Maharishi University of Management held its fourth annual international deep green symposium in Fairfield Iowa on June 26-27, 2015. There were 16 invited speakers, including two from Harvard University, one from India, and many from MUM and around the country to present their research and perspectives on sustainability. The speakers presented their research from philosophical, organizational to technical perspectives in a short 20 minutes. Some of the messages and lessons from the conference were as below.
Leopold’s “land ethic” says that “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” Dr. Scott Herriott analyzed the validity of this statement from three philosophical perspectives: Utilitarianism (Bentham, Mill), De-ontology (Kant), and virtue ethics (Aristotle), and found that none of them did full justice to the land ethic. He concluded that the most effective way to cultivate the virtues responsible for environmental sustainability is to develop the consciousness of the individual, and help everyone do spontaneous right action in accordance with natural law. Sustainability refers to a very old and simple concept …do unto future generations as you would have them do unto you! Ms. Vicki Alexander Herriott spoke about ‘Consciousness-based sustainability’, defined as our ability to act in a way that meets the needs of the present without diminishing opportunities for the future. It is based on our level of consciousness, our awareness and experience of the interconnectedness of all things.
Nowhere is the sense of memory about the past and their connection to Natural Law deeper than in East Africa. Mr. Jim Schaefer reported on Sustainable Consciousness based projects in Africa, with the purpose to enliven he memory of Natural Law, to enhance connectivity to Natural Law, and to awaken from within the African people the full potential of all Africans to create a sustainable future for themselves.
Resilience is a quality akin to adaptability, which is critical for ecosystems to robustly thrive amidst environmental turbulence. Dr. David Goodman spoke about developing resiliency through conservation. He reminded us to Leave No Trace while traveling through the wilderness areas in order to protect these special places for future generations.
Progress towards sustainability at the community level depends upon successfully implementing local strategic plans. Dr. Ayako Huang demonstrated that the processes and challenges of the shared action-learning approach to sustainability projects proceeds through five sequential steps. Shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy requires changes on the individual and community levels. Ms. Anna Bruen explored why and how communities are shifting from fossil fuel consumption towards renewable energy adoption and the relationship between individual action and community transformation, using examples of what a couple of mid-western towns are doing to address their energy needs.
Greenhouse gases arise from two primary sources: direct emissions such as from agriculture and waste, and from burning of fossil fuels. There are increasing concentrations of GHGs in atmosphere, and increase in global average temperatures, which lead to various adverse impacts emerging over time. Dr. Robert Stowe of Harvard University showed that there are two major mechanisms to contain and reduce carbon from the atmospheres: carbon cap and trading or a carbon tax. He reported on the discussions between US and China on the technical issues towards a global climate accord in Paris later this year. Managing the product life cycle more effectively can help re-consume all waste, and thus reduce the waste going into landfills. Using the examples of HPs recycling of printer cartridges and others, Dr. Dennis Heaton and his colleague showed that Life cycle thinking helps consider social and environmental impacts not only of one’s own business operations but also of upstream and downstream supply chain partners. As awareness of the whole value stream expands, opportunities for improvement can be seen.
The Urbanization project is likely to be completed in our children’s lifetimes. Dr. Anil Maheshwari showed how Data-smart Big cities will become digital governance platforms to responsively and interactively serve a superior experience to their residents. Using the multi-million records data set from the usage of bicycle rentals in the city of Chicago, he showed how collecting and analyzing big data from many sources can help uncover service usage patterns to design better experiences. In contrast, Drs. Lonnie Gamble and Travis Cox explored the limits of how much technology can accomplish, and asked directly for a Sustainability Revolution, where unity and diversity coexist in a symbiotic relationship. They challenge the blinding notion that technologies are neutral – that the only thing that matters about them is who has access to their controls, that they have no intrinsic qualities that inevitably produce certain ecological or political outcomes. They described deep sustainability as going beyond efficiency and substitution, in service to radical redesign based on a worldview that uses ecology as a metaphor rather than the machine, holism rather than reductionism, compliments science with many ways of knowing, and is grounded in an experiential and intellectual understanding of the unity that underlies the surface diversity of life.
Mr. Stuart Valentine showed how an awakening to the abundant flow of energy Is leading the transition to a renewable energy economy. He called for an enhanced corporate performance report card, that naturally takes us to a circular & more spiritual view of the economy. This requires a fresh financial toolbox informed by Nature’s principles to support a new circular economic investment framework. Echoing Gandhi’s message of there being enough for everyone’s need but not enough for everyone’s greed, Dr. Ram Ramanan showed why we should go beyond the triple bottom line (of profit, people and planet) and called for ethical decision-making as the way forward for creating wealth for all stake-holders and not only the shareholders. His ethical values checklist including transparency, reliability, citizenship, and responsiveness. Mr. Ved Nanda spoke about how international law can be a force for sustainability by creating moral pressure, as well as frameworks for guiding ethical decision-making.
Dr. Sunita Singh Sengupta of ISOL said that the ancient Indian value system provides a broader context of nature and human sustainability. The concept of Rin (or debts) shows that one should feel grateful for what one has received from one’s father, teacher, the gods, and also the motherland. Ecological insights from Vedas include associating deforestation with the destruction of the state, and reforestation with the rebuilding of the state. And that no creature is superior to another and all have a right to live happily in the ecosystem. And that care should be taken to channelize wealth for organic development of the society. Dr. Shanmugamurthy Lakshmanan of Harvard University showed how using ‘consciousness as the foundation’, science can become complete, by bridging the gap between ancient science and modern science. For example, the fundamentals of Ayurveda (ancient Vedic medical system) can be explained effectively using modern nanotechnology mechanisms from a subatomic, quantum-mechanical level.
The event soared high with great motivation from hearing Mr. Gary Guller, the only person with one arm to have climbed Mt Everest. Any is possible, he said, if you believe in yourself and in your team. When challenges inevitably come, you just have to give yourself the permission to succeed. MUM’s President Dr. Bevan Morris, delivered the closing remarks with reading uplifting remarks from Maharishi’s book on ‘Heaven on Earth’. That is the end-goal of all sustainable development, he said. The plan is to establish a new way of life, to eliminate all the unhealthful aspects of the way our lives are lived, and introduce a life of bliss.
Video recordings of these excellent talks will be released in due course.