The U.N. Climate Action Summit on 23 September 2019 has focused on the need for ecologically-sound development. There must be development as there are still some one billion people who live in poverty, the bottom billion as they have been called.(1) This will require inclusive development, that is, development for all to include everyone’s participation with benefits for all. There is currently often an insufficient level of involvement of people in planning and implementation of government-led development programs.
The majority of the bottom billion live in rural areas. To bring them out of poverty will require agricultural development: improved seeds, better post-harvest storage, and improved marketing. At the same time, forests must be preserved, and there is a need for reforestation of degraded land. Higher sea levels will require people to move. Thus we need to focus on ecologically-sound development and living in harmony with Nature.
It is useful to recall those who were the forerunners of this vision of ecologically-sound development. One such person was Aldo Leopold (1887-1948), a professor of conservation policy and a writer who highlighted ecology as ethics in his essays and journals: A Sand County Almanac and Round River. He wrote “There is as yet no ethic dealing with man’s relation to land and to animals and plants which grow upon it…The land-relation is still strictly economic, entailing privileges but not obligations…Obligations have no meaning without conscience, and the problem we face is the extension of the social conscience from people to land. No important change in ethics was ever accomplished without an internal change in our intellectual emphasis, loyalties, affections and convictions…That land is a community is the basic concept of ecology, but that land is to be loved and respected is an extension of ethics. (2)
Thus ecologically-sound development needs to be based on ethical values that are carried out in the personal life as well as in national and international policies. There is a need for a general consensus on the framework of living in harmony with Nature. While governments will formulate ecologically-sound development policies suited to their individual realities, there are guidelines provided by the United Nations and the broader world society. We have seen this with the current outcries concerning the fires in the Amazon and the Brazilian government’s policy of deforestation.
During the Climate Action Summit, some government representatives met in parallel to discuss the situation in the Amazon Forest and to propose financial aid for its protection. The representatives of Brazil did not attend, claiming that it was an “internal matter”. However, the combined pressure of peoples and of some governments is an indication of a new current in world politics. The ethical dimension of conservation and protection of the Planet is growing – an essential dimension.
1) See. Paul Collier. The Bottom Billion (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008)
2) See Aldo Leopold. A Sand County Almanic (New York: Oxford University Press, 1949)
Aldo Leopold. Round River (New York: Oxford University Press, 1953)
For a biography of Leopold see Curt Meine. Aldo Leopold: His Life and Work (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1988)
Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens