Work in a
Visualizing a sustainable society
Chapter 4, page 1 - 2 - 3
|4.1 The concept of sustainability
|4.3 Test areas for change, a preliminary check list
|Graph: The Iceberg Model of Unsustainable Development
|4.4 Some features of international and global sustainability
|4.2 Alternative Economic Principles
|4.5 An illustration: roles for international organizations
|Graph: An Alternative Economic Perspective
|Preparatory papers for Chapter 4 discussion
|Women and Work in a Sustainable Society. Maria Mies
|Sustainable Growth and Employment, Hans Opschoor
While acknowledging the "moving target" nature of the goal, what follows are some indicators about the kind of society which corresponds to the values, the threats and the understanding of work set forth in these pages. In addition to the normal limitations on forecasting, previously unknown or unconsidered environmental impacts of technology, migration, modern agriculture, are constantly being revealed, making it difficult to fully describe a possible future state.
Given the ecological, economic, cultural and political threats to sustainability, the consultation burrowed more deeply into the concept of sustainability itself (4.1) to develop a vision what a sustainable society might look like, including the implications for work and for different social institutions. This vision is not intended as a blueprint, but as a preliminary critical model against which actual and potential situations of unsustainability may be tested (4.2). A partial check list of items to be included in such testing was drawn up (4.3), and the importance of sustainability at the level of global economy and international economic relations reviewed (4.4).
4.1 The concept of sustainability
Since the 1974 conference in Bucharest on the "Science and Technology for Human Development, The Ambiguous Future -- The Christian Hope", sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the ecumenical movement has stressed the extraordinary importance of a sustainable society. In the words of that report:
The depth of this long-standing ecumenical approach to sustainability is rare in most subsequent, often secular, interpretations of the concept. The need to preserve overall quality of life even if a possible consequence is the contraction of economic growth in already-rich societies is stated directly: "The rich should live more simply, so that the poor can simply live." [John Birch, at the 1975 Assembly of the World Council of Churches. Published in "Creation, Technology and Human Survival", Ecumenical Review, vol. XXVIII 1976, p. 69 f.] In this approach to sustainability, the overall choice between life and death is explicit in the manner of the choice Moses gave the people of Israel: choose for life by not giving in to the powers of death and destruction.
People now and in the future should have the possibility to live out the fullness of their existence: socially, culturally, economically, spiritually. [WCC Assembly 1975, Nairobi.] And given the continuity of existence, this means to share the earth in its created fullness. The totality of society and its institutions should thus heed the calling to sustainability as a norm and an imperative to guide and orient social, political, theological, economic, technological and scientific development. When the expansion of the economy and technology occupy the center of human life, they dominate and marginalize other sectors and segments of society. By the criterion of sustainability, if political and economic systems and the power of technological developments do not promote life in its fullness, they become instruments of the powers of death.
This leads to the question of how a sustainable society could work in practice. Is it possible to develop a vision (not a blueprint) of such a society to serve as a guiding principle?