Ecohumanism as a Developmental Crossing
For this publication, Leslaw Michnowski has added a supplement to the original article in order to consider the current global crisis and prospects for recovery as of September 2009. For further background, the reader may want to revisit the author's previous article in this journal, Eco-Humanism and Popular System Dynamics as Preconditions for Sustainable Development.
Member, Committee for Futures Studies "Poland 2000 Plus,"
Polish Academy of Sciences
Professor of Management, Holy Cross University, Kielce, Poland
Originally published as Chapter 5 of
Transformative Pathways - Attainable Utopias,
Edited by Sangeeta Sharma & Pramod K. Sharma,
Prateeksha Publications, Jaipur, India, 2008, pp. 107-136.
Copyright © 2008 Sangeeta Sharma, Pramod K. Sharma
REPRINTED WITH THE KIND PERMISSION OF THE EDITORS
Keywords: global crisis, sustainable development, feedback, feedforward, backcasting, social change, political science, interdisciplinary research, information culture, civilizational transformation, global governance.
Two radically different approaches dominate assessments of today's global situation. In a rather generally accepted view world society's development is and will be driven by the ongoing rapid economic growth of many heretofore backward societies, notably China and India. In addition, this growth will — as it is doing now — take place in a socio-Darwinistic global rivalry, in other words, according to a "growth at the cost of the environment (social and/or natural)" 1 policy. And without proper knowledge about this policy's complex effects.
The expected goal of such essentially lethal globalization would be the elimination of the fundamental threats looming before contemporary humanity, like the depreciation of the natural environment and the exhaustion of rare, deficit natural resources.
The second approach — which can be shared is to see the world in global and civilizational crisis (Pajestka 1989, Michnowski 1990b, 1994a,b, 1995). Evident proof of this lies in the continuously progressing and ruthless depreciation of the life supporting natural environment and the increasing use of accessible natural resources at a faster pace than their alternatives can be found. Moreover, access to these valuable resources is fast becoming the object of ruthless battle (even if fought with modernday means).
In the light of the research this crisis is the result of world society's ill adjustment to life in State of Change and Risk, in other words in a qualitatively new situation mainly created by the rapid development of science and technology (Michnowski 2006. 2007). In order to overcome global crisis world society will have to achieve sustainable development, in other words, development without cyclically returning disasters and the shortsighted construction of new forms of social and economic life on the ruins of former life forms.
This will require human coexistence models that are qualitatively different from the present ones. The emergence of these new social models will be pre-condition the transformation of the rapid economic and civilizational growth of societies which until recently were behind in their development into a driving force of world society's sustainable development.
Systematic studies of the ways to overcome global crisis show that an in-depth diagnosis of global crisis and its causes is fundamental for developing new forms of interpersonal, international and intercultural life. Equally necessary is the pinpointing of the basic factors driving sustainable development, also in terms of ethic and information. Of prime importance in overcoming global crisis is the rejection of today's dominating selfishness and individualism in favour of ecohumanism.
Ecohumanism means partnership-based cooperation for the common good of all people (rich and poor, from countries highly developed and behind in development), their descendants, and natural environment - commonly supported by science and high technology, as well as information culture .
Partnership-based cooperation along "development together with the environment (social and/or natural)" principles will require universal access to knowledge about the complex effects of human activity, including those, which take place over time and space.
The need to replace egoism with ecohumanism is a consequence of the rapid development of science and technology, which vastly changed life-conditions. 2 The rapidly progressing changes in life-conditions brought an enormous thirst for knowledge and innovation. Simultaneously, the growth of science and technology — especially IT — made such axiological change possible.
Ecohumanism is a condition for building an information basis for sustainable development policy and economy. Such a basis will allow the formation of a qualitatively new economy guided by common good - common interest (Brundtland 1987), in their broadest sense. Such an economy must be founded on a complex benefit-cost account embracing its social and environmental aspects, it should also show preference to eco-socially useful creativity of new forms of life.
The ecohumanistic reconstruction of the global economic system will also be necessary for the replacement of today's ecosocially highly costly globalization (Pernicious Globalization – CIA 2000) by an ecohumanistic globalization (Inclusive Globalization, fair globalization) model. 3 Such a new, common good-oriented form of globalization will be crucial for overcoming the global crisis and creating world society's sustainable development. Thus, in reshaping the global economic system, ecohumanism will allow world society's strongest players to cease securing access to rare resources (fuel, natural, environmental, intellectual) through the physical elimination of rivals to these resources (O nowy styl rozwoju, 1979). In place of the social-Darwinistic deprivation of weaker societies of vital resources, access to them will be ensured by the partnership-based cooperation of an adequately educated world society aided by science and information technology.
Building a sustainable development economy will also be crucial for eliminating the defensive terrorism practiced by societies endangered by the present pathological globalization model, and for global demographic control.
Ecohumanism founded on knowledge about the complex (including future) effects of human activity is necessary for world society to master the developmental crossing of its limits to growth, which will precondition the fulfillment of the UN's vision of sustainable "three-pillars" 4 world society's development. Development - which combines social development with economic growth and environmental protection.
The implementation of the above method of leading world society to sustainable development appears necessary if today's huge economic growth in countries like China and India is to become a qualitatively new force behind humanity's progress.
To better show how crucial ecohumanism and access to knowledge about the complex effects of human activity are for overcoming global crisis, let me suggest a system analysis method which may be based on the System of Life reality model I authored as a developmental cybernetics project (Michnowski 1989, 1995, 2002, 2004, 2006c, 2007).
In Sustainable Development and Limits to Growth Crossing, the outline of a sustainable development model in which sustainable development is an ongoing process of creating and developmental crossing limits to growth taking place simultaneously with the growth of population, science and technology -has been presented.
In Global Crisis and the Dangers of its Pathological Elimination, the global crisis is the effect of humanity's ill adjustment to life in State of Change and Risk, "overshoot" (Meadows 1972, 1992, 2004). Moreover, inability to developmentally cross limits to growth — especially to eliminate the negative effects of the moral depreciation (getting obsolete) 5 of life-forms which, although until recently acceptable, today no longer fit the new conditions of life have been highlighted.
Is Ecohumanistic Information Society Utopia or Precondition of Sustainable Development?
The vision of a society based on the intellectual (instead of natural/social-Darwinistic) evolution (Michnowski 2009c) and partnerly cooperation necessary for life in State of Change and Risk and aided by wisdom, ethics, science, and advanced information technology is presented. It follows some general remarks about scientific progress (also in computer simulation methods,) as a precondition of an ecohumanistic, sustainable development society, and suggests some helpful changes in the structure of the United Nations Organization (Michnowski 2006c, 2007, 2009e).
In the concluding remarks concerning the global reconstruction that will be necessary to carry out the UN's sustainable development vision are incorporated. This reconstruction will be 'a must' if humanity is to learn to developmental cross its limits to growth — especially if it is to develop intellectual and informational tools allowing it to successfully cognize and avert threats and control the sustainable development of a world society.
The general (if somewhat Utopian) conclusions are drawn from my system studies were that, “there are no limits for ‘Wisdom’ based growth and sustainable development of ’Human’ society”. The main effect of overcoming selfishness by means of ecohumanism aided by information technology would be the replacement of the morally compromised "growth at the cost of the environment (social and natural)" policy by "development together with the environment."
Thus, instead of steering into an exhausting "clash of civilizations", Spaceship Earth — and sustainable development— could embark upon a journey to the stars (Chardin 1984).
Sustainable Development and Limits to Growth Crossing
(i) "Backcasting" in Cognizing Sustainable Development Conditions
On the assumption that the System of Life model (Michnowski 1989, 1995, 2002, 2003, 2006c, 2007, 2008b) is sufficiently suited to reality, I will make it a reference point for my present hypothetical conclusions regarding the factors, which condition world society's sustainable development.
Figure 1: LS sustainable development
LS - life-system (society, other organization)
i - level of LS development (quality)
t - time
n - the number of LS elements or LS size
T - the limit to growth
B - the beginning of the limit to growth developmental crossing transformation
How, then — from the System of Life position — should sustainable development policy be pursued for humanity to succeed in overcoming global crisis and developmental crossing its limits to growth? In our search for the answer, let us use the System of Life conceptual model to carry out a system analysis of the global eco-system comprising world society and the natural environment (Lovelock 1979). For this we will resort to the "backcasting" method.
Let us split world society into two subsystems:
1. highly developed society (HDS), and
2. low-developed society, which for sundry historical reasons has fallen behind in its development (LDS).
Figure 2: World society (HTS) as open system and human-technology system
HTS - human-technology system
Env - environment
T - technology
H - human, control subsystem of HTS
t - time
E1 - input energy (in large sense).
E2 - output energy (constructive and destructive impacts)
Putting it simply, Figure 2 shows world society (HTS) as an open system and human-technology system in which highly developed society (HDS) is a subject (H) — in other words constitutes the "Human" subsystem of HTS — and low-developed society (LDS) is an object (T) constituting the auxiliary HTS subsystem "Technology".
Let us now assume that in HDS's (highly developed society's) initial development phase the natural environment is constructive both internally and externally. This would mean that developing nature — natural environment - would fuel its developmental surpluses to world society and simultaneously develops by itself. What would be HTS's — world society's - behavior in such condition?
(ii) Primitive Growth of Advanced Society
Let us first concentrate on the behavior of HDS, the dominant part of world society. In addition, let us assume that HDS is in an "immature" and "shortsighted" development phase . In the above-described conditions — with a surplus on naturally available life resources and helped by the subordinated LDS — HDS appears to develop quite fast and simultaneously hinders the development of LDS.
Here HDS's "immaturity" lies in its low scientific, technological and ethical potential and, in consequence, an egoistic "growth at the cost of environment" policy. This means HDS has a destructive impact on its surroundings, taking more from the natural and social (LDS) environment than it can return (or give). And all HDS cares for with regard to LDS is the latter's fulfillment of its subservient role of "technology".
HDS's "shortsightedness" lies in its post-factum — or "feedback" (control system) — adjustment to environmental conditions in the search for access to vital resources. In other words, HDS adjusts to the environment only when forced to by environmental change recognized by practice.
The effects of such growth for HDS are:
- rising inertia, a result of the increasing multitude and diversity of its elements (including demographic growth and technological and organizational progress),
- an ever-faster pace of environment's change, and
- a more destructive effect on the social and natural environment.
In result of such essentially primitive — but natural — growth HDS attains the barrier for its developmental possibilities during its "immature" and "shortsighted" developmental subphase. Barrier, set by its "inertial" limit to growth.
(iii) The "Inertial" Limit to Growth
The appearance of an "inertial" limit to growth for HDS signifies the onset of a qualitatively new life situation both for HDS and world society: State of Change and Risk. It is especially caused by the high level of its science and technology. In this situation life-conditions change very rapidly. Accompanying the new conditions is the drastically escalated moral depreciation — obsoleteness - of HDS's to-date forms of life, which, although recently still acceptable, now no longer fit the new reality.
At the same time, HDS's external destructiveness is still sufficiently weak not to overshadow the environment's external (HDS-directed) constructiveness. Thus, the environment is able to help HDS in its development — and thereby continue its own development — even after HDS has crossed the "inertial" limit to growth.
Necessary for HDS to developmental cross this fundamental "inertial" limit to growth will be reconstruction, in result of which HDS will develop the ability of anticipating change in its environmentally-defined life-conditions and adjusting to them before they occur, completing the adjustment simultaneously with the emergence of its new life-conditions.
Such reconstruction would help HDS adjust to life in State of Change and Risk and for this end to develop "anticipativeness", i.e. the ability to foresee change in the HDS-environment system and adapt to it by the appropriate adjustment of its life-forms. Together with it HDS would learn to coordinate its work process, would develop sufficient flexibility to cope with the pace of the predicted changes, and would have to lay aside sufficient reserves of vital resources to tide it over unexpected situations. In order for HDS to meet the above anticipativeness criteria it will have to radically raise its share in knowledge, scientific and technological know-how and multiply active intellectual potential.
It all means - to build "feedforward" (control system) into HDS,
the appearance of State of Change and Risk and with them moral depreciation (obsoleteness) as the main destructor of HDS will create an urgent need for knowledge — both in order to be able to predict the effects of HDS's activity and to eliminate — by means of innovation — the multiple threats typically arising in such circumstances.
Therefore, the development by HDS of anticipativeness will depend on its stronger part's radical restatement of its attitude towards the weaker part, which has heretofore fulfilled an objective function . The subjectivization of HDS's weaker segment will be necessary for HDS to develop more farsightedness, cognitive and innovative creativity, flexibility and reserve-generating abilities. HDS weaker part (up-date only simple work force), will have to be elevated to a subjective, intellectually creative role and granted access to existing knowledge.
Also crucial will be appropriate control over the development of science, technology and education.
Thus. State of Change and Risk will force HDS into new divisions of labour: the dominating part — the HDS elite — entrusted with the shaping, controlling and monitoring of development strategies and the weaker part with (subjective) operational and tactical tasks.
With building feedforward, HDS will acquire the ability to radically diminish the negative effects of moral destruction, whose intensification in State of Change and Risk is an essential threat to its existence. Simultaneously, this would signify the attainment by HDS of scientific and technological "maturity" (although not yet ethical).
HDS's developmental crossing of its "inertial" limit to growth thanks to its acquired feedforward ability will enable HDS to continue developing in State of Change and Risk. This, however, will still be "growth at the cost of environment", carried out on a higher, "farsighted" developmental level but still ethically "immature".
Let us now return to the globally pertinent relation between HDS, now radically strengthened by its anticipativeness skills, and LDS, until now kept from developing by HDS. Hastened by "anticipativeness" reconstruction, HDS's growth and development will drastically intensify its environmentally destructive activity. This may result in HDS's arrival at a new "defensive-environmental" limit to growth and the treat of global, ecosocial regression.
(iv) The "Defensive-Environmental" Limit to Growth
HDS's arrival at the "defensive-environmental" limit to growth will mean it has reached a level of external destructiveness, which threatens to annihilate its life-providing/supporting social (LDS) and natural environment. HDS's development at this stage will foster also another destruction factor — the dramatically spreading moral depreciation of all world society's forms of life. In order to cross this next fundamental limit to growth HDS will need to radically reconstruct its life-forms, enabling the replacement of external destructiveness by external constructiveness.
Developmental crossing the "defensive-environmental" limit to growth by HDS will in the first place require to master the ability of combining its own interests with those of the social (LDS) and natural environment and with it a new attitude towards the environment — its to-date role of environmental exploiter replaced by a qualitatively new role of "condescending guardian" (Kotarbinski).
This will be crucial, because if HDS's pathological development carries the possibility of environmental destruction, it will have to learn to "give" more to the social and natural environment than it "takes" in order to survive and grow. This is also a precondition for sustaining development of the life-providing environment and HDS's transformation of the to-date passive intellectual potential of LDS into a mutual development factor. The result will be subjectivization and a higher quality of life for LDS, and improvement of the natural environment. Together with the subjectivization of LDS, this will also raise world society's active intellectual potential. This will enable HDS to develop external constructiveness.
Hence, HDS's developmental crossing of the "defensive-environmental" limit to growth will mean its rejection of egoism — the driving force of its immature "growth at the cost of environment" attitude — in favour of ecohumanism and "development together with the environment". Slightly differently put, HDS's crossing of this second fundamental limit to growth will bring a radical change in the method of the world society's evolutional transformations — the replacement of the heretofore dominating natural selection (social-Darwnistic, entailing the death of the "unadjusted") by a qualitatively new selection model based on intellectual evolution. Intellectual evolution is an anticipatory selection - by computer simulation - taking place in virtual reality and basing on the intellectual and ethical potential of humanity, science and high technology. Intellectual evolution helps adjust in proper time forms of life to the rapidly changing conditions of life. Ecohumanism is the axiological fundament of intellectual evolution.
Therefore, HDS's developmental crossing of the "defensive-environmental" limit to growth will require its qualitative progress from "farsighted immaturity" to "full maturity" — both on the scientific-technological and ethical planes. This in turn will require HDS to further develop its ability to steer the development of science and technology as well as shape universal wisdom education. As a result of its developmental crossing of the "defensive-environmental" limit to growth, HDS will now function as a "guardian", furthering and hastening the development of LDS and supporting development of the natural environment. However, at this stage in HDS's evolution LDS will still be "immature", selfishly developing "at the cost of the environment". Therefore, HDS's ecohumanistic axiological transformation and development of intellectual evolution mechanisms will not be enough to enable its developmental crossing of this second limit to growth. What it will additionally need is an adequate defense potential to protect HDS from the threats inherent in the possible destructiveness of LDS and the natural environment.
The replacement by HDS of its to-date defensive "eye-for-eye" stance towards the social environment by an environmentally-friendly ecohumanistic attitude may be viewed by LDS as weakness on the part of HDS, and not its true axiological transformation.
The global solidarity resulting from HDS's developmental crossing of the "defensive-environmental" limit to growth will help to put down the developmental differences between HDS and LDS. Given the increasing pace of change in life-conditions accompanying the growth of world society and the risks resulting from humanity's naturally insufficient knowledge about the future, it will this time be crucial for entire world society to raise its cognitive and innovational creative activity and its flexibility, and simultaneously the effectiveness of its intellectual evolution mechanisms. This will inspire the developmental reconstruction of world society's technological infrastructure into a more human and nature-friendly model.
However, the consequences of closing the social gaps between HDS and LDS (accompanied by the activation of LDS's heretofore dormant intellectual potential) and the developmental reconstruction of world society's technological infrastructure will be a further speeding up of change within the world society natural-environment system and the faster exhaustion of here to fore accessible life resources.
This brings us to the next fundamental growth barrier — the "catastrophic" limit to growth.
(v) The "Catastrophic" Limit to Growth
The higher the pace of change in the life-conditions of both HDS and LDS, the more world society will find itself endangered by sundry and unpredictable disasters. The developmental crossing of this next "catastrophic" limit to growth — this time by entire world society — will require the completion of LDS's subjectivization and consecutive shaping of its "maturity", both in the scientific-technological and ethical sense. This will enable the full, global integration of HDS and LDS and, by increasing world society's active intellectual potential, a radical rising of the effectiveness of intellectual evolution.
Simultaneously, this will lead to the gradual expansion of the natural environment under "protective care" to embrace not only the Earth but also the Cosmos. The to-date survival battle of the strongest (or with the strongest) will be replaced by conditions conducive to symbiotic coexistence in a human-human system and, in a more distant future, a humanity-nature system.
Global Crisis and the Dangers of Its Pathological Overcoming
(i) Global Crisis — an Effect of Life "Beyond the Limits"
In light of the above analysis, global crisis appears to be the result of the pathological crossing (especially by the highly developed West) of at least the two first fundamental limits to growth: "inertial" and "defensive-environmental".
Despite its highly advanced science and technology, West has yet not developed the ability to guide itself by knowledge about the complex consequences of its policies. Western elites have not made the anticipativeness-forming axiological switch from social-Darwinistic egoism to ecohumanism, hence the West neither knows how to coordinate ecohumanistic cooperation, nor has it deemed it necessary to raise the subjectivity of its "fringe groups", the weaker part of its society still looked upon as "talking tools" or even redundant" (Martin, Schumann 1999).
In result, world society has as yet not developed the ability to cognize and anticipate — by adjustment — the changes in human and natural life-conditions which, driven by scientific and technological progress, take place with increasing alacrity in today's world. Therefore, world society has also not learnt intercultural dialogue and cooperation, both crucial for attaining the synergy needed to overcome global crisis.
The main cause of global crisis is world society's un-adjustment to life in State of Change and Risk. World society is marked by the inability to eliminate the negative effects of the moral depreciation of life-forms (like axiology, technology, economics, socio-economic infrastructure, etc.), which, although until recently considered appropriate, now are in discord with the new and fast-changing conditions of human and natural life.
(ii) Orweilian information society and the pathological reduction of the world's population
The result of world society's failure to recognize the essential causes of global crisis is its conservative continuation of egoistic and informationally inefficient social relations. False theories about the inevitability of huge "structural" unemployment are spread to slow down the consumption of rare, deficit resources and the destruction of the environment. At the same time, foundations are laid under a new, this time global totalitarianism resembling Orweilian information society, its aim the pathological reduction of the world's population.
This false strategy of overcoming global crisis leads to pathological globalization accompanied by the West's quest — among others through "clash of civilizations" and "pre-emptive wars" — for ways to ensure its access to rare, deficit natural resources and restore nature to a "healthy" condition.
Therefore, we may expect attempts to reduce the world's allegedly "overgrown" population by means of open or clandestine wars (Toffler 1995), and without consideration for the fact that such misguided defensiveness will only ignite defensive attitudes in the endangered weaker societies, the result being "defensive" terrorism, exotic alliances and a host of other mutually-destructive and pathological reactions.
What is in deficit today, however, is wisdom, and with it the political will for action towards the sustainable development of world society. Also failing are the knowledge, technology and time needed to develop methods of locating or creation access to alternative resources faster than the existing resources are utilized. There is also a deficit on knowledge and technology crucial for transforming the present techno-sphere into a human- and nature-friendly environment. Moreover, indeed we need production methods allowing the transformation of the waste created in the course of the manufacture, exploitation and final annihilation of products, technical means, etc. into agents supporting life of the social and natural environment.
In light of the above, sustainable development — limits to growth developmental crossing - does not mean a total deficit on natural resources or imminent environmental destruction.
Ecohumanistic Information Society — Utopia or Precondition of Sustainable Development?
(i) "Visionary Projecting"— the Essence of Sustainable Development Strategy
The fulfillment of the seemingly Utopian UN vision of world society's sustainable - "three-pillars" - development will require a long-term strategy to help world society enforce this qualitatively new development form (Desai 2002, Michnowski 2008a). Without such a strategy it will be unable to integrate three policies which today in fact stand in opposition to each other — social development, economic development and environment protection (or appropriate environmental formation) — and do it in a way enabling an universal raising of living standards and quality of life for present and future generations of humanity.
This strategy should stretch over years and should base on the general concept of an "ideal" socio-economic and informational infrastructure operated by a world society capable of sustainable development (Nadler 1969, Michnowski 2003, Meadows 2004). Such infrastructure will have to be very open to innovation, therefore world society will have to be very efficient in the information field (Utsumi 2005).
Here only chosen features of such a (much-desired) future world society, however their acquisition by today's society may well bring us closer to the desired ideal of its sustainable development. The basic characteristic of future society should be the ability of developmental transformations within the world society-natural environment system by means of intellectual evolution mechanisms (Michnowski 2009d).
In order for society to acquire this ability, the statesmen who map out the world's future will have to accept the reality of the sustainable development vision and the need for ecohumanism, and will have to:
Meeting these criteria will mark the emergence of a new form of globalization — ecohumanistic globalization (Inclusive Globalization, fair globalization, globalization with “human face” – CIA 2000, United Nations 2005a, Merkel 2007)
- build a sustainable development economic system;
- develop social relations and a information infrastructure enabling easy access to indispensable knowledge;
- build an education system for shaping universal wisdom and information culture, and
- create a sustainable development global governance system.
(ii) Sustainable Development Economy
An economic system adjusted to State of Change and Risk should be able to:
- permanently sustain world society's economic growth (World Bank 2006);
- integrate economic growth and social development to the benefit of present and future generations;
- ensure economic growth without exhausting accessible natural resources and ruthless environmental destruction (OECD 2005);
- stimulate social and economic activity to further sustainable development;
- ensure the material resources necessary to elevate developmentally backward societies to full maturity;
- ensure material and intellectual reserves to tide society over unexpected situations and practice of developmental control over demographic growth.
This system ought to be based on common good — common interest principle, in other words: combine its own interests with those of the social and natural environment. The construction of an economy capable of ensuring the above synthesis will require the inclusion of comprehensively defined social and natural elements in the to-date benefit-cost account. (Brown 2001, Club of Rome 2002, Michnowski 2006c, 2007, 2009e) In addition, enabling the access of mature socio-economic subjects to the results of the social work process on principles of eco-social justice — in other words, proportionally to their share in the attainment of these results need to be included.
(iii) Access to Knowledge for Sustainable Development
Ensuring access to knowledge permitting world society to permanently support sustainable development will require society to develop more informational skills, among others by publicizing already existent knowledge (heretofore selfishly hoarded by groups and individuals) and creating a scientific system, which shows preference to such knowledge.
The construction of an informationally-efficient global infrastructure should enable easier comprehension of the statistical laws which reflect the movements of our fast-changing reality, and the faster processing of reality-reflecting knowledge into predictions of the effects of to-date, present and projected socioeconomic policies.
(iv) Informationally Efficient Infrastructure
The basic condition for life in State of Change and Risk and sustainable development is the creation of a highly efficient global informational infrastructure, among others ensuring access to knowledge about the complex (and future) effects of human activity and changes in human and natural life-conditions (Kleiber 2003, Stanczyk 2005). 6
A crucial element of such infrastructure must be a generally accessible, constantly upgraded, integrated and territorially distributed, GRID (Utsumi 2006) global information system geared to the needs of sustainable development and enabling the dynamic monitoring , long-term forecasting and measurable evaluation of the effects of policy, labour and other changes in human and natural life-conditions (Kaku 1997).
Dynamic monitoring means collection and transformation of statistical data reflecting the complex process of socio-economic-natural life into knowledge about this process's quality, dynamics, and future (barring any outside interference). Dynamic monitoring provides forewarnings of threats, which stimulate countermeasures, it informs about the need to undertake intervening measures also in case of development slowdowns. By informing about the distance to limit to growth (Figure 1), it also enables successive evaluations of the effectiveness of sustainable development policy. In case of the inability to move forward this limit to growth within the current socio-economic framework, dynamic monitoring would stimulate the anticipatory reconstruction of these relations with the aim of developmentally crossing this limit to growth.
This qualitatively new, dynamic monitoring form would provide information about:
- regression or development of monitored societies;
- development (regression) pace;
- acceleration or slowing down of development (regression);
- the positive effects attained by to-date policies;
- the threats inherent in current policy and the environment;
- when a given society may attain its limit to growth;
- how much in advance social relations in a given society must be reformed to enable a given society to developmentally cross this limit to growth.
Alone the launching of the construction of a dynamic monitoring system should radically boost the development of science as the process will reveal numerous “blind spots" resulting from failing knowledge, which will pose new challenges for research. Dynamic monitoring will also further technological progress by unearthing potential threats stimulating technology and science to produce countermeasures. Dynamic monitoring should be primarily addressed to statistical offices reformed into statistical and forewarning centres. Additionally to above IT development we need flexible automation proper development, inter alia to free humanity of dangerous or intellectually degrading repetitive tasks (Michnowski 1985).
(v) Shaping Universal Wisdom
Sustainable development will require a radical reorientation of education paradigms. The present elitary education system, which leaves most of society with rather poor skills in acceding, creating and utilizing knowledge, will have to be abandoned as nonconductive to society's broadening share in intellectual and innovational creation (King 1992).
Necessary for life in State of Change and Risk will be the universal shaping of wisdom — both rational and intuitive — and its application for the effective projecting of developmental undertakings and reliable assessment of these undertakings' progress and effects.
Contemporary wisdom in State of Change and Risk means the ability to observe occurrences and follow developments in the environment, pinpoint the processes related to these developments, predict their further course, evaluate them by ecohumanistic criteria, support those that are positive and hinder those that are negative.
Agents of wisdom:
Intellect consists of:
- knowledge (also about future);
- artificial intelligence (AI), and
- life-support activity power.
- conscience. 7
(vi) Global Governance — a Crucial Sustainable Development Factor
The attainment and support of sustainable development will require the construction of highly efficient global and local governance structures (Dror 1994). In order for these structures to ensure adequate flexibility and subjectivity of the various elements of world society, they will have to operate on a mutually supportive basis, with indirect steering based on the popularization of information about threats and countermeasures against them as the main method of developmental management. Therefore, it is recommendable to create a World Centre for Sustainable Development Strategy — for instance as a body aiding the UN Secretary General. This subsidiarity principle based centre should contain a Sustainable Development Strategy Information Centre (Poiska Inicjatywa 1997, POLiSH COUNCIL 2003, MemoriaI 2003, Glenn 2005). The Information Centre's chief task should be the development of methods of building and implementing a global information system for sustainable development and, within its framework and in cooperation with local units, the dynamic monitoring of the global ecosystem — the Earth.
Thus, the main tasks of a World Centre for Sustainable Development Strategy would entail stimulating the construction of the above-mentioned global information system, popularizing the effects of the global ecosystem's dynamic monitoring, stimulating the development of countermeasures to thus-cognized threats, and stimulating the creation of an increasingly innovative susceptible (Ignatyev) and informationally efficient global infrastructure (Morita 1986).
(vii) The Gordian Knot of Sustainable Development
Overcoming global crisis in its above-described variety will entail an extremely difficult task, one that may well be called the undertaking's "Gordian knot": the simultaneous activation of three correlated and interdependent developmental transformations. These transformations will be necessary for world society to:
- develop an informationally efficient global infrastructure;
- learn to stimulate eco-socially useful creative activity.
- attain universal wisdom, and begin to use this wisdom for the common good/common interest.
The above-described transformations will help equip world society with the farsightedness, cognitive and innovative creation, flexibility and reserve-generating abilities needed for contemporary and future life in State of Change and Risk. Humanity's mastering of sustainable development will help control demographic growth as intellectual creativeness will substitute excessive reproduction (or biological "defense creativeness"). Pursuit of the above anti-crisis strategy is also a condition for world society's mastering of sustainable development. How should humanity go about this highly complex which is so crucial to its survival?
In the light of System of Life model, it is impossible to create such big super-computer that surpass wise human aided by this supercomputer (or net of such super-computers). Computers, cyborgs have not intuition and conscience.
In light of the above humanity is still on a crossroads with a choice between the conservative, "nowhere-leading" continuation of crisis-generating social-Darwinism and ecohumanistic civilizational change accompanied by the introduction of intellectual evolution methods.
Ecohumanistic civilizational change entails the developmental transition from:
- social-Darwinistic egoism and individualism to science- and hi-tech supported cooperation for the common good of all people and the natural environment,
- the eco-socially highly costly and lethal "feedback” based socio-economic selection model to anticipatory (feedforward) selection based on popular wisdom and computer simulation,
- fear of the effects of "overshooting" seemingly absolute limits to growth (which hampers the will for defensive cooperation) to recognition of such limits and their developmental crossing, and
- treatment of the sustainable development concept as an oxymoron to the factual construction of its social, economic, informational and educational foundations.
The development of science and technology — also on the organizational plane — and the rise in human potential have considerably hastened the pace of change in human and natural life-conditions as well as the progression of inertia in world society. In result, humanity has found itself in State of Change and Risk.
The high inertia and fast pace of the ongoing changes in life-conditions have created a need for their forecasting and anticipation by adjustment. This in turn calls for farsightedness, flexibility and the ability to create reserve resources to cope with unexpected situations.
It is also necessary to radical improving the coordination of social work process and extends humanity's protective care over larger parts of the environment — today the cosmic environment.
State of Change and Risk have introduced a qualitatively new dominant factor to the ongoing destruction of human and natural life — the rapidly and, in face of scientific and technological development, inevitably progressing moral depreciation (obsoleteness) of humanity life-forms which today no longer comply with the new and rapidly-changing conditions of life.
Eliminating the negative effects of moral depreciation will require a broader scope of intellectual (cognitive and innovative) creativity aimed towards the development of science and technology.
In turn, the progress in science and technology speeds up change raises the risk of error and stimulates moral depreciation.
Mastering the ability to anticipate and eliminate the negative effects of moral depreciation will require the abandonment of selfishness and individualism for ecohumanism and its partnership-based cooperation, which preconditions the enormous mutual enrichment by earlier- and newly-possessed knowledge (also about the future) and the effects of cognitive-innovative activity which is crucial for humanity in State of Change and Risk.
Therefore, today we need increasingly more human labour — wise, inspired by the common good, cognitive and innovatory — and not escalating supposedly unavoidable "structural" unemployment. Such labour, however, will have to entail sound knowledge about its effects in time and space. The more work is carried out without adequate knowledge about its effects, the faster will be the exhaustion rate of currently accessible natural resources and the pace of environmental destruction. State of Change and Risk reveals the limits to growth problem and the threats inherent in pathological attempts to cross them.
In light of the here-discussed research there are no limits for 'Wisdom' based growth and sustainable development of 'Human' society.
Fulfillment of the U.N.'s sustainable development vision will require access to knowledge about the effects of human activity (and intentions) and other changes in the conditions of human and natural life.
Also necessary will be:
- the reconstruction of the economic system into one farsighted and founded on common good/common interest principle (Brundtland 1987);
- the creation of an education system capable of teaching universal wisdom (including information culture), and
- the development and popularization of flexible automation.
This will allow the replacement of social-Darwinistic "growth at the cost of environment (social and/or natural)” by intellectual evolution mechanisms, including the primary selection in the virtual reality of developmental projects by means of universally accessible computer simulation and supported by an ecohumanistic value system. 8
Sustainable development will need the replacement of today's egoistic and strongly crisis-generating globalization by ecohumanistic globalization. Continuing the present shortsighted and selfish "coexistence"/”clash of civilizations" forms will reduce world society's social diversity, which is the basis of developmental synergy. Such pathological globalization leads to the depreciation and physical elimination of weaker societies in inevitable and mutually destructive battles for access to deficit resources.
The sooner we reject our "eye for eye, tooth for tooth" policy and reach a friendly hand out to our recent opponents, (persons, social classes, nations, or civilizations which we have heretofore regarded as enemies or inferior objects) in a proposal of partnership based cooperation for our common interests, the more chance we will have to overcome global crisis and transform the "Utopian" sustainable development concept into a force permanently linking social development to economic growth and ensuring adequate protection (or, rather, adequate formation) of the natural environment.
If, on the other hand, the rapid economic and civilizational growth of vast and until recently underdeveloped societies like China or India continues in the conditions of today's pathological globalization, it will inevitably lead the world society to socioeconomic or ecological disaster. The precondition for transforming this huge economic and civilizational development process into a driving force of world society's sustainable development is the recognition of the need for ecohumanism-based civilizational change and its enforcement. Especially urgent here will be the construction of the social, informational and educational foundations under an ecohumanistic (sustainable development based) political and economic system.
Creating openings for ecohumanism and intellectual evolution cannot be an ad-hoc process. The replacement of "growth at the cost of environment" by "development together with the environment" will call for wise, mainly supportive and, most importantly, global control over ecohumanistic reconstruction. Without providing access to knowledge about the effects of human activity, humanity's intentions so frequently declared to adopt a more human- and nature-friendly attitude will not be fulfilled.
Ecohumanism and knowledge about the future preconditions the developmental crossing of limits to growth, which is the fundament of the sustainable development of world society.
Note: The text above was written by me three years ago – in 2006. I would like to add – from current crisis perspective as of September 2009 - some more particular anti-crisis conclusions.
1 When I use the word "environment" it means social and /or natural
2 Conditions of life : state of social-economic environment, including natural resources accessibility, natural environment quality, intellectual, science-technology and war potential. [back]
3 UN call for fair globalization, that allow and productive employment and decent work for all. (United Nations, 2005a). See also (CIA, 2000, 2004, John Paul II 2001). [back]
4 Accordingly we assume a collective responsibility to advance and strengthen the interdependent and mutually reinforced pillars of
sustainable development, economic development, social development and environmental protection at local, national, regional and global
levels. (UN 2002a). [back]
5 Moral depreciation, degradation is synonym of obsoleteness. [back]
6 Information is the key to sustainability transformation (...) When (...) information flows are changed any system will behave differently.
(Meadows 2004). [back]
7 In the light of System of Life model it is impossible to create such big super-computer that surpass wise human aided by this supercomputer or net of such super-computers). Computers, cyborgs have no intuition and conscience. [back]
8 To carry out sustainability transformation and eliminate overshot negative consequences (...) visioning, networking, truthtelling, learning and loving is proposed. Individualism and shortsightedness are the greatest problems of the current social system (..) and the deepest cause of unsustainability. Love and compassion institutionalised in collective solutions is the better alternative. (Meadows 2004). [back]
Global crisis from today’s perspective
What is the essence of the current crisis?
This question brings up some additional questions:
How can this crisis be overcome in a sustainable way?
If we approve neoliberal-materialistic approach, we can return “after crisis” to old life-forma “as usual”. Only small cosmetic corrections to world finacial-monetary system would be necessary. Model of wasteful consumptions and large hunger death of many Childs of God (in social-Darwinistic way human-beings unfitted) can also be supported “as usual”.
How can world society adapt to the high science and technology life-conditions era?
How can the world society life-process control system (homeostat) be upgraded?
How can ICT be used to manege world society in sustainable ultrastability?
Weaker civilizations, nations, enterprises, human-beings, and so on, will be putted into pieces, throw away “over the board”. Together with they (for future valuable) experience, intellectual and spiritual potential - social diversity. It would be consistent with “saint free market low” of allocation “life and capital”.
I reject such crisis evaluation. If it is not crisis “as usual” (free market hossa-bessa fluctuations), but global civilizational crisis, we have to use quite different methods for recovery.
1. We need to use systems-cybernetics knowledge (Information culture): Bertalanffy, Wiener, Forrester, Sage, Nadler, Voigt – also Capra (Cybernetics is - in accordance with N. Wiener – information theory in larger sense. In accordance to M. Mazur (Polish cyberneticist) systems theory and cybernetics is the same, only using another kind of language. In accordance with A.P. Sage (for proper sustainable development (SD) policy making –LM) we need systems theory (conceptual model- f.e. System of Life of mine) and Forrester simulation methods).
2. We ought to return to Meadows' 1972 recognition of crisis symptoms (see: below – the effect of world life-process dynamic monitoring).
3. With old, social-Darwinistic, materialistic mindset anti-crisis answer is: resources are exhausted and therefore we need to diminish radically a number of human-beings and economic growth rate.
4. With information/cybernetics culture approach, to durably overcome this crisis as civilizational one, we need among others to upgrade radically world society homeostat, to adopt it to State of Change and Risk.
5. To this end it is necessary to:
5.1. Recognize all powerful social and/or political organizations (“materialistic” or “spiritual”) that posses control potential, even acting up to date in social-Darwinistic way;
6. To strengthen such world SD supporting, integrated homeostat it would be useful to include largely into multilevel control activity women intellectual (also intuitive) potential. In State of Change and Risk, when life-processes are going chaotically and catastrophically we need both computer simulation and intuitive aid of projecting and decision making.
5.2. Introduce into them knowledge/awareness about essence of this crisis and conditions to overcome it in “common interest” and “informational” way.
5.3. Convince them, that such ecohumanistic transformation is essential for crisis survive by them and societies that are under their care;
5.4. Initiate their for “common good” developmental cooperation leading to their integration;
5.5. Help them to strengthen their social control potential;
5.6. With help of these world control forces to undertake building of efficient world information infrastructure as basis for multilevel including global sustainable development (SD) governance.
7. By reminding Limits to Growth 1972 and 2004 DYNAMIC MONITORINGS I’d like to:
7.1. Show what is the essence of dynamic monitoring (DYNAMIC MONITORING predicts - by means of computer simulation (System Dynamics – Jay W. Forrester) - future of monitored process on condition that no intervention into it will be undertaken).
8. There are different kinds of human consumption:
7.2. Show another – different to social-Darwinistic – way of looking for solutions of overcoming this global crisis;
7.3. Show (2004) that that formally-binding “three-pillar” sustainable development of world society policy is unsuccessful;
7.4. Remind Meadows' calling for Loving approach instead egoistic one.
7.5. Turn the attention on Visioning, as important item of backcasting method of SD strategy making;
7.6. Suggest to start GRID global early warning system building be means of Meadowss achievements using - every year, not by ten or twenty years period.
8.1. Consumption to support life and intellectual creative potential, and
9. For sustainable development of the world society we need increase investment the first one - for human development. To this end the global financial/banking system must undergo a radical reform.
8.2. Consumption that is wasteful and motivated by selfish greed rather than the common good
PROPOSED STRATEGY TO OVERCOME THE CURRENT CRISIS
We, the world society, are living now – in 2009 year - under the strong pressure of open phase of global crisis: unemployment growing rapidly, homelessness, hunger, flu pandemic, dangerous climate change, resources depletion, and other negative aspects of contemporary high science and technology era. It means that our up to date “three-pillars” sustainable development of the world society policy (United Nations 2002) is obviously unsuccessful.
From several years I am writing and speaking about global danger by Meadowss “Limits to Growth” early warning predicted (Michnowski 1994ab, 1995, 2002, 2004, 2006abc, 2007, 2008ce). Only few persons then supported my calling for ecohumanistic civilizational transformation and building information bases for sustainable development of the world society, as indispensable conditions of overcoming global crisis and therefore avoiding global catastrophe.
Also nowadays, when global crisis is so obvious, a lot of politicians and economists do not agree with such diagnosis of global recovery conditions. They treat usually current financial-economic crisis as normal, cyclical effect of free market economy activity. Thus the time would be presumably the best means for global economy recovery. At the most they propose to introduce into financial sphere only some transparency and regulatory tools. The rest of recovery ought to be done “automatically”, by means of “invisible hand” of “free market” and existing form of (Pernicious – CIA 2000) globalization – the best tool for anti-crisis “allocation of life and capital.”
My calling for ecohumanistic transformation is strongly coherent with Meadowss global crisis alerts and their humanistic proposals of ways to deal with limits to growth dangerous crossing (Meadows 1972, 1992, 2004).
In 1972 in the Limits to Growth for Club of Rome First Report we – the world society - received Meadowss global catastrophe early warning and some suggestions how to keep the world society on proper side of dangerously crossing limits to growth. The basic effect of above dynamic monitoring of world society conditions was shown in Figure: Model of the World - Standard run.
Supplement Figure 1: Model of the World - Standard run
Source: (Meadows 1972)
In response to this Report we received then two alternative recommendations.
The first one - based on old, social-Darwinistic, mindset proposal - it was named as “zero growth” strategy (see Supplement Figure 2). In this approach the main dangers for humankind was number of humans growing very rapidly, especially in weaker part of the world society (Forrester 1971).
Recognized limits to growth in the near future dangerous crossing would be the result of post Second World War scientific-technology revolution and East and West welfare state (and international) policy. More food (green revolution), more health care, more life supporting different commodities - results in big surplus of births over deaths. Overpopulation would lead the world society to natural resources depletion and environment degradation (Forrester 1971).
Supplement Figure 2: One set of conditions that establishes a world equilibrium at a high quality of life.
Source: (Forrester 1995).
Therefore to avoid global catastrophe it is necessary to decrease the number of human beings (Martin 1999). It is also necessary to put down the rate of world economic growth (Fey 2001) that will allow to radically decrease “ecological footprint” (WWF 2006).
Probably the change in forms of world financial system activity and introducing Washington Consensus based methods of (pathological) globalization were the answer to - in such way recognized roots of - above global crisis.
For example, in accordance with N. Chomsky:
in 1970 90% of international capital was engaged in real economy, in trade and long-term investments. But in 1990 the situation was radically changed. In this year, 90 % of this capital was engaged in speculative activity (Dada 2003).
As a result of above income and cultural gap between rich and poor, “North” and “South” (not only in geographical aspect), was deathly growing up.
The second recommendation, it was proposal to shift limits to growth ahead by means of axiological/values conversion (from egoism to common good/common interest (Brundtland 1987), change of production and consumption patterns (into ecosocially non costly/friendly), big ecosocially useful science-technology development, fair (with “human face” – Merkel 2007) globalization. This second recommendation was formally accepted as UN “three-pillars” sustainable development form (United Nations 2002) of overcoming global crisis and including for this end underdeveloped societies in the sphere of creative, ecosocially useful, high developed science-technology civilization.
In 2004 the new Meadowss research showed us (also in dynamic monitoring way) results of until now effects of overcoming the global crisis (Supplement Figure 3).
Supplement Figure 3: Scenario 1: A Reference Point
Source: (Meadows 2004)
According to this next global early warning (Scenario 1), we are still approaching to the global catastrophe. In this third 2004 Meadows' warning report there is such important statement:
Another mental model says that the limits are real and close, and that there is not enough time, and that people cannot be moderate or responsible or compassionate. At least not in time. That model is self-fulfilling. If the world's people choose to believe it, they will be proven right. The result will be collapse. (Meadows 2004).
To avoid this collapse the Report proposes: (…) Visioning (…) Networking (…) Truth-Telling (…) Learning (…) Loving (…) . In this set of anti-crisis proposals, Loving is the most strategic one (Meadows 2004).
Thus we have two different diagnoses of current financial and economic crisis.
The first one: this current crisis is not connected with global crisis recognized by means of simulation methods in 1972 (and confirmed in 2004), and not lead us to global catastrophe. Therefore any civilization transformation is not necessary.
The second one: financial and economic crisis, as well as crises: ecological (including climate change), energy, health (including flu – Ban 2009), food, unemployment (ILO 2009), pensions (Giles 2009) – all these crises are visible effects of not overcoming properly above 1970 global crisis.
The main causes of this global crisis are:
- egoism and short-sightedness of policy-making;
- lack of knowledge about complex (including time and space long-range) consequences of socio-economy activity and other changes in environment;
- lack of connection between access to wealth/profits with eco-social usefulness of persons and organizations activity.
To overcome this crisis the big socio-economy, even general civilizational transformation: from social-Darwinistic to eco-humanistic (including Loving) forms of coexistence is necessary as soon as possible.
Who is right? The false recognizing of essence of this crisis and undertaking improper methods to overcome them can lead the world society to global catastrophe.
To answer let us use backcasting method enriched by means of System of Life model principles and conclusions (Michnowski 2003, 2006c, 2007, 2008ab). Let us remind thus Figure 3 (Michnowski 2007).
Let us assume that global crisis - I am talking about - has started before 1970 (at the end of “stage of development”, Supplement Figure 3). From 1970 up to 2007/2008 we were living in an invisible, calm, “1 phase”, of global crisis. In this period environmental degradation (but also some local crises) was the main sign of this crisis. Also climate changes were getting stronger and stronger. At the end of this period above mentioned open/evident crises emerged spontaneously or in conservative defense way.
Supplement Figure 4: Life-system development and phases of crisis
Source: (Michnowski 2007).
In the 2 phase there would be even several false recoveries. It would be the result of getting access to life-resources still in social-Darwinistic way – at the cost of weaker part of the world society. Also lasting/sustained false (Orwellian) recovery is possible (3 phase of crisis). But also global collapse!
To overcome this global crisis we ought to return to Limits to Growth Figure: Model of the World - Standard run illustration of this crisis symptoms. To stabilize in developmental way socio-economic-environment global life–process we need to:
- rationalize consumption based on deficit resources (including environmental one) depleting;
- get access to new sources of resources in place of one depleted irreversibly;
- initiate new science-technology revolution that will allow to convert all techno-sphere/technology into ecosocially friendly one;
- to stop overpopulation tendency by means of substitution popular intellectual (cognize-innovative) creativity for natural/biological defensive creativity.
There are three basic conditions of above sustainable development way of overcoming global crisis:
- to convert global financial system into one, that will support/aid above, ecosocially useful activity;
- to build information bases of sustainable development policy and economy;
- to create adequate national and global subsidiary governance institutions.
Some additional to above particular proposals to realize these sustainable development tasks, see inter alia: To UN and G2O Leaders (still actual) Message (Europe’s World 2009, Club of Rome 2009).
The main effect of ecohumanistic civilizational transformation ought to be creating – especially information - possibility to “give more” than it is “taken from” social and environmental surrounding (Wiener 1961, Utsumi 2005). Theoretical foundations for such synergy (win-win) effect of socio-economic activity and for common good/common interest cooperation are in cybernetics of development (Michnowski 1990, 1994a,b, 1995, 2006c), that is based on N. Wiener general theory of information, largely enriched by J. W. Forrester – creator of computer simulation methods for proper, long-range shaping of inter alia sustainable development policy (Kotarbinski 1982, Forrester 1971, 1995, 1998, Sage 1977, Utsumi 2005, Wiener 1961).
Therefore for durable/lasting overcoming global crisis and achieving sustainable development of the world society it would be also convenient to include into UNESCO activity program, the task of forming information culture (information in N. Wiener and J. W. Forrester sense), including knowledge about my System of Life model (Michnowski 1994a, 1995, 2002, 2004, 2006c, 2007), as a tool for conceptual system analysis for sustainable development strategy with backcasting method creating (Michnowski 2003).
It would be: “UNESCO program of the information culture for SD e-Governance shaping.” Popular (but as a first of politicians and public administration) information culture is essential for transforming current short-sighted and egoistic civilization into one long-sighted, ecosocially creative, and therefore based on feedforward and ecohumanistic subsidiary control of socio-economic-nature life-process.
In the light of System of Life based conceptual analysis of global crisis essence and methods to lasting overcome it, propagating the end of financial and economic crisis without undertaking ecohumanistic civilizational transformation is preparing to overcome this crisis in a pathological, short-lived, social-Darwinistic way .
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