Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Social Fabric

It has been a crazy month, with time flying by as it will. That things are busy is a good sign, as it reflects the growing awareness around sustainability and desire to act -from segments of all of the sectors of our society. But I have not been leaving enough time for myself to think and reflect, particularly on the situation that my sister is experiencing at her home in Nairobi. Here is a recent quote from her blog:

In case you couldn't hear Kofi Annan's words over the roar of machete-wielding youths burned villages news reports... this "post-election violence" has morphed into its own slightly ruthless creature. What is happening in Kenya is no longer a fist fight over who actually won the election, it's an explosion of pent-up frustrations, animosities, ambitions and neglect. It is gangs of "unemployed youths" with not much to lose. It's poor people attacking poor people. It's what happens when populations grow to the point where land and resources become so stressed you're willing to kill your neighbor for a water source.

Upon reading it, my brother reflected that it exemplifies
the risk to the ‘globalization strategy’ we live in. I am reading Looming Tower and as my mom pointed out this is a book that “every American should read”, I believe this theme will continue to play out in many countries where the middle class is disappearing…


These types situations, have always been around, but are becoming all too common, and increasingly all too frequent. They have crashed civilizations before (or more aptly, they have been the symptoms of crashing civilizations ) - but never on this global scale. As I talked to my sister on skype today, her voice clear and connected, about the reality of the brutal slaying happening just a few miles down the road, it is impossible not to feel the pressure of the funnel walls -- the systematic deterioration of the social fabric, caused by conditions that have systematically undermined people's capacity to meet their basic needs. In this case, the tipping point was the Luo facing barriers to satisfy their need for participation in their political system. But in the context of the larger global system, people's capacity to meet their needs has been systematically undermined in a variety of ways.

The 4th sustainability principle can be tough to get one's head around - but it is central to the sustainable development challenge, it is after all what our whole endeavor is all about. it is why it is so important to feel empathy for others, to build community, to engage and interact, to deliberately build the social fabric, and be conscious of how our personal and professional activities contribute to widening the wealth gap, and what we can do to eliminate those contributions. Stay going.

3 comments:

Noelle Aguayo said...

I completely connect with the last statement you made in this post, but what is the 4th sustainability principle? It sounds like it is about taking personal responsbility for decisions (consumer or otherwise) that impact the lives of others?

Georges said...

Hi Noelle,

Thanks for the comment - I added a link to a post about the 4 sustainability principles, the 4th deals with social sustainability and states that "in a sustainable society people are not subject to conditions that systematically undermine their capacity to meet their needs" - so yes, it is about taking responsibility for actions and considering how they impact others - directly or indirectly, now or in the future, close by or across the world. On the individual level it speaks to consumer decisions, lifestyle decisions, etc - and it is also very important on the organizational and civic levels - how companies and governments evaluate their actions in terms of potential for abuses of power, again direct or indirect - so it gets into all of the social issues of oppression, exploitation, totalitarianism, corruption, prejudice, marginalization, etc. etc.

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