Sustainable Development & Paradigm change for Knowledge Society

Prepared by moderators Matjaž Mulej and Peter Raspor*

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me say that I am honoured to be here with you, being invited by Prof. B Cizelj the president of EREF - European Regional Economic Forum, In the Network we tried to contribute to strengthening European knowledge economy that is in line with values of a new, sustainable development paradigm. And secondly I was strongly encouraged with this mission as director of ECPD Institute for Sustainable Development, Urban Planning and Environmental Studies, LJUBLJANA which is part of European Centre for Peace and Development of the University for Peace established by the United Nations.

This gives me huge responsibility to report on yesterday meeting entitled ''Sustainable development & paradigm change for knowledge society'', however I am happy that eminent colleagues around the table did extremely well. The gathering like this is expected to open questions, to invent answers and to indicate solutions. Not easy task, since this is expected to be achieved during intense discussion in short time.

We had been talking about sustainable development, more precisely about its connection to knowledge society. We touched the paradigm,

But basic question which is there all the time and we have to share is “How sustainable is sustainable?”

• How much sustainability to keep earth alive?

• Would biosphere have enough land, water and air for feeding all the needs?

• How could we overcome this situation?

• What should we consider when we build new paradigms in knowledge society?

Impacts that are “sustainable” for 6 billion people on the Earth to live, Might not be acceptable with 9 billion people for Earth to survive.

Why this is happening?

One of the reasons is the increase of population and its non-sustainable activities in their surroundings. Population growth is primarily caused by natural increase, that is, the excess of births over deaths. But in any particular region, migration is causing population growth when the amount of immigration exceeds the amount of emigration. Both population growth and migration can affect the quality of the natural environment, the likelihood of conflict, and social cohesion between ethnic groups. In this view, the significance of both population growth and migration are often underestimated respecting increase of needs and pollution what is reflected in stronger competition for land to satisfying our needs. Land produces not just food, but also industrial materials (wood for construction), fibre for textile, biomass for energy (wood, specific crops), ecological services, recreation…We shall be concerned about land, water, air and food already now, even more for future due to population growth and environmental changes induced by climate disorders. The logical question which we do not possess determinative answer is:

• Would biosphere have enough land, water and air for feeding all the needs? Trends in the Earth show population size in 30 years 3 billion more, of which 70% will live in cities—as many as are alive today, income will increase by 2.8 times, consumption will double, calories produced for food might need to triple.Respecting this situation which is from day to day more serious we have to start to work on:

• How could we overcome this situation?We have few possibilities to do it, like:

1. Re-active way

2. Pro-active way

3. Active way

All three possibilities should have one common concept, which is sustainability. The deepness and widens of sustainability will dictate its efficiency in reaching sustainable goals. Although sustainability with a new, broad concept with variable definitions offers a leading role in defining and creating sustainable conditions for the world, this is not sufficient. By monitoring our current rates of resource depletion and renewal, we can ensure that we live within the earth’s carrying capacity. The Ecological Footprint is a tool for measuring sustainability. Individuals can help decrease ecological footprints by adopting sustainable practices, and nations may contribute by enforcing policies that encourage sustainable development in coming years. This will not be possible without life long learning of individuals and human society.

The learning concepts should be constantly upgraded to level of sustainability reached in the society, what is the biggest challenge for all in educational systems.

• What should we consider when we build new paradigms in knowledge society?

  • Dilemmas of values
  • Dilemmas of regulations and legislation
  • Dilemmas of practice
  • Dilemmas of image
  • Dilemmas of responsibility of individuals
  • Dilemmas of responsibility of political parties
  • Dilemmas of science and technology

This entire issue trigger:

  • Business-like dilemmas
  • Sustainability-like dilemmas
  • Dilemmas of sustainability and competitiveness

I took part in building scenarios /foresights/ forward looks in last couple of years like:

SCAR (2007) which Focus: Agriculture, Scenarios: Climate Shock Energy CrisisFood Crisis Coop with Nature

COST/ESF (2009) Focus: Food Scenarios: European Food systems in changing world

Let me indicate just Social Impacts of Business as Usual in this Context show

  • Rise of infant mortality
  • Increase in children who do not achieve their mental potential
  • Increase in disease and the severity of disease
  • Development held hostage to food shortages
  • Social conflict, famines, food refugees and failed states

To be able to cope with this we should be able to manage us- humans and to stop some activities which are not-sustainable – some would say destructible, but you can handle what you know and additional to this you start to handle what you measure, but, you can’t measure everything. The key issue in environment and sustainability area is, what should we measure? Not even science is unified and even less are policy makers.

So we need to measure and evaluate and develop new paradigms for education:We need to shift our thinking from maximizing one parameter to optimize battery of key parameters



The recent two centuries have brought both un-seen socio-economic development and destruction of humankind’s future.

Before industrialization the rate of economic growth used to be 3 (three) % per millennium, after 1820 5500% (fifty-five times) in less than two centuries. Since then there are 6 times more humans of the Planet Earth, every person using on average +5 times more energy, having 17 times more wealth, and 1.000 times more mobility. We can no longer afford to emit every hour four million tons of CO2, by burning fossil fuels, cut 1.500 hectares of wood, and add 1.7 millions tons of nitrogen by mineral dunging the soil, like today.

Since 1945, in six decades only, humankind has grown 2.5 times, and its economy and consumption of natural resources grew 7 (seven) times. But the Planet Earth has not grown and is becoming critically depleted. The rate of growth of so far would increase GDP 80 (eighty) times by 2100 – for whose needs and with which natural resources?

We are all on the same – sinking – boat, but on different decks. The poor ones cannot change the current trend, while the rich ones are not willing to change it. Climatologists warn: we must reduce emissions in the air, water, and soil for 80%. It can be attained with the given technologies, but only with a critical innovation of the current consumption patterns and big structural changes in production and use of energy. Alone a renewal of natural preconditions for our civilization to survive, after decades of competition by destruction of nature, would cost more than both world wars combined, in a best case scenario, if the action is undertaken immediately. Postponing the action may increase cost to +20 % of the world-wide GDP.

The Copenhagen agreement failed anyway. The most influential ones want to keep their short-term benefits at the detriment to the long-term troubles. The current affluence makes GDP an obsolete measure of success: no well-being and happiness. They started to work on new measures.


1. How crucial are changes over the recent two decades for the current social-economic situation and trends for the near future of humankind, including your-self – in your experience and perspective?

2. How realistic are warnings by climatologists – in your experience and perspective?

3. How realistic are assessments that the current problems can technologically be solved with the currently given knowledge, once the influential persons and their organizations are ready to change their ways of life and business – in your experience and perspective?

4. If the growth of GDP of the world keeps growing like it used to over the decades after WWII, who will be its consumers and what natural preconditions will exist – in your experience and perspective?

5. How up-to-date is measurement of economic success with GDP, once happiness and well-being (no longer) depend on material standard of living less and less – in your experience and perspective?

6. Do we need sustainable development or future?



The social-economic crisis of 2008- is not comparable with any crisis of so far in humankind's history; it was not caused by the fictitious financial innovations – they are only the visible top of a deep iceberg full of oversights of crucial realities such as:

• Failure to consider the two-generation cycle of innovation of values toward the end of the neo-liberal economic concepts and resulting feudal capitalism.

• Failure to consider the triple bottom line of the transition from the feudal to the capitalist society – equality, brotherhood, freedom.

• Failure to consider the life cycle of needs of humans as a macro economic, not merely marketing issue.

• Failure to consider that the 2008- crisis emerged in the most innovative countries, which have limited their care to technological innovation, mostly or even only, despite of international documents (OECD 1971; EU 1995). Innovation causes affluence. Affluence kills the ambition to work hard and shop, because one has everything deemed necessary; therefore the danger of the empty leisure time surfaces producing market for illegal drugs rather than creation, e.g. in gardening, sports, singing, theater acting etc. all way to science of the highest degree of results.

• Failure to consider that the decades under neo-liberal economics have produced tremendously big amounts and varieties of knowledge able to solve all current social, economic and technological problems, ones the power-holders want to allow for its application toward innovation of habits.• Failure to consider that the technological innovation of the recent decades has eliminated majority of the traditional jobs; employment of about 20% can cover all needs for products.

• Failure to consider the need for a general shorter working time and more organized contents of the leisure time for creativity to be applied and developed further, replace the empty consumerism and help life of humans as creative beings to make sense rather than being full of anger and trouble. A new phase is needed, after the basis of life having been (1) ownership of natural resources, (2) investment, (3) innovation, leading to (4) affluence. The phase (5) shall be governed by social responsibility, i.e. honesty of the influential persons and their organizations rather than abuse in their relations toward co-workers, business and other partners, broader society (including charity as a part of it), and nature i.e. natural preconditions of human survival (Nature on Planet Earth is able to exist without humans, humans are not able to exist without healthy nature.).

• Failure to consider data that even before the 2008 85% of humans of the world have lived on less than six US Dollars a day. But this does not necessarily mean they have consumeristic ambitions rather than a modest life (‘The poor want affluence, the rich no longer.’).


1. Is the 2008- crisis really just another financial or demand-in-market crisis, or something deeper, essentially a crisis of habits that fail to be innovated – in your experience and perspective?

2. Which one of the failures briefed above is not important – in your experience and perspective?

3. Which ones of the failures briefed above are the most important – in your experience and perspective?

4. What chances for innovation of habits, not technology only, in general are there – in your experience and perspective?

5. If the modern humankind's economy is controlled by a rather small number of multinational corporations, how can social responsibility and humankind's benefit be attained, if humankind has only national and international, but no supra-national law – in your experience and perspective?

6. Are we living in a ‘knowledge’ society, or rather in a ‘knowledge and ethics’ society, or even in a ‘knowledge, innovation, and ethics of interdependence’ society – in your experience and perspective?

The issue today is: HOW to think, not WHAT to think

We believe we shall mobilise Knowledge at all levels needed to build sustainability awareness and to equip individuals with sustainability skills. We have to realise that knowledge cannot be managed, only enabled.

 Management implies something can be controlled.

 We need to create milieu for knowledge based society

 We shall stimulate education to gain sustainability in its basic platform.

The question “How sustainable is sustainable?” remains to be answered, but since we have been working on sustainability we face questions which I indicated today like:

• How much sustainability to keep earth alive?

• Would biosphere have enough land, water and air for feeding all the needs?

• How could we overcome this situation?

• What should we consider when we build new paradigms in knowledge society?

I hope we will address few of them and I believe we are in position to indicate possibilities to develop methods and tools for education which will reduce dilemmas, enhance sensitivity of individuals and society for environmental issues which harbour key elements for humans to survive at the earth like: land, water, air without them is no food.

Only active engagement of all of us will enable innovations in sustainable development and will settle relevant paradigm which will establish Knowledge based sustainable society.

Based on very intensive discussion we drafted the following conclusions:

Sustainability through values:

Sustainability will become “state of art” of the society when influenced persons and their organisations will be willing to accept values and knowledge of sustainability as personal and social norm. This will be achieved when all influential people will influence others with their sustainable pattern of live. We want them to step into the circle of sustainability which is based on the following steps. Values developed into culture, upgraded into ethics of community/society which shall be expressed in norms/patters of sustainable future.


We suggest that criteria for patenting include as a crucial parameter for assessment of their novelty – the level of sustainability.


We suggest that curricula should have sustainability dimension at values, knowledge and skills side of education and training at all levels not of regular as well as at life long learning, including public media.

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