Category Archives: Sustainability

THE SUSTAINABILITY CENTER CONCEPT IN THE THIRD WORLD: Globally, nationally and locally sustainable, peaceful Tanzania

A pilot project was planned for the establishment of a local sustainability center somewhere in Tanzania. The project had to be postponed; however, the concept paper prepared for the project could give useful ideas as to how any sustainability center could be established in any local area in the developing world, and is reproduced and updated here. The principles outlined in this entry could also be applied in the developed countries with necessary modifications.

Purpose: How could we create or rebuild communities to be ecologically sustainable, peaceful, democratic, healthy and happy? The purpose is that communities are both environmentally sustainable and socially peaceful but also that they can contribute to global sustainability, that sustainable employment could be created and maintained, and inhabitants in communities can get appropriate training, health and cultural services.

Basic problem: Each community can make a number of improvements to its living conditions. Often, however, improvements are conditional on decisions of other communities, and actions taken by county-level, national, regional and global decision-makers (public and private). As the globe will reach its ecological limits soon, or has done so in some respects, each community has a role and even a moral obligation to contribute to the global survival of the human race. This will, on the positive side, empower the poorest communities as they have an important role to contribute to a global strategy for survival and take immediate action. This mission will also need the creation of clusters of new humanity, renewal of the best religious, spiritual and humanistic values stressing that we are a global, interconnected village, and that the survival of the human race will depend on each of us, and that a change has to be peaceful, increasing happiness in us as well as in the world.

Tools: we need;

  • Knowledge of the global predicament (this kind of information is, for instance, given in the book Crisis of Sustainability and in its endnotes);
  • Know-how and technology: information about various ways to build ecologically sustainable buildings, infrastructures and whole communities as e.g. in the examples given in Blue Economy, the book by Gunter Pauli referred to in Chapter 3 of Crisis of Global Sustainability);
  • Intelligence and creativity: as you have to apply all of this knowledge and know-how to your community;
  • Social intelligence and activism: as you have to convince others that we need new models of social behavior and quick action – globally, regionally nationally and locally;
  • New humanity values which stress peaceful change through personal transformation and growth – this could be called neogrowth (concept by Prof. Pentti Malaska described in Chapter 3 of the book); a move away from quantitative economic growth measured by GDP to human growth and growth of sustainable villages, communities, cities and nations.

Possible steps to be taken in a locality such as Tanzania (and in any other communities – physical or virtual – around the globe):

1. Make an evaluation of the sustainability and survivability of the community, its weak and strong points, its connectivity to other communities and the rest of the world, as well as opportunities and risks involved.

How have climate change and other environmental problems affected the community and how are they likely to affect it in the future; how dependent is the livelihood of the community on trade, the prices of commodities and what is the availability (now and in the future) of oil or other energy sources?

What is the employment situation, particularly among the young?

What is the status of health of the population and what social and cultural services are available?

What is the state of democracy, participation, racial, tribal and religious relations in the community and in its surrounding communities?

What are the crucial elements in the life of the community that would need outside expertise and financial or other assistance

  • Create a local sustainability center (in some Western communities these could be virtual but in Africa mostly physical)

Functions:

Small start-up loans for sustainable employment;

Training for the management for small business in sustainable projects and initiatives;

  • Health advice and services;
  • Training for human rights, democracy, conflict prevention and peace-building;
  • Cultivation of arts and new humanity; and
  • Initiation, coordination and participation in conflict prevention and peace-building activities in creating sustainable societies.

Connectivity:

  • Establish electronic, wireless and multimedia links among people in the community as well in other sustainability centers and global networks; and
  • Provide analysis, early warning and networking services to local community, nationally and internationally.
  1. Start creating projects on sustainable employment, democracy, conflict prevention and cultural services. The best projects could combine many of the above functions.
  2. Start contributing to peaceful change for long-term sustainability locally, nationally and globally. Each community has different roles and opportunities. There are also non-local communities like professional associations, a group of friends on Facebook, etc. Make a list of possible options and opportunities, for instance:
  • Ensure that elections are free and fair and corruption is minimized;
  • Educate politicians, civil servants and corporations about their global and local responsibilities in creating sustainable business practices;
  • Take peaceful civil action (like peaceful demonstrations) against non-sustainable business practices and initiatives (those that pollute locally, nationally or globally); and
  • Create media and internet and social media campaigns for sustainability.

Start of a pilot project:

  • Select a village or other community (or a couple of these) for a pilot study. If it is feasible to select a few then one could be part of the city, as its problems and opportunities are different from rural areas;
  • Convince local and national politicians and civil society that they should help;
  • Seek assistance from a country team of the UN and other international or regional organizations;
  • Enlist support of local, national and multinational corporations and civil society organizations;
  • Make a project proposal and seek funding; and
  • Start implementing and report constantly to this blog/website.
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Helsinki Sustainability Center

Helsinki Sustainability Center (HSC) was established on 4 October 2012. The initiative is not a direct follow-up to the book “Crisis of Global Sustainability” but related to it. Dr. Mika Aaltonen, the founder of the HSC and head of the Research Unit for Strategic Intelligence and Exploration of Futures at Aalto University, has been conducting seminars and consultations in discussing and deepening the concepts and ideas promoted by the book (as explained in Chapter 8) and the author of the book Tapio Kanninen has on his part been giving continuous input for the establishment process of the HSC and is a member of the scientific advisory board of the Center.

The Helsinki Times reported on 5 October 2012 the following on the establishment of the HSC: “Former president Tarja Halonen has been appointed as the chair of Helsinki Sustainability Center, a company promoting sustainable development, Helsingin Sanomat and Talouselämä report. Founded by Mika Aaltonen, a research director at Aalto University, the centre is a non-profit consultancy firm, the task of which is to help countries and companies to combine their business operations with sustainable development. According to Halonen in Helsingin Sanomat, the chairpersonship is part-time and unpaid.”

Here is a short description of the Center’s main mission and major functions:

1. What?

Helsinki Sustainability Centre was established in order to make research and analysis related to global challenges (climate change, land system changes, water system changes, biodiversity), and their application in decision-making, truly effective. Helsinki Sustainability Centre will translate the scientific findings and policy realizations into detailed socioeconomic implications and assist Finnish and international actors in articulating and implementing actionable solutions.

Helsinki Sustainability Centre´s targets are:

1) to become a globally recognised knowledge provider an honest broker with full transparency in sustainability

2) to assist the Finnish people, whether in government or business, in finding and implementing timely and disciplined strategies towards an innovative and truly sustainable society, and 

3) to contribute to the international research, discussion and decision-making related to sustainability.

2. Uniqueness

Not research, but analysis

– to allocate R&D&I and education resources appropriately and in a timely manner,

– to identify rapidly and dynamically opportunities for innovation,

– to determine which opportunities are in our strategic interests and which are not, and

– to field innovations faster.

Not focused only on changes in physical landscape, but especially on the implications they bring along for social, political and economic domains

Such knowledge must be dynamic, both anticipatory of and rapidly reactive to changes across the global landscape of business. These are NOT the attributes of academic expertise. Nor can such knowledge be acquired in any single corporation.  Nor is such knowledge resident or dynamic in a traditional R&D organization. 

3. Why?

It will not be enough to generate more and better scientific data, or to develop more sophisticated models to reach a truly sustainable society. 

We need a much deeper, clearer analytical understanding of the interrelated developments and the relationships among their components.

It is not enough to define the problem; we have to show the implications of policies so that policy makers can find actionable solutions, taking the holistic and synergistic implications of their policies into account.

4. How?

Helsinki Sustainability Centre has multiple facets. It is an intelligence network, comprising trained analysts, software tools, and professionally established operational processes. It will develop connections to other relevant centers of excellence and contribute internationally to establish sustainability centers globally, regionally, nationally and locally, as feasible.

Briefly, it is a concrete step towards open source science. The pursued virtues are, according to the best traditions of science, critical engagement, open discourse, and cooperation – but the methods for achieving these goals are those of the 21st century.

Helsinki Sustainability Centre uses operational analysis as its main methodology. Operational analysis is similar to systems analysis, but transcends the technology and engineering relationships to include critical factors outside individual systems. It almost always yields new perspectives and very often highlights potential catastrophes.

Helsinki Sustainability Centre provides highly skilled, analytical capability for projects undertaken by universities and companies. It operates like a newspaper or media “desk” structure, with a desk for each major sector of global business.  

The model is a composite of MI5, the Financial Times, and a technical library/network.  No studies – online models comprising collaborative software linked to a large number of commercial and non-commercial  sources.

Helsinki Sustainability Centre is designed to be gradually developed, using efforts underway today as starting points. An important component of work is to develop connections to scientific and international organizations working on sustainability issues, contributing to their decision-making as well as using their results as input into the Centre’s own work.

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Transforming social movements for promoting long-term global and local sustainability

The book Crisis of Global Sustainability concludes in Chapter 9 that environmentalists, many scientists, and other scholars have spoken for a long time about an impending runaway climate change, the most urgent global issue that needs to be addressed by politicians, corporate leaders, and consumers. A good proportion of media and civil society actors, as well some statesmen, green politicians and businessmen, have become concerned about our planetary future as well. But the book concludes that the combined voice of the above forces has so far been too weak to move mainstream politicians, corporations and institutions for a radical change on a world scale.

Environmental NGOs were very active before the Copenhagen climate conference in 2007-2009, but the movement lost steam after a global deal was not reached. A new phenomenon is the protests in the developed world against austerity measures, socio-economic conditions, and inequality, in addition to food riots in the developing world. But the book concludes that a global emergency has not yet been embraced by social movements, mostly consisting of young people—although they will be the true victims of any future crises. So far proposals for a major change come from the older generation. Some 18 eminent scientists and scholars described the situation in early 2012:

Considering the stakes involved, it is disquieting that young people have not become more involved in the planet’s future and more insistent on intergenerational justice. The tentative efforts to pursue legal redress, for which our present paper provides scientific rational and qualification, are an effort of adults on behalf of young people…College-educated youth are equipped to understand the predicament and articulate their case, but their numbers so far have been too modest for their voice to compete against special financial interests.

The book Crisis of Global Sustainability says that the situation should change as young people become the decision-makers of the future. Understanding a global emergency and solving it at all levels—local, national, and regional, as well as global—would be the natural outcome of the evolution of the above-mentioned social forces, as long as they gradually move toward a shared agenda. Solving future global threats will require a bottom-up process. The Club of Rome that is described in detail in Chapter 1 of the book, was originally a non-organization—a network of people thinking and acting together, without bureaucracy, but with certain overarching concerns in mind and a determination, even a passion, to do good, finding solutions benefitting us all. And although small in number, they were able to achieve a lot, as described in the book. This kind of idealism could spread more widely and motivate various movements, initiatives, and projects taking place at a grassroots level but also inspire the younger generation working in international, governmental, national or local organizations as well as in the private sector.

The book Crisis of Global Sustainability focuses on creating new types of organizations and networking as tools for change as well stressing that voluntary coordination of action at all levels is another key ingredient for success. Using new methods of communication—mobile and smart phones, the Internet—could provide rapidly advancing technologies, tools, and platforms for change.

Proposed global and regional institutions—such as the Global Crisis Network (GlobCriNet), discussed in Chapter 8 of the book—have not yet been instituted. GlobCriNet should ideally be connected to village- and city-based sustainability centers or similar virtual initiatives that could be established at any time as further elaborated and discussed in this blog. Although we need new institutions, we also need people who think differently than those in past generations. Each individual could find his or her contribution at one or more levels. But all actions should ideally have a cumulative impact contributing towards a common and shared goal.

In a presentation at the Royal Society of Arts/Baltic Sea Region, on 6 February 2012 in Helsinki, Tapio Kanninen, the author of Crisis of Global Sustainability, concluded his talk with the following suggestions regarding the future and the role of social movements in shaping that future:

  • The globe will soon hit its limits, or has done so already, as the policies of governments and corporations have not changed much over the last decades
  • Early warning was given already some 40 years ago, e.g. in the “The Limits to Growth” study presented to the Club of Rome, and recent scholarly articles have reassessed that its projections were largely accurate
  • Some scholars are pessimistic, like James Lovelock, that no major policy change will come – and some are hopeful like Paul Gilding but in his view we need a Pearl Harbor moment, an event of the magnitude of Hitler’s invasion to Poland to really awaken humanity to the severity of the crisis
  • I believe the youth are the real victims of future crises – and using the social media will be the key; the “Occupy Wall Street” movement changed the presidential debate in the US in a matter of weeks – things can really change quickly
  • Occupy Wall Street and similar social movements should in my view refocus their ideology on the survival of the human race and enlarge the scope of their activities to embrace environmental and climate change action, in a peaceful way
  • Initiating green projects at the grassroots level is also essential as well as networking throughout the world.

Some leading climate scientists like James Hansen are convinced that with “business-as-usual” trends that both the governments and corporations alike are pursuing, a global sea-level rise would reach some 5 meters (18 feet) within a century or so (see Hansen’s March 2012 TED talk at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWInyaMWBY8 ). In Chapter 5 of Crisis of Global Sustainability a former Shell executive and the head of the climate change panel established by the Australian Federal Government, Ian Dunlop, cited even higher estimates for sea-level rise. If this kind of sea-level rise does take place, coastal cities like New York, London, Tokyo and Shanghai would be potentially wiped out as estimated by Dunlop. Increased monster storms with higher intensity and other environmental calamities would precede that kind of sea-level rise. For social movements the key question should no longer be how long to occupy Wall Street but – as Wall Street in New York is next to the ocean – how to save them together with numerous other communities from ultimate destruction, and this might indeed need a fundamental business change in Wall Street. The hurricane and tropical storm Sandy, in late October 2012, showed how vulnerable Wall Street, New York and the whole coastal area of the US really are to climate change and extreme weather.

So far this issue has been a taboo subject, unthinkable and too distant in the future, but with many failures in official climate change talks (discussed in Chapter 4 of the book) this is becoming a rapidly approaching reality which will affect the generation in their 20s and 30s and certainly their children. As governments of the disappearing generation would not wish to acknowledge the implications of their decisions, it is high time that the true victims of such a sea-level rise – the youth , students and people at the beginnings of their careers and working lives – started to act and mobilize themselves.

What could be done? Concrete action now:

An American talk show host, David Letterman, asked James Hansen in December 2009 why the young people are not demonstrating on the streets to get governments to change the course of climate change talks as they did during the Vietnam War (see the interview at http://angrybirdsmission.com/video/KiJJgC7B_KY/James-Hansen-on-David-Letterman.html ). The answer was that at that time the Draft (compulsory enrollment for military service) made the war a very concrete phenomenon to all American families. But a sea-level rise of 5 meters or more will affect your life and your children’s lives very concretely as well – as concretely as the Draft. Those living on higher ground will also be affected, as the people in lower areas will migrate to higher-altitude areas. So here’s what you can do:

1. Start spreading awareness of the potential sea-level rise (see Chapter 5 in the book). If you listen to the above TED talk by Hansen, you’ll see a map of Florida after the 5 meter sea-level rise – half covered by water. Create your own map of your community if you are located close to the sea and post it on the Internet and on social media. Ask advice from specialists how to create such a map or create a study group on the matter. Maps could be for different sea-level rises of 2-3 meters, 4-5 meters, 6-7 meters and so on.

2. Create a “Sea-level tracker” like the “Climate active Scoreboard” that is tracking success in climate change negotiations (see http://climateinteractive.org/scoreboard; see also the entry in this blog on games). If climate change talks and following commitments succeed (or do not succeed) to limit the world temperature rise to 2°C, 3°C or 4°C, what kind of sea-level rise would this mean according to the latest science? Then transform the results for your community.

3. Ask how your community authorities are prepared for different levels of sea-level rise. Do they have contingency plans?
If you have other ideas on how “Occupy Wall Street” and other social movements could be transformed from a short-term focus of inequality to longer-term concerns for the survival of the human race, write to this blog, post it on your own blog or become otherwise socially active to promote the idea.