Figure 4: Part 2

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    Figure 4 part 2:

    Human Systems and Natural Systems

     


    Date: Mon, 13 Jan 1997
    From: Nina-Marie Lister
    Subject: Re: Conclusion of Figure 4

     

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    Greetings everyone-fellow participants and co-researchers!

    I am slow off the mark here, and admittedly, grateful that Ann provided a gentle nudge for me to jump in here. First, let me thank you all for the stimulating e-mail postings thus far. I am honoured to be included here, and I have been following the dialogue with increasing interest.

    I confess that I have been simultaneously struggling to make time to go over Ann's paper and the postings again before responding, and also, fighting this academically-instilled urge to construct a strategic and appropriately calculated "scholarly" response to the dialogue. In fact, I frequently wonder why it seems to become increasingly difficult to respond spontaneously and even impulsively. So, having just sat down and read Ann's last e-mail, I am compelled to agree with her: this forum facilitates self-organising discussion (notwithstanding careful guidance from Ann), and so, emergent or novel ideas will arise out of our disordered or chaotic dialogue. Presumably, our emergent ideas will eventually crystallise into the framework for which we are seeking. No doubt a fine example of order-from-disorder in complex systems! Anyway, my prologue is really an apology to those of you who may find my following stream-of-conscious commentary frustrating. (Yes, I deliberately resisted the urge to re-read anything that might be pertinent.)

    Regarding Figure 4:

    There are a number of issues that intrigue me regarding the implications of Ann's Figure 4 for sustainable development (SD) -- several of which have already been commented on by participants. If we accept Figure 4 as the pattern of human systems to date, or at the very least, the dominant behaviour of "Economic-Man" (sic?), we certainly have a powerful argument for SD. Figure 4 shows exponential encroachment on, and appropriation and exploitation of, natural systems by human-dominated systems. As depicted, I think Ann's Figure 4 accurately shows the implicitly hierarchical separation of humanity from the rest of nature; a dualism that is entrenched in, and certainly a hallmark of, our Western/Northern institutional decision-making. (I recall an earlier and more eloquent discussion of this as an "us versus them" attitude.) In fact, many would argue that it is this implicit dualism that got us into trouble in the first place; we would not see the exponential encroaching pattern if humans did not clearly define themselves as separate from nature. In any case, this "us versus them" thinking still predominates in our culture, and is therefore inexorably implicit within any attempts at SD policy and action -- at least within our current institutional decision-making. This realisation is what has lead me to broaden the focus of my own research from the science of biodiversity to include conservation policy-and thus, to understand the decision-making processes themselves.

    As someone who is fascinated by patterns, Figure 4 intrigues me because I see within in it an internal paradox. The self-contradiction is this: Fig. 4 depicts both the problem (cause and effect) of environmental degradation and the solution to it simultaneously. Although this seems absurd it is actually true. As I see it, Fig. 4 defines both the cause and effect of the problem: human behaviour has evolved to the point where we no longer perceive a funadamental need for nature, and so have separated ourselves from it... to the point where we appropriate and even subsume nature through exponential encroachment and pathological expolitation. (Unsustainable behaviour.) Initially, this seems to indicate a spiral into chaos. But if we consider human behaviour as a self-organising phenomenon within a highly complex system, this may not be the case. Self-organising behaviour can be "good" or "bad" for any system-it facilitates rapid changes and the spontaneous creation of new properties. In our case, conscious learning is the obvious example. While defining the problem's cause and effect, Figure 4 also indicates the *solution* to the problem. The solution (SD) of course lies in using human behaviour to adapt to the pattern we've created. Human behaviour, which is driven primarily by learning rather than instinct, is a powerful adapative force, and can be (consciously) further adapted to break our destructive pattern. Why don't we simply learn and adapt accordingly?

    Figure 4 so intrigues me because its internal paradox is a powerful metaphor for our entire institutionalised decision-making/governance- particularly regarding SD. Somehow we don't see the underlying elegance of its message: Rather than focusing our efforts on simply altering our behaviour to break the destructive pattern (and therefore halt the spiral towards chaos), we have constructed an elaborate social myth that focuses the solution on "them", the "environment", or nature. We talk about "environmental management"-surely one of the most entrenched oxymorons of our time. For the same reason that we have separated ourselves (hierarchically) from nature, we believe that we can predict and actually *control* the behaviour of comples (eco)systems. Hence, we assume it is "them", the environment that requires management, rather than our behaviour. Worse yet, the destructive spiral continues because in trying to manage "the object" (nature) through prediction and control, rather than through adaptive management of our beaviour, we eventually push *ourselves* closer to Roger Lewin's (1992) "edge of chaos".

    Perhaps the ultimate paradox is that we actually believe that we are capable of destroying nature-that is, we think that if push the system into the chaotic regime that we have "destroyed" it. Sadly, the irony is lost on us: we have only created a "new nature" which will select us out of the picture. Effectively, the spiral has become a pattern towards *human* extinction rather than nature's. So, of course, SD has little to do with "saving the planet" and everything to do with saving ourselves from ourselves.

    Although this is probably obvious to most of us in this group, I am continuously aghast whenever I look at recent SD policy in general, and biodiversity conservation policy in particular. Virtually every time I see another example of how SD is being proposed and operationalised, I see these same fundamental underlying contradictions and faulty logic being advocated into policy-policy that is built on these contradictions will of course fail.

    Ann's Figure 4 is probably the best graphic representation of the need for the so-called precautionary principle. Yet this term is loaded with the assumption that we *should* proceed, albeit cautiously, with development and therefore, ultimately continue our existing behaviour. But if we consider Figure 4 as a representation of our ability to adapt, rather than merely control, then it becomes a powerful basis to advocate what I would prefer to hear called the "humility principle". In this way, we can articulate an explicitly different basis for SD.

    My one suggestion for continuing this tangent of the dialogue is this: I propose a third axis to Ann's Figure 4. (A tricky proposition via text-based e-mail!) My thinking is that we might elaborate and strengthen Fig.4 as a theoretical basis for a SD framework. The 3rd dimensional axis could show the increasing complexity of human behaviour relative to our manipulation of human/natural systems. We'd have to add some general historical/cultural milestones and time references. It can be drawn in a positive correlation with pop'n/time up to some threshold, where it then diverges on 2 (theoretical) paths. Path A shows a sudden decline if traditional behaviour persists because the system falls off into chaos after carrying capacity is exceeded. Path B represents adaptive behaviour -- not in response to, but in anticipation of system changes. (This is the opposite of the running-into-the-tree analogy that was discussed earlier.) Anyway, this isn't really well thought-out yet on my part, so perhaps we can come back to it when we return to discuss feedbacks and thresholds. Just an idea...

    I'll quit now and hope that my rambling made some sense to someone.

    Cheers,

    Nina-Marie

     


     

      • Date: Tue, 14 Jan 97
        From: David Sims
        Subject: a 3-D Fig.4

       

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      SD is a sufficiently complex topic that, if I am to wrap my aging neurons around its challenges with any degree of success, I have to use simple examples, and clear definitions. Nina-Marie Lister has just posted an excellent discussion of Ann's Figure Four, in which she introduces a paradoxical interpretation, a re-examination of us vs. them thinking, and the use of the third dimension in our understanding of what is currently a 2-D figure. I wonder if we could explore some of Nina-Marie's suggestions using simple examples, so that their implications might be better appreciated.

      If humans pave another hectare of Earth, or drain another swamp, can we incorporate the change into a 2-D model? I think so. If humans reduce their individual 'burden' upon the ecosphere, but increase their total population at the same time, can we incorporate these changes in a 2-D model? I think so.

      If we could develop a better understanding of which human activities are compatible with non-human environmental needs, creating a zone of overlap, could we model this in a 2-D manner? I think so, by creating a gray or overlap zone between the pure human and pure 'nature' portions of Fig.4. This might eliminate the us vs. them problem that some people may have with Fig.4.

      So where does the third dimension come in to play? I would appreciate examples, to help me use the third dimension in my mental image of Figure Four. Similarly, I need help with 'new nature'.

      David Sims

      sims@upei.ca

       


       

        • Tue Jan 14 1997
          From: Dale S. Rothman
          Subject: reactions off the top of me head

         

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        Sorry to miss the weekend deadline. I will accept Ann's challenge to be more reactive in this dialogue and less consiously reflective prior to responding. Hopefully, I will still have something constructive to say.

        First a few reactions to Ann's Conclusion of Figure 4.

        1)you can certainly add Vancouver to the Times piece on western US cities.

        2)as for limits, human arrogance, etc., this brings me back to Herman Daly's notion of a "playpen" economy in contrast to either the cowboy or spaceship economies postulated by Kenneth Boulding. We can do whatever we want inside the playpen, but we need to keep ourselves away from the walls so that we do not accidently put our fingers in the socket and electrocute ourselves (note here, it is the baby that suffers, not the wall)

        3)I am a little unclear about the statement that "human systems have the ability to ignore negative feedbacks and yet, are very responsive to positive feedback systems". Are you just implying that we respond better to positive reinforcement? Perhaps a clear example or two would help. Related to this, I think that we need to understand the difference between "soft" and "hard" boundaries. Some are like elastics (unbreakable ones) that we can stretch pretty far without even realizing it before they snap back, whereas others are like brick walls (again, I assume an unbreakable wall), through which we cannot pass no matter how hard we try and which gives us immediate feedback.

        4)if I am not mistaken, K-strategists maximize their reproductive success, not capability per se.

        5)you are making a strong statement when you say affluence is unsustainable. It may certainly be unsustainable if everybody is affluent and there are lots of them, but you could have fewer people or only let a few of them be affluent (sustainability would probably still be a problem in the latter case).

        6)the "violence is a male problem" statement threw me for a loop, especially since it is preceeded by the statement of "personal security for women". I assume you are implying that violence is a problem that men need to take the lead in solving, as they (we) are the main perpetrators. By the way, to whom are the males committing violence?

         

        OK, now for other thoughts. Nina-Marie is certainly right. We would have to try really hard to destroy the planet before we destroy ourselves first, and I am pretty sure it couldn't be done. Bits and pieces of the ship may go down with us, but not the whole thing.

        Looking back at figure 4 after reading Nina-Marie's comments has left me with another query. Time is a fundamentally different quantity than either population or complexity, so I am not sure a third axis as she describes makes sense. Also, I am beginning to wonder a bit about how to read the "population" axis now. Is the growing egg of human systems supposed to just reflect the growing population over time or, as makes more sense to me, the growing impact of the population and its activities over time? I still like the figure, though, and think that it could be augmented in a way that she has put forth. However, rather than a third axis, could we plot human impact relative to natural systems and something that measures the complexity of the human system, or its "harmony" with nature, all versus time. I'll stop here and please don't ask me how to come up with either of those latter two measures at the moment. I realize that the last one is rather ethereal and certain values of "harmony" will probably not be able to exist with certain values of relative human impact.

        Dale

         


         

          • Date: Thu, 16 Jan 1997
            From: Ann Dale
            Subject: Moving On . . .

           

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          Picking up on some of the points in the last email, Dale's observation that Figure 4 should reflect the growing impact of the population rather than the growing population, in this way incorporates some of the earlier discussion about population versus consumption. Dealing with impacts encompasses both the impacts of population growth and overconsumption, thereby showing the differential impacts of Northern versus Southern consumption.

          It seems to me that this notion of impacts coupled with the notion of limits may provide a powerful narrative for social change. I would like to digress here a little and talk a little about story-telling. My esteemed thesis advisor, has been telling me for quite a while now that my dissertation should be a powerfully clear and concise story, and that I should simply tell my story. I have been resisting this somewhat as more of that post-post-modern stuff coming out of Australia, but I have just finished reading The Story of B by Danial Quinn, his next book after Ishmael. Both of these books are what I call keepers, they affect you so deeply that they form a little part of your psyche. Quinn is using the story-telling genre very effectively to get some very deep, moral messages through, and yet, through this genre, doesn't make the reader defensive through his moralism, as many of us environmentalists, arguing over which way is purer.

          It sounds as if David Sims, Dale Rothman and Nina-marie might have the makings of an excellent model/article that should be pushed more?

          With respect to male violence, I apologize for throwing a curve, but in the interests of lending some light to our dialogue, I though this might provide a little stimulation. More seriously, however, I have just finished a paper on Gender and Sustainable Development for the Feds, and one of the things I was asked to do was to try and make the links very clear between gender and sustainable development in the North. It proved to be much more difficult conceptually than I thought, and made me think an awful lot. Here is an excerpt from that paper-

          "Since women make up over half the population world-wide and in Canada, it is counter-productive to exclude their perspectives and expertise in sustainable development strategies and plans, or as important agents for social change. Ensuring that women's perspectives, through gender equality, are actively included in the front-end of planning cycles and decision-making ensures that as wide a variety of problem-solving skills, perspectives and commitments to action are brought to bear on sustainable development processes, policies and practices. As is seen with the increasing feminization of poverty, gender bias may actually be contributing to that increase, it may also follow that gender bias is slowing and actually contributing to the masculization of sustainable development. By excluding their perspectives and experiences, valuable knowledge is lost that can help to provide important keys to solving such global challenges as population increase, unemployment, poverty, pollution, land, water and species conservation."

          With respect to 'violence is a male problem', I believe the important part is that the majority of crimes are committed by men, therefore, it is a male problem. But it goes deeper than that, a majority of our criminals come from abusive homes, both physically and sexually, and in that case, the vast majority of abusers are male, around 95 percent, although women are complicit in its continuance. So, by employing a gender perspective, you start to get at the root causes. Another example, Paul Martin has just announced a major campaign against child poverty, but this needs a gender sensitive lens as well. For example, In Canada, in 1993, 56 percent of all people below the poverty line were women. This increases to 72 percent among those over age 65. And children bear the brunt of women's economic inequality. Of the 601,000 children in Canadian single-parent families headed by women in 1993, 65 percent were below the poverty line, compared to 18 percent of all children in two-parent families. Thus, if Martin doesn't target women as the solution, his program will fail.

          And now on to the meaning and nature of sustainable development. I would very much appreciate if Charles Brassard, Stephanie Cairns and Frank Cosway would jump in given their long experience in trying to influence government about the necessity for sustainable development.

          In 1987, the Brundtland Commission wisely sidestepped the polarized debate of the 70s of limits versus no limits to growth, by arguing for sustainable development. Subsequently, the popular definition of sustainable development generally accepted from their document Our Common Future states sustainable development is development that meets the needs of future generations to meet their own needs (WCED 1987). The strategic imperatives that flow from the concept are:

          1. reviving growth;
          2. changing the quality of growth
          3. meeting essential needs for jobs, food, energy, water, and sanitation;
          4. ensuring a sustainable level of population;
          5. conserving and enhancing the resource base;
          6. reorienting technology and managing risk; and
          7. merging environment and economics in decision-making (Ibid).

          While disagreement exists among different communities about the usefulness of the concept of sustainable development, and there has been much criticism of the term as an oxymoron, I believe the usefulness of the term lies in its constructive ambiguity. It has brought people together at round tables who have traditionally been adversaries, and it has essentially brought the previously separate concepts together of sustainable and development, thus acting as a bridging concept that transcends traditional left-right polarization that has characterized political debate.

          A variety of definitions now exist with respect to the term, with varying degrees of emphasis on either sustainability or development. I define (work done at SDRI) sustainable development as a process of reconciliation of three imperatives: (i) the ecological imperative to live within global biophysical carrying capacity (ii) the social imperative to ensure the development of systems of governance that have "cultural sustainability" and (iii) the economic imperative to ensure a decent material standard of living for all. It is counter-productive to debate which is more fundamental. Meeting all three imperatives is both necessary and sufficient. Without satisfying ecological imperatives, we poison ourselves or run out of resources and destroy the basic life support systems so necessary for human and non-human survival. Without the economic imperative, we cannot provide the necessities of life, and without the social imperative, our societies collapse into chaos. These three imperatives are causally interdependent, It is not possible to change the direction or nature of one without also paying attention to the other two. Given this interconnectedness, failure in any one, will make it impossible to address the other two.

          Given the above definition, it is obvious that sustainable development research is inherently interdisciplinary. A critical distinction (Price 1990) must be made between multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research. Multidisciplinary research usually consists of different disciplines investigating the same topic, but adhering to their traditional disciplinary languages and concepts. If integration is attempted it is frequently an add-on to the traditional separate disciplinary approach. In contrast, interdisciplinary research implies that there is some common conceptual or systemic framework that undergirds the entire research framework. It requires the conscious searching for unifying concepts that foster and reinforce understanding across disciplines. Integration among disciplines occurs in the design and conduct of the study.

          Funtowicz and Ravetz (1993; 1991) argue that a post-normal scientific approach is also necessary, that is, a plural "systemism" in which both the parts and the whole -analysis and synthesis- are necessary elements. Post-normal science involves the management of uncertainty through the democratization of knowledge via an extended, inclusive peer community, and the recognition of a multiplicity of legitimate perspectives and values. In addition, sustainable development issues, such as biodiversity conservation, climate change and ozone depletion, involve conditions of high variability, complex interactions [insert Holling]. The contextual nature of sustainable development, therefore, also requires a multistakeholder approach to decision-making given the number of sectors and actors involved in any potential solutions.

          Formal research, experimentation, and testing, that is, systematic observation, theory-forming, and experimentation as a scientific activity, are needed to produce generic knowledge, but they are not always needed for problem solving. The challenge of sustainable development increasingly presents itself as a problem-solving activity. It is also about the production of useful knowledge, that is, it is inherently applied research. As well, it is normative, it is not value-free, but involves complex issues of polity and culture. Thus, in addition to interdisciplinarity, transdisciplinarity, that is, interactions not only between disciplines, but also with government, affected populations and between sectors, is also a fundamental characteristic of sustainable development research.

          When we formed the National Round Table in 1987, we debated the desirability of defining sustainable development, and decided against it for a number of reasons. First, we believed we would expend all of our mandate trying to get consensus around a definition, and remember the context at this time (Frank you would remember this well), we didn't even have consensus around the integration of the economic with the environment. I think we can safely say that there is now general consensus in Canada around the necessity to reconcile the ecological and economic imperatives, with some growing appreciation of the necessity to integrate the social, especially with the increasing feminization of poverty worldwide. There is, however, far less understanding of how to affect such a reconciliation. Second, we thought that perhaps sustainable development was best defined locally, as each region differed so much in its geophysical characteristics, as well as its socio-economic circumstances.

          I now believe, however, that we have enough common experience that we, as a group, could attempt to define some common elements. (David Brown, could you introduce your concept of a dynamic slate of generic principles). Scale, time and place, it seems to me are important. Ideas?

          Ann


          • Date: Fri, 17 Jan 1997
            From: Nina-Marie Lister
            Subject: Conclusion of Figure 4

             

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            Hello everyone,

            Just thought I'd respond to a couple of points made by Dale and David regarding my recent posting on Figure 4. (I realize, Ann, that we were going to leave this tangent of discussion, but I did want to clarify a few things lest we lose the momentum. I hope I am not out of line, charging ahead here.)

            David, you are wise to remind me that (to paraphrase your comments) simplicity is elegance. (Or, a succinct 2-D graphic can represent a more complex issue/system if thoughtfully presented.) The relationships between human behavior and the systems in which we live are highly complex, but I agree that perhaps we should resist the urge to depict them in more than 2 dimensions for the sake of effective communication. While wearing my "impulsive academic" hat, it is easy to confuse the complex with the merely complicated; to lose sight of the fact that SD is really about communicating effectively the need for large scale attitudinal and behavioral adjustment. Thus, in the SD context, I am learning the benefits of a KISS approach-"keep it simple, stupid". (At least as long as we distinguish between "simplified" and "simplistic".)

            Similarly, I like very much David's suggestion that we create "a gray or overlap zone between the pure human and pure 'nature' portions of Fig.4. [which] might eliminate the us vs. them problem that some people may have with Fig.4."

            Having said that, my rationale for a 3-rd dimensional axis was really to show explicitly the positive correlation between increasing complexity of human behavior over time. This pattern generally prevails (historically and in parallel systems) to a point where complex systems eventually go chaotic if/when negative feedback loops are sufficiently disrupted. Some evolutionary theorists think that large scale extinctions may be a result of destructive behavior; i.e. that species can't adjust their behavior to changing conditions. Figure 4 is interesting to me because it could be used to show (the theory) that increasing complexity in human behavior is leading to the destruction of negative feedback loops in the ecosystem which sustains us. (An example of increasing complexity in human behavior is the transition from the Neolithic to the industrial era; large-scale political-economic systems etc.) As we appropriate, subsume and exploit the natural system that sustains us, our behavior should be an indicator that we may be pushing past Lewin's "edge of chaos". Anyway, the paradox here is that our behavior seems to increase in complexity to some threshold, and then it actually winds up simplifying systems-i.e. our homogenization of landscapes, cultures, religions, language etc. (e.g. the proliferation of Walmart & MacDonalds in a global economy). Anyway, we end up with the uniformity of diversity despite a highly complex system... which itself led to the emergence of a diversity of structures in the first place. Weird. Kind of a sad paradox of behavior.

            Dale states that "Time is a fundamentally different quantity than either population or complexity, so I am not sure a third axis as she describes makes sense". I agree-time *is* a different quality, but it remains the independent variable. Certainly human population growth and behavioral complexity are dependent on time. However, I think Dale's suggestion is great: that we could plot complexity as a related y-variable -- "human impact relative to natural systems and something that measures the complexity of the human system, or its "harmony" with nature, all versus time". (I think I unnecessarily jumped to an axis when a variable would suffice.) By the way Dale, I read the population axis of Figure 4 as the latter of your interpretations: "the growing impact of the population and its activities over time", hence my interest in the complexity of our behavior. For the record, I really like Figure 4 and have no problem with it-I was just thinking out loud about ways to convey the complexity of the whole thing!

            David asks me to clarify the "new nature": What I meant was that if humans sufficiently disrupt the present ecosystems' organization, (or if we continue our current consumptive lifestyles and destructive behavior), we will eventually select ourselves out of the picture, and a new, unrecognizable and inhospitable nature will evolve to replace us and many other present life forms. That is, our unsustainable behavior is essentially SELF-destructive. Yes, it may "destroy" the current ecosystems on the planet, but this is not the same as "destroying the planet". Life will of course continue to evolve after the (impending?) sixth great extinction epoch. That's all I meant. Sorry to be so cryptic.

            That's all for now.

            Cheers,

            Nina-Marie

             


             

              • Date: Sat, 8 Feb 1997
                From: Laszlo Pinter

               

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              [...]

              In glancing through the previous messages of others I noticed that Elisabeth thought values fell out of the discussion. I think she made an important point that I would like to add my thoughts to. My intuitive opinion is that societies with an acceptable degree of sustainability have/had a multiplicity of values influencing their decisions and evolution. This may include currency, but in addition to that there is value - exchange value, spiritual value etc. - in objects, animals, places, songs, relationships etc. Given that these values have organically evolved over time, they are embedded in a culture of symbolism, institutions, religion and so on, and they collectively influence the way people live. To really exaggerate one could say these people are - intuitively - using in a sense "culturally embedded multi-criteria analysis" to determine what is beneficial to them and what is not. An efficient decision is only what is efficient from the cultural, spiritual, physical and fiscal perspective at the same time, or at least not contrary to any one of them. At the opposite end of the spectrum is a society where value has been determined on monetary basis alone. Value is determined in terms of tangibility, immediacy, and utility and it is limited to assets that fulfill these criteria. Of course, many values do not. In economic terms we are talking about the difficulty of valuing intangible or commonly held assets - groundwater, love, view, etc., and the discount rate problem, that is valuing the distant future at zero. Reflecting a grossly simplistic view of reality in its values and its measures of value, this society continuously making "efficient" decisions but still losing ground and becoming "unsustainable" as externalization of the hidden - socio-economic or ecological - costs of its decisions to the future or other fellow citizens becomes increasingly difficult.

              This last point is related to Figure 4, the decline in environmental space or footprint or socio-economic tolerance etc. on which to push the burden of economic development. In a short report last year I came up with a version of Figure 4 with a number of little, but over time (x axis) growing and increasingly overlapping squares in the circle intended to emphasize that the dynamics of change is different region by region, but with the growth of regional economies there are increasing overlaps between impact zones and spheres of influence. I am not sure this would culminate in the "clash of civilizations" that Huntington talks about, but definitely increases the risk of conflicts.

              Best regards,

              Laszlo

               


               

                • Date: Wed, 5 Mar 1997
                  From: Nina-Marie Lister
                  Subject: A quick return to Fig. 4

                 

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                Greetings,

                Apologies for digressing from the SD definition discussion, but I will contribute indirectly through a response to Laszlo's posting from 3 weeks ago, in which he suggests an addition and clarification to Figure 4. (I've been away and am just now catching up with the discussion.)

                I think Laszlo has made a wise suggestion to note the contextuality of change required for SD, region-to-region, by illustrating this with increasingly overlapping boxes over time (x-axis). In addition to representing the decline in environmental quality or health (and associated socio-economic tolerance for unsustainability), this can also be used as a model to acknowledge explicitly the increased potential for confrontation and outright (possibly violent) conflict as resource competition and perceived scarcity increases with global "development" to meet the northern/western consumption model. (At least that is how I interpreted Laszlo's suggestion for Fig. 4.)

                I am coming back to this because I think it fits neatly with Ann's broader, more meaningful definition of SD-particularly because this modification of Figure 4 could force the essential discussion on values, power, and equity issues. Such a discussion must inevitably arise from any suggestion that: a) SD change-strategies and meta-barriers are context-dependent, and (therefore) b) that this means the potential for conflict increases where the "spheres of influence" collide and overlap. So: the issues of power, control, equity and basic values become essential navigational tools in looking for a meaningful (socially-relevant) SD framework!

                What I am trying to say here, and likely quite inarticulately in my haste, is that this modification of Fig. 4, combined with Ann's broadened "3-imperative" definition of SD may offer significant impetus to embrace the social-cultural aspects of SD along with ecological and economic imperatives. Because the institutional bureaucracy in which we currently live is founded on the separation of values from "truth" (among other baggage) and is extremely adept at burying hierarchical structures of power within a seemingly "tracable", "accountable" and "objective" decision-making process, it is all the more important that any framework for SD has at its core, a critical focus. Specifically, this critical focus should force a hard look at socio-cultural imperatives through exposing buried power structures, implicit values, and many other contradictions of the positivist tradition that has lead to unsustainability. (Sort of an emanicpatory exercise I suppose.)

                So, the bottom line here is that I think Laszlo's suggestions for Fig. 4 may further clarify and illustrate Ann's broadened definition, which in turn should help illuminate a framework for SD that is able to cope elegantly and responsibly with the central issues of values, power, control, and equity.

                Nina-Marie


                 

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