Ethics and Values|
A Global Perspective
Proceedings of an Associated Event
of the Fifth Annual World Bank Conference
on Environmentally and Socially
"Partnerships for Global Ecosystem Management:
Science, Economics and Law"
Held at the World Bank
Washington D.C., October 8 , 1997
Ismail Serageldin and Joan Martin-Brown, Editors
The World Bank
Washington,D . C.
Ismail Serageldin and
In a world of rapid globalization communities
and countries face complex choices about
how human endeavors and the capacities of
nature relate. In this context values and ethics,
role of science and law, and the relationship
of the global ecosystem to local conduct and
Ethics and Value: A
An Associated Event of the Fifth Annual World Bank Conference on Environmentally Sustainable Development
Welcoming Address - Ismail
A Global Ethic: Reflections on the 21st Century
In essence, the questions before us are not new.
They have been grist for the mill of philosophers over the millennia, whenever organized societies
have existed. Six questions have tended
to loom large. They were summarized by
Mortimer Adler (1981) as three ideas we judge
by and three ideas we act on. These are truth,
goodness, and beauty for judgment; and liberty,
equality, and justice to act on. Action is our primary concern here, so we must look to the
questions of liberty, equality, and justice.
Plenary Address - Benjamin
Global Survival: A Convergence of Faith and Science?
In my judgment, there are five great issues we
will face in the 21st century (maybe there are
15; no matter-if we can face up to these five,
something like a global culture may be imagin-
able.) I call them "E-word issues." They are: economics,
ethnicity, environment, education, and
ethics. From among these issues, perhaps the
greatest challenge will be to resist the temptation
to reiduce ethics to ideological precepts that
harden into intractable barriers between human
beings, and instead, to imagine and then to enact
the re-placing of ourselves in a world we long to
recognize as a congenial home for the human education,
spirit. Should that happen, the ordinary transac-
tions of speech, laughter, and friendship, as well
as planting, bathing, and eating may presage the
upsurge of the sacred, and begin to replenish the
wellsprings of our spiritual well-being.
Speakers' Remarks - Njongonkulu
Winston Hugh Ndungame -
George A. D. Alleyne -
Equity and Ecosystems: Global Patrimony and Local Justice
Introduction - Yolanda
Panelists' Remarks - Joel
H. Meyers -
Ashok Khosla -
William F Vendley
Ethics and Biotechnology: Realities and Uncertainties
Introduction - Kamla
Panelists' Remarks - Ismail
Klaus Leisinger -
Global Values: Requirements for a Humane Future
Introduction - Herman
- Azim A. Nanji
There are obviously wide differences in how
our various governments are established and
controlled, as well as the responsibilities and
benefits attending individual citizens of the
communities or nations that such governments
exploit, or both. Surely we cannot place
much confidence in a government which
concentrates power in the hands of a few, by whatever
name that political system is called. One of
the basic requirements for a global humane
future, therefore, is the evolving of governmental
institutions and political structures that are
chosen and controlled by broad segments of
the society, rather than by an elite few. Whether or
not such governmental institutions shall ever
become normative on a global scale is a question
which cannot be answered in the affirmative at
this point in time.
...Loren Eisley (1978) tells the story of an old
man walking along a beach one day, when he
notices a youth ahead of him picking up starfish
and flinging them into the sea. Finally, catching
up with the young man, he asks, "Why are you
doing this?" To which the young man responds,
"If left on the beach till the noonday sun, they
will surely die." "But," protests the old man,
"the beach goes on for miles and there are millions
of starfish. How can your effort make any
difference?" Looking at the starfish in his hand
and throwing it to the safety of the sea, the
young man replies, "It makes a very real difference
to this one." This parable, I believe, says it
well. While we may not finally be able to "right"
the entire world, we can at least impact some of
its parts. We can, if we choose, live with the
awareness that how we think and act will make
a difference to someone or something, either for
good or for ill. Let us strive, therefore, to so live
and act that who we are and what we do will add
to the healing of the world itself.
- Joan Martin-Brown
We are heirs to dichotomies. Perhaps this
story, which comes out of Asia, may enable us to
these dichotomies. It is about three wise
persons who used to sit on a bench each evening
and talk about the problems of the world.
evening they happened to be sitting on the
bench as the light was fading, opposite a lamp
post. They saw a woman searching for something
she had apparently lost. After a while she
left, not having found what she was looking for.
She came back and again looked unsuccessfully.
As she was departing, they decided that perhaps
they could help, so they went to her and said,
"Can we help you? Have you lost something?"
"I have lost an earring," she said.
"Fine." they said. "We will help you look for
it. Where should we look?"
"I don't know," she replied.
"Well, you have been looking here under the lamp,"
"Oh," she said. "That's because there is light
The dichotomies we inherit have to do with
the "lamps" under which we look. The discussions
of yesterday and today have suggested
that all of us look under many different lamps,
and consequently, are products of different formations
both culturally and also educationally.
Reflections on the Day's Discourse: Reaching for Utopia
An ecosystem is not some abstract concept. It
is a scientific term used by biologists, botanists,
estuarine hydrologists, agronomists, and
other "-ists" in the highly specialized fields of
physical sciences. Ecosystems are also the first
point of reference for the work of anthropologists,
sociologists, paleo-ecologists, archaeologists,
and others in the social sciences.
Consideration of ecosystem roles should be integral
to the work of political scientists, because the
character and capacity of an ecosystem not only
directs the physical evolution of life within
it but also serves as the basic template for how
societies arrange themselves for survival. The ecosystem
is the birthing bed whose conformations
and restrictions give shape, structure, and
character to every form of life on Earth, as well as
to the cultures that develop within it.
Closing Session - Bertrand
Closing Remarks - Ismail
Forty thousand years ago on Earth two species
of human beings coexisted in
Europe: the Neanderthals and Homo sapiens.
The first disappeared and the second evolved
into Homo sapiens sapiens, and heavy threats hang over
it. Humankind may disappear from
planet. This possibility is not a remote
hypothesis, and it would not occur because of a
meteorite crashing into Earth or an exhaustion of
solar energy. We are calling to mind the irreversible
disruptions caused by humanity's activities
on the environment, leading to its ruin. Is the
disappearance of people inescapable, and is it extermination
written in the laws of evolution?
So I return again to this idea of the beginning of
wisdom: to the acceptance of universal values,
the ability to reach out, the notion that
somehow a sense of equity, fairness, and justice
is innate within us; to the recognition that legality
does not equal fairness; and to the understanding
that we must act in certain ways that
we recognize as being right and fair, in a word,
ethical. It is that ethical dimension that I think
should guide our actions.
Forum on Human Settlements, Human Solidarity, and Global Ecosystems
An Associated event of the Fifth Annual World Bank Conference on Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development
Introduction - Ismail
Panelists' Remarks -Wally
Njongonkulu Winston Hugh Ndungame
Joel H. Meyers
William F. Vendley
Azim A. Nanji
Closing Summary - Ismail
Closing Remarks - Peter
Distributors of World Bank Publications