foggs

Welcome to FOGGS!

 

We are very happy to announce the establishment of FOGGS and the launch of our online consultation forum. Our guiding principles and objectives can be found in the “About us” section. This introductory article is meant to start the debate on the urgent need that we perceive for a new organizing concept, a new paradigm that will help humanity deal effectively with the great interconnected challenges facing it today.

 

Challenges such as climate change and ecosystem degradation, persistent poverty, overpopulation, increasing inequalities and unemployment, as well as fundamental flaws in the functioning of the economy and finance, seem to be coming together in a perfect storm. The captain(s) and crew of (space)ship Earth, though, seem only able to change the colour of the sails, to green, while the First Class musical banquet continues unabated.

 

The predominant capitalist paradigm seems to have gone out of balance in the complacent period after the end of the Cold War. Having shown great agility and adaptability during the years of competition with socialism, and having won that fight, it now seems unable to adjust to the new requirements. It is thus increasingly becoming a rigid orthodoxy that cannot learn from its apparent shortcoming, as clearly manifested in the 2008 economic and financial crisis and its aftermath. The touch of greenness is not enough to conceal, let alone drastically alter this.

 

Could sustainability be the new –ism, the new conceptual framework, organizing principle and guide to action required by our times? Is there real substance in it, and actionable content, that could bring about the needed transformation, if pursued in earnest? Without ideologically sticking to the word “sustainability” as such – see also resilience, human security and other relevant terms – in the next few paragraphs we will attempt to look briefly at what the sustainability discourse seems to offer up to now.

 

Definitions of sustainability abound but basically combine the three dimensions of the human environment, namely society, economy and the (natural) environment, in various shapes and degrees. The classical definition of the Brundtland report of 1987 brings in the dimension of future generations, whose needs should be allowed to be met by responsible management of resources by the current generations.  

 

This largely corresponds to “the Oxfam doughnut” visualization of sustainability that combines the concept of planetary boundaries with the complementary concept of social boundaries. The safe operating space for humanity, and the terrain where the economy can operate, is the band in-between. 

 

Beyond definitions, there is an aspirational set of goals, a vision that drives sustainability, as offered by the Global Sustainability Panel in its January 2012 report:

 

“…to eradicate poverty, reduce inequality and make growth inclusive, and production and consumption more sustainable, while combating climate change and respecting a range of other planetary boundaries.” 

The Panel’s report proceeds to provide specific recommendations for moving towards attaining the vision, by empowering people to make sustainable choices, making the economy sustainable and improving institutional governance. There has been further work on these issues, through the Rio+20 conference in June 2012 and thereafter. The High-level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, for example, has offered twelve illustrative Sustainable Development Goals for the post-2015 period.  These are very useful recommendations that can have positive impact in practice. They remain, however, at the level of small or medium adjustments to current business-as-usual, avoiding any drastic changes.

 

While the valuable process continues, at the United Nations and beyond, to identify incremental steps towards a more viable future for humanity, we would like to use this online forum for more in-depth and radical thinking. We do not want to accept that poverty is inevitable and thus just try to redefine it or slightly improve the situation of those living in it. Nor do we accept that unemployment is inevitable, or the booms and busts of the financial system, or the increase in the Earth’s temperature well above 2o Celsius. 

 

We want to believe that human ingenuity can go deeper and drastically rethink the nature of poverty, exclusion, inequality, unemployment, money and finance, pricing, and the very concepts of happiness and good life. Only such a process would help us get out of the ideological and intellectual mould we are trapped in, allowing for fresh thinking and refreshingly new approaches and solutions.

 

Let the debate start, then, and may it be productive and enjoyable. We will try to stimulate discussion on issues falling under the four areas mentioned above on this webpage, that is the three dimensions of sustainability and the broader and unifying governance/political level. We encourage submission of short pieces (around 1000 words – email to ) under any of these areas, to which we and others will respond, taking the discussion further. You can take the initiative to start a discussion trail, and FOGGS staff will occasionally provide short papers on some of these topics to generate discussion. Issues will be discussed sequentially for a couple of weeks each, and then a wrap-up paper will be produced, reflecting the main points made during the online exchange. 

 

The wrap-up papers will be issued as FOGGS publications and may lead to seminars or conferences for further elaboration. Conclusions will be forwarded to multilateral, regional and national decision-making processes in the hope of enriching them with meaning and options, for more productive practical results. FOGGS will also undertake other activities to encourage free thinking, identification of practical solutions, and translation of ideas into action, to the extent of our capacities and means.

 

Welcome to our company of free practical thinkers for humanity!

 

The FOGGS Board