Saturday, September 05, 2009

"Seeking rapid change in human behavior"


Paul Ehrlich, citing 'humanity's collision with the natural world,' launches a new forum to direct human activity toward a more sustainable future.

Called the Millennium Assessment of Human Behavior, or MAHB (pronounced "mob"), the venture seeks to link a broad array of seemingly unrelated human activities that endanger humanity's future - from racism to climate change, loss of biological diversity, water shortages, declining food security, economic justice and pollution.

The hope, Ehrlich said, is that by making these larger connections, more effective solutions can be found.

"Basically, absolutely nothing is happening," he said. "We don't need more scientific evidence that we're screwing ourselves. We need to get beyond the cultural discussions we're having now."

The problem, Ehrlich said, is clearly not a need for more natural science. Rather, it is the need for a better understanding of "human behaviors and how they can be altered to direct humanity toward a sustainable society before it is too late."

Organizers envision the MAHB as a global conference, involving scholars, politicians and a diverse spectrum of stakeholders – from media and industry to religious communities and foundations. Organizers also hope to encourage a "global discussion" about human goals and to explore ways to steer cultural change toward creation of a more sustainable society...

It's not clear - yet - who the MAHB is meant to inform.

For the IPCC, "the governments are the ones who have asked for the information, and they are the ones who endorse the information," Huq said. "If scientists just produce a report, and ... there isn't really anyone in a position to take it up, nothing happens to it."

"We are just preaching."

Still, Huq agreed with the premise, adding that the endeavor is something "we certainly need."

But for now, the MAHB is just 10 big thinkers, among them Stanford climatologist Steve Schneider, Science editor and Stanford president emeritus Donald Kennedy, Washington State University sociologist Eugene Rosa and University of Oslo philosopher Nina Witoszek...

That 1992 summit remains the UN's largest environmental gathering, with 172 governments, 108 heads of states, 2,400 representatives of non-governmental organizations and another 17,000 attendees at a parallel global forum. It led to the adoption of a wide-ranging blueprint for action on sustainable development worldwide. The Kyoto Protocol and the upcoming Copenhagen negotiations in December are two products...

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