and Tradeoffs (InVEST)

Natural Capital Project

Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC)
NASA & Columbia University

IGES GHG Database

Emission Factors Database

Forestry Industry Carbon Assessment Tool
Green Resources, Tanzania

Agent-based Computational Economics
of the Global Energy System


Climate Hot Map
Union of Concerned Scientists

Solar Thermal Barometer


Forest Monitoring for Action

Water Evaluation And Planning System

Global Land Tool Network

UN-Energy Knowledge Network
Multi-dimensional Energy Poverty Index (MEPI)
and Energy Development Index (EDI)

Measuring Energy Poverty
Visualization Platform


United Nations Data
UN Statistics Database
UN MDG Indicators
UN Human Development Index (HDI)

Humanity's Footprint Data
Ecological Footprint
Footprint for Nations
Footprint for Cities
Footprint for Business
Carbon Footprint
Personal Footprint
Footprint & Biodiversity
Footprint & Human Development

Earth Policy Institute Data Sets
Population, Health, and Society
Natural Systems
Climate Change
Energy Resources
Transportation Systems
Food and Agriculture
Economics & Development

World Bank
World Development Indicators (WDI)
World Bank

Sustainable Society Index
StatPlanet Interactive Map

Interactive Mapping of
Population and Climate Change

Population Action International

Global Advocates Toolbox
Population Action International

Teaching and Learning
for a Sustainable Future:
Dissemination and Training Toolbox


Economic Input-Output
Life Cycle Assessment (EIO-LCA)

Green Design Institute
Carnegie Mellon University



Conference Alerts
Find Conferences Worldwide
by Topic, Country, or Keywords.

Calls for Papers
Find Calls for Papers Worldwide
by Specialization, Country, or Keywords.

Journal Articles
The latest Tables of Contents
from thousands of scholarly journals
Search by journal title, ISNN, or keywords

Selected Announcements

World Social Forum 2016
Montreal, Canada
9-14 August 2016
Contact: WSF 2016

EcoSummit 2016
Ecological Sustainability: Engineering Change
Le Corum, Montpellier, France
29 August - 1 September 2016
Contact: Conference Secretariat

5th International Conference
Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity

Corvinus University, Budapest, Hungary
30 August – 3 September 2016

Piecing Together a Paradigm
Institute for New Economic Thinking
Central European University, Budapest
19-22 October 2016

Habitat III:
World Cities at Crossroads

UN Habitat, Quito, Ecuador
October 2016
Contact: Eugénie L. Birch,

Sixth World Sustainability Forum
WSF2017, Cape Town, South Africa
27-28 January 2017

35th International Conference
of the System Dynamics Society

Cambridge, Massachusetts USA
16-20 July 2017
Contact: Roberta Spencer

Sustainability Transformations
Future Earth
University of Dundee, Scotland, UK
August 30-September 1, 2017

3. Advances in Sustainable Development

Five Considerations for National Evaluation Agendas
Informed by the SDGs

Ben Tritton

Originally published in Deliver 2030, 13 September 2016

Each country sets its own national agenda and strategy within the broad contours of the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), yet the Agenda gives little explicit guidance on how to do this. However, there is a perspective on development that offers direction. This perspective views development through a ‘complex systems’ lens. It is consistent with the 2030 Agenda because it considers development as a holistic, integrated, multifaceted and context-sensitive process that has diverse means and ends, and is intimately tied to sustainability. This briefing summarises five aspects of this perspective that emerged as important lessons for evaluation during the Millennium Development Goals era, and discusses their implications for national evaluation agendas that support countries’ achievement of the SDGs. It is the third in a collection of briefings discussing the role of evaluation in achieving the SDGs.

Policy pointers

National evaluation systems need to be grounded in a philosophy and practice of evaluation that is consistent with the Sustainable Development Goals’ interconnected nature.

Taking a ‘complex systems’ perspective on development is particularly useful for attending to this interrelated nature.

Lessons from the Millennium Development Goals era show that taking this perspective early on will enhance national evaluation systems as well as development results.

Five considerations can help resource-constrained countries to set national evaluation agendas and maximise the value of evaluation: thinking beyond single policies, programmes and projects; examining macro forces influencing success or failure; having a nuanced understanding of ‘success’; recognising the importance of culture; and adopting evaluative thinking and adaptive management.

Ben tritton is a Communications Assistant in the Growth, Poverty and Inequality Programme and the Development Progress Project, Overseas Development Institute (ODI), UK.

4. Advances in Integral Human Development

2015 Human Development Report

Launched 14 December 2015 in Addis Ababa, Ehiopia

From a human development perspective, work, rather than jobs or employment is the relevant concept. A job is a narrow concept with a set of pre-determined time-bound assigned tasks or activities, in an input-output framework with labour as input and a commodity or service as output. Yet, jobs do not encompass creative work (e.g. the work of a writer or a painter), which go beyond defined tasks; they do not account for unpaid care work; they do not focus on voluntary work. Work thus is a broader concept, which encompasses jobs, but goes beyond by including the dimensions mentioned above, all of which are left out of the job framework, but are critical for human development.

Work is the means for unleashing human potential, creativity, innovation and spirits. It is essential to make human lives productive, worthwhile and meaningful. It enables people to earn a living, gives them a means to participate in society, provides them with security and gives them a sense of dignity. Work is thus inherently and intrinsically linked to human development.

But it is important to recognize that there is no automatic link between work and human development. Nor does every type of work enhance human development. Exploitative work, particularly exploitation of women and children, robs people of their fair share, their rights and their dignity. Likewise, work that is hazardous - work without safety measures, labour rights, or social protection - is not conducive to human development.

More importantly, the linkages between work and human development must be seen in the context that over time the notion of what constitutes work has changed, areas of work have shifted and the modus operandi of work has evolved. What used to mean work three decades ago is no longer valid, and work is defined differently now. Now, some of these changes may contribute positively to various dimensions of human development, but some aspects of these new phenomena may have negative impacts for human development.

In the context of all these changes, time has come to relook at the issue of work in its various dimensions and dynamics through a human development lens. Thus the 2015 Human Development Report (2015 HDR) will be on Rethinking Work for Human Development.

To be launched in December 2015, the Report will zoom in on the fundamental question – how work can be rethought for human development –– to enrich human development. Given this broader perspective, the focus of 2015 HDR will be based on five building blocks:

  • Rethinking the linkages between work and human development identifying the positive intrinsic relationship between work and human development - Work provides livelihoods, income, a means for participation and connectedness, social cohesion, and human dignity - but also those situations where linkages are broken or eroded - child labour, human trafficking, etc.
  • Revisiting the new world of work, where the notions of work, areas of work and modus operandi of work have changed and the implications for human development. ICT and mobile devices are revolutionizing work. People can work anywhere. There is an e-economy. We ask the question – are these changes enhancing human development? And how may they best be harnessed to promote equitable opportunities?
  • Recognizing the worth of care work and its impact on human development. For instance care for those who cannot care for themselves is important in itself for human survival but there are other connections to human development: from an intergenerational perspective, care work is crucial for the cognitive development of children.
  • Refocusing on the notion of sustainable work to be incorporated into the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals. This will include, among other issues, the environmental value of green and low carbon emission jobs and so on. And also the quality of work that can be sustained over long periods.
  • Recommending policy options for reorienting, reinventing and reorganizing work so that it enriches human development

Several targeted issues will be taken up throughout the report– youth employment, gender aspects of work, agriculture and rural development, the informal sector, and work during crisis and in post-crisis situations. In realizing the post2015 international agenda it will be critical to enable youth, who make up 50 per cent of the global population, and women, holding up half the sky, to find work opportunities that enable them to participate constructively, creatively and equitably in society.

Source: Selim Jahan, Director of the Human Development Report Office, UNDP

5. Advances in Integrated Sustainable Development

Integral Human Development and Subsidiarity

The Principle of Subsidiarity

Source: EZFord, YouTube, 23 February 2013

See also

"An issue or problem should be dealt with by the people who are closest to it"
Rudy Carrasco, PovertyCure Voice, 20 March 2012

Cardinal Reinhard Marx on Subsidiarity vs. Solidarity
Berkeley Center, Georgetown University, 20 June 2012

Integral Human Development and Subsidiarity: A Closer Look
Matthea Brandenburg & Carolyn Woo, Poverty Cure Voice, 10 January 2013

An Integrated Framework for Sustainable Development Goals
David Griggs et al, Ecology & Society, 19(4): 49, 2014

Integrated Approaches to Sustainable Development
Planning and Implementation

Capacity Building Workshop, United Nations, May 2015

6. Sustainability Games, Databases, and Knowledgebases

The nexus approach to the sustainable management of water, soil, and waste integrates environmental management and governance across sectors and scales. This approach requires a holistic understanding of the interlinkage of all related environmental processes, while also taking into consideration global change and socioeconomic aspects.

Exploring these interlinkages and advancing a nexus-oriented management approach requires integrated modeling tools. However, no single modeling tool is available or conceivable that can cover all processes, interactions and drivers related to the management of water, soil and waste resources.

To help overcome this challenge, the UNU Institute for Integrated Management of Material Fluxes and of Resources (UNU-FLORES) has developed an interactive Nexus Tools Platform (NTP) for comparison of existing modelling tools related to the water-soil-waste nexus. Currently, the NTP database consists of 60 models from around the world. The platform provides detailed model information and advanced filtering based on real-time visualizations, and will continuously grow with the input and feedback from model developers and model users.

For more information see the UNU-FLORES website and the Nexus Tools Platform.

7. Sustainable Development Measures and Indicators

Sustainable Development Goals ~ Targets Tracker

Source: Overseas Development Institute (ODI)

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be the guiding framework for international development until 2030 and are intended to provide a reference for setting national policy priorities.

This unique, searchable database provides a snapshot of what those national priorities are. Users can compare existing national targets with the ambition of the SDGs. We intend this to be a living document, supplemented and kept up to date by crowdsourcing, and we encourage others to send us new information on national goals to update the tracker.

This research report: Mind the gap? A comparison of international and national targets for the SDG agenda, ODI, June 2015, documents the gaps and data issues that must be resolved if the SDGs are to be attained by 2030.

Please send any new information on national level targets in any of the areas covered by the SDGs to


Global Footprint Network's National Footprint Accounts 2015 Public Data Package

Ecological Footprint Infographics

Footprint Calculator


Links to Global Partnership Data for the SDGs:

1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere
2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition
3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being
4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education
5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
6. Ensure availability of water and sanitation
7. Ensure access to affordable and clean energy for all
8. Promote economic growth and decent work
9. Build resilient industrial infrastructures
10. Reduce inequality within and among countries
11. Make cities resilient and sustainable
12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production
13. Take urgent action to combat climate change
14. Conserve the oceans and marine resources
15. Protect terrestrial ecosystems and biodiversity
16. Promote peace and inclusive societies
17. Strengthen global partnership for sustainable development

8. Sustainable Development Modeling and Simulation

Integrated Model for Sustainable Development Goals Strategies (iSDG)

Millennium Institute, 13 January 2016

"C-ROADS is an award-winning computer simulation that helps people understand the long-term climate impacts of policy scenarios to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It allows for the rapid summation of national greenhouse gas reduction pledges in order to show the long-term impact on our climate." For more information, click here.


9. Fostering Sustainability in the International Community

Liberation Ecology

Leonardo Boff

Originally published in Great Trasition Initiative, August 2016
under a Creative Commons License

Theology can play a central role in defining the moral fiber of a society, including its commitment to poverty alleviation and stewardship of Earth. Allen White, Senior Fellow at Tellus Institute, talks with Leonardo Boff, a founder of liberation theology, about the origins of the movement and the vital connections between ecology and social justice.

Half a century ago, you were among a small group of theologians who were instrumental in conceptualizing liberation theology. What spurred this synthesis of thought and action that challenged the orthodoxy of both Church and State?

Liberation theology is not a discipline. It is a different way of practicing theology. It does not start from existing theological traditions and then focus on the poor and excluded populations of society. Its core is the struggle of the poor to free themselves from the conditions of poverty. Liberation theology does not seek to act for the poor via welfarism or paternalism. Instead, it seeks to act with the poor to tap their wisdom in changing their life and livelihood.

How, then, do we act with them? By seeing the poor and oppressed through their own eyes, not with those of an outsider. We must discover and understand their values, such as solidarity and the joy of living, which to some extent have been lost by society’s privileged. Some of those who subscribe to liberation theology choose to live like the poor, sharing life in the slums and participating in residents’ organizations and projects. This method can be described as “see, judge, act, and celebrate.” Seeing the reality of the poor firsthand awakens an outsider to the inadequacy of his perceptions and doctrines for judging it and how to change it. This occurs in two ways: first, through understanding the mechanisms that generate poverty and, second, by awakening to the fact that poverty and oppression contradict God’s plan and that actions must thus be taken to eliminate them.

How does this understanding and awakening manifest itself?

Following understanding and awakening is action: How can we work with the poor to end oppression and achieve social justice? The opposite of poverty is not wealth but justice. This commitment to action spurred the birth of thousands of ecclesiastical communities, Bible circles, and centers for the defense of human rights, all focused on the rights of the poor, the landless, and the homeless, and the advancement of people of African descent, the indigenous, women, and other marginalized groups. These expressions of liberation theology are not rooted in rituals, but rather in the celebration of life and its victories in light of the Gospel. This approach is visible in the words and actions of Pope Francis, particularly in his encyclical Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home. This style of theology has created a type of priest and religious life that unites faith and social commitment to the poor and welcomes all who wish to participate. This method of living and thinking faith has helped the Church to better understand the reality of the poor and to shift away from doctrines and rituals. The Church of Liberation helped found political parties such as the Workers’ Party of former president Lula in Brazil that embody the commitment to social change that Jesus viewed as essential to a more just and fraternal society. This kind of thinking encouraged Latin American countries to introduce social policies that embraced millions of people who previously lived on the margins and in misery.

What led you to such social activism?

What drove my commitment to social change was my work in the slums of Brazil. The poor were our teachers and doctors. They challenged us to answer the question, how can our Christian faith inspire us to look for a different, more just world where brotherhood and sisterhood are deeper and richer and love is made easier? It was not the politics and works of Karl Marx, Johann Baptist Metz, or Jürgen Moltmann that inspired us to get close to the poor. Marx was neither father nor godfather of liberation theology, though he has helped us in fundamental ways. He showed how poverty results from the way society is organized to exploit and oppress the weakest among us, and he called attention to the fact that the ruling classes, in conjunction with certain segments of the Church, manipulated the Christian faith to be a source of passivity rather than a force for indignation, resistance, and liberation.

In the 1950s and 1960s, liberation theology took root most deeply in Latin America, especially in Brazil. Why this region, and why this country?

The Church in Brazil in the 1950s and 1960s was unique in Latin America and, I would say, even the world. We had many prophetic bishops who opposed the military dictatorships, denounced torture, and publicly defended human rights. Thanks to the great Bishop Hélder Câmara, a coordinated pastoral meeting was organized for the first time. It involved more than 300 bishops and led to the creation of the National Conference of Bishops, which, in turn, developed strategies for social change that became widely adopted. For a long time, the Conference advocated for basic social justice and agrarian reform.

This initiative led to a shift away from the concept of “development of underdevelopment,” which draws attention to the historic and structural roots of underdevelopment, to a focus on the process of liberation. The educator Paulo Freire, author of Pedagogy of the Oppressed and Education as the Practice of Freedom, helped to shape the minds of bishops, theologians, and pastors. It marked the beginning in Brazil, and soon Peru, of liberation theology as a foundational concept in the Catholic Church.

In 2009, you wrote that “everyone must be freed from this system that has continued for three centuries and has been imposed across the planet.” What is the “system,” and what makes escape so urgent?

Every modern society is indebted to the founding fathers of the Enlightenment worldview beginning in the seventeenth century with Descartes, Newton, Bacon, and others. Together, their work gave rise to the idea of conquest of people and the Earth. The Earth was no longer viewed as the great Mother, alive and purposeful. Instead, it was reduced to something to be exploited by humans for wealth accumulation. In the capitalist system that emerged out of this, value is ascribed to accumulated capital rather than to work, now simply a vehicle for such accumulation. This system creates vast economic inequalities as well as political, social, and ethnic injustices. Its political manifestation is liberal democracy, in which freedom is equated with the freedom to exploit nature and accumulate wealth. This system has been imposed worldwide and has created a culture of limitless private accumulation and consumption. Today, we realize that a finite Earth cannot support endless growth that overshoots the Earth’s biophysical limits and threatens long-term human survival and Mother Earth’s bounty.

Your recent writings suggest that ecology should be an additional pillar of the movement. What is the connection between ecology and social justice?

The core of liberation theology is the empowerment of the poor to end poverty and achieve the freedom to live a good life. In the 1980s, we realized that the logic supporting exploitation of workers was the same as that supporting the exploitation of the earth. Out of this insight, a vigorous liberation eco-theology was born. To make this movement effective, it is important to create a new paradigm rooted in cosmology, biology, and complexity theory. A global vision of reality must always be open to creating new forms of order within which human life can evolve. The vision of James Lovelock and V. I. Vernadsky helped us see not only that life exists on Earth, but also that Earth itself is a living organism. The human being is the highest expression of Earth’s creation by virtue of our capacity to feel, think, love, and worship.

After publication of your 1984 book Church: Charisma and Power, the Vatican prohibited your writing and teaching, a turning point in the strained relationship between liberation theology and the Church. How did you respond to this?

The imposition of “silentium obsequiosum” in 1985 by the Vatican forbade me from speaking and writing. That is when I began to study ecology, Earth science, and their relation to human activity. This coincided with an invitation to participate in a small, international group convened by Mikhail Gorbachev and Steven Rockefeller to explore universal values and principles essential for saving Earth from the multiple threats she faces. I had the opportunity to meet leading scientists while actively participating in drafting a text that significantly inspired Pope Francis’s recent encyclical, Laudato Si’. I was determined to ensure that the views of the Earth Charter would be based on a new paradigm incorporating the interdependency of all creatures—indeed the whole living fabric—and the need for mutual care. This paradigm must extend beyond a purely environmental ecology to an “integral ecology” that includes society, human consciousness, education, daily life, and spirituality.

This must start with the new paradigm for physical reality that has emerged from the thinking of Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, Stephen Hawking, Brian Swimme, Ilya Prigogine, Humberto Maturana, Christian de Duve, and many others who see the universe as a process of cosmogenesis—expanding, self-regenerating orders of increasing complexity. The basic law governing this cosmological vision is that everything has to do with everything else at all times and in all circumstances. Nothing is outside this integrated vision. Knowledge and science are interlinked to form a greater whole. Contrary to the earlier atomized paradigm, this helps us develop a holistic view of a world in continuous motion. Mutation, not stability, is the natural state of the universe and Earth. And we humans are intrinsic to this process. So I believe there are four major trends in ecological thinking: environmental, social, mental, and integral. Together, these form a reality in which the component parts are dynamically in tune with each other.

Do you see elements of liberation theology in Pope Francis’s recent encyclical Laudato Si’?

The encyclical Laudato Si´ is the fruit of the theological ecology that developed in recent years in Latin America. The Pope adopted the method of “see, judge, act, and celebrate” and used it to organize the encyclical. He makes use of the basic categories that we used in Latin America, such as the “relatedness of all with all,” the focus on the poor and the vulnerable, the intrinsic value of every being, the ethics of care and collective responsibility, and—especially—the condemnation of the system that produces the cry of the poor and the cry of the earth, a system that is anti-life, perhaps even suicidal. The document is full of the resonances of liberation theology and encourages liberation theologians as well as like-minded churches and theology everywhere.

Many view religion in the contemporary world as a source of strife and exclusion rather than the harmony and inclusiveness needed to foster global solidarity. Do such critics of religion have a valid point?

Almost all religions show signs of the sickness of fundamentalism. Fundamentalism is not a doctrine but a way of understanding doctrine. Fundamentalists think that their doctrine and their truth is the only one. Others are wrong and deserve no rights. From these conflicts is born the bloodshed we know too well, conflicts pursued in God’s name. But this is a pathology that does not eliminate the true nature of religion. Everything healthy can get sick. That is what is happening today. On the other hand, compare the conflicts driven by fundamentalism with the hopefulness of leaders like the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, and Pope Francis, who are clamoring for cooperation among religions and spiritual paths to help overcome the current ecological crisis.

What is your view on the prospects for a progressive transformation of religious institutions and for the overall shift in of planetary civilization we call the Great Transition? And what role would religious institutions play in this transformation?

I think the legacy of the financial crisis is the insight that the global capitalist system met its limit in 2007–2008. More than an economic crisis, it was a crisis of Earth’s limited resources. Shortly after the onset of the financial crisis, scientists announced the infamous Earth Overshoot Day, calling attention to the fact that the pressure we put on Earth exceeds its biocapacity. But this moment, which should have provoked reflection on our profound lack of environmental consciousness, passed with little public reaction.

Because of the inseparability of the ecological and the social, the looming depletion of resources could lead to social unrest of great proportions. Today, at least forty armed conflicts afflict the world. Our system does not have the tools to solve the problems it has created. As Albert Einstein eloquently stated, “We cannot solve the problems using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

We have to think and act differently. The Earth Charter explicitly states, and Pope Francis has repeated, “Common destiny beckons us to seek a new beginning. This requires a change in the mind and in the heart. It requires a new sense of global interdependence and universal responsibility to reach a sustainable way of life locally, regionally, nationally and globally.” This is the foundation for a different way of inhabiting the Common Home in which material resources are finite. In contrast, human and spiritual capital are inexhaustible because they are intangible and include limitless values such as love, solidarity, compassion, reverence, and care. This places life at the center: the life of Mother Earth, the life of nature, and human life.


Leonardo Boff is the founder of the liberation theology movement. He entered the Franciscan Order in 1959 and was ordained a priest in 1964. He is a co-author of the Earth Charter and the author of more than eighty works, including Jesus Christ Liberator: A Critical Christology for Our Time; Church, Charisma and Power: Liberation Theology and the Institutional Church; Ecology: Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor; and Essential Care: An Ethics of Human Nature.


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"Who never looks beyond
more than three thousand years,
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of living day by day in tears."

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