visser_logo_small.gif (1783 bytes)Work in a Sustainable Society:
Visualizing a sustainable society
Chapter 4, page 1 - 2 - 3

dot.gif (101 bytes) 4.1 The concept of sustainability dot.gif (101 bytes) 4.3 Test areas for change, a preliminary check list
dot.gif (101 bytes) Graph: The Iceberg Model of Unsustainable Development dot.gif (101 bytes) 4.4 Some features of international and global sustainability
dot.gif (101 bytes) 4.2 Alternative Economic Principles dot.gif (101 bytes) 4.5 An illustration: roles for international organizations
dot.gif (101 bytes) Graph: An Alternative Economic Perspective
dot.gif (101 bytes) Preparatory papers, Chapter 4 discussion
dot.gif (101 bytes) Women and Work in a Sustainable Society. Maria Mies dot.gif (101 bytes) Sustainable Growth and Employment. Hans Opschoor


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4.3 Test areas for change, a preliminary check list

4.3.1  How would work change?

  1. Change of sexual division of labor: men would do as much unpaid work as women
  2. Subsistence production would have priority over commodity production
  3. Today, subsistence production subsidizes the market (money) economy. This must be reversed, liberating (decolonizing) subsistence production so that wage labor and the market (money) economy subsidize the larger social and economic productivity.

4.3.2  What are characteristics of sustainable technology?

  1. It must be regained as a tool to enhance life, nurture, care, share, not to dominate and distort relationships. Technology should value the knowledge available among people.
  2. New forms of technology are needed to make regions more independent from outside energy sources (bio-mass-based production systems).

4.3.3  What are the "moral" features of a sustainable economy?

  1. The economy respects the limits of nature.
  2. The economy is just one sub-system of the sustainable society, not the reverse. This calls for changes in economic relations based on cost-benefit calculations and competition.
  3. The economy must serve the core-life system.
  4. It is a decentralized, regional economy.
  5. The goal of a sustainable economy is to support the sustainable society in producing and regenerating life on the planet as a whole.

4.3.4  How would trade and markets be different?

  1. Local and regional markets would serve local needs.
  2. The primary function of local markets would be to satisfy subsistence needs of all.
  3. Local markets would also preserve the diversity of products and resist cultural homogenization.
  4. Long-distance trade would not be based on meeting subsistence needs.

4.3.5  Changes in the concept of need and sufficiency

  1. A new concept of satisfaction of needs must be based on direct satisfaction of all human needs and not the permanent accumulation of capital and material surpluses by fewer and fewer people.
  2. A sustainable economy requires new and equitable relations between rural and urban areas, producers and consumers, between cultures, countries and regions.
  3. The principle of self-reliance with regard to food security is fundamental to a sustainable economy.
  4. The important concept and practice of the commons can be reclaimed to resist the injustice linked to privatization and commercialization of nature.
  5. Money would be a means of circulation but cease to be a means of accumulation.

4.3.6  Features of sustainable culture and education

  1. Culture would not be considered a "luxury" and work a "necessity." Culture, economy, work, politics, and ethics would be interrelated.
  2. Culture would be the expression of each one’s creativity, not limited to experts.
  3. Culture would encourage the diversity and richness of local traditions and, in turn, the rootedness of people.
  4. Education would strengthen and maintain the core-life system and responsibility for the future.

4.4 Some features of international and global sustainability

Section 2 of this report painted a disheartening picture of what UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali calls the "crisis in human security" with strong international dimensions. The question is posed as to whether the crisis is fundamentally insoluble at the global level. Although there are no quick fixes; and each option involves a trade-off of one sort or another, considered attention to poverty, unemployment and social exclusion exists on the international level. Elements of potential solutions have been placed on the table at the World Summit for Social Development (6-12 March 1995) and in other international, regional and local-conferences. Some of the short- to medium-term solutions focus on the following four initiatives:

  1. The 20/20 proposal: 20% of ODA to be matched by 20% of the national budget of the recipient country earmarked for basic social programs.
  2. Nobel laureate James Tobin’s proposal to install an uniform tax on international currency transactions (the Tobin Tax). The proposed 0.5%-1% tax is minuscule on the large scale of foreign exchange transactions. But many researchers, including Tobin himself, argue that this tax could yield between $360 to $720 billion a year (some go as high as $1500 billion). Though governments have been unwilling to support the proposal, polls show that some currency traders would accept a tax of up to .003% . This would be a start.
  3. A third area for revenue is the taxation on trade in financial derivatives, arms; carbon combustion emissions, international air and freight transport; and taxation of the use of the global commons such as the electromagnetic spectrum which serves as a means of international telecommunication; outer space (geostationary and lower orbits; the southern oceans.
  4. Finally, long terms solutions require a shift from the narrow focus on economic growth to sustainable development. The basic starting point for this must be a set of international comprehensive programs to eradicate poverty. This program could be financed by the instrument discussed above.

UN research points out that the total cost of improving the lives of one billion children, women and men currently living in poverty is $30 to $40 billion annually over the next five years, based on estimates from UNDP, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNICEF and WHO as follows:

United Nations, The 20/20 Initiative 1994.

Figures in US$ billion per year

primary schooling   3-6
basic health care        11-13
reproductive health & family planning 11-12
low cost water supply and sanitation 5-9
TOTAL US$ billion per year 30-40

In addition to supporting programs to eradicate poverty, the transition towards sustainability requires:

  1. meaningful and sustainable job creation strategies
  2. equality/equity between men and women in society
  3. slowing of population growth
  4. debt cancellation
  5. programs for capacity building: National government monetary and fiscal policies should promote and enhance the local and environmentally sustainable activities of women, peasants (small farmers) and the poor
  6. mechanism and process for all people to participate in the economic, environmental and social decision making in the community, region and country
  7. drastic reduction in the present excessive consumption of world resources by the North
  8. radical reconceptualization and redistribution of work in society, leading to another kind of labor-division in the world as a whole.

4.5 An illustration: roles for international organizations

In the context of work and sustainability, some specific actions may be envisioned at the international level:

  1. In the context of equity in relationships between countries, there is need to assess the impact of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) on developing countries and to work for implementation of the Conventions on the Biological Diversity and Desertification which are especially critical to the southern continents.
  2. A joint WTO/ILO Advisory Body should be established to oversee implementation of the GATT social clause. Periodically, or on the basis of complaints, such an Advisory Body would review the application of standards contained in the seven basic international workers’ standards in law and practice (N.B. Such a review process requires only minor adaptation of existing procedures.) Should a review indicate that changes in law and practice are required, i) the Advisory Body through the ILO would recommend such changes, offer technical or other resource assistance, to assist countries to reach the minimum standards, and ii) a further report on developments would be made; iii) if the government continued to fail to meet its commitments, the issue would be referred to the WTO Council for action. [See preparatory paper. Labour Standards, Workers, and the Ecumenical Movement. Alan Matheson] 

A strong counterbalance vis vis the World Trade Organization is needed, and any attempts to backtrack on environmental agreements and already existing minimal international labor standards in the various ILO conventions must be vigorously opposed.

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