Global Systems Accounting Beyond Economics
3 June 2022
Part of the 26th CONFERENCE OF THE INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT FORUM
This virtual IEF event took place in partnership with ebbf-Ethical Business Building the Future; Baha’i International Community; Global Governance Forum and Wilmette Institute.
The panelists presented a new approach to non-financial global systems accounting covering the environment (carbon, biodiversity, pollution), human well-being (minimum living standard, food, health) and social accounting (work and service, knowledge and education, and spiritual capital)
- Arthur Dahl (Switzerland)
- Rebecca Teclemariam Mesbah (Bosnia-Herzegovina)
- Sara DeHoff (USA)
- Nan Chen (Germany)
Moderator: Laurent Mesbah (Bosnia-Herzegovina)
Below you find the transcripts from all four panelists, slightly changed to fit the report format.
Introduction to Global Systems Accounting
Arthur Lyon Dahl (Switzerland)
This panel introduced a new system of global accounts for the common good relevant to human and natural well-being using science-based non-financial units of accounting.
Despite significant efforts over the last 50 years to create forces of integration in a world that has become a single economic system while remaining socially and politically fragmented, the forces of disintegration are continuing to win out. Increasing wealth has not benefited half the world population, and our environmental decline accelerates. An urgent transition is required to address the global environmental crises of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution, the human crises of poverty, hunger, educational failure, unemployment, inequality, lack of meaning, and all the related social crises representing existential threats to our future.
The root cause of our problems is our economic paradigm that calculates everything in terms of monetary profit and loss, capital and interest, return on investment and the theoretical efficiency of the market. Dimensions of society that cannot be monetized, bought and sold are ignored. Modern neoliberal economic thinking is founded on the assumption that people are fundamentally selfish and aggressive, so we accept as normal that markets and politics are powered by ego, greed, apathy and violence, and that our society values wealth, power and fame.
The ultimate indicator in this system is the flow of money measured as GDP, and its endless growth is seen as the solution to all our problems. Yet these factors and measures have no inherent relationship to human or planetary well-being. Many corporations consider only profit and return on investment while ignoring the decline in environmental and social capital and related costs treated as externalities and borne by the whole of society. As the UN Secretary General António Guterres says, “when we destroy forests, overfish or burn coal, we are increasing gross domestic product. It’s time to change an accounting system that counts the destruction of the planet as if it was the production of richness.”
Top: Rebecca Teclemariam Mesbah, Laurent Mesbah, Arthur Dahl; bottom: Nan Chen, Sara DeHoff
The solution would be to develop an alternative set of accounts more organically related in a systems perspective to the functioning of the biosphere, the desirable direction of human society, and the right of everyone to a life of dignity and fulfilment leaving no-one behind, the real aim and purpose of development.
There are two ultimate goals for such accounting:
1. the common good of human society, to maximise the well-being and fulfilment of all of its members, today generally described as human rights.
2. to respect, maintain and improve the common property that we all inherit on a planet endowed with an atmosphere and climate, land and oceans, a rich and productive biosphere with natural systems providing ecosystem services, all essential to life but not valued by our present economy except where they can be exploited for profit.
New Forms of Capital and Relevant Currencies
We identify nine initial indicator forms of capital and relevant currencies to respect both the planetary environmental boundaries of the global commons and the minimum human and social standards for the common well-being of all humanity. This short introduction will be followed by more detailed discussion by the other panelists.
The first topic is Environmental Accounting.
Our planetary environment is the foundation for all life and natural resources, but we are now exceeding planetary boundaries and system stability and eroding the resource base upon which we depend.
Accounting for the full carbon cycle including both the release of fossil carbon and the capture and sequestration of excess atmospheric carbon would both monitor global heating and climate change, and the flow of solar energy and carbon sequestration through photosynthesis supporting all life on the planet, aiming to bring carbon accounts back into balance.
Biodiversity covers the complex systems of living things that feed us and provide extensive ecosystem services which are not presently valued. Accounts directly in species and ecosystems could encourage the protection and regeneration of the natural systems fundamental to our survival.
A clean environment is essential for human health and environmental stability. We need to quantify environmental pollution by the thousands of chemicals and man-made materials to identify their sources, pathways and impacts, measuring their true cost and driving reduction and remediation.
The second topic is human well-being accounting.
Measuring poverty in terms of income per capita is not a true measure of human subsistence and well-being, when the physical characteristics can be measured directly and more objectively.
For poverty, minimum living standard accounts should ensure that every human being has adequate shelter, clean water and sanitation, a source of energy and basic security as the ideal capital, with any deficiency a source of debt to be addressed.
Food is essential for life, so food accounts should include measuring the planetary capacity to produce enough food for all, how it is distributed to meet everyone’s nutritional needs, while eliminating food waste and ensuring an adequate income to all farmers and fishers.
Since good health is essential to human well-being and to enable all to contribute productively to society at each stage in life, health accounts should treat this as health capital, with all factors damaging health increasing health debt.
Social accounting is the third topic. Humans are a social species, so accounting is needed for individual contributions to and benefits from society.
Every human being has a capacity to contribute to the wealth and well-being of society, so we need accounts to measure how we use this capacity for work and service, whether in paid employment or in other contributions to society, with all barriers, from unemployment to discrimination, as forms of work debt depriving society of potential wealth.
A society is often defined by its knowledge and information dimensions of science, technology, art and culture. These are intangible yet highly significant, and increase in value the more they are shared, requiring different forms of accounting. Furthermore, their operational impact comes from their acquisition and use by people, their incorporation in objects or institutions, and their transmission through education from generation to generation.
The most basic level of a system is the rules by which it is organized and operates. In human systems and communities, effective individuals and institutions function through values and spiritual capital, accounted for indirectly through performance measures.
Scales of accounting systems
Such an accounting system for human well-being should also address the complementarity in scales of accounting between the individual, the community, and the institutions of society.
Global systems accounting is most relevant at the institutional level of the processes of governance, especially concerning the health of the global environment and the need to remain within planetary boundaries. It is also essential to designing the parameters of the evolving global society beyond the nation-state, bringing justice at the world level.
Accounting has traditionally been seen as a national government responsibility, with national statistical offices and comparisons between countries, and this will obviously continue.
It is possible without too much difficulty to imagine adapting and applying the same accounting principles at the community level, where they would be highly relevant to reading the local reality and consulting on collective priorities and social action.
For individuals, we can apply the concept to a person evolving through life from childhood to adulthood to old age. Education starts in the family and community, then evolves into formal schooling, as each individual develops the knowledge and skills necessary to function in society and to make a contribution through work and perhaps through other social services or entertainment. None of this is permanent, since we eventually die, when all of that individual experience and knowledge, having performed its useful functions and hopefully enabled some spiritual progress, and been transmitted in some form to others, is lost.
New global definition of wealth
Together, these forms of capital would become the basis for a new global definition of wealth and progress expressed in a set of complementary currencies, founded on scientific standards of human and natural well-being. Oversight would be the responsibility of institutions of global governance, in the same way that national central banks take decisions to ensure national economic well-being under the oversight of national governments.
Development of these accounting systems could gradually replace the present economic paradigm and financial system which values only monetary wealth and GDP.
These accounts could become the basis to internalise environmental and social externalities, leading to global taxes or fines on damaging activities and supporting payments for social contributions and environmental regeneration in the common interest, in an integrated dynamic global system aiming for human and natural well-being and sustainability.
Rebecca Teclemariam Mesbah (Bosnia-Herzegovina)
As already highlighted, only some elements of the natural environment are considered in the current economic system. The real cost of manufacturing, for example, does not take into account the cost of damage to ecosystems and pollution. Also, wealth is only created through possession of material goods, so a living tree has very little monetary value until it is cut down and sold as wood. This is accounted as wealth creation, although climate control and shelter for different forms of life that the tree used to provide are lost.
To overcome such absurdities, we looked for alternative accounting and currencies that would be linked to the real value of the natural world. We chose carbon, biodiversity and pollution as they represent most environmental issues. We considered the ideal state where environmental wealth would be generated, positive and negative trends towards that state, and possible strategies and solutions for wealth creation at the individual, societal and global levels, always keeping in mind that natural systems are strongly interconnected and disturbances in one can create imbalance and possibly irreversible damage.
Focusing on carbon, if we look at the carbon cycle, carbon in the ground is carbon capital. Carbon in the atmosphere is carbon debt. Natural carbon capture through photosynthesis, in oceans, and in soils by microorganisms is wealth generating. Accounting with carbon as currency can advance the effectiveness of balanced solutions and adaptation and mitigation, where for example developing nations can gain benefits from natural carbon sinks.
The ideal state is when carbon is well regulated and stabilized. Positive drivers such as the use of renewable energy sources, protection of natural ecosystems and organic farming practices protect the carbon capital.
At the Institutional level, more united global governance and political will are needed where world climate and ecosystem agencies ensure that carbon follows its natural cycle, that carbon debt is reduced, and biodiversity maintained in a clean environment.
Extensive information exists on carbon emissions, which are creating carbon debt. However, information on creating carbon capital through carbon sequestration, especially by natural systems, is far from complete and we need this information to have complete accounts.
Connected with the carbon currency is the capacity of ecosystems to be sustained and resilient, relying on the diversity of living species present. Protecting and maintaining the biodiversity of ecosystems ensures their sustainability and thus potential capital growth. This also impacts the production of quality food and human health.
The indirect and direct drivers of biodiversity decline are also linked to fossil fuel emissions. There are increasing local, regional, and global efforts to go in a better direction with the UN Convention on Biodiversity, with a goal to increase protected areas to 30% of land and sea by 2030. But protecting land and seas is not enough, as the overuse of biodiversity is related to our general consumption and production of goods, energy, and services. We need also to prosecute destructive organizations in courts.
One of the direct drivers for loss of biodiversity is pollution. A clean environment is essential for environmental stability and human health. There are thousands of chemicals and man-made materials released in nature and this accounts for pollution debt. In natural systems waste does not exist as everything is saved efficiently, reused, and recycled. Microorganisms and other living organisms can degrade and transform many chemical compounds. Pollution therefore is due to waste produced by humans that does not enter this cycle or burdens them by their sheer amount.
We need to identify the sources of pollution in order to implement the “polluter pays” principle for cleanup or recycling and, in cases of pollution from decades ago, identify responsible entities and sources for taxation. Again here, consumers need to understand the pollution impact of the goods they consume, and even pay the real price which is currently not the case. By identifying pathways and impacts, measuring their true cost as well as costs of reduction and remediation solutions, the price of pollution debt can be accounted for, and sources of funding found to get rid of this debt.
In the consumption chain, the principle of “reduce, reuse and recycle” can contribute to limiting pollution. An example of the positive trend at the global level is this year, when Heads of State, Environment Ministers, and representatives from 175 countries endorsed a resolution at the United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi to negotiate by the end of 2024 an international legally binding agreement to “end plastic pollution”.
Outer space pollution due to debris and satellites in orbit is another issue where all states and also the private sector need to work together to define the responsibilities of the polluters.
In conclusion, when it comes to the environment, the current economic system encourages humanity to live recklessly on unlimited credit without any plan to reimburse their debts. Who in their right mind would do this? It is time to start working on proper accounting of our assets and debts and together devise a plan to balance our accounts following the example of natural systems.
Human Well-Being Accounts
Sara DeHoff (USA)
A second set of accounts is for Human Well-being — food, health and basic needs.
Food is the easiest to describe as a currency, as it flows through a system: we produce food, we consume it, and we discard the wastes. Currently we produce enough food to feed all human beings on the planet. But our food system is incurring debts that our money system does not take into account.
In a set of Food Accounts, the ideal state is that every human being on the planet is properly nourished — that is, we all have enough to eat, and it is nutritious food. Everything that moves us toward that ideal state is generating wealth and anything that moves us away from that idea state creates food debt.
We can look at the flow of our food currency through the system of production, distribution, consumption and disposal.
At the production stage, we want to grow enough nutritious food sustainably. This means organic farming and regenerative farming practices where we are taking care of the soil and resources so we can continue to produce food long into the future. This generates food wealth. Our current commercial farming practices are creating food debt from soil depletion and erosion, water usage and pollution, overfishing, and deforestation. These practices not only reduce our long-term ability to grow food but incur debts in our Biodiversity Accounts and our Pollution Accounts.
In looking at food production, we also need to consider efficiency. Calorie for calorie, it is much more efficient to grow plant crops as food than to raise meat for food. This has a significant impact on our Carbon Accounts as well.
The next stage in the food currency cycle is distribution. We currently grow enough food to feed everyone on the planet, but it is not distributed evenly, so we have some people without food and some with more than they need. This is food debt. Distribution also includes taking the crops we grow and processing them into food products. We can and freeze and dry food to preserve it. This generates food wealth — food that can be stored and eaten later. Now we have food reserves.
But our corporations also manufacture food that has little nutritional value and, in many cases, is engineered to be addictive. This is food debt. In our current market-driven system, distribution—as with everything—is determined by where the profits are. So, we end up with a system where highly processed foods with little nutritional value are cheaper (more affordable) than fresh fruits and vegetables.
Then there are the grocery stores. In the United States, most of these stores are owned by a few corporations. When a store no longer turns a profit, the corporation closes it down. That looks good on the business books, but it creates a food desert for the people. In the U.S. currently 6% of the population lives in these food deserts. In an accounting system where food is the currency, this is an enormous food debt.
In an ideal distribution system, food is grown close to home. This means short supply chains. Currently we are incurring a tremendous Carbon debt as we ship food across the planet.
At the consumption stage, ideally everyone is fed, and everyone is properly nourished. This means affordable food that is accessible and available to everyone. It means having the right food for each stage of life: for infants, children, adults and elders.
It also means having an educated population, where people know how to cook for themselves and what constitutes a healthy diet. What is also needed is time. When our work/life balance is overloaded, we do not have time to cook, and we turn to manufactured or restaurant food.
Finally, there is the disposal of food remains. What do you do with your apple core? Most of us throw it away. Some cities are starting to experiment with composting programs and cooking oil recycling. Food remains are a tremendous source of nutrients that can be funneled back into the system to grow more food. As we develop these composting systems, we will be recapturing more of our food currency and putting it to use, turning this food debt into food wealth.
So, where do we stand? If the ideal state is that everyone is properly fed, currently we are about a third of the way there. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, in the world right now, 33% of us are properly nourished, 41% don’t have enough to eat and we have an obesity rate of 21%.
Global Food Production
How efficient are we? Food waste does not just happen at the disposal stage. Throughout the system, in 2011, we were wasting 1/3 of the food we produce, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization. But since then, we have realized we weren’t capturing all the data. The FAO has developed the Food Loss Index, which measures losses from production up to (not including) the retail level. The U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) is developing the Food Waste Index, which measures losses at the retail, food service and household levels. The goal is to reduce food waste by 50% by the year 2030.
Agriculture’s Global Impact
Our current food system has a big impact on the other accounts: it employs 14% of workers worldwide; it is responsible for 80% of deforestation; it releases 29% of the greenhouse gases; and it is responsible for 70% of the world’s fresh water use.
Measures of Food Wealth
Some additional indicators of food wealth could include: the shipping distance between the farm and the kitchen table; the proportion of fresh, healthy food to the foods of minimal nutritional value; the proportion of plant-based food to meat-based food.
This is a brief overview of looking at food as currency. A system of Food Accounts would provide a clear picture of the food wealth we are creating as well as the food debt and other debts we are incurring.
There are also accounts for health and basic needs. These areas are much more complex.
In the basic needs, or Minimum Living Standard, the ideal state is where every human being has adequate shelter, clean water and sanitation, a source of energy and basic security.
Currently we talk about the number of people living on less than $1.90 a day. But that does not take into account the vastly different circumstances people live in. There is the woman in the Himalayan village who lives on less than $1.90 a day, but she owns her home and grows her own food and shares all of it with hikers who make it that far up the mountain. Then there are people in the United States who make $18 a day who are living in poverty.
The Multidimensional Poverty Measure outlined by the World Bank is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t take into account the extremes of wealth and poverty in a country. In the United States, the Multidimensional Poverty Measure is 1%, there are some very wealthy people, and that skews the statistics. The actual poverty rate is 11% and 10.5% of U.S. households experience food insecurity.
What we need is measures that focus our energies on the positive future we are trying to build, rather than the negative state we are trying to avoid. The ideal is that everyone has adequate housing, clean water, sanitation, a source of energy and a social safety net. How close are we to this ideal, and how quickly can we get there?
With health, the accounting is also complex. The World Health Organization defines health as: as state of complete physical, mental and social (and now spiritual) well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
The public health field over the last 20 years or so has pointed out that very little of our health is determined by our individual biology and behavior. Currently we measure the difference between Life Expectancy and Healthy Life Expectancy (HALE).
But Health is really a nexus of all these different accounts. If we have flourishing biodiversity; clean air, water and soil; cool down the planet; have our basic needs met, food and education for everyone; dignified work; social justice and social cohesion, we will have a healthy population. We will have created an environment in which individuals can actually optimize their own health and thrive.
So, an accounting system for health would take all of these factors into consideration. Ideally, we would identify a few measures that give us a picture of the health of a community or a population, to gauge how close we are to physical, mental, emotional (and spiritual) well-being.
These human well-being accounts—food, health and minimum living standard—would give us a way of measuring our well-being that goes well beyond money. These accounts would provide us with a clearer picture of the ideal conditions for human flourishing and how close we are to getting there.
Nan Chen (Germany)
As mentioned at the beginning, humanity has made tremendous progress in measuring material dimensions of human well-being. However, how do we measure the key dimensions of our organization as human societies?
Every human being has a capacity to contribute to the wealth and well-being of society, so we need accounts to measure how we use this capacity for work and service. Then there are the intangible dimensions of society, including all forms of knowledge from science, art to culture, and their transmission through education, that need to be accounted for. Finally, there are the spiritual principles and values by which social systems are organized, in what might be termed Spiritual Capital, which determine the functioning of all social institutions.
Knowledge and Education Accounts
Knowledge in a book serves no purpose until it is read. The beauty of art must be seen, and music heard. Scientific knowledge must be accessed and used to solve problems and to create new knowledge.
Beyond the purely material and social dimensions of well-being, humanity has through its intellectual capacity developed a vast storehouse of knowledge, science, technology, art and culture that are intangible, yet essential parts of human reality. These intangible assets increase their value the more they are shared. Therefore, different forms of accounting are required.
A conceptual framework for the ideal state of the knowledge and education accounts addresses the individual, community and institutional levels. The ideal state of the individual pursuit of knowledge and education recognizes that this form of capital or wealth must be stored and then transmitted, primarily through education. Every person is mortal, and their acquired knowledge is ultimately lost. Each new generation starts over to receive relevant knowledge through formal or informal education. New technologies enable us to rethink how this phenomenal new capacity for information, which increases in value the more it is shared, can contribute to an ever-advancing civilization. Cultivating the individual capacity and creative powers through the exercise and application of independent investigation of truth is a tool based on the conviction that human honor and happiness lie in noble purposes, trustworthiness, integrity and service to humanity. This is a humble posture of life-long learning process consistent with science and religion.
The next Ideal state is in the family and community, which serve as the earliest and closest educational environment to acquire knowledge and practical life skills. Therefore, a safe, continuous and creative learning environment would enable everyone to gain a reasonable degree of excellence in some productive life skills (for example, health, sanitation, agriculture, crafts and industry), and general material and spiritual education.
Accounting is needed to measure the presence of such values and their effective impact on individual behaviour and institutional functioning, which will be addressed separately as spiritual capital. The family and community should also serve to encourage capacity building in analyzing social conditions, consultation, cooperation and action in the spirit of unity.
Our present materialistic society has tried to turn knowledge, art and other forms of information into intellectual property, sold to those who can afford it, which is to deny its true social value and to exclude those who cannot pay for it. This prevents the full wealth creation potential in the information, resulting in a kind of knowledge debt relative to the broader benefits to society of open access.
Then we need to define the values that determine the ideal state of social institutions and government. To build a system based on truthfulness, justice and the oneness of humanity, we need to nurture the capacity of all who are anxiously concerned with global social and environmental well-being. Also, we should cultivate and empower individual administrative literacy and the confidence to take part in social discourse and taking actions that build unity. That includes the capacity to plan, reflect and act on projects that contribute to the well-being of humanity and carry forward an ever-advancing civilization.
Developing an accounting system in this area is particularly challenging because the relevant currency is less evident. The non-financial currencies which would account for the ideal states which we want to jointly achieve have yet to be developed. Here are a few examples from the working groups which we would like to invite all of you to co-create and extend in value: high value on self-organized lifelong learning and transfer of knowledge; high value on trustworthiness, happiness, excellence, creativity and moral capabilities; appropriate development of essential literacy skills; demonstrated capacity to consult and make collective decisions in unity; demonstrated civic, cultural, global, economic literacies and engagement.
The operational impact of knowledge and education comes from their acquisition and use by people, their incorporation in objects or institutions, and their transmission through education. The following table gives some examples of the positive indicators which add value to these accounts and the negative indicators which deduct from their value.
Work and Service Accounts
The foundation of wealth creation in all its forms is human work. Accounts are therefore needed to measure how well this potential is developed and utilized, both for the benefit of the individual and to be useful to society. Every human being has some capacity to contribute productively to society, and should receive the education necessary to develop that capacity as well as the opportunity to use that capacity through some form of meaningful work or employment. The work/employment accounting system would value all these contributions, and apply them to all genders, ages, capacities and situations as full employment. This could even lead to considering many additional forms of productivity and service as worthy of remuneration. All barriers, from unemployment to discrimination leaving people idle, are forms of work debt depriving society of potential wealth and reducing society’s capacity to generate further wealth. Such unemployment marginalizes part of the population because of gender, ethnicity, handicap or other biases.
The ideal state of this account emphasizes that work is not just to earn money, but has a social function for human dignity, to be of service to others, and even to develop what might be called higher spiritual or moral qualities through effort and overcoming difficulties. It is therefore a human right.
Here is a sample of indicators of the many forms of useful human services, providing positive encouragement to create opportunities for all, and negative incentives to discourage the waste of human potential, that would be the drivers for a more inclusive and productive society:
Spiritual Capital and Values Accounts
System science shows that the most basic level of organisation in any system is the rules by which it operates. It is through their operation that higher levels of organisation emerge. To change a system fundamentally, you need to change its rules and objectives. In human systems, those rules are defined by the values and ethical principles at the heart of the society and underlying those is the very purpose of human life.
The spiritual and value accounts reflect an understanding of our higher purpose and nature. We humans are essentially spiritual beings, and our behavior is informed by spiritual values and virtues such as integrity, honesty, humility, selflessness and courage. Societies are characterized by a state of justice, equality, prosperity, dignity, and safety, among others.
Today we see very often that society operates based on materialistic rules, with humans driven by self-interest that justifies greed, dishonesty, pride and violence in the quest for power and wealth. But collectively, these values lead to social disintegration.
An alternative basis for rules to drive fundamental change in a system that is crumbling is the very purpose of human life.
An accepted model today is the pyramid of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Here spirituality is often viewed as the last human attribute to define the human hierarchy of needs. However, a materially fully developed society should have completed self-actualization, but statistics show that happiness is rather low in those societies. One might argue that spiritual capital belongs at the foundation of the value pyramid rather than its pinnacle, where it should enjoy a large amount of practice to keep the entire system stable.
Beyond the philosophical implications in the context of rethinking a Global Accounting System, spiritual capital provides an expanded framework for human well-being which explicitly goes beyond materialistic conceptions, and hence provides a more sustainable and balanced alternative perspective of human prosperity. This is being researched and measured in philosophy, business, governance, health, and social science. The facts suggest that the more spiritual capital is accumulated, the more balanced other accounts would be. Unlike material wealth, which is physically limited, these distinctly human dimensions increase in value to society the more they are shared. They do not deplete but rather accumulate through multilateral interactions and engagement.
In simplest terms, an analogy in nature is water, which is the origin of life and necessary for every single cell on this earth. It makes up about 71% of the Earth's surface, and yet we might easily ignore its significance in our life. Spiritual Capital is the ocean which surrounds and binds all the continents on earth. No matter how the land surface might reshape itself in the far future, the underlying geological structure will always be the same, and always interconnected. Only through water is the earth bestowed with life, differing from numerous dry planets in the universe.
How do we consciously measure the spiritual accounts? Here are some positive and negative indicators:
What are the benefits that YOU would derive from consciously accumulating spiritual capital? How would this look like in the COMMUNITY and at the COLLECTIVE level? What would the SOCIETY look like when we are spiritually bountiful?
Arthur Dahl, PhD
Dr. Arthur Dahl is a coral reef biologist and systems scientist with over 50 years' international experience since the 1972 Stockholm Conference, including as the Regional Ecological Adviser to all the Pacific Island countries, a Deputy Assistant Executive Director of UNEP and Coordinator of the UN System-wide Earthwatch, and now working on UN system reform. He coordinated UN and scientific community efforts to develop indicators of sustainable development and global observing systems after serving in the secretariat for the 1992 Earth Summit. He recently initiated the Global Systems Accounting project after reflecting on the failure of global environmental action often blocked by the narrow short-term economic view of development represented by GDP.
Rebecca Teclemariam Mesbah
Rebecca’s passion is to explore how spirituality, scientific knowledge and creativity can combine to help develop and experience building sustainable and plentiful human societies. With roots in Africa and Europe, she says she is committed to fostering communication with a diversity of voices vital to this process. Dr. Mesbah is a neuroscientist, educator, social scientist and artist with extensive experience in scientific research and teaching art and sciences to all ages from toddlers to adults. She was born in Ethiopia where she spent her childhood years and later lived in Kenya, France, the Netherlands and now Bosnia-Herzegovina where, with her husband, they raised their two children who are now adults.
Sara DeHoff is a writer and author of Collaboration through Consultation. Drawing on 30 years of working in groups of various kinds, Sara writes about community building, working together and developing a learning mindset. She earned an M.Ed from Harvard and has lived, worked and studied in China, Japan, Taiwan and the Czech Republic.
Nan Chen is a world citizen and impact innovator born and raised in Shanghai, China, and living in Germany since 2016. She has years of cross-continental working experience for sustainable value creation in technology business strategy consulting and implementation for global mobility, energy management and information technology firms. She is now using agile principles to solve problems in her professional field, leading interdisciplinary digital industry projects as well as product creation. In addition, she is enthusiastic about various social actions and systematic community building activities which generate long term society-building power via universal education.
Laurent Mesbah was born and grew up in France in a multicultural background. He conducted research and has taught plant genetics at the Free University in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, where he completed his PhD. In addition Dr. Mesbah completed a Certificate of Advanced Studies in Environmental Diplomacy at the University of Geneva and is a member of the International Environment Forum since its foundation in 1997, where he has been serving on the governing board since 2017. Laurent has been long involved in education and youth empowerment as well as in managing, implementing and evaluating projects related to sustainable development with international organizations. Laurent develops and leads school and community educational gardens and environments. In addition he teaches Environmental Sciences, Value-based Leadership, Botany, Plant Physiology, Climate Change, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services at the university level.
Last updated 12 June 2022