Shifting minds and hearts for a sustainable world: The Stockholm Dialogue on sustainability science and values

Shifting minds and hearts for a sustainable world: The Stockholm Dialogue on sustainability science and values

By the Global Ignatian Advocacy Network (GIAN)-Ecology

The Stockholm Dialogue is premised on the realities that our planet’s fragility and humanity’s vulnerability are increasingly laid bare through the environmental and social concerns that challenge our generation. Prevailing social and economic development models can no longer remain indifferent to these realities.

And responding to this challenge of a sustainable world requires a practical reckoning and an attitude of care that engage with the complexity of poverty, environmental degradation, and quality of life that is good for all.

Care for the environment is necessary, and an ongoing dialogue based on this care is gaining ground among people who are engaged in scientific research and implementation on the ground.

At the same time, this global conversation acknowledges the inequalities and conditions in which people live and labor, and calls for a re-assessment of how science, technology, and business can engage with the needs of the world.

Science is critical in the process of understanding our starting point and it must be part of this ongoing dialogue and reflection. The emerging academic field of sustainability science is a contemporary response and defined as a “problem-driven, interdisciplinary scholarship that seeks to facilitate interventions that foster shared prosperity and reduced poverty while protecting the environment.” (Source: Sustainability Science Program, Centre for International Development, Harvard University, 2012)

Scientists are calling this period the Anthropocene, where human beings constitute a major force of change at the planetary scale. There is a need to come together and shape a common ground, as science alone will not provide solutions for a more sustainable world.

There is a growing recognition of the need for a deeper understanding of values that can guide us along a transformative process towards justice and healing within planetary boundaries.

This dialogue of values with science, between those motivated by faith and those in the scientific community, recognizes the work that science is doing, but there is also a growing recognition and acknowledgement of the need to build bridges with broader society, not just within the scientific community, in seeking a more sustainable world.

The need for an interdisciplinary approach in tackling both the environmental challenges and the challenges of poverty and justice is relevant both for science and spirituality, contributing to a broader global shift in attitudes of greater responsibility and areas of simplicity of lifestyle.

Planetary boundaries, boundaries on the landscape, and Sustainable Development Goals

Today’s challenges require an understanding of our new reality, for which science is showing us the planetary boundaries of our natural and physical world and where we exceeded the thresholds. For some of these thresholds, we do not know or cannot know when and how they might be exceeded, such as atmospheric aerosol loading. We also recognize the boundaries on the landscape and where we all are located with our immediate concerns that may not be on the global level but are very much related to the sustainability of people and the environment.

Given these boundaries, we have to be prepared to make much deeper changes. We are faced with Sustainable Development Goals and Planetary Boundaries that need to be integrated with the economic, social, and environmental domains of the global thrusts. Science offers us the planetary boundaries as a way to define a safe operating space for humanity, within which we can still have a very dynamic development. The boundaries do not signify an end to development. They are the starting points by which we define a more meaningful, sustainable, and inclusive human development and ecology.

Responding through a transformative process: A broader dialogue with values

The initial elements of a process that enables the transformation needed in society are identified as hope, mind shift, depth, and spirituality, and drawn from people’s shared experiences and relationships with the environment.

A greater focus on values will help form a broader social engagement that is gravely lacking at this critical point and guide our actions and decisions within these planetary boundaries. Through the promotion and deepening of this dialogue on transformative values, commitments are reinforced to a more sustainable world.

The dialogue process is important in sharing and communicating the human concern for planetary boundaries, for a change in lifestyle, and for the environmental changes experienced at the local level.

We have a wonderful gift under peril. Our planet Earth is a wonderful creation, astonishing and amazing, a living system with its own capacity to regulate and react to different changes. We know of the beauty of our continents and oceans, and of all the gifts the Earth provides us every day. But despite this, we are the first generation to recognize that humanity has become a force capable of undermining Earth´s capacity to support our prosperity.

The pace and scale of human changes to Earth has now reached such a magnitude that we have entered into what influential natural scientists defines as a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene, where we human beings, the Anthro, constitute a major force of change at the planetary scale. We are in the driver’s seat of change.

If we keep Earth within the safe operating space of planetary boundaries, humanity and the world can thrive. But if we transgress these boundaries, we will put ourselves in a danger zone, where even minor actions can trigger catastrophic outcomes.

There is a need for responses from all around the world, from all different sectors and levels of the global community, through all aspects of life. And this is what this dialogue responds to as we seek to engage, to plan, and to act. Given the magnitude of the concerns as we reach and pass different global boundaries, there is a desire to communicate to the world and seek a response that shifts minds and hearts.

For more information, the accompanying brochure can be viewed or downloaded here (pdf, 1.1MB).

The Global Ignatian Advocacy Network (GIAN) on Ecology coordinates the Stockholm Dialogue on Sustainability Science and Values, for which the initial step was taken when a core working group met in Malaybalay, Bukidnon in Mindanao, Philippines after the International Conference on Transformative Land and Water Governance in May 2014. The second step of the dialogue is now pursued through a meeting with Spanish Jesuit universities and German scientists in Namur, Belgium in November 2014, after which a series of activities in 2015 will follow.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *