IEF 6th Annual Conference electronic version

Submitted by admin on 25. August 2010 - 20:13
26 August-4 September 2002
Johannesburg, South Africa

6th Annual Conference of the International Environment Forum
(Johannesburg, South Africa, 26 August - 4 September 2002)

1-18 August 2002
in preparation for the
6th Annual Conference of the
International Environment Forum*

at the World Summit on Sustainable Development

Making Globalization Sustainable and Just - Through Science, Values and Education

Report of the Virtual (e-mail) Conference
1-18 August, 2002

During the three weeks immediately preceding the World Summit on Sustainable Development, a virtual electronic e-mail forum was organized particularly for those who could not come to Johannesburg. It addressed the themes to be addressed in the International Environment Forum seminars at Johannesburg, and invited contributions and consultation which could then be fed into the conference.

There were 29 registered participants for the electronic conference who exchanged 58 contributions, including 6 on general topics, 2 on globalization, 4 on indicators, 9 on local science, 15 on values, 3 on education, 4 combining values and education, and 10 on land ownership and 5 on alternative energy, topics that emerged on their own.

The discussion was opened with an introduction and the position papers prepared by IEF for the Johannesburg events. These are given below, followed by a summary of the main points in the discussion.

1 to 18 August 2002


Thirty years have passed since the launching of international environmental action at the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment. The momentum of that launch reached an apogee at the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development. Recognition that environmental protection and management must be integrated with socio-economic issues was accepted at the Earth Summit and given concrete expression in Agenda 21. Yet the planet's environment continues to degrade, millions of people are mired in poverty, and too many environment and development decisions are still taken in isolation. The paradigm of growth and development generally pursued by government and industry has failed to reverse poverty, pollution, and the depletion of ecosystems. In preparing for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), it is worth asking why these 30 years of detailed planning and action have not been more successful in achieving the goals of sustainable development.

Principle 1 of the Rio Declaration states that "Human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature." Implementing this principle requires recognition that sustainable development includes an ethical dimension of justice now and for future generations. The dominant patterns of production and consumption have failed to eliminate poverty and are the root cause of much environmental damage. The present system therefore requires profound modification. The International Environment Forum has focussed its contributions on how to motivate people and institutions to change their behaviour to achieve greater success in implementing Agenda 21 and other programmes of action to achieve the goals of sustainable development.

The many events in Johannesburg with tens of thousands of participants were an opportunity to consider the changes needed in society and to initiate collaborative action among all actors in society to implement them. While the governments finalized their action plan and the high-level summit endorsed it, many other organizations were both supporting this process and considering the partnerships they could build to work together on implementation. This electronic pre-conference gave all the participants the opportunity to contribute to the process.

The e-mail discussion moderated by Judith Fienieg was organized by the topics that IEF presented in Johannesburg. These are introduced below, corresponding largely to the IEF programme, with the addition of a topic on Values which contributed to the larger interfaith discussion and activities organized by the Bahá'í International Community and the Bahá'í community of South Africa. The introductions built on the discussions of these topics at the 2001 IEF conference. The moderator compiled and distibuted the submissions from all participants at the mid-point and the end of the virtual conference, and prepared summaries of the key points which are given below.

Participants in the electronic conference were also encouraged to consult the official documentation for the WSSD and the many contributions of NGOs and other groups available on the web. Links to this information were provided on the WSSD page on the IEF web site at The IEF conference programme and supporting documents were also available on the web site at


General Theme:
Making Globalization Sustainable and Just:
Science, Values and Education for Sustainable Development

A joint seminar between IEF and the European Bahá'í Business Forum

One of the most significant issues to emerge since the Rio Earth Summit is the debate over globalization. There is growing public concern about the negative consequences of economic globalization. Yet globalization has many more dimensions. It is really only a continuation of the natural processes of human evolution towards higher levels of social integration. It cannot be reversed, but it needs to be mastered and given a more ethical basis. It must be extended beyond the purely economic to become an expression of responsibility for the planet and solidarity with all its inhabitants. This is the major challenge for achieving sustainable development at the planetary level, and a significant issue for the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

While the processes underlying the globalization of human society have been operating for some time, their impacts have only recently come to public attention. The human race is evolving a new global scale of interaction, integration and organization. The emergence of new communications and transport technologies and economic mechanisms has reduced or removed most physical, social and political barriers to exchanges at ever larger scales. The resulting mixing has set in motion accelerating processes of cultural, intellectual, economic, social and environmental change, with the disintegration of old institutions, systems of values and ways of thinking. This has produced increasing chaos on the one hand, and exciting processes of creativity, cross-fertilization and integration in the arts, sciences and technologies on the other. Governments, unable to deal with problems that escape their frontiers, have lost power, while other structures of civil society and the economy have gained strength.

The anti-globalization debate has highlighted the negative aspects of economic globalization, such as a worsening income distribution within and between countries, and growing pressures on the environment and its natural resource base. Cultural erosion and homogenization occur alongside the divisive manipulation of ethnic and cultural differences as populations mix. The strongest driving forces for globalization have been economic and materialistic, without balancing social, cultural and spiritual dimensions. This imbalance is also reflected at the level of international institutions, where there are some economic regulatory mechanisms such as the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund, as imperfect as they are, but no counterparts for social or environmental regulation to provide a counterweight. Globalization has also been blamed for problems that are really due to failures of governance at the national level or the spread of crime, corruption and unethical conduct in society.

These admitted problems should not hide the fact that globalization is also bringing positive benefits. The accelerating advances in science, engineering, medicine and technology resulting from rapid information exchange have created a global intellectual system. There are increasing opportunities for wealth creation from new combinations of resources and capacities, new economies of scale, and new opportunities to share the great variety this planet offers. Most hopeful of all is the emergence of a new awareness of our common humanity, with a set of universal values, extending beyond traditional boundaries of nations, races, classes or religions. Human differences are coming to be seen not as divisive but as enriching. There is increasing acknowledgement that there is only one Earth, and that we share one world citizenship. The challenge is to add a new level of unity in human society without losing the diversity that is one of the outstanding features of the human race.

Many of the present problems of globalization are due to the lack of an adequate global institutional framework to manage our global problems. There are no global political processes of governance beyond debates between nation states which generally put national interests first. There are only rudimentary structures for collective security and global environmental management, and little to address social or economic justice or the equitable distribution of resources.

The essential requirement for a positive, responsible and just process of globalization is a foundation of universal values, recognizing that the Earth is one country, and that we have an obligation of solidarity for the entire human race. We need to evolve balanced and effective mechanisms for global governance and collective security, while respecting individual initiative and human diversity. These should be accompanied by institutions for global environmental management for problems at the planetary scale like climate change, ozone depletion, biodiversity loss and global contaminants, while simultaneously reinforcing local responsibility for the environment of each community. Economic and social mechanisms are also required at all levels to eliminate poverty and bring consumption into balance with resources.

Your contributions are invited to extend the debate on globalization beyond the present narrow focus on economic and trade issues, and consider its wider negative and positive dimensions in the context of the evolving complexity of human society. There are environmental/ecological, economic/political, and social/cultural/ethical dimensions of globalization. How do we relate all these processes of globalization to sustainability? What can be done to make the processes of globalization more just so that they make a positive contribution to more sustainable and equitable development?

This topic contributed to a Dialogue on Indicators for Sustainability organized by IEF as part of the Science Forum in collaboration with the UN Division for Sustainable Development, the Stakeholder Forum and others

The foundation of our civilization is scientific knowledge. Yet much unsustainable behaviour and environmental destruction today is due to a lack of knowledge. Decisions made at all geographical levels-from the individual up to the global scale-have consequences and impacts often beyond the knowledge and foresight of the decision-makers. A sustainable society cannot be realized without detailed and thorough knowledge of all the dimensions of sustainable development, and a wise and judicious implementation of this knowledge. Thus, one challenge for scientists and other purveyors of knowledge is to communicate these issues at all levels and to all actors in society in language that everyone can understand. Just as economic indicators such as GNP and the unemployment rate are used to communicate the state of the economy, so can scientific indicators or measures of the environment and society be used to motivate more sustainable development.

Sustainability is difficult to define as a target for action, but indicators of human activities and their consequences on the environment are one of the best ways to move human activities in more sustainable directions. Such indicators can either warn of damaging states or activities to be reduced, or define desirable trends to be encouraged. Indicators can support decision-making at the local, national and international levels, although the types of indicator may be quite different at each level, and adapted to local circumstances. Sets of indicators can be assembled to capture all the essential dimensions of sustainable development. Considerable progress has been made since Rio in developing such indicators at the local and national levels, although comprehensive measures or indices of sustainability are still beyond reach. However, little has been done to integrate indicators for sustainable processes between levels, nor have adequate indicators been developed for the global sustainability of the planet. There are also major gaps in the coverage of existing indicators, particularly concerning the social, institutional, cultural and spiritual dimensions so important to human development and prosperity.

The usefulness of indicators for sustainable development has been demonstrated on a pilot scale, and efforts are now needed to encourage their wider use. The dialogue being organized at the Johannesburg Summit will be an appropriate place to define these needs and to initiate new partnerships to address them. The following are some of the questions that will be considered.

What are the key challenges ahead in developing and using indicators of sustainable development for decision-making at all levels? How can we encourage wider agreement on the best sets of indicators? What indicators can be used to measure the cultural, ethical and spiritual dimensions of society that are vital to its sustainability? What can be done to stimulate the greater use of indicators at the local and national levels? How do we encourage government and business to supplement environmental audits and balance sheets with ethical audits and balance sheets? What indicators need to be developed to measure the global sustainability of the planet? How do we improve the coherence in indicators between levels? Who are the stakeholders who need to be involved, and what new or enlarged partnerships are needed to address these challenges in the years ahead?

Contribution to the IEF seminar at the University of Witwatersrand on innovative partnerships and institutional arrangements for the application of science to sustainable development at the local level

Science has often been distant from the struggle of individuals and communities to achieve sustainable, just and peaceful societies. Even when decisions are made at the national or global level based on extensive scientific knowledge, they may be viewed with suspicion at a local and individual level. The people whose daily actions may have significant effects on the environment and natural resources generally lack equitable access to scientific knowledge. It is therefore necessary to ask how science can be brought more directly to bear on issues of poverty and sustainable development at the local level.

We need to go beyond the assumption that only professional scientists can do science. The poor also have the right to benefit from science. Even if people lack the vocabulary and scientific heritage of Western science, they possess acute powers of observation. The approaches of science, such as thinking in terms of process, weighing evidence and drawing conclusions, can empower people to manage their own resources sustainably. With simple environmental monitoring protocols, for example, people can observe their impacts and adjust their own behaviour. Such applications of science can be empowering in a way that economic aid often fails to be.

What is needed is a widespread culture of science for sustainable development. The way knowledge is generated by science and used in society can be restructured to improve decision making. We need to create new types of local scientific institutions and partnerships in all countries - even if the models or forms chosen by developing countries are different from those that wealthy countries can afford. Knowledge should be accessible to everyone, not just scientists, and should reach down to local communities where many resource use decisions are taken. It should include information on environmental status and trends, the effects of local activities on the environment, and the requirements for sustainability. Simple indicators, graphics and maps can help to make the information easily understandable. As far as possible, local people should be involved in observing their own environments and activities, reporting the results and receiving immediate feedback. The availability of local scientific institutions everywhere will give everyone access to science and its benefits. With new information technologies, this is now becoming possible. The aim should be a system in which each decision is taken with the best available information, placing the local situation in its larger geographic, national and global context, and integrating all relevant factors.

IEF did not plan a separate session on values, but the IEF representatives in Johannesburg participated in joint interfaith activities and other discussions.

Scientific knowledge by itself is not sufficient. Motivation is important in the use of knowledge, whether that motivation is spiritual or altruistic in origin, or basically selfish. Religion and science are complementary sources of knowledge. Science has brought progress in health, communication, agriculture and material comfort, but with a widening gap between rich and poor. It has supported war as well as peace. Knowledge of our purpose and place in the world, of good and evil, cannot easily come through science. It is religion that has provided a moral and ethical framework. Successful societies in the past have generally developed using both science and religion as their sources of knowledge. Combining these two sources of knowledge is necessary for a prosperous and sustainable world. Science cannot reconcile issues of values; both relevant knowledge and appropriate values are needed for effective decision-making.

The goals and pursuits of any society are driven by the values that society chooses to prioritize. Values that define humans only as well-endowed animals, that emphasize immediate material well-being and gratification, that favour one group at the expense of others, that encourage individualistic hedonistic self-satisfaction over the family, community or society as a whole, and that focus on the short term over the long term, have pushed civilization in very unsustainable directions. Such values are at the root of the planet's dilemma.

In the current era of rampant individualism in Western culture, promotion of a global, collective system of values may seem unrealistic. Fortunately, common values run through all the great religious, spiritual and cultural traditions and form the foundation of human and other rights. For example, global solidarity based on the recognition of the oneness of humanity can place individual decisions within their broader context and create a feeling of responsibility for the rest of humankind. Work can be seen not only as a way of earning income, but in a more spiritual context as a form of service to humanity. This motivation leads to the pursuit of opportunities that result in economic, social and spiritual progress. The practice of moderation and contentment can help to solve the social and environmental problems originating from excessive consumption.

We need to find ways to restructure the economic and social institutions of our society to reflect similar values. Just as an individual could view work as service, business and government could be reoriented to be of service to the whole society and not just a favoured part. In the context of business, profit should be just one measure of the efficiency of a company's operations, rather than an end in itself. Justice also has institutional dimensions. For example, workers will be motivated to contribute to their business if they receive a just share of the profits. Collective decisions will be most just if they are based on widespread consultation and participation by all those affected. There may even be a just rate of return on capital, with a moderate rate of interest that reflects true value added, rather than hidden exploitation or externalizing of costs.

There is also an institutional responsibility, divided between government and business or private owners, for the equitable and sustainable management of natural resources for the benefit of all humanity. Sustainability requires respect for the limits of the life support systems of this planet. This is an institutional responsibility at a global scale for which institutions need to be developed or strengthened.

Values, or the application of spiritual principles, have been the missing ingredient in most past approaches to sustainable development. Grand declarations and detailed action plans, even when approved by all the governments, do not go far if people are not motivated to implement them in their own lives, and if institutions are not made responsible to carry them out. The exciting thing about addressing sustainability at the level of values is the potential to create self-generating human systems building a more sustainable and thus ever-advancing civilization.

Contribution to the IEF session at the Global Peoples Forum along with case studies of non-formal rural and environmental education from Latin America and Africa presented by Michael Richards (UK) (see below) and Irma Allen (Swaziland) to launch a discussion on value-based education for sustainable development.

It is apparent that the message of sustainable development is not being received widely at the grassroots. This may be due in part to educational approaches that act as a constraint rather than a catalyst. There are indications that the current educational system and the economic system that it perpetuates contribute to humanity's problems. Young adults tend to emerge from the educational system without a deep sense of ecological matters and without knowing what to do with the knowledge they do have. They are unequipped to make decisions that are environmentally enlightened when they take their place in the work force.

Parents, and particularly mothers, are the first educators, and the pre-school years are the most critical in value formation. The core values instilled in the small child have traditionally come from family, culture and religion (or spirituality), but more recently the media (particularly television) and advertising have become important transmitters and manipulators of values. When children arrive at school, they usually receive information, sometimes knowledge, but rarely ever wisdom.

A new education paradigm is needed. The focus should be on the requirements of sustainable development and fostering cooperation instead of competition. The aim should be to help the child discover its unique potential, rather than solely concentrating on the acquisition of skills to be competitive in the job market. Such an educational approach would be participatory, interactive, integrative, value-driven, and knowledge-based.

The first step is to draw on the wisdom of the local community in creating a school and curriculum appropriate for that specific situation, while placing it in the global context. The community needs to plan where it wants to be tomorrow, how it will get there and the role to be played by educating the children. If community members, including the children and youth, participate in deciding what should be learned, education will be meaningful. In this way people will become concerned, then committed and then take action.

The second step is to change the emphasis from curriculum development to human development. Education must include training in communication, decision making, problem solving, creativity, conflict resolution, envisioning the future and change management.

The third step is to acknowledge that in education, the roles of family, business, commercial interests, non-governmental organizations and the media are just as important as formal schooling and that the goals of advertising, for instance, should be aligned to the goals of creating a sustainable community.

The fourth step in education for sustainable development is to acknowledge that there is a spiritual aspect to human life that has been pushed aside in the pursuit of material well-being. Education needs to recognize the complementarity of science and religion and the essential roles of each in creating a prosperous and sustainable society.

These steps are illustrated in recent experience in rural service-oriented educational approaches. They show how to address the WSSD objective of promoting values and ethics through education to impact on people's lives and behavour. These initiatives are non-formal, process-oriented, innovative, participatory and empowering. The rural education programme SAT (System for Tutorial Learning) in Latin America is particularly relevant to local conditions and poverty reduction. It is implemented in Colombia by the Foundation for the Application and Teaching of Sciences (FUNDEAC) and the Ministry of Education, and in Honduras by the Bayan Association for Indigenous Social and Economic Development with support from the Baha'i Agency for Social and Economic Development (BASED-UK) which has coordinated a major grant from the UK DFID. The description by Michael Richards of SAT - Rural Education for Sustainable Development is given below.


The real challenge to us all will be after the Johannesburg summit. Action starts with individuals. Governments can adopt grandiose declarations and action plans. Institutions can plan, legislate and create incentives, but it is individuals who take action. This requires the interplay of all three areas: scientific knowledge, values, and education, influencing individual and then collective decision-making, behaviour, and action.

Integration among the three elements is essential for sustainable development. Scientific knowledge without values can produce materialism, exploitation and destruction. Religious values without reason can lead to superstition and fanaticism. Education must bring both knowledge and values together to be effective. Since sustainability is many things to many people, we need to extract from our understanding a sense of common purpose that can be shared by all peoples.

Action on sustainable development also requires a balance among its three pillars of economic development or material welfare, social development, and environmental protection, and the ethical dimension of justice now and for generations to come. Each society, each nation and community, must find its own balance among these dimensions, applying the principles of a global vision of sustainability in ways and means appropriate to its own circumstances.

The path towards a sustainable global civilization involves many participants. The balance of leadership is now shared more widely among governments, civil society, the private sector and NGOs. As the WSSD demonstrates, all are becoming involved in, and should consult together about, sustainable development. The IEF is trying to make its own small contribution to the process.

edited from the summary prepared by Judith Fienieg, moderator

General Theme: Making Globalization Sustainable and Just: Science, Values and Education for Sustainable Development.

On globalization, it was noted that it cannot be reversed, but it needs to be mastered and given a more ethical basis. The strongest driving forces for globalization have been economic and materialistic, without balancing social, cultural and spiritual dimensions. Globalization is also bringing positive benefits, which are increasing opportunities for wealth creation, and bringing a new awareness of our common humanity, with a set of universal values, extending beyond traditional boundaries of nations, races, classes or religions. Many of the present problems of globalization are due to the lack of an adequate global institutional framework to manage our global problems. Decisions made at all geographical levels from the individual up to the global scale have consequences and impacts often beyond the knowledge and foresight of the decision-makers. It was suggested that it would be wonderful to have a measure of decentralization in the globalization processes (our one country is not homogeneous after all), and to see some diverse but well thought out solutions put into practice by people in different lands.

Sustainability is difficult to define as a target for action, but indicators of human activities and their consequences on the environment are one of the best ways to move human activities in more sustainable directions. Such indicators can either warn of damaging states or activities to be reduced, or define desirable trends to be encouraged. One challenge cited is to develop indicators that recognize the inevitable partnership existing between environmentalist and agriculturalist.

The discussion of science and knowledge stimulated a rich debate which can be summarized as follows. What is needed is a widespread culture of science for sustainable development. We need to create new types of local scientific institutions and partnerships in all countries even if the models or forms chosen by developing countries are different from those that wealthy countries can afford. Knowledge should be accessible to everyone, not just scientists, and should reach down to local communities where many resource use decisions are taken. Scientific knowledge by itself is not sufficient. Motivation is important in the use of knowledge, whether that motivation is spiritual or altruistic in origin, or basically selfish. Religion and science are complementary sources of knowledge. It is religion that has provided a moral and ethical framework.

The interrelationship between "science" and what is variously termed "indigenous knowledge" or "endogenous knowledge" was important to one participant. Indigenous knowledge in a local setting is less systematic and by its nature less universal in its particularities, but it arises out of a lot of observation of realities, and in some cases can offer insights that trained specialists from outside never imagined or provide information about aspects of the environment they never knew. Western-style science can benefit the process of the maturation of knowledge through its commitment to experimentalism. Eastern-style science, such as that based on Chinese models, can benefit the process through its valuing of tradition as a mixture of local wisdom and consensual philosophy (Confucianism, Taoism), as well as its commitment to intuition rather than purely sensate information gathering. The First Nations peoples work the process much more slowly and more carefully than modern scientists do. They observe, experiment, and adopt successful approaches. Over time we have reached a point where our societies gain and build scientific knowledge with lightning speed, in comparison to the Inuit elders, for instance. That leads to a great deal of unintended arrogance on the part of Western scientists. We should consider moving in the opposite direction, learning all we can about indigenous knowledge and working with the people who contribute that knowledge to apply snippets of our knowledge to improve what they bring to the table. A related issue raised was language, and specifically the survival and (re)vitalization of the mother tongues of peoples living close to the land and dependent immediately on the environment. There is a very interesting hypothesis of a link between biodiversity and linguistic diversity. According to this line of thinking a loss of languages (and hence of large parts of the sometimes unique knowledge it carried about the environment) leads to a loss of biodiversity.

Values and ethical principles were another common theme. One participant thought that there should be a legal mechanism requiring multi-nationals to operate to the environmental legal and regulatory requirements either of their corporate home nations or of the local host nation, whichever set of requirements is more stringent. Globalization can bring benefits if done in conformity to "global standards" (whether technical or moral), which are not yet in place. If multinationals are controlled by international standards, then whatever an oil company cannot do in Rotterdam it cannot do it in any location in the deep African jungle.

Another comment was that regional and global instruments such as European Union Directives (forcing compliance by member states), the Convention on Biological Diversity, Convention on Wetlands, Convention on Climate Change, World Heritage Convention, etc., play an important role in encouraging countries to embrace globally accepted standards. The implementation of these standards is often difficult on the ground due to lack of capacity, funds or political will, but the challenge is there and in many cases the countries respond to this challenge. A useful role of Bahá'í communities may be to initiate dialogue with other stakeholders (environmental NGOs, other religious communities, government bodies, etc.) to encourage the incorporation of spiritual values into the development process and to push for adoption of global standards into local practices.

It was suggested we should consider the difference in sustainability between a community typical of cities today and one in which everyone is trustworthy. There was also concern with the way in which environmental issues are discussed in public arenas, including the popular media, conferences, and even journal presentations. Several of today's environmental leaders have been quoted as indicating that the ends justify the means, that it is alright to bend the facts and manipulate the audience in order to save a forest or preserve habitat. Certainly truthfulness is very important to the process of finding solutions. It was noted that partisan approaches (as opposed to articulating diverse theories or ways of understanding, while keeping the common approach of searching for the best answers) arguably complicate matters.

The concept of "husbandry" (in this case particularly land husbandry and environmental husbandry) was introduced as "putting the mind on the land". This requires a spiritual perspective, and also access to science in its various forms. An important perspective is that of the creation being as a Book of God. A quotation offered by one participant captured this feeling: "Every man of discernment, while walking upon the earth, feeleth indeed abashed, inasmuch as he is fully aware that the thing which is the source of his prosperity, his wealth, his might, his exaltation, his advancement and power is, as ordained by God, the very earth which is trodden beneath the feet of all men". [Bahá'u'lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 44]

On education, it was noted that the message of sustainable development is not being received widely at the grassroots. This may be due in part to educational approaches that act as a constraint rather than a catalyst. The focus should be on the requirements of sustainable development and fostering cooperation instead of competition. Participation was suggested as an additional topic for discussion in Johannesburg. Another dimension to environmental education is peace and conflict resolution. How many humanitarian NGOs contact such organizations as the International Solid Waste Association who could provide technical expertise in the building of modern, safe landfills? How many are working to establish waste to energy facilities that can convert solid waste to electricity? There is a great deal more to rebuilding a shattered nation than simply reorganizing its government and providing food assistance to its people.

The balance of education was another concern. It was suggested that the idea at the center of most new paradigms of Development is still the economy. Why has this failed? Human civilization, as 'Abdu'l-Bahá says, requires material, human and spiritual education. What has failed is that the absence of spiritual education has visibly affected the current human quality of life.

With reference to the Latin American approach to tutorial learning discussed in the case study, the New Era Development Institute in India was mentioned as another example where they not only train about practical skills but also teach about work as a service to the community. Students go out on service projects while they are learning skills, and are encouraged when they go back to use their skills toward community development.

Integration among the three elements of knowledge, values and education was highlighted as essential for sustainable development. Scientific knowledge without values can produce materialism, exploitation and destruction. Religious values without reason can lead to superstition and fanaticism. Education must bring both knowledge and values together to be effective.

On action on sustainable development, it was noted that we have to start work now to do something so that there is something left to dream about. Several specific topics were raised in the discussion. UNEP had recently released its research on South Asia's "brown cloud", the persistent haze of pollution that is often present throughout the region. This broad mixture of airborne pollutants and particulates reduces the strength of sunlight reaching the surface by up to 15% at times, and is related to the increased incidence of respiratory illnesses. It is associated with elevated mortality rates throughout Asia, and is a very significant problem. One comment was that the world does need to apply itself to reversing the intensity and size of the "brown cloud", but we should begin with those things that can be done now and in the very near future. This would include more aggressive fighting of forest fires, development and manufacture of much more efficient cooking stoves, keeping topsoils in place, and so forth.

Some specific technologies were discussed. Soil re-mineralization by adding very fine gravel dusts to soils was described as a technique to increase soil fertility without any other fertilizer inputs. This dust in a dry or moist condition can be supplied to small plots in poor townships and in rural areas so that people have the chance to grow their own food. Ground up phosphate rock is being discussed for the often phosphorus-poor soils in much of sub-Saharan Africa.

On the energy side, Island Fuel made in Vanuatu contains 60% coconut oil produced locally. The amount available could permit local energy independence. Looking at other energy sources, it seems that we are headed into a period where various alternative forms of energy can become more widespread. Biodiesel is presently about twice as expensive as petrodiesel in Western countries, once all of the expenses are factored in. One concern with alternative energy is that there are many environmental groups that are strongly opposing alternative energy installations. While Vanuatu can completely replace petrodiesel imports with cocodiesel, that does not translate well to Europe or the Americas. When you get to larger continental landmasses where biofuel production competes with other agricultural uses, there are some pretty heavy trade-offs.

The issue of land ownership stimulated considerable debate. One participant felt that land ownership rather than religious differences is the cause of war and has been in the past. Put another way, a dominant group often wants greater living space for themselves or their people at the expense of those whom they marginalize. If land, all land, belonged to the community, but not the value added on that land such as buildings, crops, forests, roads and other infrastructure, then there is a basis for land-value rental (not taxation). Surely this is fairer, since no one would be deprived of their holdings but rather would pay rent to the community on the land they hold in trust.

Another participant responded that advocating community ownership of all land leads to a tenant-landlord relationship, where the government (community) is the landlord. The farmer is a tenant, who has no real control over the land, and typically has to work to the whims of the community, often under the control of a government body that has no real practical experience in farming (Soviet Communism was given as one of the examples). A farm family that owns its own land tends to take care of the land better than a family that rents the ground they farm. There is a deeper connectedness to the land, and a deeper sense of needing to keep it sustainable, so that you can pass it on to your children as a productive farm. A participant from Lithuania cited that country as a good example where the government structure of state ownership was not good. They had collective farming under the soviets and when they gained their freedom there was a certain lack of skills because they were trained in only one particular aspect of farming. Now that the people are more closely connected with the land, they do get better quality crops.  Another contributor noted that many of the problems in the USSR were due to the excess power of the government. Those in power did not consult with those of "lower status" in the party. If the leasor (private or government or collective) consults with the leasee to arrive at just and fair leases everybody benefits. With caring almost any programme works. The duration of leases and their terms was also mentioned as important. Group ownership of land, on a basis where a few farm families get together to purchase land and farm it together, was suggested as something that has promise. The issue may not be one of individual vs. group or collective ownership (with the old concern that "if it belongs to everyone it belongs to no one"), but rather the clarity and enforceability of the property rules.

Several other viewpoints were shared. A participant from a Scottish farming background noted that farmers are guided by economics, which revolve to a large degree around subsidies for their produce and grants for land improvement (such as draining wetlands in the past), and now, thankfully, grants for environmental improvement (such as planting woodlands). Another with experience in Cambodia said that forestry practices used by the concessionaires there are unsustainable. The forestry sector is however now being restructured in favor of community-based resource management. It is now generally accepted that such a system will provide greater benefits to local communities and the country as a whole. Another commented that the best land tenure method is outright ownership that is passed from one generation to the next (such as in Egypt). It was noted that 'Abdu'l-Bahá, in his "village storehouse" tablet [Foundations of World Unity, page 38 onwards], recognized the indicator of a farmer's "net income" as a wholesome index that reflects the combined factors of land, labor, weather, environmental impact, etc.  He spoke of making payments to farmers whose "net income" falls short of the level that would grant a minimum decent living condition. He also spoke of a graduated income tax. A comment that well summarized this topic was the suggestion that, over time, we can determine which forms of ownership are the most productive per unit of land and are best suited to particular social goals for population segments. There should be a rich tapestry of land ownership paradigms, just as there should be human diversity in our communities. One size never fits everyone, and that applies in land ownership just as firmly as it applies to freedom.


SAT - Rural Education for Sustainable Development
Michael Richards
SAT project manager for BASED-UK.

One definition of the objective of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is "the promotion of values and ethics through education at different levels in order to make an impact on people's lifestyles and behaviour and help to build a sustainable future" ( Another is the development of "skills in critical thinking, negotiations, scientific understanding and openness to the views of others" (Living Earth). Each definition reflects a necessary but not sufficient condition for ESD. In fact they represent two complementary aspects of human development - on the one hand the development of intellectual capacities, and on the other of human qualities or virtues. One without the other is like a bird with one wing: intellectual development without values leads to inequitable development and ignores the importance of human motivation. But without skills and knowledge relevant to local conditions, development will continue to depend on the priorities of outsiders.

The 'System of Tutorial Learning'- SAT (Sistema de Aprendizaje Tutorial) for short - is a programme of non-formal rural secondary education developed since the early 1970s in Colombia by an NGO called FUNDAEC, and more recently in Honduras and other Latin American countries. The instigators of SAT saw education as the key to more self-reliant community development; that for the majority of rural children, education does not go beyond primary school - usually because families cannot afford to keep them at school; and that the formal education system suffers from 'urban bias' and a materialistic value system which encourages the young to migrate to the cities.

The basic aim of SAT is to encourage and equip young people to help their communities engage in sustainable development processes. It therefore provides the necessary skills, knowledge and attitudes or values to form community leaders or agents of change. SAT graduates are called Bachilleres of Rural Well-being. It has been so successful in Colombia, that SAT has become an official Ministry of Education programme involving 35 civil society organisation and about 50,000 students in over a third of rural Colombia.

The SAT curriculum involves about six years of study and includes sciences, maths, service to the community (in health, literacy and community organisation), agriculture, social studies, language and other subjects. SAT is particularly oriented to helping students develop their capacity for conceptual thinking and critical analysis, as well as developing an attitude of service to the community (this is integrated into all the courses and activities). Each student has a set of interactive workbooks, which they have to pay for. Study takes where they live and at times decided by them. This allows them to continue family livelihood activities. The tutors are also from the community: initially someone with a higher education qualification is given an intensive training, but when SAT is well-established, the SAT graduates become tutors.

Much of the education involves practical 'learning by doing' activities, for example, participatory agricultural research. Various rural development activities are promoted by the SAT groups like improved crop and livestock production, micro-enterprise development, pre-school education support, and eventually a village cooperative marketing system. The SAT group itself becomes an important community institution capable of attracting external support.

Since 1996, SAT has been implemented in Honduras by an NGO called Bayan Association for Indigenous Social and Economic Development, with funding mainly from the DFID and CIDA. The DFID grant is managed by the Bahá'í Agency for Social and Economic Development (BASED-UK). Bayan started SAT with 10 indigenous communities in the Honduran Mosquitia. In spite of major logistical and support problems of working in a remote area, and disruption caused by Hurricane Mitch in 1998, the regional and national education authorities gradually saw the value of SAT as a relatively high quality education system for rural areas. There was also a strong grass-roots demand for the expansion of SAT, as people were able to observe its fruits. In 2001, Bayan entered into agreements with three regional Departments in which the government started paying for SAT tutors and coordinators - by April 2002 there were 48 SAT groups and 930 students.

Throughout the project, Bayan has maintained close links with the Ministry of Education, since a vital goal has been to obtain official recognition of SAT as equivalent to the state 'bachiller' or secondary school level. This was achieved in April 2002, at the time of the final evaluation of the DFID project. The Ministry of Education participant in the evaluation wrote that SAT was "the alternative for developing the rural communities of the country." Bayan has been asked by the Ministry of Education to present a national expansion plan focusing initially on high poverty areas, although Bayan's plan is to consolidate SAT in northern Honduras before embarking on a more organic growth process as happened in Colombia. The World Development Report 2000/01 of the World Bank identifies education as the "most important factor in improving rural welfare." While recognising that education alone is insufficient for sustainable development, we believe that by integrating the development of values, skills and knowledge, SAT has great potential for improving rural welfare in a poor country like Honduras.

*The International Environment Forum is an international Bahá'í-inspired non-governmental organization that addresses environment and sustainable development. It has been accredited to the WSSD, in the category of scientific and technological organizations.

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International Environment Forum - Updated 27 February 2003