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statement of concern

Page history last edited by Professor Wayne Hayes 14 years, 5 months ago

Statement of Concern About World Sustainability


Note: The statement is updated with elaboration on Prof. Hayes's World Sustainability Web Site.

I have given much thought to the prospects for World Sustainability with eyes wide open. Here is what I now posit to frame our discussion:


This is what I believe will define globalization and World Sustainability, becoming evident over the coming two decades: Civilization as currently constituted cannot be sustained and will collapse within two generations or so -- nobody quite knows when -- with catastrophic consequences. While this calamity could be prevented and while many will strive to rescue civilization, the very forces, ideologies, interests, and institutions that create this global crisis will obfuscate critical remedial discourse and will thwart the diverse efforts toward restoration of vital ecological, social, economic, and political systems. The ongoing effort to forestall civilizational collapse will thus fail. The resulting trauma will be appalling and irreversible.


An alternative path presents itself, based on a holistic notion of sustainability applied worldwide. World Sustainability requires that mutualism and interdependence replace hierarchy, conflict, and avarice, the hallmarks of established globalization. This vision of World Sustainability amplifies a generative conception of world citizenship formed within an expanded civil society by caring cosmopolitan citizens. This vision defines an inclusively global succession to World Sustainability. While such a vision has discovered its roots, those in power will strive to extinguish its flourishing.


The detritus of civilizational decay will provide nourishment to sustainability but the poisons of distortion, militarism, and plunder will intensify. The outcome of this dialectic remains fluid but uncertain. The despoilers have now the upper hand.


The World Sustainability Mission requires that this broad statement be examined, its implications explained, and the vision of an alternative defined. Of special concern here is how to interpret this statement in practice, elaborating a strategic approach to sustainability worthy of the stakes and the challenge posed.

Regard the statement of concern, above, as a working hypothesis. The concern suggests that we should act prudently, to avert a potentially catastrophic outcome. See also my page on generations, which resonates with several of you.

Comments (17)

Nicole Frey said

at 1:35 pm on Jun 14, 2009

Its sad that even though we all live in this world and see how our own planet is reacting, many do not take an initiative to find a solution to sustain Earth. I agree that the forces that create this situation will hinder in the process of moving towards world sustainability. If we continue to go this path, we will all face harsh consecquences. In the end, it all boils down to greed and concern for ones own state of well being and not the World as a whole. I commend your statement of concern because not many will acknowledge of state of being we are all in.

kristen said

at 1:28 pm on Jun 14, 2009

I also agree with what many of you are saying. While reading this short statement I realized that the future is uncertain and going down a very dangerous path quickly. This leaves an unsettling feeling mixed with anxiety within me. The line that popped out to me the most was "World Sustainability requires that mutualism and interdependence replace hierarchy, conflict, and avarice, the hallmarks of established globalization", because I feel this is something the world truly needs to understand, but does not. I wish society was able to see that working together will always be more productive than working against each other, yet this is not the case. Things need to change quickly, that is evident.

wbernard said

at 10:04 pm on Jun 8, 2008

I agree Veronica and Adriene - The more I read, the more anxious I become about what our future planet will look like. It blows my mind that such large countries continue to shirk the responsibility of preventing the earth from totally falling apart, while engaging in activities like using corn to produce ethanol and coal in China as people starve elsewhere. As developing countries strive to move forward and begin following the example we have put before them as a modle, they make many of the same mistakes we have, and yet little is done to help them find alternative plans. Everyone who can really needs to step it up and start doing something to help reverse the current trend/path we are headed on.

Brittania said

at 11:23 am on Jun 8, 2008

I teach at a preschool and also work at a elementary in school in Mahwah. The topics that these students discuss with each other ON THEIR OWN are politics, wars, financial stability, and grades. I am going to propose the idea of sustainability to them and do a short independent study on how much they know, what they want to learn, and what they have learned after a brief article read or even the overview chapter in Brown's PLAN 4.0, I will return with the results and start this study tomorrow, June 9, 2008. They range between the ages of 9 and 11 years old. Boys and Girls. If anyone wants to help me put something together really quickly, let me know.

As far as my statement of concern, I am very very concerned on the water loss the earth is experiencing. This will depict the lives of us and our children, and their children. After reading PLAN 4.0, I realized THAT EVERY ASPECT OF OUR LIFE IS TIED TO ANOTHER ASPECT OF SOCIETY. Population determines the use of water, food, oil, land space, cattle, etc. and humanity needs to determine the efficiency.

Monika Arnaudova said

at 4:07 pm on Jun 7, 2008

I lived in USA for 9 nine month since I was having my first year as a freshman in Ramapo College and for first time in my life everyday I separated my garbage and I recycled everything I could. I got used to this way of life so much just for nine month that when I came home (in Bulgaria), where is not so common to do the recycle thing, I was completely shocked that nobody is doing it over here. I am learning my family to do so and since I am taking this class I am teaching them all about the energy reducing and the hybrid cars and just everything that I learn. I think one of the biggest problems is that people are really not educated at all. I so do agree with Michelle that not only us should be educated, but I think every single person should read about this, hear about it and watch the movie that we did "An Inconveninet Truth".l It was an amazing movie and I will show it to as much people as I can. Every single person should be educated and taught and mostly the young generation that is really able to do something.

Professor Wayne Hayes said

at 2:06 pm on Jun 5, 2008

Dave, read about China in Brown, who is a China expert. I would link to a New York Times series on China, but the disabling analysis is full. Series starts at http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/26/world/asia/26china.html?_r=1&oref=slogin. Yes, China and India are obstacles to world sustainability, a principle reason that I doubt that CO2 targets can be reached before an irreversible tipping point is reached on global warming. If China continues its march to coal, the CO2 build-up may have horrific consequences. I consulted with a firm that had a contract to work on Kyoto, too complicated to go into here. I came out for CO2 trading, which we get to in Learning Module #4, but is very controversial.

Veronica Cavera said

at 2:03 pm on Jun 5, 2008

Dave, it seems like I keep commenting on pages right after you, haha. Anyway, what upsets me most is that it seems so obvious, like I wish someone would go to some of these country's and say something like, 'No you may burn coal at the rate you are burning it at, you may not pollute the global system any further, you may not exclude the poor the rights they deserve including sanitation, no you may not pass go and collect $200.'

And Liz, don't worry I pick plastic bottles out of the garbage too, I was walking past one of the garbage bins (with the nice bottle shaped hole and paper slot) in the A wing I think, and saw that someone had dumped piles of left over newspapers into the trash, my friend and I were late for class but we picked out all newspapers and emigrated them to the paper slot.

Dave Calotta said

at 2:06 pm on Jun 4, 2008

I think a major part of the issue has to deal with things like Kyoto specifically excluding nations like China from the regulations being set forth. China has a chance to develop in a clean manner, and instead of forcing them to do so, they are allowed to go ahead and build plants that pollute at a rate twice, if not higher, than coal plants elsewhere. There are Olympic-caliber athletes (world record holders, even) who refuse to participate in the Beijing Olympics because of the utter disgrace that is the air quality in the city (and this is nonwithstanding China's complete lack of human rights) -- really: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/more_sport/athletics/article3521537.ece -- that is only the most prominent athlete not participating.

Further, while we're on China, seeding clouds (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/3893671.stm) is also probably not a great idea, nor is it sustainable. Same goes for trying to prevent rain: http://www.usatoday.com/weather/research/2008-02-29-china-weather_N.htm

In essence, when things like Kyoto exclude China (and others, of course), it's really doubly hurtful, in my opinion. First, they're allowed to get away with what other nations are trying to stop-- so that civilization may be maintained for another few years. And secondly, because of the economic cost of doing the right thing, sustainability-wise, China can outprice competitors and further their harm to the planet because now they're seeing a benefit from not conforming to sustainable practices, because they are able to do things cheaper, specifically things like manufacture (of course, that is not their only other cost advantage, as we know), a very energy intensive process -- and they use the dirtiest energy of them all.


Professor Wayne Hayes said

at 9:31 pm on Jun 2, 2008

How about China? Coal power plants? Much more complicated than plain folk doing the right thing. ~WH

LizJoyce said

at 8:41 pm on Jun 2, 2008

What are the best ways for individuals to contribute to the solution or healing? Is it as simple as personal conservation, recycling, and reducing our energy usage by driving more fuel efficient cars? What about the 75% on Barbara's street who do not even recycle? Is it up to the educated to educate those people? And if they still don't care? Can anyone imagine not recycling? It has become a way of life for me and to be honest, I am a huge pain about it at home - I even pick the garbage to pull out recyclables! Gross, right? I think of that plastic bottle (that's usually what I pull out) 100 years from now still in tact with a faded label and picking garbage doesn't phase me.

What specifically do you mean about the collapse of civilization?

Adriene said

at 6:27 pm on Jun 2, 2008

I ca agree with your statement of concern Barbar...I am not perfect and sometimes I catch myself with the attitude that "oh others can do that..." We are at the point where that is not the case anymore, if everyone doesn't participate and do something to help contribute towards sustaining this world it will no longer be! It is scary...I have yet to have children and this class has made me think about what kind of life they will have.

Professor Wayne Hayes said

at 6:00 pm on May 31, 2008

Barbara, we gravitate to the obvious, but as we enter the disabling analysis and the enabling analysis, the scope and the stakes get higher, transcending purely personal actions. The situation is not pretty. Your appreciation of the time horizon provides a tangible context that I hope others here read. Thanks. ~WH

Professor Wayne Hayes said

at 6:00 pm on May 31, 2008

Barbara, we gravitate to the obvious, but as we enter the disabling analysis and the enabling analysis, the scope and the stakes get higher, transcending purely personal actions. The situation is not pretty. Your appreciation of the time horizon provides a tangible context that I hope others here read. Thanks. ~WH

bpielka@... said

at 3:16 pm on May 31, 2008

My statement of concern.

Thinking of the future I wonder what kind of a world it will be for my grandchildren. Yes, I have 5 ages 1 to 13. Will alternative fuel be a reality. It has to change. I like the idea of wind power to produce electricity for cars. Sounds like science fiction. It is much bette than using corn to produce ethanol. People are starving all over the world and food is toted as the next bets thing to gasoline. There is something wrong with this picture. Society talks about world sustainabiility but many are not ready to give up what they have. Is it fear? I live on a street of 14 homes. Three househould recyle. This is approximately 25%. It is not difficult to do yet people choose not to. IS society so self centered and feel it does not apply to me. Others can do it. It is kind of a gloomy picture for the future. Using the resources carefully is something you choose to do. The focus should be to respect resources because you have to in order for the world to become a better place.

Adriene said

at 2:08 pm on May 31, 2008

I agree with you Michelle, this is a very scary thought that provokes much anxiety inside of me!!! This class has truly opened my eyes, I mean I hear all the controversya nd things in the news, but until you really look into the "bigger" picture, not just recycling, you look at stuff that we are actually reading, you learn that there is so much out there on this topic and that we as humans destroying this world is absolutely possible and happening! It is very scary and I think that people, especially kids in school need to be taught that there are different ways to do things. I don't think they should be scared that the world will end if they don't, there is an approach to everyhting. thats why I suggest teaching them alternative to things that they already do.

Professor Wayne Hayes said

at 10:48 am on May 31, 2008

Michelle, the good news will come in terms of a "Schumpeterian cycle" -- see my article in the Schroyer book: the opportunity to create a better world, cleaner, safer, more peaceful, more good work, fairer (especially to women and children), and more just. This is not utopian speculation, but a long-term, historical possibility. Thinking in historical (generational) and global terms is new to our species but basic to World Sustainability. Thanks for noticing. ~WH

Michelle Knight said

at 10:29 am on May 31, 2008

This is a depressing thought, very intimidating and overwhelming. The project of sustainability continues long after I complete this class. This is really just the introduction of a change to me as this is the first sustainablity and ecological class which I have taken. I believe I am suffering from "future shock". My concern after reading all of the literature, is whether the small changes which I implement into my life will really effect the greater scale of things. The message of sustaining the world needs to be sold to the majority, not just those who are fortunate enough to take this class in college. This information needs to be passed onto the media, where the masses of the society can be reached. I shall certainly pass on adn recomend the text to others to enlighten them.

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