Letter from a futurist community
to His Excellency the Secretary General of United Nations
This letter is a plea for the United Nations to help define “the global common good” for transforming the institutional and economic landscape. This is necessary to address the issues for global survival raised by the undersigned futurists.
Since the United Nations was established after the Second World War, the state of the planet and our global community has changed. Humanity is facing new global challenges, particularly those regarding the preservation of the biosphere and its well-being, as a result of human actions. The challenges facing humanity are difficult. Humankind’s present consumption rates are not only inequitable but are generating greenhouse effects, reduced biodiversity, difficulties in water supply, exhaustion of non-renewable resources and pollution of many kinds. There is widespread concern that our global survival is at stake.
Therefore, we need to initiate a foresight process that will lead to greater precision about the future, to expand the concept of “common good” across the whole planet. This would treat the biosphere as a garden of life and a complex of interacting ecosystems, and humanity as a wise gardener managing all natural resources. Our ultimate objective is to maintain a healthy biosphere for future generations. The United Nations is in a unique position to initiate this foresight process, to define a concept of global common good and to offer inspiring policies for its implementation. It has already elaborated the Convention on Climate Change. Its organisations are already concerned, particularly WMO, UNEP, UNDP, FAO and UNESCO with 60 years of experience as the central global driving force on education, science and culture, and 35 years in managing the International Network of Biosphere Reserves.
We are just beginning to understand the evolutionary mechanisms but, at the same time, humanity is shaping new processes whose future outcomes hold a great deal of uncertainty. Up to now, evolution was still a process full of surprises, with no apparent design, purpose, targets or objectives, a short-term ad hoc choice process driving forces of survival to the next choice. In many cases this random process has left no chance of survival even for the fittest, as shown by five previous mega catastrophes, 445, 365, 250, 200, and 65 million years ago. Humankind has now added new, unpredictable processes into the natural order and history. Thus, as moral beings, we are, through our use of technology, responsible for the future of “life in general”.
We don’t know yet if this additional element -intentional and purposeful as we believe it to be -is any better than blind evolution. After 200 years of human, conscious, scientific experiment, new mega-catastophes loom – climate change, the growth of the population of Homo sapiens at the expense of the survival of the other species on which our own survival depends. To many people around the globe, the situation appears critical.
A foresight management strategy and an action plan for Planet Earth as a whole would be scientifically based on two fundamental ecological laws : recycling of matter on Earth and one way flow of energy from Sun and Earth back to outer space. It would emphasise two quality standards: the most effective use of resources (flows, renewables, and resources) with non-accumulation of wastes in the environment.
The concept of a global common good at the planetary level, an unquestionably noble ideal, may face opposition from all sorts of vested interests, and needs to be defined and defended, based not on short term views, but on a long term paradigm. Global common good will not be born out of negotiation between conventional interest lobbies ; it has to be defined from a long term, general human perspective and a moral point of view, one that acknowledges that humans are part of interconnected, diverse ecosystems, and that the planet is also the home of many other species. In the case of energy use, we can conclude that technically, humanity could survive by consuming per capita only a fraction of our current consumption from a combination of conservation, efficiencies, technological advances, and economic changes. The availability of fresh water may soon become the cause of an even more critical global dispute. The concept of a planetary global common good should lead us to much greater wisdom about possible ways to solve resource management problems.
The question has to be raised: are any new concepts “systems adaptable”, such as energy balance, advanced sustainability analysis information systems, and new international futures models? In the United Nations network there exist many high level expert knowledge systems which would be useful in this context.
Some examples of the questions to be asked are: How much carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, etc, is circulated in international exchanges? How can these transactions be rationalized? What measures should be taken? How is the continuation of the present situation and trends compatible with the global common good?
Scientific data on the evolution of the planet and its biodiversity have to be collected and made available to the public, as they are the ultimate decision makers. Education has to prepare new generations to face the challenges and the limits of possible futures. Cultural roots have to be reactivated in relation to life preservation and co-evolution. The United Nations could promote the data investigation and treatment needed to develop and articulate a global insight on the flows of natural resources, consumption, and waste, not in monetary terms, but as physical quantities, within and between world states. All of this research, education and culture have to be brought together to generate efficient action to achieve the “common good”.
Without independent, objective research we may never know of options that are probably of little direct interest to business or to those committed to short-term political strategies. Who but the United Nations organisations can champion or lead such an independent research mission of global interest, its need for unbiased information and the right to morally justifiable actions?
We recognize the highly important and valuable action that has been initiated and driven by the United Nations organisations up to now. We urge the United Nations to continue to promote and increase these activities at the order of magnitude necessary to solve the problems at stake, to define the “global common good” that will help transform the institutional and corporate? landscape. We believe that futurists and futures thinking have much to offer for this process, as ‘futurology’ can be used to assess the long-range consequences of present decisions.
Signatories in alphabetical order: (this letter is to be submitted to the signature of other futurists and scientists)
Pal ASIJA, MBA, PE, JD CEO of Our PAL LLC, former head of the chapter of the WFS in Shelton member of the WFS and WFSF USA
Dra. Guillermina BAENA PAZ, Directora del Nodo Futuro México de estudios prospectivos, member of World Future Studies Federation. MEXICO
Debra BATEMAN Faculty of Education, Deakin University, Melbourne, AUSTRALIA
Dr. Peter BISHOP, Coordinator Futures Studies College of Technology University of Houston USA
José Luis CORDEIRO, Founder and President of Sociedad Mundial del Futuro Venezuela Chair of the Venezuela Node, The Millennium Project Former Director of the World Transhumanist Association and the Club of Rome (Venezuela Chapter) Member of the World Futures Studies Federation and the World Future Society VENEZUELA
Marie-Ange COTTERET, PhD Sciences of Education, Researcher Field of research “Metrology and education” member of the the World Futures Studies Federation, Liaison Officer with UNESCO FRANCE
Pierre Claver DAMIBA, International consultant, Economist and Development Banker. Initiated a regional programme for sub saharan african countries : the “National Long Term Perspective Studies” (“African Futurs”) while heading, in New York, the Regional Bureau for Africa (RBA) of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Senior adviser to the Government of Burkina faso (Ministry of economy and development) for the implementation a “National Prospective Study : Burkina 2025”. Lead consultant for the preparation of technical papers for the review of national industrial strategies taking into account the major changes in the global economy. Main concern is human and institutionnal capacity enhancement in foresight matters. BURKINA FASO
Philippe DESTATTE, Director of The Destree Institute (Wallonia, Belgium) Associated Professor of Foresight at Paris 7 Denis Diderot University and of History of the Society and Institutions at Mons-Hainaut University Millennium Project Brussels-Area Node Chair BELGIUM
Tessaleno C. DEVEZAS, leader of the Technological Forecasting and Innovation Theory Working Group, Associate Professor with Habilitation, University of Beira Interior, Covilhã, Member of the Advisory Board of Technological Forecasting & Social Change (Elsevier) and Editor of “Kondratieff Waves, Warfare and World Security” (IOS Press, 2006). PORTUGAL
Vera DUBEUX-TORRES, Professor, Federal University of Alagoas, CECA, Rio-Largo, Alagoas, Presidente de « Prospectiva 2100 Brasil » BRAZIL
Merrill FINDLAY, Australian writer and founder of « Imagine The Future Inc », a small project-based not-for-profit organisation which generated the « ecoversity » in the early 90s to introduce more integrated thinking about social and ecological sustainability. AUSTRALIA
Thierry GAUDIN (coordinator), Ingénieur général des Mines, expert for European commission DG Research President of « Prospective 2100 », NGO devoted to planetary foresight Co-founder of the six countries program on innovation policies Member of the World Futures Studies Federation FRANCE
Samir GHABBOUR, Emeritus Professor, Dept. of Natural Resources, Inst. of African Research & Studies, Cairo University, Member of the World Futures Studies Federation EGYPT
Jerome C. GLENN, director, Millennium Project, American Council for the United Nations University and co-author of the annual State of the Future report and co-editor of Futures Research Methodology version 2.0. USA
Fabienne GOUX BAUDIMENT, PhD in sociology/futures studies, fellow of the WFSF professional member of the Association of Professional Futurists. Director of proGective, Research Center in Futures Studies. Current President of the World Futures Studies Federation. FRANCE
Edith HEURGON, Co-directrice du Centre culturel international de Cerisy (CCIC) Conseillère en prospective du groupe La Poste et d’autres organismes animatrice, avec Josée Landrieu, d’une série de rencontres de “prospective du présent” au CCIC et d’une collection d’ouvrages de prospective aux éditions de l’Aube. Cerisy, Paris, FRANCE
Karen HURLEY, PhD Candidate / Environmental Planner Member World Futures Studies Federation University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, CANADA
Christopher B. JONES, Ph.D. Visiting Professor of Political Science Mesa State College, Grand Junction, Colorado Former Secretary-General (2001-2005), World Futures Studies Federation USA
Esko KALIMO, Professor Former Director, Research Institute of Social Insurance Institution Chair of the European Support Centre of the Club of Rome FINLAND
Anita KELLEHER, MLMFS, MFS Director, Strategic Foresight Designer Futures Affinity Partner Director (Australia) Shaping Tomorrow Lecturer Master of Strategic Foresight, AFI, Melbourne, AUSTRALIA
Patricia KELLY, Project Manager Sessional Staff Development Project CELTS, University of Canberra CRICOS Provider No. 00212K AUSTRALIA
Raoul KNEUCKER, Professor of political science at Vienna and Innsbruck Universities, retired from Austrian Federal Science Ministry, responsible for national and European research policy. AUSTRIA
Maya Van LEEMPUT, Ph.D Media Studies Researcher Free University of Brussels Agence Future BELGIUM
Marc LUYCKX GHISI, Dean of CBA Business School, CROATIA Member of the Auroville International Advisory Council, INDIA Former member of the Forward Studies Unit of the European Commission, Brussels Member of the belgian chapter of Club of Rome BELGIUM
Pentti MALASKA, Emeritus Professor, the Turku School of Economics and Business Administration Former Director of Finland Futures Research Centre. Past President of the World Futures Studies Federation FINLAND
Eleonora BARBIERI MASINI, Emeritus Professor, Faculty of Social Sciences, Gregorian University, Rome. Past President of the World Futures Studies Federation ITALY
Peter H. METTLER, Ph.D., M.A. Wiesbaden Univ. of Applied Sciences and Univ. of Frankfurt/M., Co-Founder of the German Futures Studies Federation as well as of the European Futures Studies Federation, both presently in status nascendi ; member of WFSF and WFS ; chairman of the board of Future Management Group, Inc., Wiesbaden. GERMANY
Erzsébet NOVAKY, Professor, Head of Futures Studies Department, Corvinus University of Budapest President of the Committee on Future Research, Hungarian Academy of Sciences HUNGARY
Jeanette C. PATINDOL, Professor of economics, communications and popular culture at the University of St. La Salle in Bacolod City. National coordinator of the Peace and Conflict Journalism Network Communications officer of Pax Christi-Pilippinas. Former administrative and editorial officer of the World Futures Studies Federation Secretariat in 1997-2001 PHILIPPINES
John RATCLIFFE, Professor, Director of the Dublin Institute of Technology, Irelands largest university level institution, and founding Chairman of The Futures Academy. Secretary-General of the World Futures Studies Federation. Planning and development consultant by profession, he has acted over the past 40 years as an advisor to a range of governments, agencies and corporate enterprises in respect of their long-term strategic thinking and policy formulation. IRELAND
Jordi SERRA, Director de Periscopi de prospectiva i estratègia, Barcelona Fellow and member of the Executive Board of the World Futures Studies Federation SPAIN
Dirk HR SPENNEMANN, A/Professor for Cultural Heritage Studies, Charles Sturt University, Albury Member of the World Futures Studies Federation AUSTRALIA
Cesar H. VILLANUEVA, Former Secretary General of WFSF Director, Negros Institute for Development, “The Peace of the Other is Our Peace” Graduate School,University of St. La Salle, Bacolod City PHILIPPINES
Markku WILENIUS, professor of Futures studies and director of Finland Futures Research Centre in Turku School of Economics. He is member of Executive Board of Club of Rome. He works with national and international partners on issues about futures, helping them to realise the future potentials as well as to understand more fully the way society is about to change. He acted as chairman of Finnish preparatory committee for World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa by 2002. FINLAND
One of us has summarized our concern in a poem :
We are learning creatures, unlike any other higher species.
We made the whole globe our evolutionary niche, unlike any other higher species.
Are we wise enough to conduct conscious evolution for all?