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Barriers, Part II
In brief reply to Nina-Marie, we have now been without power for over a week, and last night, the temperature dipped to -20 degrees, so things are becoming really uncomfortable. We may be out for another week, and thus,there will be some delay with my projected messages. Life has taken on different meanings for us back East, as we have realized human fraility in the face of nature's force, and life is concerned with bringing in wood, melting snow to keep the toilets clear, and trying to find batteries, drinking water,and so forth. So far, Bill and I and Danny haven't killed one another, and I got into Ottawa today to check my messages and convey this news.
Everyone here is using a war analogy, and a colleague informed me there was a recent column in the Globe and Mail about how inappropriate the war analogy was, as there are not dead "human" bodies lying around.It can, however, be interpreted another way entirely, and not so anthropocentrically,in that, people see how damaged the trees have been, and compare their devastation to that of war. It is really very terrible, one could weep, almost every tree has been damaged, and estimates are that up to 15% of the canopy has been destroyed.
It is a shame that we are not seizing the opportunities to make the linksin the media about dependency on single energy sources, the need to examineour energy choices and needs and the meaning of a sustainable society andstable cimate.
Take care, Ann
- Greetings everyone,
- In keeping with our dialogue on sustainable development principles, and especially, our recent charge to push these principles into actions, I feel compelled to respond to Ann's recent note regarding the ice storm and the havoc wreaked to both human and other species.
- Ann wrote:
- >It is a shame that we are not seizing the opportunities to make the links
- >in the media about dependency on single energy sources, the need to examine
- >our energy choices and needs and the meaning of a sustainable society and
- >stable cimate.
- I agree wholeheartedly! I am frustrated and disappointed that the environmentalist sector particularly is not using this disaster as an opportunity to illustrate painfully, the irony of our dependence on a centralised and singular energy source. As we enjoy ever greater comforts
- and conveniences we beome increasingly dependent on and ultimately, vulnerable to the very forces we've "managed" and "tamed" for comfort. Ironically we are at the same time increasingly blinded to our growing vulnerability, which itself, exacerbates that vulnerability. (An example of a positive feedback system/cycle with negative effects -- it's both paradoxical and counter-intuitive, since we think we are getting less dependent on nature, and actually we become more vulnerable to its effects.)
- Anyway, I find it interesting that the chief reason the ice storm is being called the worst natural disaster in recent history is due to the huge and centralised reliance on plug-in power. Certainly this storm would never have caused the anthropocentric losses it did 100 years ago. If ever there
- is a marketing opportunity for those of us in small-scale, and sustainable/renewable energy and design, this is it! And yet, all I hear are people joking about going out to buy a wood stove or re-open their sealed fireplaces (ok, so that's one step...).
- It's kind of depressing that the only lessons learned (if we believe the media) are that a) you should keep cash in the house (since debit/credit cards don't work in a blackout); b) hydro lines should go underground; and c) blankets and generators aren't a bad idea to keep around. This is
- change? Not much of progressive a step towards adaptive planning I'd say. Surely, for us in the dialogue, there are some principles to move to action here, which we can apply to the climate change case example. Note that I'm not necessarily suggesting that the ice storm is a sign of long-term climate change, but rather that, even in the best-case scenario, we'd be living more sustainably if we adapted to and planned for the regular occurrence of extreme weather events as part of the NORMAL climate fluctuations that have been part of our planet's history. So, for example, we can take the generic principle of "adaptive planning and management" and translate it to the action of adaptive design for small-scale, renewable energy reliance - e.g. windmills, solar panels/photovoltaics, heat-recovery systems, ground-source heatpumps, biothermal energy etc. Just to name a few....
- Anyway, this is what I meant by my last message re: taking generic SD principles and applying them to context (or case)-dependent action examples. Here, in the case of climate change/extreme weather events.
- Hoping everyone is warm and plugged-in for now!
- Cheers, Nina-Marie
Greetings, everyone from a rainy day on the West Coast. I have just droppedmy son off at the Aquarium in Stanley Park, and parked myself in the Teahouselot (11 huge freighters in the bay) to finally grab the chance to read therecent postings on Ann's dialogue. Nina-Marie's thoughts about the crucialnature of education and Ann's description of the ice storm's havoc spurredme to whip over to the office and post my thoughts.
Opened my e-mail to find the latest entry, also from Nina-Marie. Youare absolutely right, this is a huge opportunity for "environmentalists"to make their points (yet again; it's not as though we haven't been sayingeverything that needs to be said over and over again, in many differentways...). There is no doubt that environmentalists will use the storm asyet another example of what we can expect when we continue to live in suchan unbalanced and unconscious way here on this tiny little home of ours.Have any of you seen the fall edition of the Ecologist magazine which includeda list of recent world wide "natural disasters"?
My point is that it is no longer the environmentalists who need to besaying what needs to be said. We ALL have to jump into the breach. I rememberin the sixties being quite aware of all the problems with regards to humansselfishly using and wasting way more than our share. When I got involvedwith my children and work, I remember thinking, "The 'others' willcontinue to work at all of this." Well, when I finally woke up in themid-eighties, having had the kids, and run a natural food store, teachinga lot of people about the importance of organic and vegetarian foods, Ifound to my absolute horror that in fact everything was much worse thanever before; we were losing the forests faster than ever, there were morenuclear installations, the ocean was more polluted, there were more carsand more people, the money markets had gone mad, etc. etc.
Ann hit the nail on the head when she wrote that the "ordinary"concerns of daily life had to be set aside because of the storm, and thefocus had to be on survival. Well, in my opinion, this is the real situationthat we are all faced with. We can't continue to expect "the others"to say what has to be said and to do what must be done. Each of us has totake responsibility, reassess our priorities, and speak up in the most effectiveways we know how. Like it or not, all of us are constantly in the middleof an ecological holocaust every bit as devastating as the ice storm. We'llsurvive it if we all pitch in, share the truth of what we know, and bothdemand and carry out the changes that have to happen.
Through a lens informed by the values of integrity, honesty, and humility--lifewill go on whether we arrogant humans survive or not--we have to turn thingsupside down. The storm was not an attack carried out by nature on us innocenthumans; it was, in a very measurable way, the result of our wasteful andignorant lifestyles. Even the chief climatologist of Canada has linked thestorm to climate change, which of course is directly linked to our relianceon the burning of vast quantities of fossil fuels, and our unchecked rapacioussquandering of the forests worldwide.
Recently, I was at the book launch of Dr. Suzuki's 30th book, The SacredBalance. Have any of you seen it? David wrote it to express what he understandsto be the common ground for all species who share the Earth--clean air,clean water, clean earth, clean energy. These are non-negotiable. One ofthe elders at the book launch made the point that Dr. Suzuki has been sayingthese things for a long time, and that it was time for all of us to stopwalking behind him; we have to walk beside him and all the others who arecourageously calling for a more sane way of life.
We are facing a lot of possibly overwhelming challenges as a species.Please don't expect the environmentalists to take care of it while the restof you go on with your lives. We really do need all hands on deck--perhapsthe storm will have the laudable effect of spurring many people to act andspeak out, and to actually change the way we perceive ourselves--not asabove or dominant to nature, but as an integral part of it.
That's it for now. Don't forget that effective movements for change arebuilt by ordinary people who perceive themselves in "do-or-die"situations. Sustainable development may be one of the paths to survival--certainlythe concepts are a crucial part of what we are all working towards--butto make it really come alive as an active force in the world we need tomarry the academic frameworks to a plan of action, and the actions needto include every one of us.
Hello all -
Caterina's inspiring post about taking personal responsibility for ourworld and taking action made me think about one of the questions Ann posedin her summary of the fisheries case, namely,
- "...why academic researchers and organizations such as the Royal Society
- failed to signal the persistent decline before it reached threshold limits?
- This introduces the question of the role of scientists in educating the
- public and making public to a far wider audience their research, an in a
- way that is easily understood by non-scientists."
Following on Christine's posting, regarding the need for science to reachour communities in a more meaningful & communicative way, I thoughtthis article was particularly relevant. (It's a bit long, but worth theread, especially given the ties between science and SD.)
Christine's posting reminds us that, in an age of growing uncertainty,we would do well to allow science to become "democratised". Funtowiczand Ravetz's (1994) notion of "post-normal science" is one wayto do this -- in which science, in the absence of certainty, must becomea broader, less exclusive practice involving a larger community of interests.Of course, the "democratisation" of science is already happening,albeit in a scary way thanks to underfunding of R&D and universitiescoupled with increasing control of original research by multi-nationals.This raises serious concern when the chief means of "broadening thepeer community" manifests as increasing funding by corporate "partners".For me, the "democratisation of science" means that (objectively-derived)science is used solely to illuminate options and trade-offs, while an (ecologically)literate and civil society must be the ultimate decision-makers. In thisway, the "extended peer community" takes control of decision-makingand power is transferred away from the funders and less-objective scienceproviders. How to do this? Back to the framework!
I would like to suggest that the culture of academia is not one thatencourages popularization or the idea of inserting yourself into politicalprocesses. There are lots of reasons for this, most of which are probablyall too familiar to many on this list who are part of academia in some way.One of the problems is the structure of the reward system in academia (ie:the way you get tenure, raises, etc). Professors do not get promoted forspending a lot of time writing things in clear, jargon-free language inthe popular press. "Celebrity" academics who do get a lot of pressare regarded suspiciously as research lightweights. Of course, a lot ofacademics do spend a lot of time making their work available in less traditionalways but their institutions don''t recognize them for it. Especially ifyou didn't get a paid contract out of it. Another part of the problem isrelated to the myth of objectivity in research. Many academics would beloathe to admit that there was a political overtone to any of their work.And if they did, it was imposed by others and it has nothing to do withthem. This is how the scientists of the Manhatten project to insulated themselvesfrom the implications of their work and we see the same thing in much geneticengineering research today.
As a result, it is seen as perfectly reasonable to carry out your research,publish it for the enjoyment of people like yourself and to simply carryon. I have been in meetings where academics scoffed at the idea of takingany action to bring their research results to the attention of policy makers.(the research in this case had to do with the sustainability of urban developmentin a specific region).
Recently I have become intrigued by "science shops" in Europe.Science shops provide a way for local community groups, individuals, etcto access scientific knowledge and expertise in a university. A group willapproach a science shop, affiliated with their local university, and requestassistance on an issue of concern, eg: water contamination from a locallandfill. Graduate students, under the supervision of a professor, will,in cooperation with the requesting group, design and carry out a researchstudy. The shops are usually funded by the university. This is a basic ideathat could take many forms -- research that is informed by local communityconcerns and is accessible to local groups. In fact, there is a networkin the US that encourages and supports community science/research and seeksways of putting the tools of science into the hands of communities, givingrise to terms such as "popular epidemiology", etc. The goal isa two-way communication; not just scientists educating the public abouttheir own independent research, but the public educating the scientistsabout what they care about too. There is expertise in both places, albeitthey are expressed differently and talk about different things.
I admit that these kinds of arrangements may not have had any effecton the cod fishery collapse, but I think the issue is about taking stepsto change the culture of academia from one that see itself as removed fromits community. It is this kind of culture that makes it perfectly reasonablefor knowledge about an impending fisheries crisis to never breach the boundariesof an insular scientific community. A different culture means that the RoyalSociety might actually consider that they have a broader audience than simplythemselves. Clearly not all university research should be done like scienceshops, but we need better ways of recognizing and sustaining a "conversation"between universities and rest of us in more explicit ways. These ways wouldrecognize that such a conversation doesn't taint the quality of universityresearch but can in fact add to it. We have lots of models apart from scienceshops -- participatory action research, for example.
(As an aside, many universities today talk about reaching out to theircommunities and creating partnerships, etc. However, in a time of fundingrestraint, these partnerships are usually with private firms that seek toaccess university research expertise and other resources. Unfortunately,this is too narrow a definition of "community.")
I think the work that John Robinson is doing with QUEST at SDRI fallsis one step in this direction. They have taken complex ideas about sustainabledevelopment, have applied them to a specific area that people can relateto (the Lower Fraser Basin) and have made them accessible in user-friendlygame-type format.
Of course, the whole question of science in policy is tricky and I won'tpretend that I know the right answers. The experience of the cod fisheryfailure makes it tempting to give scientists greater power in policy decisions.I think we all want good science to be a part of policy making but we cannotallow it to trump the process of political discussion that has to occurin a democratic society. Otherwise how to do we make value judgements? Again,it's that issue of achieving balance, but how .........?
As a final note, I wanted to offer a comment on Ann's question aboutwhy we cannot seem to be able to learn from historical precedents, perpetuatingthe same mistakes over and over again. Isn't this partly due to how we defineand value "progress"? For us, progress means moving forward, lookingto the future, to the next best, usually technological, "thing".The implication is that the past is not worth looking at, is best forgottenand holds no lessons for us. I know there is a famous cliche here aboutthose who ignore the past are doomed to repeat it. I hate cliches, but itjust seems so appropriate here (I guess that's why they become cliches.....)
And with that, I'll sign off. I have just re-read my message and am makinga sincere effort to do as Ann says and be spontaneous and just send it off!(as opposed to simply having run out of time to revise it), so....
from (another) rainy Vancouver afternoon....
- ARTICLE BELOW:
- FOLLOW THE MONEY
- As government has been "downsized" in recent years, corporations have found opportunities to fund scientific research and education that the government used to fund. Will this give corporations the chance to influence scientific and medical opinions? Put another way, are scientific and medical experts able to take corporate money without subtly altering their scientific and medical views?
- A recent article in the NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE1 (NEJM) --the first research of its kind --shows pretty clearly that scientific and medical experts who take corporate money hold opinions that differ significantly from experts who don't take corporate money.
- Researchers in Toronto, Canada examined a medical controversy to see which scientists held what sorts of views. The controversy they studied was the use of calcium-channel blockers, which are used to treat high blood pressure and heart disease. In 1995 the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute warned doctors that one such channel-blocker increased the risk of heart attack deaths. Other channel-blockers fell under suspicion of being dangerous.
- The Toronto researchers examined 70 articles on channel-blockers, classified the authors into three categories (supporters, neutral, and critical), then mailed surveys to the authors, asking about their financial ties to drug corporations. The 70 articles had a total of 86 authors, and 71 of those returned the surveys. The surveys were intended to answer 3 questions:
- 1) Whether supporters of calcium-channel blockers were more likely than other authors to have financial ties to manufacturers of calcium-channel blockers. The answer was yes. Ninety-six percent of the supportive authors had financial relationships with manufacturers, as compared with 60 percent of the neutral authors, and 37 percent of the critical authors.
- 2) Were critics of calcium channel-blockers more likely than other authors to have financial ties to manufacturers of
- competing products (beta-blockers, angiotensin-converting-enzyme inhibitors, diuretics, and nitrates). The answer was no. In fact, supportive and neutral authors were more likely than critical authors to have financial ties to manufacturers of competing products (88% and 53% respectively, vs. 37%).
- 3) Were supporters of calcium-channel blockers more likely than other authors to have financial ties with ANY pharmaceutical manufacturers? The answer was yes. One hundred percent of the supportive authors, compared with 67% of the neutral authors, and 43% of the critical authors, had financial ties to at least one pharmaceutical manufacturer.
- Financial ties are defined as any of these five: funds for travel expenses; honorariums for speeches; support for educational programs; research grants; and employment or consulting compensation.
- The researchers noted that their study relied on self-reported data and therefore probably underestimated the actual ties between scientists and corporate funders.
- The authors noted that in only 2 of the 70 articles did authors divulge their connections to corporations. They concluded, "The medical profession has failed to develop and enforce strict guidelines for disclosing conflicts of interest." And, "Full disclosure of relationships between physicians and pharmaceutical manufacturers is necessary to affirm the integrity of the medical profession and maintain public confidence."
- Unfortunately, even the columns of the most prestigious medical journal in the U.S. -- the NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE (NEJM) -- have been infiltrated by corporate shills posing as objective medical experts.
- Last November 20th, the NEJM printed a scathing review of Sandra Steingraber's book, LIVING DOWNSTREAM: AN ECOLOGIST LOOKS AT CANCER -- a book that, in our opinion, outshines Rachel Carson's SILENT SPRING. (See REHW #565). The review was signed "Jerry H. Berke, M.D., M.P.H., 49 Windsor Ave., Acton, MA 01720" -- just the way any unaffiliated medical practitioner would sign such a review.
- Berke's review began with an attack on all environmentalists: "An older colleague of mine once suggested that the work product of an environmentalist is controversy. Fear and the threat of unseen, unchosen hazards enhance fund-raising for environmental political organizations and fund environmental research, he suggested." Berke's review went on to say that Steingraber's book is "biased" and "obsessed with environmental pollution." Berke ends, "The objective of LIVING DOWNSTREAM appears ultimately to be controversy."
- This was the first negative review Steingraber's book had received. The book is now in its second printing and has been widely praised. Steingraber herself was recently named an "outstanding women of the year" by MS. magazine.
- In early December, Bill Ravanesi, a Boston-based film producer, and Paul Brodeur, the well-known author of books on asbestos and electromagnetic radiation, revealed that Jerry H. Berke is director of toxicology for W.R. Grace, one of the world's largest chemical manufacturers and a notorious polluter. Grace is best-known as the company that polluted the drinking water of the town of Woburn, Massachusetts, and later paid $8 million to a group of children (or their surviving parents) who contracted leukemia. During the Woburn investigation, Grace was caught in two felony lies to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for which they paid a slap-on-the-wrist $10,000 fine.
- The Woburn story has been told in the best-selling book A CIVIL ACTION and will soon be re-told in a movie starring John Travolta as a hard-working attorney playing David against the Grace Goliath.
- For its part, the NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE seems flustered and unable to get its story straight. In an interview, Sandra Steingraber said when she first phoned the office of NEJM's book review editor, Robert S. Schwartz, she spoke to Schwartz's assistant, Lisa Lum, who denied that Berke was currently employed by Grace. Lum told Steingraber that Berke was an independent consultant.
- When Steingraber phoned back and spoke to Dr. Schwartz himself, Schwartz insisted that he did not know that Berke worked for Grace. Schwartz told Steingraber that reviewers must fill out statements saying they have no conflict of interest, but NEJM does no "background checks" on reviewers.
- Schwartz told Steingraber that reviewers are selected from a database of names of people who have expressed an interest in writing book reviews for NEJM. Lisa Lum told me (1/14/98) that the database DOES contain the affiliations of potential reviewers. "Oh, yes," she said, "affiliations are in there." How then did they miss Berke's affiliation? Ms. Lum would not say.
- According to Steingraber, recently NEJM has changed its story once again, saying they knew Berke was affiliated with W.R. Grace, but they thought W.R. Grace was a hospital.
- Jerry Berke told Michele Landsberg, a columnist for the TORONTO STAR, that (1) the conflict-of-interest form he signed for NEJM clearly identified his Grace connection; (2) all his correspondence from Schwartz was addressed to him at W.R. Grace. Furthermore, Berke was identified as a Grace employee in another book review he published in NEJM in 1995. Nevertheless, Schwartz insists he knew nothing of Berke's connection to Grace and wouldn't have asked him to review Steingraber's book if he HAD known.
- Berke says Grace officials decided at the last minute to make him remove his affiliation from the NEJM review. Grace evidently wanted to avoid fueling the anti-Grace flames that will probably erupt when the Travolta movie is released later this year. However, having admitted that his superiors at Grace made him remove Grace's name to avoid obvious controversy, Berke still insists he had no conflict of interest. Berke told columnist Michele Landsberg he is "shocked" that his statement of a "personal vision" should be construed as a conflict of interest.
- The editor-in-chief of NEJM, Jerome P. Kassirer, told the Associated Press, "It's laughable that Berke would think that he could write an objective review of the book given that he was an employee of W.R. Grace." Unfortunately, Kassirer himself doesn't always recognize a conflict-of-interest when he sees one. In late 1997, Kassirer turned over the editorial columns of NEJM to Stephen Safe, a researcher who during 1997 was receiving $150,000 (20% of Safe's research budget) from the Chemical Manufacturers Association (CMA). Safe's editorial --like Jerry Berke's review --began with an irrational attack against environmentalism: "Chemophobia, the unreasonable fear of chemicals, is a common public reaction to scientific or media reports suggesting that exposure to various environmental contaminants may pose a threat to health." Surely this is an odd message from a scientist. He is saying, if you fear chemicals because scientific reports indicate that they might harm your health, you are suffering from an irrational phobia. Perhaps Dr. Safe did not write the editorial in his capacity as a scientist. Perhaps he wrote it as an acolyte of the CMA. (See REHW #574.)
- In any case Safe himself told BOSTON GLOBE reporter Larry Tye, "I felt a little twinge" about the potential for a conflict of interest when writing the editorial, "but it was not much of a twinge," he said. However, "I can see why people would bring it up," he said. Safe defended himself saying, "There's hardly any life scientist in the country who hasn't had funding from the industry" --the old "Everybody's doing it" defense.
- Unfortunately, just about everybody IS doing it. In modern times, it pays to be alert when you are receiving opinions from
- "unbiased" scientific and medical investigators. As George Annas, professor of health law at the Boston University School of Public Health points out, "Almost all experts in the field at some point have taken grant money or an honorarium from someone." In other words, if you want to understand "objectivity" in the science and medicine of environment-and-health these days, the same advice applies as it does in politics: follow the money. Increased corporate funding of science and medicine has the potential to corrupt almost anyone.
- --Peter Montague
- (National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981/AFL-CIO)
-  Henry Thomas Stelfox and others, "Conflict of Interest in the Debate over Calcium-Channel Antagonists," NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE Vol. 338, No. 2 (January 8, 1998), pgs. 101-106.
-  Richard A. Knox, "Study finds conflict in medical reports," BOSTON GLOBE January 8, 1998, A12.
-  Jerry H. Berke, "Book Review: Living Downstream: An Ecologist Looks at Cancer and the Environment," NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE Vol. 337, No. 21 (November 20, 1997), pg. 1562.
-  Peter B. Lord, "How Important is One Negative Book Review?" PROVIDENCE [Rhode Island] JOURNAL-BULLETIN December 24, 1997, pg. A-1.
-  Michele Landsberg, "Famed journal's objectivity gets a black eye," TORONTO STAR December 21, 1997, pg. A2.
-  Jerry H. Berke, "[Book Review] Textbook of Clinical Occupational and Environmental Medicine," NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE Vol. 332, No. 5 (February 2, 1995), pgs. 340-341. This review is signed, "Jerry H. Berke, M.D., M.P.H., Lexington, MA 02173 W.R. Grace & Co."
-  Associated Press, "Medical Journal Apologizes for Ethics Blunder," WASHINGTON POST December 28, 1997, pg. A3.
-  Larry Tye, "Journal fuels conflict-of-interest debate," BOSTON GLOBE January 6, 1998, pgs. B1, B8.
- Descriptor terms: new england journal of medicine; conflict of interest; science; jerry berke; stephen safe; chemical
- manufacturers association; cma; corporations; sandra steingraber; living downstream; bill ravanesi; paul brodeur; woburn, ma; a civil action;
- =======================Electronic Edition========================
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I would like to thank Caterina for her response to my earlier postingand her wise clarification that indeed, it is the very real and tangibleresponsibility of each and every one of us to articulate, assert, and undertakethe changes necessary for a more equitable and sustainable future.
I agree, Caterina, certainly we'll not get far if we wait for "others"to say what needs to be done. However, speaking as an environmental activist,I should clarify that my disappointment in the sector I know best is becausethey haven't been media-saavy enough to use the ice-storm as a catalystfor educating the "others" on the danger of centralised and single-sourceenergy-dependency. Furthermore, I feel frustrated (and qualified) enoughto criticise the groups with whom I have worked for being slow off the mark,and even more so, NOT to have had the foresight to which Caterina alludes,in forging partnerships with every ordinary group to get the message out-- especially when the time is so ripe for a "marketing" campaign!As many of us know all too well, there is limited time, funding (and inHarris' Ontario especially) arguably diminishing "pshycic space",energy etc. to devote to these causes. Yet, as this severe weather eventhas so clearly demonstrated, this is a perfect opportunity for a well-timedmessage and call to action by every sector capable of outspoken leadershipon the issues of change.
To end on a positive note, and to reinforce Caterina's point, let meillustrate an example of where Caterina's advice is actually being taken:In my ecological planning and design practice, I spend considerable timeworking with clients who, in many cases, represent the development sectorthat contributes to if not perpetuates the problem of human consumptionand ecological imbalance. With a growing number of others in this field,we devote considerable energy to teaching by example, and taking every opportunitywe can to educate our clients as to their planning, development CHOICES-- i.e. the option of a "sustainable development" in which wecan clearly lay out the costs (and the usually far greater) benefits, besidewhich we can compare the "irresponsible development". You mightbe surpised how many live in the dark, and commit "sins of ommission"rather than commission in the development world (I'm talking about housing,education and community development mainly -- not corporate transnationals,just to clarify!) In this case, we can and do talk loudly, clearly and demonstrateaction through change, rather than leaving to the "others" who(in this case) are ill-equipped to deal with or ignorant of ways to breakthe pattern of consumption and destruction.
If Ann is in agreement, I would welcome anyone else's examples of actionsfor change, and perhaps we can bring these action-examples into Ann's frameworkfor SD. (just pushing forward....)
The activity levels and discussions being commendble lately, may I throwin another angle of approach? This stems from my constant attempt to applywhat I read to the real world, to try to understand how a government orsociety or individual can have an impact on the current ways of exploitationvs. sustainable co-use.
How are the major problems of societies solved? We've been doing a lotof talking about ideal definitions, ideal parameters of discussion, idealmodels or examples, ... and indeed we should, but I worry that any adviceor directives we leave Ann with may not amount to too much if they are highlyunlikely to be achieved or utilized.
I serve on an advisory committee here at the university, looking intoways to redesign the university, to make it more responsive to society'sneeds, and more efficient and accountable internally (without having toshave dollars at the same time, fortunately). In other words, this is athink tank to make the university a better place. At several points alongthe way, when we idealists have come up with what appears to be a grandidea, complete with work plan, policy makers calm us down and tell us thisis not the time or place for such recommendations. "Why not?",we idealists cry out. We were asked to do this, after all. Because, we aretold, the senior management team at the univeristy currently thinks thesystem is working quite well, so they have no pressing need to change it.The current system suits their needs well, its better than what was in placefive years ago, so barring an unforeseen catastrophy or major new problem,senior management will not be receptive to major overhauls in the way theuniversity is run. Just now, that is. This kind of mentality, which canchurn the blood pressure of idealists, applies to governments, it seemsto me, of most any society. There is an inertia to change that is far moreeasily counteracted when the proposer of change can point out that lackof change will lead to a far worse outcome. In the world of sustainability,we can talk about overpopulation of the earth, pollution of the oceans,exhaustion of fossil fuels, air pollution, etc., and the totality of responseseems to be somewhat greater than a yawn. Summits, congresses, and jointcommittee meetings are held, and little seems to get done. Jobs, the economy,and the quality of air, water, soil, etc., in the next three to six monthsseems to win. We aren't doing a good job of getting society, hence politicians,working in longer time frames. I don't pretend to know what to do aboutthis, but its a problem that I think about whenever I read the many finepostings to this list.
From our perspective, the overfishing of the Grand Banks is a simple,understandable, magnificent example of overexploitation and its consequences.Yet, with the exception of within the Canadian government pertaining onlyto the east coast, there seems to have been nothing learned. Will the westcoast have to repeat the same thing? Looks like it.
Discussion of Solution: There has to be an acknowedgement of the limitsof the earth's ecosystems. This sounds kind of simple to us, but withoutit, I don't believe all the other fine discussion will amount to anything.
Can anyone suggest some concrete examples of time scales of limitations?
Will we run out of oil in 2020 at currently projected rates of usage?
Will we run out of land to prepare food for humans by 2100 at the currentrates of population growth?
Is there a constructive way to use such information to achieve change?
Sorry for the lengthy posting.
I would like to thank everyone for their invaluable contributions todate, and in the spirit of trust and synergy that we have built up, hereare some contributions off the top of my head.
I think, upon reflection, that adaptation, unfortunately is a key partof the human condition for resilience, given the prominence of our speciesin the biosphere. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to determine what levelof adaptation, and the nature of that adaptation for human systems. I amwell aware that a system can adapt to a low, medium or high level of functioning,however, our current population levels and projected trends in all areas,resource consumption, projected growth, and so forth, make adaptation inevitable.
I have been puzzling over the question of power for some time now, andam prompted by David Sims' very cogent message. Power, however, exists inall human systems, including the non-government community equally, althoughthey would be loathe to admit to this issue. It reminds me of one of mycolleagues who once said it must be nice to work with women, to which Ireplied, issues of power and control are just as central to feminists andfeminist process as to other groups, and in some cases, maybe more so. Whatmatters, I believe, is the exercise of that power and how decisions aremade, because, quite simply, we are all not created equal, and leadershipabilities vary greatly in all species. All systems, as David pointed out,have vested interests for maintaining the status quo, and large bureaucraciesare known for their propensity to change ony incrementally. Thus, my focuson enlargde decision-making contexts and multistakeholder fora for openingup the process, particularly the lobbying by private sector interests, to"other "groups.
Have you ever thought that the current sectoral organization of government,or for that matter, the disciplinary structure of academe, is a rationalefor maintenance of the status quo. And in the case of the latter, we havemoved, for example, to greater degrees of transparency, from the Dept. ofAgriculture to Agriculture and Agri-Business.
And yet, human systems have to be organized in some form to allow forcollective action. The key is to keep these forms from becoming brittleand calcified, they have to be dynamic and open to new ideas, knowledge,experience, with structures that are resilient and yet, flexible. More organicways of organizing and diversity are two key features for systemic organizationalchange, that we will address in our framework discussion.
I am eagerly awaiting contributions from Stephanie Cairns, Shealagh Pope,Glen Newton and Laszlo Pinter.
I am off to haul in two barking dogs and begin my weekend. A good weekendto everyone.
Why have the dominant theories and models never been seriously challengedby alternative modes of thinking? Are these concepts incapable of critical defense? Why, in the light of growing evidence of increasing ecological collapse, have the dominant paradigms not been seriousl engaged in addressing both alternative models and arguments? Why, in the face of overwhelmingevidence that humanity may be fast approaching ecological limits or, assome scholars claim, that it may have even overshot those limits (Ehrlichand Ehrlich 1991; Meadows et. al 1992; Pestel 1989; Rees et al. 1996) isthere such institutional resistance to the new sustainable development paradigm?The probability of overshoot is increased with delays in feedback--fromthe fact that decision-makers do not get, or believe, or act upon informationthat limits have been exceeded until long after they have been exceeded(Meadows et. al 1992), as evidenced in the collapse of the Atlantic codfishery (Appendix Q).
I contend that the organizational structures of modern society have inherentand interlocking dominant values and ideologies. These are tightly coupledwith structural barriers that systematically reduce the ability and, indeed,the capacity of new concepts and alternative models to challenge the dominantparadigms. Often these interlocking values and ideologies are shared acrossinstitutions and between sectors. Over time, this gridlock produces an overwhelminglyinability to respond, even in the face of new information and facts thatillustrate the importance of acting in the present, instead of waiting forfurther validation.
Moreover, for those working within institutions, the reinforcing natureof these driving and restraining forces for change are covert and deeplyimbedded in the historical and present web of interpersonal relations, conflictand rationale; so that even newcomers are quickly influenced by the overwhelmingrationale behind current day actions. What may indeed be irrational behaviouris perceived as eminently rational, because of the opacity of driving andrestraining forces. It is important, therefore, to examine what these forcesare, their validity in the light of current day realities, and ultimately,to address the pathological gridlock, by linking economics and ecology indecision-making (Baskerville 1997), but more than that, link them externallyto institutional structures and processes and internally to personal development(Hill 1998).
To effect meaningful change, it is necessary to identify the main socialand economic forces that are currently driving ecological, social and economicdecline, both the proximate and underlying forces (Perrings et al. 1992)in these three areas, and to create more effective structures to providethe necessary incentives to redirect these forces. One of the main underlyingforces is the overall structure of the government that results in inappropriateand ineffective government policies.
Figure 8.1 Restraining Forces Affecting the Implementation of Sustainable Development
Our overall values and paradigms, such as dualistic thinking, are theforces that determine the degree of separation of the three imperatives.Moreover, centralization, our dependence on technological solutions, privatizationand scale are interactive and mutually reinforcing. Furthermore, there isa positive feedback loop between these four trends. The more that ecological,social and economic imperatives diverge through disaggregate decision-making,the more these four factors converge and support unsustainable activitiesthat will continue to lay the foundation for ecological and social collapse.Paradoxically, what appears to be increasing options through technologyand scale are actually narrowing future options through the increasing divergenceof the three imperatives.
In the absence of a guiding framework and clearly articulated principlesof operating across Government, this gridlock appears from within the organizationas eminently rational. It explains why, on the one hand, you can have adepartment mandated to protect the environment and, on the other, anotherthat actively supports unlimited or inadequately limited industrial expansion.Current economic activities are encouraged through government programs andincentives that result in continued exploitation of natural resources, withincreasing capital investment and expanding scales of activity. Paradoxically,the result is increasing dependency on the continued successes of the firstphase, that is, further exploitation of nature (exploitation), which inthe process is resulting in a loss of resilience, thus increasing the likelihoodof unexpected crises and eventual system collapse. With this increasingdependency comes denial of the results of the decisions, and demands byeconomic interests to maintain or expand subsidies. This, along with lobbygroups battling other lobby groups in their influencing of government decision-makersresults in gridlocks that make effective decision-making impossible. Toooften decisions are made that represent the lowest common denominator amongthe plurality of interests competing to influence governments (decisionsmade to minimize disruption over the short-term).
In addition to the restraining forces affecting the implementation ofsustainable development as depicted in Figure 8.1, is the lack of a cohesiveconsistuency, or what MacNeill (1998) refers to as the "politics ofsustainable development." As he further states "Perhaps the greatestweakness of sustainable development, in my view, lies in the fact that wehave not yet begun to invent a politics to go with the concept." Althoughthe National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy may have stimulatedsome regime formation around the domain, perhaps a necessary precursor todeveloping a politic, it has yet to coalesce into a political force in Canada.The pervasiveness of "growth" in human societies as a positiveand necessary social and economic good for human well-being, and its deeplyembedded myths, is a main barrier to developing this new politic. Withinsuch a dominant socio-economic paradigm (Figure 3.1) how does one sell theconcept of sustainable development?
I believe one of the main reasons a politic of sustainable developmenthas not emerged is simply because of the fragmentation within key sectorsinvolved it its promulgation--the development, environmental, health, peaceand women's movements. What would normally be a driving force for implementation,the interest of so many stakeholders, effectively prevents an overall coalition.The problem is inherent in the nature of the beast. Sustainable developmentissues are broad and horizontal, cutting across all sectors of society.As well, problem-solving and decision-making for complex issues is difficultprecisely because solutions are not clear-cut and the future consequencesof alternative actions are uncertain (La Porte 1975; Brewer and de Leon1983; Brewer 1986). As well, they are often not rationally bounded.
Hence, the stakeholders bring different perspectives, and are usuallyissue driven in that they hold one issue as primordial. In addition, thestakes and values are high, and thus, this very diversity may be dysfunctionalin that it leads to intense fragmentation. Even within particular issues,there can be very differing perspectives, often from a dualistic framework.
Moreover, "just as there is no single culture, there is no singlemeaning of sustainable development. You cannot homogenize development, unsustainableor otherwise, in the presence of what are multiple, distinctly heterogeneouscultures and actors. Pluralism must remain the criterion of efficacy . .. The really big policy question [is] how to encourage the constructiveinteraction of these plural and eneradicable actors" (Thompson 1993,p. 55). It may well be that a sufficient politics for sustainable developmentwill only emerge in those uncommon, complex moments when policies, problemsand politics converge so that the problems of the moment are tangent tothe politics of the moment which in turn are tangent to the policies ofthe moment (Roe 1998). Figures 8.3 and 10.4 hopefully provide a model forhow this convergence could be facilitated by governments, that through deliberativedesign, avoid protracted debate over which perspective is morally superioror issue more predominant by creating semi-permanent coalitions. With attendantresources, such coalitions have the opportunity to develop more cohesivecivil society constituencies around sustainable development.
Although there is a lack of a politic for sustainable development, thereis no lack of politics in its decision-making, for this domain is inherentlymore political, once again, because it cuts across all sectors, therebyinvolving more interest groups, industry associations and lobbyists, andbecause it is normative. And since government decision-making is largelyincremental, because of hierarchical and vertical structuring, decision-makingis also largely incremental, and analysis sharply limited to alternativesthat differ very little from the status quo. Policy is made iteratively,by trial and error, with minimal reliance on theoretical knowledge.
It is particularly disturbing that the two institutions that need toprovide leadership in the promulgation and rapid diffusion of sustainabledevelopment knowledge and implementation university and governments, haveunderlying inherent structures that work against this. In the former, disciplinaryorganization and corresponding incentive structures works against interdisciplinaryknowledge and research (Bowers 1997; Wright et al. 1992). In the latter,the parallel sectoral, vertical solitudes (the silo mentality) (Bougeron1996; Osbourne and Gaebler 1993; Sutherland and Doern 1985; Zussman andJabes 1989) similarly works against the implementation of cross-cutting,horizontal policies and practices, such as sustainable development. Moreover,Mintzberg et al. (1996) argue that the real barriers to horizontal collaborationmay well be vertical, in two ways. First, the very things that enable peopleto be promoted in a vertical hierarchy may impede them from encouraginghorizontal collaboration. Second, people at the top of the apex may seecollaboration that is initiated informally in the interests of realizingthe organization's goals, as suspect. Indeed, often new organizational initiativesthat work horizontally, such as the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agencyand the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy are seenas threats against the existing departmental mandates merely by their merecreation.
Institutional failure at the macro level can be readily recognized by Holling's ecosystem model in Chapter 4 (Figure 8.2).
Government institutions are "stuck" along the one axis, whichkeeps them endlessly cycling between the exploitative and conservation phases,and from seriously considering the alternatives. Consequently, there is never any analytical or policy space to investigate and develop the alternatives, as doing this would be incompatible with the short-term vested self-interestsof business, governments, and even academe which is increasingly drivenby a colonizing granting system. When one is stuck in a spiraling patternof exploitation and conservation, systemic learning cannot take place, and reactive rather than proactive policy choices become the norm. Because failure(which is necessary for learning) is anathema to bureaucratic organizations designed to protect only positive images of its political leaders, responsesto crises only cause government systems to flip back to the exploitative stage. Unless this underlying structural conflict (Fritz 1996) is recognizedand addressed, only incremental change and implementation at the margins will be tolerated. Over time, these flips between conservation and exploitation will occur faster and faster (Regier 1995), and government policy developmentwill become increasingly myopic and rigid (Holling 1995), further alienating our politicians from the publics they are supposed to serve, paradoxically further decreasing the very social capital upon which the integrity of governance depends.
When bureaucracies are faced with complex ecological systems characterized by complex interactions, masses of information that often seems contradictory, millions of species, as well as unknown phenomena, and risks beyond theircontrol, they tend to first focus on those phenomena and cause/effect relations that conform to their decision-making structures and their dominant paradigms.This tendency to maintain apparent control by selecting only those variables that correspond to their 'perceived rationality' serves to affirm the needfor their institutional existence and its maintenance. Deep inquiry and cause-seeking behaviour, if it occurs at all, is restricted to the boundaries of their rational and physical domain, and each piece of new information and every selected task supports a monolithic authority network of centralizedand decontextualized decision-making (Edwards 1981). In addition to powerfulexternal vested interests committed to maintaining the status quo, thereare equally powerful internal vested interests, and together these createa pervasive gridlock of resistance to all alternative paradigms and policyinitiatives. In the case of the environment, these restraining forces againstchange have enormous repercussions at many levels, ultimately threateningthe very survival of our own species.