Arthur dahl presenting materialism environment governance sustainability dec 2011


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A photograph of the decisive decade we are facing, the perfect storm of environmental, economic and growth crisis we are facing and some possible ways to help the transition from this old unsustainable system to a new world order sustained by a new approach of global prosperity, justice and sustainability.

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Arthur dahl presenting materialism environment governance sustainability dec 2011

  1. 1. Materialism and Environment Arthur Lyon Dahl Ph.D.European Baháí Business Forum (EBBF)‫‏‬ and International Environment Forum (IEF)‫‏‬ Madrid, 3 December 2011
  2. 2. Present unsustainability• Population will grow to 9 billion by 2050• 20% of population uses 80% of resources• Energy challenge / climate change threats• Growing water shortages• Loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services• Food production capacity at risk• Extremes of wealth and poverty widening• Financial system has imploded
  3. 3. The wealthy live unsustainable lifestyles
  4. 4. Ecological footprint• Surface needed to supply the needs and absorb the wastes of an individual, community, or country• Global average 2.7 ha/person‫‏‬• Spain 5.7 ha/person (biocapacity 1.3 ha/person)• Resources available 2.1 ha/person• We overshot the earths capacity in 1975
  5. 5. Globalizationis the logical next step in human evolution, but• Economic globalization is driven by powerful governments and multinational businesses for their own benefit• Social globalization is being strongly resisted• Globalization of environmental problems threatens future sustainability• Globalization of information makes us aware
  6. 6. Planetary Boundaries• Climate change• Rate of biodiversity loss• Nitrogen cycle and phosphorus cycle• Stratospheric ozone depletion• Ocean acidification• Global freshwater use• Change in land use• Atmospheric aerosol loading• Chemical pollution
  7. 7. Climate ChangeTemperature increase last 50 years
  8. 8. What the models say IPCC 2007
  9. 9. Arctic Sea Ice September 1982 and 2008
  10. 10. BIODIVERSITY LOSS - Extinction rate (species per million species per year) preindustrial 0.1-1, boundary 10, actual >100- The annual cost of forest loss is $2-5 trillion- There will soon be no natural ecosystems left, requiring increasing human intervention to maintain some biological diversity
  11. 11. Nitrogen Cycle (part of a boundary with the phosphorus cycle)• Amount of N2 removed from atmosphere for human use (mt/yr): preindustrial 0; boundary 35; actual 121• Burning fossil fuels produces nitrogen oxides• Nitrogen fertilizers come from petrochemicals• More than half the fixed nitrogen on the planet now comes from human activities
  12. 12. Global Freshwater UseBy 2025, 1.8b people will live in regions with absolute water scarcity, and 2/3 of the world population could be subject to water stress as climate change reduces rainfall in these areas
  13. 13. Predicted changes in rainfall from climate changePercent change in precipitation 1900-1999 to 2000-2099 December-February and June-August IPCC 2007
  14. 14. Forecasts of Peak Oil (WBCSD, Vision 2050, 2010)
  15. 15. Double economic challenge“On current trends, ...humanity will need twice as much energy as it uses today within 35 years.... Produce too little energy, say the economists, and there will be price hikes and a financial crash unlike any the world has ever known, with possible resource wars, depression and famine. Produce the wrong sort of energy, say the climate scientists, and we will have more droughts, floods, rising seas and worldwide economic disaster with runaway global warming.John Vidal in The Guardian Weekly, 9-15 February 2007, Energy supplement, p. 3We shall probably do both at the same time
  16. 16. Population Growth Scenarios
  17. 17. Soil degradation
  18. 18. The coming soil crisis• Since 1945, erosion has degraded 1.2 billion hectares, equal to China plus India, 38% of global crop land• Annual soil loss is 75 billion tonnes, with 12 million ha abandoned, 1% of total
  19. 19. Start of a Global Food Crisis• Climate change, drought, floods, soil erosion, overfishing are reducing food production• With grain being diverted for biofuel, 800 m motorists are competing with 2 bn poor• There are 1 bn hungry people, increasing due to higher food prices• Food is being priced out of reach for the poor
  20. 20. Resource DepletionMany key materials are being exhausted rapidly (estimated years left: predicted/todays rate)‫‏‬• Phosphorus (fertilizer) 142-345• Copper (wire, coins, pipes) 40-60• Hafnium, Indium (chips, LCDs) 5-15• Platinum (catalysts, fuel cells) 15-360• Silver (jewelry, catalysts) 15-30• Tantalum (cellphones, cameras) 20-115• Uranium (weapons, power stations) 30-60
  21. 21. Where is the Economy going?• Origins in American consumer society living beyond its means, accumulating debt• Head of European Central Bank (Feb. 2009): "We live in non-linear times: the classic economic models and theories cannot be applied, and future development cannot be foreseen."• Derivatives over $500 trillion by 2008 (x4 5y),‫‏‬ $700 trillion in 2010; uncontrolled speculation• European countries on brink of insolvency• Debt can only be repaid if the growth rate is higher than the interest rate
  22. 22. Accumulating economic, social and environmental debt• Financial crisis from excessive debt• Governance failures; increasing poverty; youth in revolt; insecurity• UK Chief Scientist (19 March 2009): the world faces a perfect storm of problems in 2030 as food, energy and water shortages interact with climate change to produce public unrest, cross-border conflicts and mass migrations
  23. 23. This is a crisis of consumption• The economy is driven by consumption. Much recent consumption reflected increased borrowing and rising debt levels (individual, corporate, government)• Anything increasing consumption was good for the economy: planned obsolescence, aggressive advertising and marketing, encouraging addiction, carefully orchestrated changes in style• Information technologies and media have globalized this and created a generation of passive consumers• Economists and politicians insist on growth (to avoid collapse)• People expect constantly increasing purchasing power• But returning to consumption-driven growth and respecting planetary environmental limits are incompatible International Environment Forum
  24. 24. Economic thinking is challenged by the environmental crisis- It can no longer insist that there is no limit to natures capacity to fulfil any demand made on it- Attaching absolute value to growth, to acquisition, and to the satisfaction of peoples wants is no longer a realistic guide to policy- Economic decision-making tools cannot deal with the fact that most of the major challenges are global (based on The Prosperity of Humankind, Baháí International Community)
  25. 25. Scenariosplausible futures• Business as usual in a materialistic society ignoring the future• Retreating to a fortress world of old values• Making a transition to sustainability
  26. 26. Scenarios from World 3 (Meadows et al. (1992) Beyond the Limits)‫‏‬Business as usual Transition 1995 Transition 2015
  27. 27. End of the growth paradigm• Can we expect endless material growth in a finite planetary system?• Economic growth has depended on population growth, the fossil energy subsidy, resource discoveries and technological innovation• The first three all end within a few decades
  28. 28. Denial, Depression or Action? Do we have a choice?Can we go and hide on a remote island?
  29. 29. At the root of all thisis what could be called an ethical deficit
  30. 30. Environmental Sustainability is fundamentally an Ethical Challenge egotism versus altruismme first versus all together
  31. 31. The human environmentWe cannot segregate the human heart from the environment outside us and say that once one of these is reformed everything will be improved. Man is organic with the world. His inner life moulds the environment and is itself also deeply affected by it. The one acts upon the other and every abiding change in the life of man is the result of these mutual reactions. (Letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 17 February 1933, Compilation on Social and Economic Development, p. 4)
  32. 32. A self-centred materialism• The early twentieth century materialisticinterpretation of reality has become thedominant world faith in the direction of society• Rational experimentation and discussion areexpected to solve all the issues of humangovernance and development• Dogmatic materialism has captured allsignificant centres of power and information atthe global level, ensuring that no competingvoices can challenge projects of world wideeconomic exploitation (based on Universal House of Justice, One Common Faith, p. 3-5)‫‏‬
  33. 33. The unsustainable consumer culture- Materialisms vision of human progress produced todays consumer culture with its ephemeral goals- For the small minority of people who can afford them, the benefits it offers are immediate- The breakdown of traditional morality has led to the triumph of animal impulses and hedonism- Selfishness has become a prized commercial resource; falsehood reinvents itself as public information; greed, lust, indolence, pride, violence are broadly accepted and have social and economic value- Yet it is a culture without meaning (UHJ, One Common Faith, p. 10)‫‏‬
  34. 34. Threat from materialismPervading all departments of life... is the crass materialism, which lays excessive and ever-increasing emphasis on material well-being, forgetful of those things of the spirit on which alone a sure and stable foundation can be laid for human society. It is this same cancerous materialism, born originally in Europe, carried to excess in the North American continent, contaminating the Asiatic peoples and nations, spreading its ominous tentacles to the borders of Africa, and now invading its very heart, which Bahaullah... denounced in His Writings, comparing it to a devouring flame and regarding it as the chief factor in precipitating the dire ordeals and world-shaking crises that must necessarily involve the burning of cities and the spread of terror and consternation in the hearts of men. Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, p. 124-125
  35. 35. Moderation in Material CivilizationThe civilization, so often vaunted bythe learned exponents of arts andsciences, will, if allowed to overleapthe bounds of moderation, bring greatevil upon men.... The day isapproaching when its flame willdevour the cities... Baháulláh (1817-1892)
  36. 36. The search for a cureThat materialistic ideals have, in the light of experience, failed to satisfy the needs of mankind calls for an honest acknowledgement that a fresh effort must now be made to find the solutions to the agonizing problems of the planet. (Universal House of Justice, The Promise of World Peace, I, p. 8)
  37. 37. Looking for a new purposeLoss of faith in the certainties of materialism and the progressive globalizing of human experience reinforce one another in the longing they inspire for understanding about the purpose of existence. (Universal House of Justice, One Common Faith, p. 13)‫‏‬
  38. 38. Welcome to the newsustainability paradigm • balance • optimal size • subsidiarity • efficiency • de-materialization • closed systems
  39. 39. HOW DOES NATURE DO IT? Sustainability in the coral reef ecosystem:• Efficient solar energy and materials capture by generating large surface area• Efficient energy transfers within system, symbioses• Little waste, effective recycling• High complexity and integration• Maximizes total productivity, not just most productive
  40. 40. Cooperation and ReciprocityCooperation and reciprocity are essential properties of all natural and human systems, increasing in more highly evolved and complex systems
  41. 41. THE ROLE OF SPIRITUAL PRINCIPLEThere are spiritual principles, or whatsome call human values, by whichsolutions can be found for every socialproblem.... Leaders of governments andall in authority would be well served intheir efforts to solve problems if theywould first seek to identify the principlesinvolved and then be guided by them. (Universal House of Justice, The Promise of World Peace) ‫‏‬
  42. 42. The environment is a global challengeAcceptance of the oneness ofmankind is the first fundamentalprerequisite for the reorganization andadministration of the world as onecountry, the home of humankind. (Universal House of Justice, The Promise of World Peace, p. 13-14)
  43. 43. JUSTICEIt is unjust to sacrifice the well-being of most people -- and even of the planet itself -- to the advantages which technological breakthroughs can make available to privileged minorities (based on Bahai International Community, Prosperity of Humankind)
  44. 44. Sustainability – an ethical concept- We are trustees or stewards of the planetsresources and biodiversity. We must:- ensure sustainability and equity of resource useinto distant future- consider the environmental consequences ofdevelopment activities- temper our actions with moderation and humility- value nature in more than economic terms- understand the natural world and its role inhumanitys collective development both material andspiritual(based on Baháí International Community, Valuing Spirituality in Development. 1998)‫‏‬
  45. 45. Environmental sustainabilitya fundamental responsibility• Sustainable environmentalmanagement is not a discretionarycommitment we can weigh againstother competing interests• It is a fundamental responsibility thatmust be shouldered, a pre-requisite forspiritual development as well as ourphysical survival.(based on Baháí International Community, Valuing Spirituality in Development. A concept paper written for the World Faiths and DevelopmentDialogue, Lambeth Palace, London, 18-19 February 1998)‫‏‬
  46. 46. The true purpose of economicsEconomics has ignored humanitys broader social and spiritual needs, resulting in:- Corrosive materialism among the wealthy- Persistent poverty for masses of the worlds peoplesEconomic systems should give the peoples and institutions of the world the means to achieve the real purpose of development: the cultivation of the limitless potentialities in human consciousness. (adapted from Baháí International Community, Valuing Spirituality in Development, 1998)‫‏‬
  47. 47. We need new economic models that - further a dynamic, just and thriving social order - are strongly altruistic and cooperative in nature - provide meaningful employment - help to eradicate poverty in the world (Baháí International Community, Valuing Spirituality in Development) They should give the right signals for challenges like climate change, sustainability and the development of human potential (not just GDP)‫‏‬
  48. 48. Spiritual traditions have always taught Contentment – moderate lifestyles content with little, and be freed from all inordinate desire. (Baháulláh) What does this imply for the consumer society?
  49. 49. Voluntary simplicity Take from this world only to the measure of your needs, and forego that which exceedeth them.(Baháulláh, Súriy-i-Mulúk §19, in The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 193. Haifa, Baháí World Centre, 2002)‫‏‬
  50. 50. Ethical Governance• The present systems of governance are characterized by competitive and conflictual expressions of power, which must be replaced by the unifying and mutualistic exercise of power• Justice and equity are the only means by which unity can be maintained on an interdependent planet• A concern for justice and equity is the indispensable compass in collective decision- making, in achieving unity of thought and action, and in engaging lasting commitment and support for implementation• Effective international governance must support mutual empowerment of all countries, including
  51. 51. Globalization Requires World OrderA world federal system, ruling thewhole earth and exercisingunchallengeable authority over itsunimaginably vast resources,...liberated from the curse of war and itsmiseries, and bent on the exploitation ofall the available sources of energy onthe surface of the planet,... such is thegoal towards which humanity, impelledby the unifying forces of life, is moving. (Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baháulláh, p. 203-204)‫‏‬
  52. 52. Living within environmental limits is possibleTo maintain the planets ecological balance, we must:- base the economy on renewable energy and resources (agriculture, forests, fisheries, bio- industries), closed materials cycles and integrated product life-cycles- reduce human impacts to a level appropriate to the vulnerability and resilience of the systems- restore damaged systems to the level necessary to maintain natural and human ecosystem services- allow population growth and development only to the extent that system improvements extend the carrying capacity of the planetary system
  53. 53. What can individuals do?There are many things that individuals can do to live more sustainably within environmental limits. We can: – re-examine our values, – educate ourselves to the issues, – change our way of thinking to be more integrated, systemic and long-term, – look outward with more solidarity, and – live lightly on the earth, being content with little.
  54. 54. What can individuals do?There are many practical applications of principles of sustainability in daily life.Water can be economized in washing, bathing, laundry, and gardening, and efforts made to reduce pollution.Energy can be economized or used more efficiently in heating, cooling, cooking, lighting and appliances.
  55. 55. What can individuals do?The need for transport can be reduced, and motor vehicles replaced by public transport, bicycles, or walking.Food offers many choices of lifestyle: fast food or organic, meat or vegetarian, local or fair trade, nutritional balance, risks of contamination with pesticides/hormones/antibiotics, and the possible presence of genetically-modified organisms.
  56. 56. What can individuals do?Clothing can be made of natural fibres, with possible agricultural impacts, or synthetic fibres that are persistent and non-renewable.In our role as consumers, we can consider issues of socially-responsible manufacture, changing styles or using things until they wear out, and the desirability of making choices based on brand names and fashions.
  57. 57. What can individuals do?Housing can be looked at for location, materials, health impacts, energy efficiency, and social effects.There are sustainable dimensions of recreation, tourism and entertainment, such as their impact on the natural environment, effects of transport, and ecotourism.The aesthetic aspects of the environment cannot be ignored, such as beauty, natural versus man- made, and respecting cultural diversity.
  58. 58. Environmental sustainability requires fundamental changeWe are in the middle of a major transformation in societyThe past is not a good predictor of the futureChange is inevitable, and the rate of change is accelerating, requiring adaptive managementGlobalization cannot be stopped, but it can be transformedInstitution building for international governance will continueWe can consciously work for change, or wait for catastrophe to force us to changeThere will be new forms of wealth creation and businessCreativity and innovation will be increasingly necessary for successValues and ethics will be fundamental to social and economic transformation
  59. 59. The goal:an organically united world
  60. 60. The environmental crisis can only be resolved by transforming our materialistic society The years ahead will be difficult, but there is reason for hope
  61. 61. Sources for recent activities http://iefworld.orgCSD-15 side event on The Ethical Dimensions of Climate Change of-climate-change and Environment Forum 10th Conference (Oxford University, Sept. 2006) on Science, Faith and Global Warming (http://‫‏‬11th Conference (Ottawa, Oct. 2007) on Framing a Human Response to Climate Change (‫‏‬12th Conference (Netherlands, Sept. 2008) on Sustainability or Growth? (‫‏‬13th Conference (Washington, D.C., August 2009) on Environments (‫‏‬14th Conference (Brighton, U.K., December 2010) on Making the Invisible Visible ( Climate change page: Environment Forum