The E-Journal of
Solidarity, Sustainability, and Nonviolence

Vol. 5, No. 2, February 2009
Luis T. Gutierrez, Editor

SSNV Home Page

















The Sustainable Development Paradox - Part 2


This issue is a sequel to the previous issue and is again focused on the "sustainable development paradox." It is critical to show that this paradox can be resolved; otherwise, "development" is misunderstood as material growth, and the unresolved "growth versus environment" dilemma becomes an excuse to either do nothing or waste time searching for a magical "solution" that is neither possible nor necessary.

In the previous issue, after analyzing the feasibility of developing a "solution" via the integration of the various dimensions of sustainable development, it was concluded that "just as oil and water don't mix, the prevalent socioeconomic and socioecological paradigms don't mix. And they don't mix at any place or any level, for they are rooted in a conception of humanity that has become obsolete. The conclusion is that the sustainable development paradox is not to be resolved by mixing mutually incompatible paradigms, but by the advent of new paradigms (first in the human sciences, and then in the social, economic, and environmental sciences) that are mutually compatible and amenable to integration."

Furthermore, "to make the integration feasible, homo economicus must become homo solidarius." This issue explores how is it that homo economicus can become homo solidarius. The finding is that a fundamental evolutionary change in human nature is not required. What is required is for homo sapiens, or more precisely, homo sapiens sapiens, to become more sapiens and assume conscious responsibility for the wellbeing of humanity and the integrity of the human habitat, present and future. The key to open the door for further human growth (as opposed to merely material growth) is two-way human to human dialogue.

Simple, but not easy. The difficulty is that there are many vested interests that favor perpetuating one-way pseudodialogue (always from the "oppressor" to the "oppressed" regardless of the context of oppression) and fear any form of two-way dialogue as a threat to their privileges. But an ethos of human solidarity cannot flourish in a dialogical vacuum, and it is precisely this lack of solidarity that is the greatest obstacle to sustainable development. The two invited papers this month are special cases of this general resistance to authentic dialogue. The paper by Tanvir Hussain Bhatti deal with the lack of cross-gender solidarity that leads to so many gender inequities. The paper by Michael Peters deals with the lack of economic solidarity that leads to profit maximization for some and poverty maximization for many.

In brief, the dilemma between more growth and better environment is a myth based on the false notion that growth is limited to material growth. Every human being has material needs that must be satisfied (food, shelter, leisure, ...) but nobody needs all the resources being wasted in the superfluous consumption of goods and services or the extravagant financial gains of the kind that brought about the current financial crisis. May this global crisis be a catalyst for the transition from patriarchy (and other forms of oppression) to authentic dialogue and solidarity. Then, and only then, sustainable development will cease to be paradoxical and actually become "business as usual."



  1. Human Dimension of the Paradox
  2. Childhood Dimension of the Paradox
  3. Educational Dimension of the Paradox
  4. Social Dimension of the Paradox
  5. Economic Dimension of the Paradox
  6. Political Dimension of the Paradox
  7. Environmental Dimension of the Paradox
  8. Sustainable Development and the UN MDGs
  9. Prayer, Study, and Action


Sign of the Times
Global Citizenship
Solidarity Info
Sustainability Info
Nonviolence Info
Youth & Children
Future Generations


Muslim Insight:
Poor and Persecuted Women

Tanvir Hussain Bhatti
International Columnist & Poet
Lahore, Pakistan
Reprinted with permission from
The Canadian, 8 January 2009
The Global Failure of Neoliberalism:
Privatize Profits; Socialize Losses

Michael Peters
Professor of Educational Policy
University of Illinois, USA
Reprinted with permission from
Global-E, 6 November 2008

1. Human Dimension of the Paradox

"It has not yet been disclosed what we are to be" (1 John 3:2)

Human behavior is the most fundamental dimension of sustainable development. Human behavior emerges from the hearts and minds of human beings, and is the observable manifestation of homo sapiens as a body-spirit unity. The behavior of each person is free in principle; but is generally influenced by factors such as religion, culture, religious and cultural aberrations such as sexism and racism, and the prevailing ethos of the community initially learned during childhood in the context of family life.

It follows, that the core of sustainable development is a process of humanization, i.e., a process of human development whereby humans become more human. The supremacy of the human dimension is by now widely recognized in the sustainable development community; not so, however, by many who cannot see because they don't want to see:

"The issue of wellbeing lies at the heart of sustainable development .... What is missing is a means of making sure that wellbeing issues are being tackled consistently, in the right way, and we are genuinely making a difference to people's lives." (UK Government Sustainable Development Strategy, Securing the Future, 2005).

The reason for the current inertia is as old as humanity: resistance to change. Many people cannot see because they don't want to see, and they don't want to see because they don't want to change. There is painful historical evidence about this human propensity to ignore what is not convenient:

"In an almost forgotten study performed immediately after World War II, refugees from Nazi Germany were asked how they had coped with the political changes that preceded their decision to flee. The conclusion, after analyzing several thousand pages of life histories, was straightforward: "Several lines of evidence force us to the conclusion that our subjects actively resisted recognition of the seriousness of the situation or, in cases where the seriousness was realized, failed at first to make a realistic adjustment to it." Citation: Allport, G.W., Bruner, J.S., & Jandorf, E.M. (1949). Personality under social catastrophe. Ninety life histories of the Nazi revolution. In Clyde Kluckhohn & Henry A. Murray (Eds.), Personality in nature, society and culture (pp. 347-366; above quotation is in page 349). New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1953.

This conclusion can be extrapolated to the current environmental crisis:

"Many people, from all levels of society, deny the seriousness of environmental problems and the resulting consequences, or rely on a naive technique-optimism, hoping for the ability of future scientists and technicians to repair the damage. Just as many Germans denied the political horrors of Nazi Germany, so many inhabitants of the planet today deny the destruction around them." Citation: Psychology of Sustainable Development, by Peter Schmuck & P Wesley Schultz, Kluwer Academic, 2002.

But there is hope. Consider this recent piece of news:

'Simplicity theology' for sustainable future urged at Manila forum

"Manila (ENI). A group of Christian leaders is pushing for a "theology of simplicity and caring" to bring hope to a "prodigal world" teetering under a burden of widespread economic crisis, and climate change that could submerge small islands in the Pacific. "It is time to challenge the growth-is-success myth, which also has contaminated the Church, and shift to a more transformative way of thinking and lifestyle in tune with God's creative order and purpose," said the Rev. Daniel Kim Dong-Sung of the Saemoonan Presbyterian Church in Seoul, which is said to be the oldest Protestant congregation in South Korea." Ecumenical News International, 6 January 2009.

Another sign of hope if the World Forum on Theology and Liberation (WFTL) that is already working in parallel with the World Economic Forum (WEC) and the World Social Forum (WSF):

"A space of encounter for a theological reflection about alternatives and possibilities for the world, with the purpose of contributing to the construction of a worldwide network of contextual theologies guided by perspectives of liberation. In an ecumenical spirit, it welcomes and promotes the expression of ecological spiritualities, encouraging a deeper understanding of global socioeconomic problems in the light of the resources of theology and vice-versa. It is a space that favors the dialogue between differences of gender, religion, ethnicity, culture, generation and physical capability, fostering a theology whose discourse contributes to inform transforming practices in society, in order to promote the formation of citizens who are active in the building of a new world of solidarity." World Forum on Theology and Liberation (WFTL), Permanent Secretariat, Porto Alegre, Brasil, 2009.

Between the body and the spirit, and without breaking the body-spirit unity, there are several psychological layers (conscious and subconscious) that influence human behavior. Indeed, there is a "psychological dimension of sustainable development" that has yet to be explored in this series. There is also an anthropological (or evolutionary) dimension that culminated in the only extant human subspecies: Homo sapiens sapiens. Subsequent issues will explore the anthropological and psychological dimensions of sustainable development. The following is a tentative list of pertinent literature:

2. Childhood Dimension of the Paradox

It has been said that "each time a baby is born is a sign that God still has confidence in humanity." This could be made more specific by saying that each time a baby is born is a sign that God still has confidence in families. It is well known that the family environment is critical for a child's healthy development. This reality overlaps with the gender and nuptial dimensions of sustainable development. It is in the family that the child learns the difference between right and wrong, between good behavior and bad behavior in family and society.

Learning the difference between right and wrong is severly limited in a patriarchal family where the nuptial relation between father and mother is distorted (sometimes violently) by male domination. This leads many people today to discard the family as an obsolete institution and an obstacle to human development. But discarding the family, and discarding the nuptial gifts of love and life, is like throwing out the baby with the bathwater. It is a disgrace for young men and women to start living together before making their definitive committment to each other. Such sexual permissiveness leads, among other things, to irresponsible use of contraceptives and, when that fails, to many abortions. It also leads to the increasingly increasing number of one-parent families in which, no matter how good the single parent is, a father alone or a mother alone cannot possibly nurture the healthy development of the children as only a father-mother couple can.

The root cause of this lamentable situation is patriarchy, plain and simple. And if social patriarchy is harmful, even more so is the perpetuation of the patriarchal mindset by some of the major religious institutions. By refusing to have women in roles of religious authority, they are sending a subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) message that there is something divine about the patriarchal mindset. This is bad for children, bad for families, bad for society, and yes, bad for the environment. As Brazilian theologian Leonardo Boff has pointed out:

"Within us there are instincts of violence, desires to dominate, and shadowy archetypes that distance us from benevolence in relation to life and nature. There within the human mind are initiated the mechanisms that lead us to war against the Earth. They express themselves categorically as our anthropocentric culture. Anthropocentrism considers the human to be ruler of the universe. It holds that all other beings only have value when ordered by human beings; they are there for their good pleasure. This structure breaks with the most universal law of the universe: cosmic solidarity. All beings are interdependent and live within a very intricate web of relationships. All are important.

"There is no need for anyone to be the ruler and to consider oneself independent, without needing others. Modern cosmology teaches us that everything is related to everything else at all times, in all circumstances. Humans forget this reality. They distance themselves and place themselves above things rather than feeling one with them in an immense planetary and cosmic community. It is important that we recuperate attitudes of respect and adoration for the Earth.

"This is only possible if the feminine dimension of men and women is recaptured. Through the feminine humans open themselves to caring, becoming sensitive to the profound mystery of life and recuperating the capacity for awe. The feminine helps to recapture the sacred dimension. The sacred places limits on the manipulation of the world because it gives origin to adoration and respect, fundamentals for the protection of the Earth. It creates a capacity to reconnect all things with their creative source, which is the Creator and Originator of the universe. From this reconnecting capacity spring all the religions. Today we need to revitalize the religions so that they can fulfill their religious functions." Ecological Concerns: Environmental, Social, Mental, Integral, Leonardo Boff, Leonardo Boff Web Site, last updated 8 January 2009.

It is noteworthy that religious institutions often use the expression "women and children." Isn't this lumping together of women and children a paternalistic way of saying that men can fend for themselves, but women and children can't? Isn't this a sexist way of perpetuating the patriarchal mentality, which includes encouraging men to be men ("esto vir") and treating women as children? But while most religious institutions remain attached to obsolete doctrines (and even invent new ones to perpetuate religious sexism), things are beginning to happen in the social sphere. For instance, Hillary Rodham Clinton, the U.S. Secretary of State, recently (14 January 2009) testified at her confirmation hearings before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In her statement, Senator Clinton pointed out the importance of implementing a foreign policy that values women’s full development as human beings:

"Our foreign policy must reflect our deep commitment to the cause of making human rights a reality for millions of oppressed people around the world. Of particular concern to me is the plight of women and girls, who comprise the majority of the world’s unhealthy, unschooled, unfed, and unpaid. If half of the world’s population remains vulnerable to economic, political, legal, and social marginalization, our hope of advancing democracy and prosperity will remain in serious jeopardy. We still have a long way to go and the United States must remain an unambiguous and unequivocal voice in support of women’s rights in every country, every region, on every continent." Hillary Rodham Clinton Speaks at Confirmation Hearings, Vital Voices, 13 January 2009.

Senator Clinton also paid tribute to the work of President Elect Barack Obama’s mother- a pioneer of economic empowerment for women and other marginalized populations in her own time.

"I want to mention that President-elect Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham, was a pioneer in microfinance in Indonesia. In my own work on microfinance around the world – from Bangladesh to Chile to Vietnam to South Africa and many other countries — I’ve seen firsthand how small loans given to poor women to start small businesses can raise standards of living and transform local economies. President-elect Obama’s mother had planned to attend a microfinance forum at the Beijing women’s conference in 1995 that I participated in. Unfortunately, she was very ill and couldn’t travel and sadly passed away a few months later. But I think it’s fair to say that her work in international development, the care and concern she showed for women and for poor people around the world, mattered greatly to her son, and certainly has informed his views and his vision. We will be honored to carry on Ann Dunham’s work in the months and years ahead." Hillary Rodham Clinton Speaks at Confirmation Hearings, Vital Voices, 13 January 2009.

So fostering the advancement of women is visible in the social horizon, but in the religious horizon the visibility is obscured by obstacles of stupefying irrationality. There are some exceptions, such as the advent of women priests and bishops in the Anglican Communion; but they are paying a high price in terms of internal tensions, and there are many cases in which religious fundamentalism still prevents women from assuming roles of religious authority. For instance, Saudi Arabia's top religious authority recently declared that "a girl aged 10 or 12 can be married. Those who think she's too young are wrong and they are being unfair to her." This ensures that they will remain invisible in Islamic countries. Another sad case is the Vatican's continued refusal to ordain women to the priesthood, claiming that Christ has not given permission for the church to do so. This ignores the scriptural teaching about keeping what is good and letting go of what is bad (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22) and amounts to using God as scapegoat.

The following is a more reasonable outlook:

"I do not want to rehabilitate the patriarchal concept of authority, because this concept rests on the misunderstanding that authority is identical with power. Like many other people I am relieved that this old story that bound authority to unrestricted paternal privilege and other artificial forms of power, has almost completely disappeared. What I want to do is develop an alternative understanding of authority. For I do not think that the so to say arithmetical concept of equality, as it is customary today, is the best and only remedy to illegitimate forms of power.

"A newborn child is equal to his or her parents in one specific sense: From the first day on he or she must be accepted as a unique human being who has the right to live, to develop freely and to become a creative member of the human society. Yet, the newborn child is not equal in the sense that he or she can act in the same so-called "independent" way as adults do. To enter the web of human relations children need older persons that are prepared to teach and lead them. Authority is by no means identical with the power to dominate. Rather, it is dependent on the assent of the person who accepts to need the wisdom of others who are more experienced. Whereas the concept of power includes the ability to carry into effect one's own will against resistance, "authority" refers to a nonviolent relation between persons who know and accept that they are unequal and need each other's advice." Authority, Ina Praetorius, From Equality to Reconstructing the World, 2006.

For a more extensive review of the literature on patriarchy and authority in marriage and the family, please revisit Vol. 4 No. 4, April 2008 to Vol. 4 No. 8, August 2008.

3. Educational Dimension of the Paradox

The ethical, cultural, and community dimensions of sustainable development were analyzed in Vol. 4 No. 9, September 2008 to Vol. 4 No. 12, December 2008. In these dimensions, the sustainable development paradox becomes most visible in education at all levels -- from kindergarten to adult education. The ugly head of patriarchal domination is revealed in the one-way (teacher to student) flow of information, with little or no feedback allowed from the student to the teacher.

"Education thus becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher the depositor. Instead of communicating, the teacher issues communiqués and makes deposits which the students partially receive, memorize, and repeat. This is the "banking" concept of education, in which the scope of action allowed to the students extends only as far as receiving, filing, and storing the deposits. They do, it is true, have the opportunity to become collectors or cataloguers of the things they store. But in the last analysis, it is the people themselves who are filed away through the lack of creativity, transformation, and knowledge in this (at best) misguided system. For apart from inquiry, apart from the praxis, individuals cannot be truly human. Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other..... Education must begin with the solution of the teacher-student contradiction, by reconciling the poles of the contradiction so that both are simultaneously teachers and students." Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Continuum, 2000 (30th anniversary edition), page 72.

What Paulo Freire calls the "banking concept of education" is by no means restricted to education. The same banking model is pervasive in all kinds of institutions worldwide, albeit under many different disguises. The essence of this model is the one directional governance, or guidance, from the oppressors to the oppressed. The following are some examples of "oppressors" and "oppressed."

Corporate Executives
First World Nations
Human Traffickers
Secular Patriarchs
Religious Patriarchs
Bank Customers
Corporation Employees
Third World Nations
Humans Trafficked
Women & Children
Faithful Peoples

As Freire suggests, education becomes humanizing when "oppressors" and "oppressed" enter a two-way dialogue, become willing to learn from each other, and behave toward each other accordingly. This insight may be significant for the solution of the sustainable development paradox. The solution is not to be found by confrontation. The solution is to be found by reconciliation. But this reconciliation is not a romantic dream. It must be worked out by participative and collaborative analyses of the possible trade-offs between the needs of people and the preservation of the biosphere. Such analyses cannot be fruitful as long as the "oppressor versus oppresed" mentality prevails. For both the oppressors and the oppressed can think and behave according to self-interest alone; in which case confrontations can escalate into violence, to the detriment of both. The only way to resolve the paradox is to think and behave so as to balance self-interest and the common good. In brief, human solidarity: this is the one and only way to resolve the sustainable development paradox. It must be recognized, however, that those with greater material and intellectual resources (i.e., the potential oppressors) are the ones who are most responsible to foster growth in human solidarity.

Numerous initiatives are underway to educate people for sustainable development. Education for sustainable development can never be one-directional teaching of "those who know" to "those who don't know." For "those who know" often don't know how much there is that they don't know, and "those who don't know" often know more than they think and often know things that "those who know" need to learn. Sustainable development is never achieved from the outside in, nor is it ever achieved top down. Therefore, education for sustainable development better be from the inside out and from the bottom up. This is already being recognized by many educators. See, for example:

4. Social Dimension of the Paradox

The social dimension of the sustainable development paradox is the most difficult to understand. It is generally recognized that society must assent and collaborate with the economic changes and environmental priorities required for sustainable development. But social dynamics are complex because they are influenced by many factors: human behavior, nuptial and family life, cultural patterns, ethics, religious traditions, community concerns, education (previous section) and other issues of human development and well-being. The fundamental root of social behavior is human behavior, and the fundamental root of human behavior is human nature, the nature of Homo sapiens sapiens, and we need a better understanding of Homo sapiens sapiens:

"Today, we face a critical evolutionary predicament, as well as, the first opportunity in the life journey of Homo Sapiens Sapiens, to enter into the evolutionary design space, create evolutionary design communities, and use the power of dialogue in engaging in the design of our future .... The evolutionary journey of our species is marked by three crucial events. The first was the appearance of the first humanoid on the evolutionary scene some seven million years ago. The journey of the biological evolution of our humanoid and Homo ancestors lasted well over six million years, when -- some 50 to 40 thousand years ago -- the second crucial event, the human revolution brought forth Homo Sapiens Sapiens, modern man, who started our socio-cultural evolution that has led us up today. We are now entering the third crucial event, the revolution of conscious evolution, when it becomes our opportunity to enter into the evolutionary design space and take responsibility for the design of our future." Bela Banathy and Patrick M. Jenlink, Dialogue as a Means of Collective Communication, Springer, 2005, 440 pages.

Thus the analysis of social dynamics is a difficult undertaking, because it is a matter of dealing with human-intensive pressures and counterpressures, and this at a time when Homo Sapiens Sapiens may be entering into a new phase of social development marked by conscious decisions pursuant to build a more human civilization. This does not require a new Homo Sapiens Sapiens Sapiens. But it requires Homo Sapiens Sapiens to become really sapiens. Recent trends of globalization and migration have added to the complexity, as it is no longer meaningful to focus on a locality or even a nation. The entire "global village" must be considered .... but how?

"An assessment of social aspects -- however it is carried out -- and the inclusion of this dimension in every decision making process is necessary, because decisions concerning external ecological effects always have external social consequences. There are already tried, tested and approved methods and instruments for evaluating the ecological and economic dimensions of activities, projects, developments, products and organisations in terms of their sustainability. However, such methods and instruments are conspicuously lacking when it comes to the social dimension." Vicente Carabias-Hütter and Herbert Winistörfer, Evaluating the Social Dimension of Sustainable Development, International Conference on Engineering Education in Sustainable Development, Barcelona, EESD, 2004.

Paradoxically, social development is hard to plan and measure but, by being the aggregate effect of human development, it is more critical for sustainable development than either economic development or environmental management:

"Development is considered to be socially sustainable when it achieves social justice via equitable resource allocation, eradicates poverty, and provides social services, such as education, health and others to all members of the society, especially the most needy ones. The social dimension of sustainable development is, thus, based on the notion that man constitutes an important means of development and its prime target who should strive to achieve this notion for both present and future generations." Dimensions of Sustainable Development, Section 1.2.A - Social, Ministry of National Economy, Sultanate of Oman, 2006-2008.

Needless to say, the highest priority in social development is gender equality: "It is very unlikely to achieve social development without gender equality which is pivotal to social peace and social justice." Jassem Ibrahim Al-Najem, Gender equality pivotal to social development, Ministerial Conference of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), Guatemala. Arab Times, Kuwait, 24 January 2009. The United Nations' Human Development Index (HDI), which includes gender equality components, is the best tool available to measure human and social development. Research is underway to refine the HDI in order to focus on "sustainable human development."

"During the last few years, sustainable development has represented one of the most important policy goals at global level and how to design specific policy actions, measuring performance and results continues to present a challenge. Scientific research has explored different analysis directions in order to identify a synthetic indicator to evaluate policy planning and achievements that goes beyond traditional income indicators such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In consideration of the social dimension of sustainable development, including health, education and employment, the Human Development Index (HDI) of the United Nations Development Programme represents a widely accepted methodology to be used as a starting point for building a more sustainable-oriented development index. The aim of this paper is to identify a numerical measure of what Amartya Sen defined as “sustainable human development” using a human development framework and adapt it taking into account more specific environmental aspects. For this purpose, building a complex Sustainable Human Development Index (SHDI) may be a difficult task because of data availability and the European countries – especially the European Union - could be a useful pilot area for testing the methodology. The most recent efforts of the EU to standardize statistical information at country level enable us to build more complex indicators, including those with economic, social and environmental dimensions. Long-term sustainability requires the maintenance of capital stock to guarantee constant or growing welfare levels. In a human development perspective, the sustainability condition has been directly analysed on the well-being side, assuming that a constant or growing SHDI could be the result of constant growing capital assets. An SHDI represents the core element of a comparative analysis to assess the effectiveness and the distributional effects of European policies, including environmental actions. Finally, a sensitivity analysis of the results will enable us to underline the key factors of effective sustainable human development and, at the same time test the real meaning of such a modified composite index compared with the existing GDP and HDI." Valeria Costantini and Salvatore Monni, Measuring Human and Sustainable Development: An Integrated Approach for European Countries, University of Rome, October 2004. See also Sustainable Human Development Index (SHDI), Fuard Marikkar, Postgraduate Institute of Management, University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Colombo, Sri Lanka, August 2008.

Some selected references on sustainable social development:

5. Economic Dimension of the Paradox

Perhaps the best description of the interface between the social and economic dimensions of sustainable development is the one proposed by Amartya Sen. In fact, his seminal book, Development as Freedom, first published in 1999, covers the intersections between the social, economic, political, and environmental dimensions of sustainable development and, in doing so, bring into focus the paradoxes of each dimension and their interfaces.

"Development can be seen as a process of expanding the real freedoms that people enjoy. Focusing on human freedoms contrasts with narrower views of development, such as identifying development with the growth of gross national product, or with the rise in personal incomes, or with industrialization, or with technological advance, or with social modernization. Growth of GNP or of individual incomes can, of course, be very important as means to expanding the freedoms enjoyed by the members of society. But freedoms depend on other determinants, such as social and economic arrangements .... as well as political and civil rights .... Development requires the removal of major sources of unfreedom: poverty as well as tyranny, poor economic opportunities as well as systematic social deprivation, neglect of public facilities as well as intolerance or over activity of repressive states. Despite unprecedented increases in overall opulence, the contemporary world denies elementary freedoms to vast numbers -- perhaps even the majority -- of people. Sometimes the lack of substantive freedoms relates directly to economic poverty, which robs people of the freedom to satisfy hunger, or to achieve sufficient nutrition .... In other cases, the unfreedom links closely to the lack of public facilities and social care, such as the absence of epidemiological programs, or of organized arrangements for health care and educational facilities .... In still other cases, the violation of freedom results directly from a denial of political and civil liberties by authoritarian regimes and from imposed restrictions on the freedom to participate in the social, political, and economic life of the community." Development as Freedom, Oxford University Press, 2001.

The growing imbalance of opulence between rich and poor, and the lack of diligence in managing powerful corporations and financial institutions so as to remove "sources of unfreedom," have led to the global financial and economic crisis that is now eliciting legitimate expressions of indignation from every corner of the world:

"The financial and economic cataclysm — fruit of greed and lies — conceals a Via Crucis of suffering for the millions of people who lost their savings, their houses and their jobs. Who speaks of them? The truly guilty meet more to salvage and correct the system that guarantees their hegemony over others than to find paths that are characterized by rationalism, cooperation and compassion towards the victims and all humanity." Everybody Against Gaia, Leonardo Boff, 2 January 2009

The financial meltdown started in Wall Street, but became global in a matter of days. And the ramifications of the crisis touch all dimensions of sustainable development and exacerbate the tensions between population growth, economic development, and environmental sustainability.

"This crisis exposes other crises that, like the sword of Damocles, hang over the heads of everyone: the climate, energy, and food crises and more. All of them go back to the crisis in the dominant paradigm. The situation of general chaos raises metaphysical questions about the meaning of the human being within the group of beings in evolution. At the moment the "everything goes" of the postmodernists is silenced. Whether they like it or not, there are things that have to have value, there is meaning that must be preserved, otherwise we drown in the coarsest cynicism, an expression of deep disdain for life." Everybody Against Gaia, Leonardo Boff, 2 January 2009

At the same time, the current crisis might be the beginning of a new order of things. Hopefully, it might be the beginning of the transition from "everything goes" (when seeking financial profit) to growth in human solidarity; and this, in due time, might pave the way for sustainable development of the kind that gives the highest priority to human dignity, human development, and social justice. This hope brings to mind that the word "crisis" in Chinese has two symbols: the symbol of "danger" and the symbol of "opportunity." The danger is that world leaders underestimate the joint economic and environmental crises, and start printing money in a futile attempt to achieve economic recovery by spending more on material goods and services without regard for social and environmental justice. But this is also an opportunity to abandon "business as usual" and democratically regulate economic activity to foster investment in human development, distributive justice, and environmental recovery.

It would be helpful if a large number of rich consumers see the following:

"The age of consumption as a leisure pursuit and retail as therapy has come to an end, says a recovering shopping addict, as banks no longer have the wherewithal to encourage people to spend money that they do not possess. But in the period's very excess lies a remedy to the sin of prodigality.... The age of excessive consumption has brought its own remedy. St Thomas Aquinas treated prodigality - which includes irrational shopping - as a sin, a little less than covetousness. 'In affection to riches the miser superabounds, loving them to excess: while the prodigal falls short, not taking due care of them. In exterior behaviour, it belongs to the prodigal to exceed in giving, but to fail in keeping or acquiring.' But sensibly, he observes that 'the prodigal is easy to cure, as well by the approach of old age, which is contrary to prodigality, as by his easily sinking into poverty through his many useless expenses'. How right he was." We shopped till we dropped, Melanie McDonagh, The Tablet, 17 January 2009.

But, are we really ready to change consumption habits? Are we really willing to exchange the conveniency of our automobiles for the efficiency of public transportation? Gill Seyfang, in her new book on sustainable consumption, identifies five key indicators of sustainable consumption (Table 3.1, page 72). How do we measure up in terms of those five indicators? The following references provide additional insights on how to foster the humanization of consumption behavior.

6. Political Dimension of the Paradox

"Whether in Detroit or Kolkata, short term political gain trumps the graver, long-term issue of climate change until politicians and businesses are forced to the wall." Nayan Chanda, Politically Incorrect, YaleGlobal Online, 23 January 2009. The seminal work of Amartya Sen also applies to the interface between the socio-economic and political dimensions of sustainable development:

"Five distinct types of freedom, seen in an "instrumental" perspective, are particularly investigated in the empirical studies that follow. These include (1) political freedoms, (2) economic facilities, (3) social opportunities, (4) transparency guarantees and (5) protective security. Each of these distinct types of rights and opportunities helps to advance the general capability of a person. They may also serve to complement each other. Public policy to foster human capabilities and substantive freedoms in general can work through the promotion of these distinct but interrelated instrumental freedoms. In the chapters that follow, each of these different types of freedom - and the institutions involved - will be explored, and their interconnections discussed. There will be an opportunity also to investigate their respective roles in the promotion of overall freedoms of people to lead the kind of lives they have reason to value. In the view of “development as freedom,” the instrumental freedoms link with each other and with the ends of enhancement of human freedom in general." Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom, Oxford University Press, 2001.

Other notable scholars (sociologists, economists, ecologists, political scientists, etc.) have postulated what is needed in terms of economic and political reforms for sustainable development. So we know the "what." The "why" is not hard to understand if current global trends in social and environmental justice are considered. The "when" is sooner rather than later. The "where" is the entire planet. But still missing is "how to" reverse the current dehumanizing trends and transition toward a new path of humanization. In the Section 7 of the January 2009 issue, Socioeconomic Democracy (SeD) was mentioned as a possible strategy to improve both social justice and environmental justice in a democratic context. Let's reconsider the essence of the proposed SeD system:

"Socioeconomic Democracy is a model economic system, or more precisely, socioeconomic subsystem, in which there is some form of Universal Guaranteed Personal Income (UGPI) as well as some form of Maximum Allowable Personal Wealth (MAPW), with both the lower bound on personal material poverty and the upper bound on personal material wealth set and adjusted democratically by all society."

"UGPI. In the idealized state of the model, each participant in this democratic socioeconomic system would know that, regardless of what he or she did or did not do, a democratically determined Universally Guaranteed Personal Income (UGPI) would always be available. Put another way, society would guarantee each citizen some minimum amount of purchasing power, with that amount determined democratically by all of society and with citizenship the only requirement for eligibility to participate.

"MAPW. In the ideal theoretical model, all participants of the democratic socioeconomic system would understand that all personal material wealth above the democratically determined allowable amount would, by due process, be transferred out of their ownership and control in a manner specified by the democratically designed and implemented laws of the land.

"Hence, a rational, self-interested, and insatiable (as the neoclassical saying goes) extremely wealthy participant in the democratic socioeconomic system, who is at or near the upper bound on allowable personal wealth and who further desires increased personal wealth, would be economically motivated, that is, have economic incentive to actively increase the well-being of the less materially wealthy members of society. Only in this manner can these (still-wealthiest) participants persuade (a majority of) the also rationally self-interested less wealthy participants of the democratic society to vote to raise the legal upper limit on allowable personal wealth -- thus allowing those wealthiest participants to legally acquire and retain the increased allowable amount of personal net wealth and worth they so crave." Socioeconomic Democracy: A Very Brief Introduction, Robley E. George, Center for the Study of Democratic Societies, June 2002.

Given the ubiquity of irrational behavior in human affairs, is the assumption of rationality justified? No matter how unreasonable humans might be, experience confirms that, at least in the long term, reason prevails. But if Socioeconomic Democracy is the political reformation path to be followed, how would the UGPI and MAPW be democratically determined/adjusted? Additional questions come to mind relative to Amartya Sen's "five instrumental freedoms":

  1. How would the UGPI-MAPW system improve political freedoms?
  2. How would the UGPI-MAPW system improve economic services?
  3. How would the UGPI-MAPW system improve social opportunities?
  4. How would the UGPI-MAPW system improve accountability?
  5. How would the UGPI-MAPW system improve protective security?

This questions are being researched, and SSNV readers will be posted on any progress. It is well known that "politics is the art of the possible." It is becoming imperative to reform government systems in such a way that the needs of the oppressed are no longer ignored by corrupt governments and greedy speculators. There is no roadmap for how to transition to improved political systems. But Sen's "instrumental freedoms," and George's UGPI-MAPW thresholds, provide the best available guidance to start the journey.

7. Environmental Dimension of the Paradox

A Blueprint for Survival, was published in 1972. This landmark document, published by The Ecologist (Vol. 2 No. 1, January 1972), was authored by a team headed by Edward Goldsmith and Robert Allen in preparation for the U.N. Conference on the Human Environment, Stockholm, 1972. The document clearly defines the sustainable development paradox at the intersection of humanity and the human habitat:

"The principal defect of the industrial way of life with its ethos of expansion is that it is not sustainable. Its termination within the lifetime of someone born today is inevitable-unless it continues to be sustained for a while longer by an entrenched minority at the cost of imposing great suffering on the rest of mankind. We can be certain, however, that sooner or later it will end (only the precise time and circumstances are in doubt), and that it will do so in one of two ways: either against our will, in a succession of famines, epidemics, social crises and wars; or because we want it to-because we wish to create a society which will not impose hardship and cruelty upon our children-in a succession of thoughtful, humane and measured changes."

"By now it should be clear that the main problems of the environment do not arise from temporary and accidental malfunctions of existing economic and social systems. On the contrary, they are the warning signs of a profound incompatibility between deeply rooted beliefs in continuous growth and the dawning recognition of the earth as a space ship, limited in its resources and vulnerable to thoughtless mishandling. The nature of our response to these symptoms is crucial. If we refuse to recognise the cause of our trouble the result can only be increasing disillusion and growing strain upon the fragile institutions that maintain external peace and internal social cohesion. If, on the other hand, we can respond to this unprecedented challenge with informed and constructive action the rewards will be as great as the penalties for failure." A Blueprint for Survival, 1972, sections 110 and 161.

Some people miss the paradox due to linguistic ambiguity:

"The tension between economic growth and environmental protection lies at the heart of environmental politics. The concept of sustainable development is a direct attempt to resolve this dichotomy by sending out the message that it is possible to have economic development while also protecting the environment. Not surprisingly, policy-makers the world over--told that they can have their cake and eat it--have seized on the idea. Almost every country is now committed, at least on paper, to the principles of sustainable development. Yet sustainable development is an ambiguous concept, with a meaning that is contested and complex. This elusiveness is both a strength and a weakness: it allows a multitude of political and economic interests to unite under one banner, while attracting the criticism that it is nothing more than an empty slogan. Policy-makers have also found it difficult to turn this loose set of ideas into practical policies." Understanding Sustainable Development, Neil Carter, Phatom Seminar, 2001.

For some, the paradox is psychologically confusing, and people tend to avoid facing situations that are psychologically confusing. This has prompted the emergence of environmental psychology as a new "interdisciplinary discipline."

"Environmental psychology is an interdisciplinary field focused on the interplay between humans and their surroundings. The field defines the term environment very broadly including all that is natural on the planet as well as social settings, built environments, learning environments and informational environments. When solving problems involving human-environment interactions, whether global or local, one must have a model of human nature that predicts the environmental conditions under which humans will behave in a decent and creative manner. With such a model one can design, manage, protect and/or restore environments that enhance reasonable behavior, predict what the likely outcome will be when these conditions are not met, and diagnose problem situations. The field develops such a model of human nature while retaining a broad and inherently multidisciplinary focus. It explores such dissimilar issues as common property resource management, wayfinding in complex settings, the effect of environmental stress on human performance, the characteristics of restorative environments, human information processing, and the promotion of durable conservation behavior. The field of environmental psychology recognizes the need to be problem-oriented, using, as needed, the theories and methods of related disciplines (e.g., psychology, sociology, anthropology, biology, ecology)." Environmental Psychology, Wikipedia, article last modified 5 January 2009.

For growth promoters and environmental protectors alike, the consumption versys conservation dilemma becomes well defined when it is considered in the context of environmental justice:

"Environmental justice is centered on the basic human right to a clean and healthy environment. In essence this right is based on the notion of social justice, equality and a healthy environment for all. Locally, nationally and globally the most vulnerable people with the least power and money often see this right denied. Whether it is to do with exposure to air pollution or flooding, the location of hazardous installations, inadequate access to clean water or simply not having access to the environment, the poorest in society are often disproportionately affected. If society is to be environmentally just it must:
  • Protect basic rights and equality.
  • Solve unequal distribution of environmental ‘bads’.
  • Provide processes of good governance.
"Whilst there are tensions within and between environmental justice perspectives, it is safe to say that there are four main cornerstones:
  1. Everyone has the right to a healthy and safe environment and the responsibility to maintain it.
  2. Everyone has the right to a fair share of natural resources and the right not to suffer disproportionately from environmental policies, regulations or laws.
  3. Everyone has a civil right to be able to access environmental information and participate in decision-making.
  4. The most vulnerable in society, in particular the poorest, should not suffer the disproportionate, negative effects of environmental omissions, actions, policy or law.
"Over 50 countries recognise the right to a clean and healthy environment as part of their constitutions. The UK Government has included environment justice and environmental equality as an essential indicator for quality of life and sustainable development. In addition, the Government has been a signatory to the Aarhus Convention since 2005. The convention establishes a legal duty on the Government to protect the public right to environmental participation and decision-making. All too frequently, however, these legally established rights are neglected in practice. At times the UK Government has failed in its duty to ensure environmental justice for all; often the most vulnerable people are the least aware of their rights and the least empowered to act on them." Tackling Climate Change, Reducing Poverty, New Economics Foundation, UK, 2008.

Resistance to change is a well-know and resilient human trait. Population growth and economic growth have become the expected trends, and to suggest their reversal is, for many, like suggesting that the law of gravity be reversed. But population growth and economic growth are not like physical laws. The laws of conservation of mass and energy apply to isolated physical systems. But population growth and economic growth happen in systems that are neither purely physical nor perfectly isolated. The biosphere is a living system, so the laws of conservation do not apply. Societies are living systems that behave in various ways traceable to human behavior, which is never mechanical (information is not conserved). So it is utterly unreasonable to think that social modes of behavior such as population growth and consumption growth are irreversible. But environmentalists are also unreasonable when they insist that "green is good" no matter what. The reasonable path to follow is to seek a harmonious balance between taking care of human needs and taking care of the human habitat. This is what sustainable development is all about.

The Book of Genesis, written long ago, prescribes that human beings must fill the earth and subdue it (1:28) and also must tend and care for it (2:15). This might seem to be a contradiction, but it isn't. The sustainable development paradox might seem to be a similar contradiction, but it isn't. That it is not a contradiction was clearly explained by John Stuart Mill in his Principles of Political Economy:

"It is scarcely necessary to remark that a stationary condition of capital and population implies no stationary state of human improvement. There would be as much scope as ever for all kinds of mental culture and moral and social progress; as much room for improving the Art of Living and much more likelihood of it being improved, when minds cease to be engrossed by the art of getting on." John Stuart Mill, Principles of Political Economy, Book 4, Chapter 6. John W. Parker, London, 1857. Complete text available at McMaster University.

This is the path to overcome the sustainable development paradox. It is not a matter of material growth versus environmental protection. As Donella Meadows pointed out at the turn of the millennium ....

"Material accumulation is not the purpose of human existence. All growth is not good. The environment is a necessity, not a luxury. There is such a thing as "enough." Human progress must be assessed not by quantity but by quality. Our consumption-crazed society has lost its its direction and its soul..... Anyone who calls upon the human capacity for love, generosity, wisdom, will be met with a hail of cynicism. "Of all scarce resources, love is the scarcest," I have heard people say. I just don't believe that. Love is not a scarce resource, it is an untapped one. Our jazzed-up, hustling, quantitative culture does not know how to tap it, how to discuss it, or even what it means..... In truth, of course, we are all intimately interconnected with each other and with the earth. We have always been. Love has always been a practical idea, as well as a moral one. Now it is not only practical but urgent..... The world can never pass safely through the adventure of bringing itself to sustainability if people do not view themselves and others with compassion. That compassion is there, within all of us, just waiting to be used, the greatest resource of all, and one with no limits."
Donella Meadows, Beyond The Limits To Growth, In Context: A Quarterly of Humane Sustainable Culture, 2000. See also There Are Limits to Growth, but No Limits to Love, Donella Meadows Archive, Sustainability Institute, 2000.

Some additional references:

8. Sustainable Development and the UN MDGs

The United Nations' Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), approved by the 189 member nations in the year 2000, are a prime example of a sustainable development initiative that requires worldwide collaboration and financial support. The MDGs are also a prime example of the sustainable development paradox. Very few doubt that the eight goals are worth pursuing, but very few are actually collaborating and providing financial support. The current financial crisis aggravates the situation, but the paradox was already observable before Wall Street collapsed in October 2008.

In terms of leadership, it is reassuring that the new administration of President Barack Obama in the USA has already stated via the new ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, the intention of "putting the United States at the center of international efforts to support poverty reduction, development, fighting disease and achieving the Millennium Development Goals." However, in terms of the collective mindset of humanity, making progress toward the MDGs will continue to be an uphill battle. For instance, consider the data in Two Billion Cars: Transforming a Culture, by Daniel Sperling and Deborah Gordon (based on the book Two Billion Cars: Driving Toward Sustainability by the same authors, to be published by Oxford University Press in 2009). Figures 1 and 2 are excellent snapshots of the consumerist mindset. Figure 1 (page 4) shows the "historical and projected increases in global motor vehicle population, 1950-2030." The curves show exponential growth leading to over 2.5 billion motor vehicles emitting CO2 by the year 2030. Figure 2 (page 6) shows the "growth of vehicle miles traveled (VMT), vehicle registrations, and population in the United States since 1970." It shows that VMT and vehicle registrations are growing faster than the US population, with the inevitable repercussions in road congestion and CO2 emissions.

Indeed, "there is such a thing as "enough"." The automobile was one of the great technological breakthroughs of the 20th century; but too much of a good thing can become a curse. Going back to the MDGs, the experience thus far seems to indicate that sustainable development must happen from the inside out and from the bottom up. It is the local people who know what they need, not the technocrats in far away lands. Furthermore, it is the poor people in a locality who know what they need, not the upper class elites in their air conditioned houses and luxurious corporate and government offices, even if they are in the same country. This is the reason why education for sustainable development also must happen from the inside out and from the bottom up. This means that many international development initiatives, including some MDG-related projects, need a sanity check. The time horizon for sustainable development is becoming shorter and shorter. Financial resources are becoming scarcer, and the day may come when even the US dollar is worth practically nothing. Business as usual is no longer an option.

9. Prayer, Study, and Action

Suggestion of the month for prayer and meditation:

Thou who has by Thy might
Led us into the light,
Keep us . . . in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God,
where we met Thee,
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world,
we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand.
True to our God,
True to our native land.

James Weldon Johnson, USA (1871-1938)

Suggestion of the month for study and reflection:

"The developing nations, obviously, have certain unmistakable characteristics of their own, resulting from the nature of the particular region and the natural dispositions of their citizens, with their time-honored traditions and customs. In helping these nations, therefore, the more advanced communities must recognize and respect this individuality. They must beware of making the assistance they give an excuse for forcing these people into their own national mold. There is also a further temptation which the economically developed nations must resist: that of giving technical and financial aid with a view to gaining control over the political situation in the poorer countries, and furthering their ownplans for world domination. Let us be quite clear on this point. A nation that acted from these motives would in fact be introducing a new form of colonialism—cleverly disguised, no doubt, but actually reflecting that older, outdated type from which many nations have recently emerged. Such action would, moreover, have harmful impact on international relations, and constitute a menace to world peace." Pope John XXIII Mater et Magistra: Encyclical on Christianity and Social Progress, sections 169-172, 15 May 1961.

Suggestion of the month for action based on prayer and study:

It should be clear that John XXIII's understanding of international relations requires two-way dialogue between the developed and developing nations. Paulo Freire (Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Continuum, 2000, pages 138-183) concurs that such dialogue is indispensable, and offers the following comparison:



Divide & Rule
Cultural Invasion
Unity & Liberation
Cultural Synthesis

The suggested action of the month is then to foster dialogue between the oppressors and the oppressed in your daily environment -- this could be your family life, your work environment, or any other institution in which you are involved.

For human beings, there is no such thing as living in isolation from other humans. Even if possible, such living style would not be authentically human. One possible exception is the mystic who seeks solitude in order to comune with God. But escaping society for any other reason leads to loneliness, not to solitude. It is in dialogue -- with God, others, or both -- that we find who we are and "become what we are." For dialogue entails "finding yourself by giving yourself away." What is true for individual humans is also true for sustainable development, which is a human-intensive process. It is precisely in dialogue with others that the sustainable development paradox is resolved, thereby revealing more of what we are to be.

"It has not yet been disclosed what we are to be" (1 John 3:2)

|Back to SUMMARY| |Back to OUTLINE|

|Back to SECTION 1| |Back to SECTION 2| |Back to SECTION 3|
|Back to SECTION 4| |Back to SECTION 5| |Back to SECTION 6|
|Back to SECTION 7| |Back to SECTION 8| |Back to SECTION 9|

| Link to Page 2 |              | Link to Page 3 |

|Link to the SSNV Home Page|

Sign of the Times
Gender Equality

Source: Wikipedia

Patriarchal structures are made by human hands, not by God. Gender equality and balance is required for both men and women to attain full human development. Therefore, gender equality and balance is critical in both secular and religious institutions, and there can be no doubt that this is what God desires. Consider the following piece of news:

Religious beliefs shape male actions, Guyana interfaith panel says

"Geneva (ENI). Religious beliefs have a profound influence in shaping men, including their sense of masculinity and sexuality, members of an interfaith panel have said at a gathering promoting positive masculinity held in Georgetown, Guyana. Religious institutions prescribe boundaries, impose sanctions and affirm identity, the panellists said. The meeting initiated a process of education for action in response to gender-based violence and coincided with an awareness campaign in Guyana aimed at "stamping out" gender-based violence, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches said in a statement. In remarks at the opening of the event, Guyana's Minister of human services, Priya Manickchand, challenged churches to work in partnership with other faith groups and specialised agencies to make a difference in the communities they serve." Ecumenical News International, 27 January 2009.

Global Citizenship
Source: Global Pulse

It is good to love and serve your country. But fanatical nationalism is no longer a sensible option. In this day and age, everyone is a global citizen, and we all share the global web of life. This is a religious as well as a social issue.

Source: World Forum for Theology and Liberation
3rd WFTL, Belém, Brazil
21-25 January 2009
Click here for the latest news.

From the WFTL web site:

"The 3rd WFTL will be a meeting for a theology of sustainable life on Earth. It will have to make a theological reflection and discourse on the basis of a very concrete and organic meaning of life, since the analysis of the social and political reality in the Amazonian context promotes a direct relationship with the earth, water and biodiversity and reveals the limits and alternatives of the relation of human beings with their immediate environment."

Source: World Social Forum
9th WSF, Belém, Brazil
27 Jan-1 Feb 2009
Click here for the latest news.

From the WSF web site:

"The World Social Forum is an open meeting place where social movements, networks, NGOs and other civil society organizations opposed to neo-liberalism and a world dominated by capital or by any form of imperialism come together to pursue their thinking, to debate ideas democratically, for formulate proposals, share their experiences freely and network for effective action. Since the first world encounter in 2001, it has taken the form of a permanent world process seeking and building alternatives to neo-liberal policies."

Source: World Economic Forum
4th WEF, Davos, Switzerland
28 Jan-1 Feb 2009
Click here for the latest news.

From the WEF web site:

"The World Economic Forum is an independent, international organization incorporated as a Swiss not-for-profit foundation. We are striving towards a world-class corporate governance system where values are as important a basis as rules. Our motto is ‘entrepreneurship in the global public interest’. We believe that economic progress without social development is not sustainable, while social development without economic progress is not feasible. Our vision for the World Economic Forum is threefold. It aims to be: the foremost organization which builds and energizes leading global communities; the creative force shaping global, regional and industry strategies; the catalyst of choice for its communities when undertaking global initiatives to improve the state the world."

Goals (MDGs)

MDGposter Source: U.N. MDGs

MDG Resources:
U.N. MDGs Home Page
MDG Core Documents
MDG Basic Indicators
U.N. Millennium Project
MDG Targets & Indicators
Human Rights and the MDGs
Governance and the MDGs
MDG Atlas
MDG Dashboard
MDG Monitor
DevInfo & MDGs
MDG Slides (Columbia)
MDG Slides (SlideShare)
Youth and the MDGs
Health and the MDGs
National MDG Resources
Local MDG Resources
MDG-Net and DGP-Net
MDG GMR 2008
MDG Progress Report 2008


Related Resources:
Earth Charter
UNEP Year Book 2008
HDR Report 2007-2008
Gender Equity Index 2008
UNESCO Yearbook 2008
World Energy Outlook 2008
World Development Report 2008
World Disasters Report 2008
World Health Statistics 2008
World Resources 2008
Human Rights Watch 2008
World's Children 2009
World's Girls 2008
State of the World 2008
State of the World 2009
Living Planet Report 2008
World Population 2008
Global Trends 2025


Current Outlook:



Solidarity Info

Selected web sites to visit:

Declaration of Human Rights
UN Development Program
UN Development Group
Millennium Development Goals
Pax Christi
Pax Humanitas
Pax Natura
Toward Global Solidarity
Christian Solidarity
Amnesty International
Policy Innovations
Fairer Globalization
Fighting climate change: Human solidarity in a divided world


December 2009 Copenhagen Climate Change Conference
UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

Sustainability Info

Selected web sites to visit:

A Blueprint for Survival
Brundlandt Commission Report
UN Sustainable Development
UN Environmental Program
Earth Charter Initiative
Earthwatch Worldwide
The Encyclopedia of Earth
Sustainable Development Portal
Sustainable Development HB
Sustainability Institute
Sustainability Indicators
Fostering Sustainable Behavior
Columbia Earth Institute (CIESIN)
The 7 Triads of Sustainability
Sustainability Journal (SSPP)
Int'l Inst of Sust Dev (IISD)
Learning for Sustainability
Sustainable Energy E-Book
Earth Protect (Green Videos)
BP Environment Charting Tool
BP Energy Charting Tool

Learning for Sustainability

Nonviolence Info

Selected web sites to visit:

Pax Christi
MLK Jr Principles of Nonviolence
MLK Jr Library & Archive
Nonviolence International
Gandhi Nonviolence Institute
Global Nonviolence (CGNV)
Christian Nonviolence (CCNV)
Educators for Nonviolence (EFNV)
Dalai Lama Foundation
The Metta Center
Albert Einstein Institution
Culture of Peace (UNESCO)
Greenpeace International
Int'l Center Nonviolente Conflict
Global Directory Peace Studies
Promote Nonviolent Conflict Resolution
Global Peace Index 2008
Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice
University for Peace

Marting Luther King Jr. Collection
at Moorehouse College, Atlanta

Youth & Children

Selected web sites to visit:

Voices of Youth (UNICEF)
Education for All (UNESCO)
Children, Youth, and Families
Environmental Education Center
Environmental Links for Kids
Natural Resources Kids Web
Tunza for Youth & Children
Children & Youth (WB)
Environmental Websites for Kids
Child Development Index

Good to Grow Web

Future Generations

Selected web sites to visit:

Our Common Future
Sustainable Futures Institute
Future Generations
Shaping Tomorrow
Futures Research Methods
Futures Research Institute
Green Futures
Future Generations
Facing the Future
Focus on the Future
World Future Society

Future of Humanity Institute
Oxford University


EMAN 2009: Environmental Accounting and Sustainable Development Indicators Conference, 23-24 April 2009 in Prague, the Czech Republic. Please visit the conference website for more information. Point of contact: EMAN2009.

First European Conference on Sustainability Transitions: Dynamics & Governance of Transitions to Sustainability, 4-5 June 2009, Felix Meritis, Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Point of contact: KSI2009.

The international IMPETUS Africa Conference, "Global Change in Africa - Projections, Mitigation and Adaptation," will be held from June 2nd to 5th 2009 at the University of Cologne, Germany. For further information, please visit the conference website or email Africa Conference.

The Air & Waste Management Association’s 102nd Annual Conference & Exhibition (ACE), 16-19 June 2009, Detroit, Michigan. For more information visit the AWMA-ACE2009 conference web site or contact AWMA-ACE2009.


Conference Dates: 18-19 June 2009. Location: Lingnan University, Hong Kong, China. Sponsored by the Centre for Asian Pacific Studies (CAPS) and the Environmental Studies Programme (ESP) at Lingnan University, Hong Kong. Visit the conference website for more information, or contact CAPS.

International human ecology conference at Manchester University, UK, June 29th - July 3rd, 2009. For conference information visit the Society for Human Ecology (SHE) web site. Point of contact: Ian Douglas.

The 20th annual meeting of the Society for Economic Dynamics will be held 2-4 July 2009 in Istanbul, Turkey. For more information see the conference website or contact SED.

The International Sustainable Development Research Society (ISDRS), Utrecht, The Netherlands, 5-8 July 2009. See the conference flyer and the conference website. Email contact: FBU Conference Office.

The Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI) is pleased to invite you to its first conference, to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, 6 - 9 July 2009. For more information and points of contact, visit the SVRI Forum 2009 and the SVRI web site.

Society for Conservation Biology, 11-16 July 2009, Beijing, China. See the CONBIO meeting website or contact SCB2009 .

The 2009 conference of the International Society for Systems Sciences (ISSS), is to be held in at The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, 12-17 July 2009. Focus on sustainability. For further information and registration visit the conference website.

International Society for the Study of Religion, Nature & Culture (ISSRNC). University of Amsterdam, 23–26 July 2009. Conference director: Kocku von Stuckrad. Contact: ISSRNC2009.

International Conference of the System Dynamics Society, 26-31 July 2009, Albuquerque, NM. Visit the conference website and contact the Program Chair.

The Oslo Summer School in Comparative Social Science Studies 2009. A course on "Liberation and Participation: Theory and Method for a Social and Political Community Psychology." Lecturer: Professor Maritza Montero, Universidad Central de Venezuela, Caracas, Venezuela. Dates: 27 - 31 July 2009. The syllabus for the course is already posted. For more information: Professor Hilde Eileen Nafstad.

International Society for the Sociology of Religion, Santiago de Compostela (Spain), 27-31 July 2009. See the conference website for more information. The point of contact is Hilde Van Meerbeeck-Cravillon.

The 4th Annual Green Economics Conference will take place at Mansfield College, Oxford University, 31 July to 1 August 2009. Please email us at Green Economics Institute if you want to book or speak or reserve a place.

Tunza International Children’s Conference on the Environment, Daejeon, Korea, 17-21 August 2009. For more details visit the Tunza web site or contact the Tunza staff.

International Association for the Psychology of Religion (IAPR 2009), Vienna, Austria, 23 to 27 August 2009. Local organizing committee: Susanne Heine and Herman Westerink, University of Vienna.

Royal Geographic Society, 26-28 August 2009, Manchester University, UK. Website: AC2009. Abstracts: Louise Reid and Tom Hargreaves.

The Association for Feminist Ethics And Social Theory (FEAST), 24-27 September 2009, Clear Water Beach, Florida. Panels on "Environmental Feminism" and "Evolutionary Psychology." Questions may be directed to Lisa Schwartzman.

The International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP), 27 September - 2 October 2009, Marrakech, Morocco. For more information, visit the conference website and contact marrakech2009.

International Seminar on Islamic Thought, National University of Malaysia, Bangi, Selangor, Malaysia, 6-7 October 2009. For more info visit the conference website.

CFP: Women, Leadership and Mosques: Changes in Contemporary Islamic Authority. Oxford University, 16-17 October 2009. Please send proposals to Hilary Kalmbach.

International Conference on Knowledge Economy, South Africa, October 20 - 22nd. See the Carmen Fitz-Gerald.

Discoveries in the Scientific Study of Religion, Denver, 23-25 October 2009. Visit the SSSR2009 conference website. Point of contact: Kraig Beyerlein, Program Chair.

International Conference Africa GIS2009, 26– 29 October 2009, Kampala, Uganda. For more information, please visit the AFRICAGIS2009 web site and contact AfricaGIS 2009.

The world's climate neutral Scientific Climate Conference, 2-6 November 2009 online. Organized by the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences. For more information, visit the CLIMATE 2009 donference website and contact the conference staff at CLIMATE 2009. Note: the website already includes a listing of climate studies available at the Climate Change Studies Library (CCSL).


Parliament of the World's Religions, 3-9 December 2009, Melbourne, Australia. Key topics: Healing the Earth with Care and Concern, Reconciling with Indigenous Peoples, Overcoming Poverty in a Patriarchal World, Securing Food and Water for all People, Building Peace in the Pursuit of Justice, Creating Social Cohesion in Village and City, Sharing Wisdom in the Search for Inner Peace. For more info: PWR2009.

International Sociological Association (ISA) World Congress of Sociology, 11-17 July 2010, Gothenburg, Sweden. Session on "Peace, Conflict, and Climate Change" currently scheduled for Wednesday 14 July 2010. See the conference web site for more details or contact the conference chair, Hans Joas, Universität Erfurt, Germany.

International Association for the History of Religions (IAHR), 15-21 August 2010, Toronto, Canada. Visit the conference website. The conference director is Professor Donald Wiebe.

The International Association for the Study of the Commons (IASC) is accepting for hosting the 13th Biennial Conference, Summer or Autumn 2010. For more information contact Jim Robson and visit the IASCP website.

The International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC) will be the Harvest Festival of the Decade to Overcome Violence and at the same time a planting season for fresh initiatives. May 2011, Kingston, Jamaica. Sponsored by the World Council of Churches (WCC). Visit the IEPC web site, which provides points of contact worldwide.

CFP on Sustainability Science. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS). PNAS has launched a new section of the journal dedicated to sustainability science, an emerging field of research dealing with the interactions between natural and social systems, and with how those interactions affect the challenge of sustainability: meeting the needs of present and future generations while substantially reducing poverty and conserving the planet’s life support systems. PNAS seeks original research contributions for this new section on both the fundamental character of interactions among humans, their technologies, and the environment, and on the use of such knowledge to advance sustainability goals relevant to water, food, energy, health, habitation, mobility, and ecosystem services. PNAS welcomes outstanding sustainability science papers addressing spatial scales from the global to the local and drawing on a wide range of disciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches. For more information, please contact Josiah Armour.

Catherine of Siena
Virtual College

For thousands of years women have suffered from the consequences of social prejudice. This applies both to civil and religious realms. Our world is still suffering from the consequences. Liberation must ultimately come from a new self-awareness among women themselves, a self-awareness fostered by knowledge and insight. Catherine of Siena Virtual College offers courses that will empower women to understand their own situation and to change the world for the better. These courses will also enable men to serve all members of their communities more effectively.

To view 2009 course offerings,
including new courses,
click below:

Point of contact:
Deborah & Aaron Rose-Milavec

A Great Film

Bullfrog Films has released a new film,

Water First:
Reaching the

The film is based on a real life story from Malawi. It shows that providing potable water is essential for development. In fact, it is a gateway for making progress toward all the UN MDGs. This film is an excellent educational tool for grade levels 7 to 12, college, and adults. It can be obtained as a DVD that includes 28-minute and 45-minute versions. This film is highly recommended. Point of contact: Stephanie Miller.

Excellent Educational Resource


Facing the Future, an A+ producer of educational materials on sustainability and global issues, has announced the availability of a new resource:

Two-Week Unit
for Social Studies
Grades 9-12

Table of Contents

I. Introductory Materials

Unit Overview

II. Unit Lessons

1. Watch Where You Step
2. Is It Sustainable?
3. Shop Till You Drop?
4. Are You Buying This?
5. What Makes a Civilization Sustainable?
6. Putting Our Community on the Map
7. Three Faces of Governance
8. Creating Our Future

III. Student Readings

1. Ecological Footprint
2. Feeding the World
3. Urban and Community Planning
4. What Is Good Governance?

IV. Assessment

"This activity-based curriculum unit for high school social studies teachers contains eight engaging and inspiring lessons that help students build the connections between economics, history, democracy, and sustainability. Each lesson in the two-week unit is aligned with the National Council for the Social Studies' curriculum standards for easy classroom integration. For every topic covered, students learn creative tools to contribute toward sustainable solutions in their local and global communities." Available now as a downloadable PDF. Hard copies forthcoming. Highly recommended for high school teachers. Point of contact: Cecilia Lund.

10 Pillars of Knowledge

By Chaim Zins

Overview & Rationale

10 Pillars

Map of Knowledge

Smart Search


Knowledge Gateways

Library Classification Systems



New Book on
Sustainable Consumption


This book has just been release by Palgrave. It bridges the gap between new economic theories and the new consumption patterns that will be required for sustainable economies to materialize. The author is Gill Seyfang, a researcher at the University of East Anglia's Centre for Social and Economic Research on the Global Environment (CSERGE). Palgrave points of contact: Kathryn Treeby (UK), Alaina Kunin (USA).

New Book on the
Global Knowledge Economy


This book has just been release by Peter Lang Publishers. The book reports "the emerging set of complex relationships between creativity, design, research, higher education and knowledge capitalism." The author is Michael Peters, Professor of Educational Policy Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. For more information about the content, click here.

Visit the Sustainability at the National Academies web site, a repository of cutting edge research on the sustainability sciences.

Second Public Review Draft of the Unified Synthesis Product Global Climate Change in the United States


Note: The full report (13MB) or individual sections can be downloaded free of charge. Comments on the draft report will be accepted through close of business Friday 27 February 2009. See the Invitation to Comment on Second Public Review Draft and the Instructions for Submission of Comments on Second Public Review Draft. For further information please contact Dr. Fabien Laurier including "USPinfo" in the subject line.

New Search Engine


From the Sagoon home page: "Sagoon’s goal is to bring and organize online information from every corner of the world where development is at nascent stage. To fulfill this goal, we have developed a search technology that strives to make searching for quality content a pleasant experience. We are also in the process of adding unique features by developing semantic search and natural language processing. Our artificial intelligence technology, moreover, assesses user needs and demands in order to provide them the best quality content that they are looking for."


Subscribe to the


Enter your
email address:

Browse Archives at


What have I done to foster solidarity, sustainability, and nonviolence?

What am I doing to foster solidarity, sustainability, and nonviolence?

What shall I do to foster solidarity, sustainability, and nonviolence?

"In addition to the life-death cycle basic to nature,
there is also an unnatural living death:
human life which is denied its fullness."

Paulo Freire, Brazil (1921-1997)
Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Continuum, 1970, page 171


Write to the Editor
Send email to Subscribe
Send email to Unsubscribe
Link to the Google Groups Website
Link to the Home Page

Copyright © 2009 by Luis T. Gutierrez

Page 1      


Recent news, emerging issues, and significant events on
Solidarity, Sustainability, and Nonviolence

UN battles over sex and rights

Biophysical Economics

Sustainable Development Is the Order of the Day

Africa must build on knowledge base of her people

Spare our kids the economic pain

Social Fix: Obesity and Starvation

Law to include environmental issues in curriculum

History Beyond the Nation-State

A view on healthy development

Developing nations may be worst victims of economic crisis

Breaking free of the consumer culture

Enough Already ~ Simplify, Share and Sustain (Video)

Humanity's Window of Opportunity (Video)

World Economic Downturn

The return of depression economics

Men’s violence on wives proof of skewed masculinity

Repaying violence with violence

Martha Nussbaum Honored For Social Reform

Vision for a New Foreign Policy

Economic downturn: Priority for our children's future

Muslim insight: Poor Persecuted Women

Tribal cruelty continues despite claims of progress in 2008

'Macho culture' fuelled economic crisis

'Taleban rule now'

Adapting to globalization through worldsourcing

Corruption in India Undermining Human Rights and Development

Fragile Yet Indispensable

Environmental Ethics at the End of the Earth

Norway tops gender equality ranking

Billions could go hungry from global warming by 2100

An Economist’s Mea Culpa

Talking tomorrow today

The Pygmies' Plight

Too late? Why scientists say we should expect the worst of global warming

Let's light up the lives of India's poor millions

Sustainable Development and Efficient Management of Water Resources key for Economic Growth and Poverty Alleviation

Asia-Pacific region unites for peace and development

Triumphalist language’ sets back gender equality

Avoiding Societal Economic Disaster requires a new way of thinking

Development: New growth strategies

18 and Under - Making Room for Miss Manners Is a Parenting Basic

Presiding Bishop reflects on a momentous year

Chile's Homemakers Sign Up for Pension Reform

Open Letter to President-Elect Obama

Selfless side of humans can overcome crisis

Examining the artistic effects of globalization

Reflections on essence of university education in human development

Consumer outlook for 2009

World Values Surveys conducted by the U-M Institute for Social Research

Afghan Girls, Scarred by Acid, Defy Terror, Embracing School

Hillary Rodham Clinton Speaks at Confirmation Hearings

Any Size Organization Can Make Globalization Work

The Collapse of 2008 – toward a saner future?

Calls for Adaptation Unheeded

Steer to Education, Health and Development

International Experts’ Meeting on Sustainable Development of the Arctic in the face of Global Climate Change

Three Dimensional Foreign Policy

‘Gender Equality Is Fallacy’

The Crisis Is Global

Earth on the Brink of an Ice Age

UN expert urges government to think long term

Economic and Social Council uniquely placed to forge global ties to tackle pressing crises

'The World's Worst Humanitarian Crisis': Understanding the Darfur Conflict

Taking Others Along

Now Is the Time to Shake Up Society at the Roots

Globalization: The Long and Winding Road

Diplomacy-Development-Defense: Tools Obama Administration will use To address global challenges

2009: Will crisis turn into an opportunity?

Global HIV/AIDS: Five Leadership Issues

Al Qaeda: A Global Phenomenon Reaching Maturity

Top Saudi cleric: OK to wed young girls

Susan Rice's Testimony at U.N

Obama sells out to Wall Street

"A Structural Crisis of the System"

Stimulus Is for Suckers: We Need a Recovery Plan that Will Last for Years

Leaders shouldn't be silent in tough times

FAIR launches Transnational Investigation 2008 on human traffic

De-globalization a new threat to the world

China Faces Water Crisis

World leaders welcome Barack Obama

China’s wind-power potential

Autonomous United Nations agency for women demanded

Developed Country Climate Financing Initiatives Weaken the UNFCCC

Islamic Peacemaking Since 9/11

Compassion and love preached at Obama national prayer service

On Promoting Democracy

Theologians gather in Brazil to tackle environmental crisis

Japan Launches World's First Greenhouse Gas Observing Satellite

Band-aid solution

Politically Incorrect

World has high hopes on Obama’s administration

Hillary Clinton Outlines Obama's Africa Policy

Gender equality pivotal to social development

Our forgotten crisis

Climate Change Could Choke Oceans for 100,000 Years

Africa needs to implement own development model

ZIMBABWE: Now a 'Factory for Poverty'

Have the U.S., world economies entered the frugal consumer era?

Business Leaders Face Credibility Crisis At Davos

UN a vital institution, new US ambassador stresses after meeting with Ban

World Social Forum 2009 looks to develop global alternatives

Brown call to Davos ‘threatens millions’

Get serious about sewage, theologian tells sustainability activists

Draft Framework for a Pact for Stabilisation, Social Solidarity and Economic Renewal

A New US Administration and the UN

The patriarchy of microfinance

Micro-Generation: Small Power with a Big Impact

New Jungles Prompt a Debate on Rain Forests

The Crisis is Global

Europe Basks as U.S.-Style Capitalism Draws Fire

'Globalization is destroying itself'

Recently launched publications, websites, and knowledge content on
Solidarity, Sustainability, and Nonviolence

Dematerialism and Energy

The Road to Peace: A Teaching Guide on Local and Global Transitional Justice

Edward Goldsmith Writings

Human Health, Pollution, and Toxics

Environmental Racism: an ecumenical study guide

The Cry of Creation: A Call for Climate Justice

TendingtheGarden: Stewardship of Biodiversity and Endangered Species

Overview of ISO 9001 and ISO 14001

From Equality to Reconstructing the World

Global Economic Perspective

Oxford Handbook of Interdisciplinarity

The Financial Crisis Timeline



Pennies for the Planet (Children)

Energy Scarcity and the Path to Energy, Economic, and Environmental Recovery

Sex and the Seminary

Celebrating the Value of Deadly Problems Worldwide

Picturing Smart Growth

GEMI Tools Catalogue Resource Guide 2008

GEMI IFTF Map of Future Forces Affecting Sustainability

GEMI Metrics Navigator

Internet Documents in Economics Access Service

Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict

We shopped till we dropped

A Better Life Elsewhere: Human Traffic in and from Africa

Economic Democracy; The Political Struggle for the 21st Century

World Economic Situation and Prospects 2009

New UNECE Statistical Database

Impact of the Economy on Health Behaviors

Improving Quality of Life Through Telecommuting

The Future of the Global Financial System

Moving to a Stable World Population

State of the World's Children 2009 - Maternal and Newborn Health

The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World

Tackling Climate Change, Reducing Poverty

U.N. Commission on the Financial Crisis

U.N. Financing for Development

Doha Declaration on Financing for Development

Good Practices and Statistics for Evidence-based Policy-Making

Two Billion Cars: Transforming a Culture

Citizen Journalists' Guide to Open Government

World Trade Organization: New Database of Regional Trade Agreements

The Shift from Information Retrieval to Synthesis

From Productivity to Innovation

KM in Asia: Experience and Lessons

KM: From Brain to Business

Reports of the US Climate Change Science Program

Climate Change and Energy Security: Lessons Learned

Short-Term Solutions to the Climate and Energy Challenge

Implementing Sustainable Bioenergy Production

Energy, ecosystems and livelihoods: Understanding linkages in the face of climate change impacts

Social Reporting Toolbox: social reporting guidelines for event organisers and social reporters

Climate Change Studies Library