Input on sustainable development

It’s encouraging to read the three documents shared, the strategic action plan, the ISCN-GULF Charter and the draft study programme on sustainable development (SD). The subsequent questions are equally important in the process of developing a module on SD.

1. In the strategic action plan of the UL this definition for SD is taken.

…a process of change, where the use of natural resources … have to be consistent with future and current needs.

The authors of the paper: the practical value of theory: conceptualising learning in the pursuit of a sustainable development (Loeber, van Mierlo, Grin, & Leeuwis, 2007, p. 83) introduce the subject with

the ‘now famous phrase from the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), which described it as development that ‘meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’.

While reading this, I’m asking myself: why are our needs so important? Does everything has to revolve our desires and wants? Who is involved here? We have planet with limited resources, the sun with another million years of energy to give (more or less). And the earth is having a hard time with all the rubbish and pollution we create and is ‘naturally’ reacting to this.

The following ides might shed another light on the topic.

The 20th century, the most turbulent in the history of the human race, has reached its end. Dismayed by the deepening moral and social chaos that marked its course, the generality of the world’s peoples are eager to leave behind them the memories of the suffering that these decades brought with them. No matter how frail the foundations of confidence in the future may seem, no matter how great the dangers looming on the horizon, humanity appears desperate to believe that, through some fortuitous conjunction of circumstances, it will nevertheless be possible to bend the conditions of human life into conformity with prevailing human desires. In the light of the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh such hopes are not merely illusory, but miss entirely the nature and meaning of the great turning point through which our world has passed in these crucial hundred years. (Baha’i World Centre, 2001)

We are in trouble and we need to review our goals in the light of the circumstances and maybe say: SD needs to meet our planet’s needs, now and in the future. This understanding seems fundamental in order to start discussing SD.

2. In order to respond to the questions, how can SD be developed, how can success be assessed and how can learning be assessed, the following ideas might be useful.

As students engage in this new exciting module on SD, they make do group work on the paper titled “Rethinking Prosperity: Forging Alternatives to a Culture of Consumerism” (Baha’i International Community, 2010), using the following steps: consult about the document, agree on a course of individual and collaborative action, carry out the action, reflect on the action taken and adapt action if necessary.

This general model is applicable to all kinds of areas. Another topic might be whether to use bottled water or tap water. Tides Foundation, funders workgroup for sustainable production and consumption and Free Range Studios have done a great video on the subject. (The Story of Stuff, 2009)

Projects may adopt the so-called reflexive design to encourage and facilitate the processes of learning required in the pursuit of a SD. (Loeber et al., 2007, p. 83)

3. Including all actors in a region where SD projects are considered is vital to their success. In the case of Luxembourg, the university should invite all local actors in a consultation process. This initial reflection process is a start to a successful cooperation where more and more actors locally take responsibility for what they do and how they do it. This includes in the case of Walferdange, the ‘commune’, sports clubs & associations, adult evening classes and the religions present.

The development of FUNDAEC, a university in Columbia may give interesting guidance as to how implement SD. This is how they describe their guiding principles:

It is customary to think of the creation of an institution in terms of exact definitions of objectives and goals, of the organigrams, procedures, and operative systems. For FUNDAEC, all these organizational arrangements would have to evolve in action and did not need to be formulated according to the day’s fashionable theories of organizational development. As a first step, the group of founders embarked on a long consultative process that would allow them to reach a minimum degree of unity of thought on a series of concepts and principles, which would in turn orient their search for alternative paths of development.

Consider the people as potential resources, not as problems. Develop human potential through a proper education that acknowledges and promotes human nobility. Work for a development that is not conceived as “Modernization”. Engage in the search for pertinent knowledge. Avoid offering “pre-packaged” solutions. Recognize the need for endogenous structures in the region that would connect it to corresponding external structures. (FUNDAEC)

I recommend their programme: Intellection Preparation for social action, volume 1. What follows is some sample material:

The materials of FUNDAEC are organized in what we term texts, each text consisting of various units of study. In this book we bring together three units, one each from a separate text—Basic Concepts, The Language of Descriptions, and Moral Capabilities. We do so in the hope of responding to what we see as a growing eagerness among young people everywhere to prepare themselves intellectually to engage in meaningful social action. In studying the material assembled here, and beginning with the discussion of some preliminary thoughts in this introductory lesson, you should recognize that these units come from the higher level texts in our programs and make reference to ideas presented in earlier units. Such references are few and far between and should not affect your understanding of the material in any way if you have not participated in our other programs.

In a number of courses offered by FUNDAEC, we have analyzed the present condition of humanity in terms of two parallel processes—the disintegration of an old fragmented world and the crystallization of a world civilization. The signs of destruction of the old order are readily apparent; words such as crisis, confusion, fear, and violence are now common in everyday conversation and have lost their original impact. The construction of a world civilization is a more subtle process and, although progressing in full force, is not as easily discernible.

Faced with the disastrous effects of the forces of social disintegration, we all tend to

look for the immediate cause of whatever we perceive to be wrong with society and

declare it the chief culprit—capitalism, communism, the military, international corporations, the uneducated masses, the school system, the established churches, the politicians, the clergy, the left, the right, the conservatives, the liberals, the welfare system,overpopulation, or perhaps simply human nature. But at some point, we should realize that dispensing blame to various components of the world system is a futile exercise. This is not to say that we should pronounce the guardians of the present system free of blame or deny the importance of analyzing the historical forces that have shaped today’s society. It is just that, eventually, we must abandon the tendency to satisfy ourselves with simplistic answers and focus our energies on endeavors that seek viable solutions to humanity’s mounting problems.

Search for realistic solutions inevitably leads us to one of the most fundamental questions of our time: Who will bring about the many changes that must occur in the lives of billions of people and in the system to which they so tenaciously cling? Who are the protagonists of the great transformation that is to take place in the life of the planet? The answer, which may sound fantastic to some, is that every human being has the responsibility to contribute to this great transformation. We are all the protagonists of today’s drama in history. That we should make every effort to play our part is not a matter of personal choice. It is a duty thrust upon us by history. It is, if you wish, ordained by God that, in a few generations, we should lay the foundations of a world civilization, the fairest fruit of thousands of years of social evolution.

To say that the power to bring about enduring change lies in the people of the world does not tell us how the expected transformation is to take place. In fact the proposition raises so many complex issues that our first reaction might well be one of powerlessness. To help you explore this proposition, starting you on the kind of deliberations in which you will engage throughout your study of this book, we ask you to discuss the following questions with your group. Write your conclusions in the space provided.

Are the inhabitants of the earth today ready to shoulder the enormous responsibility of laying the foundations of a world civilization? What are some of the signs of such potentiality?

Baha’i International Community. (2010). Rethinking Prosperity: Forging Alternatives to a Culture of Consumerism. Baha’i International Community United Nations Office. Retrouvé Juin 9, 2010, de

Baha’i World Centre. (2001). Century of Light. Baha’i World Centre.

FUNDAEC. Guiding Principles. Retrouvé Juin 9, 2010, de

Loeber, A., van Mierlo, B., Grin, J., & Leeuwis, C. (2007). The practical value of theory: conceptualising learning in the pursuit of a sustainable development. Dans Social Learning towards a sustainable world. Principles, perspectives, and praxis. Wageningen Academic Publishers.

The Story of Stuff. (2009). . Retrouvé de


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