Lesław Michnowski
Ecohumanism and Knowledge About the Future...

Ecohumanism and Knowledge About the Future
as Prerequisites of Survival and Sustainable Development

We (…) declare (…) to build a people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society, where everyone can create, access, utilize and share information and knowledge, enabling individuals, communities and peoples to achieve their full potential in promoting their sustainable development and improving their quality of life (…)
WSIS (Geneva 2003) - Declaration of Principles

(…) the sustainable development of our people (…) comprehensive vision for the future of humanity (…) poverty eradication, changing consumption and production patterns (…) pillars of sustainable development – economic development, social development and environmental protection (…)
WSSD - Johannesburg Declaration.

1. Warning Forecasting – indispensable factor of sustainable development (SD)

For the life supported by high science and technology – i. e. in the state of change and risk - we need quite new social relations. Nowadays the changes in life-conditions are proceeding very fast with the development of science and technology. The new technology is combined with big risk as a result of lack of full knowledge about all future effects of it introduction into praxis.

In this quite new situation we need long-sighted, flexible, organic, distributed, subsidiarity socio-economic infrastructure . For survival we need also multilevel decision-making based on ecohumanistic ethic and popular access to knowledge, especially prognostic one – knowledge about the future.

The very important task for world elite is nowadays building of conditions convenient for stimulation of popular, independence, for common good (egoaltruistic), intellectual creative activity. But such creative and responsible activity is impossible to achieve without knowledge of its complex and future results. For this reason we ought to create commonly accessible world system of complex monitoring and long-term prediction as well as measurable valuation of results of human activity – policy (decision-making), work - and other changes in socio-economic and natural environment. We also ought to introduce a new, ecohumanistic ethics.

Ecohumanism is a partnership-based co-operation for the common good of all people (rich and poor, from countries highly developed and behind in development), their descendants, and natural environment - commonly supported by science and high technology .

For survival and sustainable development we have to create a society based on wisdom and responsible liberty. (Nowadays, wisdom: intellect, knowledge [also about the future], and artificial intelligence).

Irresponsible, egoistic liberty - without of knowledge about its consequences for socio-economic environment, without of SD economy and ecohumanistic ethics - will lead us rapidly instead of sustainable development into:

- Orwell, short-sighted and egoistic, totalitarian information society;
- big “structural” unemployment;
- explosion of defense terrorism;
- lack of flexibility, and
- global catastrophe .

2. Why ought we build the information basis for sustainable development?

The World is in crisis. We are exploiting our natural resources of minerals and fuels faster than we are gaining access to alternative sources. We are polluting the natural environment and soil faster than the environment can regenerate itself to reach the level suitable for human needs. Depreciation, devaluation, getting obsolete, i.e. moral degradation of the existing forms of living (life) - is going on faster than new forms, consistent with new living conditions (life-conditions ) for humans and for nature, are being introduced. This situation is complicated also due to demographic expansion, especially in those parts of the human family that are lagging in their development.

This crisis results mainly in lack of adjustment of two dominating systems - the system of values and the economic system - to the contemporary state of change and risk. At the same time, there is no absolute deficit of material resources (minerals, fuels, ecological resources). However there is a lack of knowledge, technology, active intellectual potential, human conscience, and time - the factors that are necessary for limiting the futile utilization of scarce resources, as well as for developing alternative sources, whilst the resources, which are currently under exploitation, are being drained.

This crisis not only constitutes a serious hazard for everybody; it also constitutes an opportunity. This opportunity will occur if we carry out a radical reconstruction of the mentality, social relations, and information infrastructure - which could create the possibility for sustainable development.

Currently two methods of overcoming the global crisis seem to be possible.

The first, traditional, very socially expensive method is based on decreasing the number of consumers of the resources that are in deficit. This method includes inter allia “clash of civilization”. This method represents a pathology of social Darwinism - eco-fascism that leads to ecological holocaust of the less strong, and subsequently - to the extinction of all humans.

The second method is based on the wisdom, responsible liberty and the popularization of intellectual creative activity aimed at the common good and supported by science and high technology. This, intellectual evolution method is based on anticipatory selection of new forms of life in “virtual reality”, instead of “trial and error” and putting unfitted to the death. This would be an ecohumanistic, intellectual evolution, SD (sustainable development)-anti crisis method.

Ecohumanism allow - together with intellectual evolution - of substitution of intellectual, especially innovative creativity, for nowadays excessive biological creativity. It allow to stop in humanitarian way over-population of Earth.

The first, traditional method may seem effective only at first glance. Social Darwinism does not allow the elimination of the crisis-provoking results of the moral degradation of the life forms that are not adapted to the new, quickly changing living conditions.

The higher the level of development and the application of scientific and technological achievements, the faster is the pace of changes in living conditions for people and nature. This implies a very large acceleration of moral degradation pace for diverse, previously well-functioning forms of living.

Moral degradation is as dangerous as the overexploitation of natural resources. This type of degradation, which is almost invisible, only to an insignificant extent depends on the number of people. It is caused mainly by the development of science and technology. This development cannot be stopped.

In order to eliminate the third factor of global crisis - the moral degradation of life forms, which in fact constitutes the basic factor - it is necessary to undertake stability-oriented solutions, which are radically different from traditional solutions.

These are:

I - increasing far-sightedness and the flexibility of the methods of human activities,

II – introducing SD(sustainable development)-economy: long-sighted, flexible, based on common good (ecohumanistic) principle and supplementing calculations of the costs and benefits of social and economic activity with comprehensively assessed social and natural components (internalize externalities);.

III - implementation of a ecosocially just system of stimulating ecohumanistic and intellectually creative activity and its popularization.

IV - increasing the intellectual potential of the humankind (i.e. through popularization of the at least medium-level, comprehensive education of the youth, what would ensure intellectual independence, responsibility and the ability to participate in the development of science, culture, and technology).

This requires the further development of computer simulation (system dynamics) methods for large-scale environmental and social systems, flexible automation of production , and development of information technology (teleinformatization). It is impossible to prepare the appropriate economic statement without forecasting and a measurable assessment of comprehensive, broad in time and space, results of human activities and of the other changes in living conditions of people and nature.
The information problem is a key issue in overcoming the global crisis and in the creation of possibilities for survival and sustainable development of the whole global society.

Both, contemporary and forecasted development of science and technology, especially of information technology, makes the possibility of a significant increase of the level of cognizability of human activity results more real. However, we are not able to predict fully all life-hazards. Therefore, there is also a necessity of liberal development of diverse intellectual, scientific, and technological reserves that are indispensable for the quick elimination of the hazards, which were impossible to predict in advance.

The second key problem is harnessing people's wealth to make it serve creative, innovative input to the common good. This is a potential for releasing enormous intellectual creative activity, which is so indispensable for eliminating the deficits in material and spiritual life-resources.

It is impossible to solve both of these key problems related to global crisis at the local level. Joint public activities are necessary, with support from the world intellectual elite and powerful authorities. As well as - global governance.

Undoubtedly, for the development of the capability of forecasting and for a measurable assessment of the results of human activities, for changing nowadays short-sighted, egoistic economy into SD-economy, and for appropriate stimulation of ecohumanistic, cognizable and innovative, creative activity it would be helpful to create a World Center for a Strategy of Sustainable Development, for example under the auspices of the United Nations and by UN Security Council. This would be a professional center, inter allia for large-scale scientific, technological and organizational operations (Apollo-type).

The main goals of this Center would be to create information foundations of ecohumanism and sustainable development for the world society, including of SD-economy.
Its official establishment might take place during the World Summit on the Information Society – Tunis 2005.

The first task for the Center should be improvement of the methods for forecasting of the results of policy and other changes in living conditions, as well as building of popularly accessible world (integrated, but distributed) warning forecasting system.
We are just in the face of big enlargement of globalization trends. We ought to change these trends into Inclusive Globalization.

Therefore it is necessary to create urgently, as a priority, the information basis of ecohumanism and sustainable development - in order to prevent the development of eco-fascism and ecological holocaust of weaker parts of the human family that might lead to the ecological extinction of the whole human race. Without creating the information foundation of popular intellectual creative activities for our common good, and for SD-economy - such effort will not be effective!
The task of combining of ecohumanistic ethics and sustainable development of the world society with high information technology was involved into World Summits on Sustainable Development (Rio de Janeiro 92’, Johannesburg 02’) and World Summit on Information Society (Geneva 2003) UN Documents.

There is not limits to wisdom based growth and sustainable development of World Society and its economy.

Leslaw Michnowski

Member of the Committee of Prognosis “Poland 2000 Plus”
by the Presidium of the Polish Academy of Sciences, and
the Polish Association for the Club of Rome
Chairman of Sustainable Development Creators’ Club