House of Lords, July 6th 2011 Hosted by Lord Bhikhu Parekh
Sustainability, the Chair for the meeting Prof. Lord Bhikhu Parekh explained, is a normative concept and as such the purpose of this session was to consider the moral framework for sustainable development. Lawrence Bloom asked whether humankind will survive the intelligence test posed by the current crisis. This challenge was not simply of economy or the environment but whether humanity could embrace values based on a sustainable worldview. Dr Yong Cheon Song described initiatives of Dr Sun Myung Moon to prepare for this crisis of values over the last 40 years, through 'Good Governance and Character Education', scholastic bodies to consider ‘absolute values’ and initiatives to expand ocean related industries as well as investments in land to preserve precious ecological systems. Jack Corley described the character education courses he had developed in China and Russia to refocus on core issues such as finding happiness through living for the sake of others, primarily learned and practiced in the family.
Lawrence Bloom identified dimensions of crisis that are environmental, social and economic but saw these as representations of something much deeper, a crisis of values. Our values reflect our worldview. So we are asking the question, 'Is our world view sustainable?'
Quoting the Massachusets Institute of Technology Shell scenario report looking at carbon emission levels, Bloom wondered what climate change trigger points have already been passed. Socially we can see the tensions created by economic cutbacks and political oppression in different parts of the world. The worldview of growth, prosperity and well-being held by the developed nations of the west is not sustainable if followed by BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) nations and others we want to raise out of poverty. While it has been successful for the last 200 years to elevate a proportion of the world's population, it is like a teenage level of maturity. There could easily be conflict over resources in the near future. One hundred years ago in 1911 no one could have predicted the tragic wars of 1914 and 1945. Are we standing on the brink of a similar situation? He concluded that we need a worldview that is based on a global ethical system that promotes harmony with each other and with our planet and political, economic and social institutions that reflect that worldview.
Jack Corley identified the family as the core institution for teaching such a worldview. The place where we learn by example and practice relationships with younger, older siblings, relatives and those in the wider community and with the nature around us, is the family. He gave examples of his own life as one of ten children growing up on a farm in Ireland. He found it tragic that urban children could be so divorced from the nature around us that some do not know that milk comes from a cow. Dr Yong Cheon Song (please see full speech below) emphasised the prescient vision of Dr Sun Myung Moon to develop oceanic and international transportation initiatives to preempt this crisis. These initiatives had been well considered by scholastic bodies containing world-renowned figures in the 1970's and 1980's. The character education courses that he had developed were sometimes complemented by fishing training for young adults or in experiences in the natural environment of Western Brazil that had challenged many to re-examine their urban assumptions.
Julia Hausermann, President of 'Rights and Humanities', saw hope in the crisis from the international human rights law that recognises the basic human rights of everybody. There is both a legal structure and an example of a moral compass through the human cooperation that brought these laws. She emphasised the need for a value system that was based on a truly global worldview. The model we have been using for the last 200 years has brought us a long way but we really have to learn to cooperate in a way that reflects our inter-relationship with each other and the planet we live on.
China was a common theme in the discussion. Lawrence mentioned that China had a traditional harmony with the environment and thus many in China were seeking that balance in development. Jack Corley had taught character education in China and had been working with the Ministry of Education to develop textbooks that would prevent a moral vacuum with economic growth.
Biographies of Speakers:
Lawrence Bloom is Executive Chairman of Bhairavi Energy. His current activities also include Chairman of the UN Environmental Programme, Green Economy Initiative, Green Cities, and Buildings and Transport Council. He was the first Chairman of the World Economic Forum, Davos, Global Agenda Council on Urban Management and is currently an Alumnas of the whole network of Global Agenda Councils. He is a Vice Chair of the Climate Prosperity Alliance, a Senior Fellow and member of the Board of Directors of Global Urban Development, Co-Chair of the GUD program committee on Generating Sustainable Economic Development, and Vice Chairman of Climate Prosperity Strategies LLC. He is also an advisor to the Sustainable Technologies Development Foundation and a Member of the Jury of the Globe Award for Sustainable Cities, held annually in Stockholm, Sweden.
Prof. Lord Bhikhu Parekh is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and of the Academy of the Learned Societies for Social Sciences and a Professor of Political Philosophy at the University of Westminster. Lord Parekh was chair of the Runnymede Commission on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain (1998-2000), whose report, The Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain, was published in 2000. His main academic interests include political philosophy, the history of political thought, social theory, ancient and modern Indian political thought, and the philosophy of ethnic relations.
Professor Parekh is the author of Rethinking Multiculturalism: Cultural Diversity and Political Theory (2000); Gandhi (2001); Colonialism, Tradition and Reform (1999); Gandhi's Political Philosophy (1989); Contemporary Political Thinkers (1982); Karl Marx's Theory of Ideology (1981); and Hannah Arendt and the Search for a New Political Philosophy (1981).
Lord Parekh has received many awards throughout his career: the Sir Isaiah Berlin Prize for lifetime contribution to political philosophy by the Political Studies Association (2002); the Distinguished Global Thinker Award by the India International Centre Delhi (2006); the Inderdependence Prize from the Campaign for Democracy (New York, 2006), and the Padma Bhushan honours in the 2007 Indian Republic Day Honours list.
Dr. Yong Cheon Song, is the Chairman of the Universal Peace Federation in Europe. He was born in South Korea where he joined the Unification Movement. He has served in Kenya. He was the Chairman of the Universal Peace Federation for the Oceania Region with overall responsibility for the Federation in: Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, The Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga, Tuvalu, Palau, Marshall Island and Micronesia. Chairman of The Universal Peace Federation for the European Region, with responsibility for the activities and development of the Federation in 36 European Nations. Guiding the Federation’s involvement in peace initiatives in The Balkans and European support for UPF’s Middle East Peace Initiative; regular European Leadership Conferences providing innovative approaches to peace-building; programmes supporting UN Days; Intercultural programmes; Interfaith dialogue and initiatives; developing national peace councils and the Ambassador for Peace initiative.
Jack Corley was born in Ireland in 1953 and joined the Unification Movement in 1973. For the next ten years he worked in various European countries until moving to the US in 1983. From 1998, he worked as an advisor to the Unification Movement in Asia travelling to 15 countries in South and Southeast Asia. In 1990 he moved to Moscow, and for the next 16 years worked in various capacities in the Eurasia Region, including vice president of the International Educational Foundation and Regional Secretary General of the Eurasian branch of the Universal Peace Federation. From 1994 he also worked extensively in the People’s Republic of China, travelling there dozens of times to coordinate programs on character education. In April 2006 he moved to the US, where he served as an Assistant Secretary General at the UPF headquarters in New York. In May 2009 he returned to Europe where he currently serves as the director of UPF Ireland as well as Chairman of UPF -UK and an Advisor to the European branch of UPF. Jack and his American wife Renee are the parents of one son.
Photos Courtesy of Gianni Raineri and Victoria Marsh