Ecologic Encouragement Settings for Opinion Leaders
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This poject was started in 1996 but stopped because the supervisors doubted the feasibility of carrying out Ecologic Encouragement Settings. They also raised the question what people were going to do, if an EES would produce a paradigm change. Although the ESR is meant to produce change, the participation is voluntary and can be stopped at any moment. Therefore the results lie within the responsibility of the participants.
Ecologic Encouragement Settings for Opinion Leaders (Transdisciplinary PhD dissertation project in Psychology)
DRAFT OUTLINE Introduction: This dissertation project on environmental motivation (the motivation to protect the environment) focuses on the notions and practices of "Sustainable Development/Sustainable Growth", and investigates the possibilities of encouragement for an ecologic reviewing of the development/growth concepts, policies and practices, including "Qualitative Growth". My rationale is that facts and environmental trends suggest that the abolition of the growth ideals and practices is urgently required, in order to avoid catastrophe for human existence. The research should contribute to the creation of environmentally sustainable (economic) structures, policies and life styles.
  • (a) Most people show an environmental awareness and honest concern, but frequently voice the opinion that we have no chance of achieving the basic changes that are seen to be required.
  • (b) The popular concepts of "Sustainable Development/Sustainable Growth/Qualitative Growth" tend to neglect the time scale and the cumulative effects of sectorial environmental trends. A relatively narrow knowledge base and a short time perspective lead to a low sense of urgency and/or an unwarranted technologic optimism.
  • (c) A central requirement for ecologic policy adaptation is reviewing the sustainability concepts and practices. The review process should lead to the insight and relevant behavioral change that our Earth, with its undeniable physical boundaries does set limits to growth, and that in case of doubt the "precautionary principle" will have to prevail. Understanding the interconnectedness of "eco" issues, their impact and the time scale offers a chance for change, and the awareness that we must choose our ecologic options and priorities, instead of trying to accommodate to usual pressures.
  • (d) Facilitation of change should consider the basic needs of people and relate to everyday's ambitions and concerns, such as autonomy, love, pleasure, power, prestige, pride, respect, responsibility, satisfaction, security, wealth, etc. This suggests that people, both common people and opinion leaders, be taken as they are, and ecologic encouragement build upon existing capacities and potential.
  • (e) Methods or settings can be developed, which motivate to participate in the research and successfully encourage participants to review sustainability concepts and change relevant practices. Encouragement settings could be, for instance, a progressive (learning) test, a discussion podium, an adult (frontal?) education course, a participatory research process, action research, encounter groups, structured discussion small group meetings, or other.
  • (f) The encouragement process will consider tendencies of psychologic repression and defense reactions in view of the magnitude of the task. Important other psychologic factors are a sense of powerlessness, a feeling that the individual contribution does not count or that one has already "done one's share", the belief of individual incompetence to take action and influence the development, a sense of fatalism and/or desperation in face of the environmental threats, a lack of (perceived) alternatives to the present situation and trends.
Research on encouragement for reviewing of sustainability concepts: The research should incorporate three stages:
  • (1) a pre-test (account) of current environmental attitude and activity,
  • (2) the application of the "Encouragement Method" to be designed, and
  • (3) a post-test (account) of (changed?) environmental attitude and practice of the participants.
Adults in general, and opinion leaders (politicians, business leaders, academics) in particular, are envisaged as research participants.
Some transdisciplinary aspects:
"Sustainable Development" has been defined and re-defined in various ways, depending on the perspective of the individual, and has an eminent political dimension. One definition (quoted in Pearce 1989, p. 176) says: "Sustainable development is here defined as a pattern of social and structural economic transformations (i.e. 'development') which optimises the economic and social benefits available in the present, without jeopardising the likely potential for similar benefits in the future. A primary goal of sustainable development is to achieve a reasonable (however defined) and equitably distributed level of economic well-being that can be perpetuated continually for many generations." "... sustainable development implies using renewable natural resources in a manner which does not eliminate or degrade them, or otherwise diminish their usefulness for future generations. ... Sustainable development implies using non-renewable (exhaustible) mineral resources in a manner which does not unnecessarily preclude easy access to them by future generations. ... Sustainable development also implies depleting non-renewable energy resources at a slow enough rate so as to ensure the high probability of an orderly societal transition to renewable energy sources. ... (Robert Goodland and G. Ledoc, "Neoclassical Economics and Principles of Sustainable Development", Ecological Modelling, Vol. 38, 1987)".

"Sustainable Growth/Qualitative Growth" are expressions often used in Economics, Management Studies, Business and Industry, and in the media. They refer to the opinion that an ongoing expansion of production and consumption of goods and services can be maintained and/or sustained (on/by our Earth) (my working definition). The measuring of "Progress" in figures of GNP (gross national product), the option of using alternative welfare scales (like ISEW - Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare), the theory of creating a "Stationary State", or a "De-industrialisation of society", are some of the discussion themes possible. The "State of the World" and the developmental trends regard us all. The present insustainability of our lifestyles is often documented. Many publications predict and the daily news confirms an increasing and continuing degradation of our world-wide environment, in spite of environmental awareness and efforts. The environmental trends and the (perceived) predominantly adverse course in economic World Politics suggest that a basic change in political and economic goals and actions is urgently required.

Selected references: (1) Pearce, David, Markandya, Anil & Barbier, Edward B. (1989) Blueprint for a Green Economy. Annex: Sustainable Development - A Gallery of Definitions. London: Earthscan Publications. (2) Diefenbacher, Hans & Ratsch, Ulrich (1992) Verelendung durch Naturzerstoerung. Die politischen Grenzen der Wissenschaft. Frankfurt/M.: Fischer Sachbuch. (Especially chapter 7 on the "ISEW - Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare". (Cobb, C.W., In: Daly, H.E. & Cobb, J.B.Jr. 1989 For the common good - Redirecting the Economy toward Community, the Environment and a Sustainable Future. Boston: Beacon Press 401-457); pp.121-146). (3) Mill, John Stuart, (1848) Of the Stationary State (extract from 'The Principles of Political Economy'). Cited in: Allaby, Michael (ed.) (1989) Thinking Green: An anthology of essential ecological writing. London: Barrie & Jenkins. (4) Goldsmith, Edward (1988) The Great U-Turn: De-industrialising society. Hartland, Bideford, Devon, GB: Green Books. (5) Brown, Lester R. et al. (1994) State of the World 1994: A World Watch Institute report on progress toward a sustainable society. New York: Norton. (5a) Tolba Mustafa K. et al. (Eds.) (1992) The World Environment 1972- 1992. Two Decades of Challenge. London: Chapman & Hall (published for UNEP).

Personal data Helmut E. Lubbers: Born 1942, divorced, two grown-up children; education in the Netherlands: HTS Hogere Technische School mech. eng. (Arnhem), HGO Hoger Grafisch Onderwijs (Graduate Management Course for the Printing Industry) (Amsterdam). Professional experience: 1963 to 1986 in the Netherlands and Switzerland as an export sales engineer and in sales management for precision machine tools, instruments, automatic materials handling equipment, etc.; 1987 to 1993 in Switzerland and New Zealand: (part time) work in machine tool setting and operating, quality control, secretarial work (word processing). From 1982 participation in various adult educational courses relating to the psychology of human development and communication. University studies since 1987 in Switzerland and New Zealand; received a M.Soc.Sc. with First Class Honours in Psychology in 1993 (University of Waikato, New Zealand, supervisor Dr. Michael D. Hills). Presented a seminar on "Costs and Benefits of Environmentally Sensitive Practices" at Basel University (Winter Semester 1993/94). 1993 -1995: Transdisciplinary Environmental Studies MGU - Mensch Gesellschaft Umwelt (Human-Society-Environment), and Economics at the University of Basel. MGU Certificate: September 1995. The 1972 "Limits to Growth" set the seeds and the 1982 news on dying forests of Europe prompted the active participation in the protection of the environment. Beyond bicycling 'to and fro', activities include creative actions such as the realisation of a (students') stage drama on the reported recycling of pigs' manure into drinking water in the Netherlands (Hamilton, NZ, 1991). Interests include feminism, journalism, philosophy, Amnesty International, and music (flute playing). In April 1995 I was the delegate of the Swiss NGO 'umverkehR' (Swiss Traffic Alternative) at the Berlin Climate Conference. Fluency in Dutch, German and English, good command of French language. Allschwil, 15.10.1995 Helmut Lubbers

  • Thesis Outline (unfinished)
  • Project status as from March 1996


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