30 January 2009


Sustainable Development and the local flavour of ideas and concepts.


A key aspect of both the theory and practice of Sustainable Development is that it must be developed for and applied at local levels. 


It is incompatible with the theory and practice of Sustainable Development to suggest that there is one, over-arching, model or style of Sustainable Development that can ever be applied in all places of Madre Tierra. 


This “one-size-does-not-fit-all” underpinning of Sustainable Development arises, in part, because flora and fauna can and do differ in and between eco-systems, eco-sub-systems, and even right down to micro-eco-systems. 


Additionally, the one-model approach to Sustainable Development is not accepted in its theory and practice for humans already know through experience (as now acquired through centuries, if not through millennia), that cultural and social differences can and do dramatically differ in and between geographical levels.  This includes significant social and cultural differences arising amongst neighbouring countries, and even between neighbouring regions and towns within the same country.


For just as flora and fauna can and do differ greatly amongst small and large geographies, so too do humans have vastly different ways for living – for “Being” human – throughout Earth’s many, varying-sized, geographic regions.  Diverse flora, varied fauna, unique geographical patterns, specific topography, and different weather patterns can and do all contribute to very different local senses of what it means to live life as a human being.


For example, let us consider those of us who inhabit so-called Western countries.  We Westerners live under many concepts that our societies’ have locally or culturally developed (or appropriated) and evolved over long periods of time.  Many of these same concepts have become integral aspects of the way we now live and understand our lives as human beings.  These would include concepts such as “sedentary agriculture”, “rule of law”, “taxation with representation”, “democracy”, “freedom of expression”, “human rights”, Western “rationality” (over other cultural types of reason and logic), the “scientific method”, “industrialised society”, “progress”, and “time”.  These are all in addition to very many more concepts that can be considered as integral to the lives of our Western societies.


Of course, concepts themselves are simply intellectual “ideas”.  And accepted concepts are nothing more than those very ideas, those “thoughts”, that humans and their given societies have chosen to more-generally act out on in their lives.  


Although Westerners have their own understandings about their concepts, Westerners should also be aware that human understandings of concepts as developed through Western traditions can be – and very often are – understood in noticeably different ways by other, non-Western, human societies of Earth. For a room of 20 humans, let alone a planet of 6.5 billion human beings, does share some thoughts in common, yet also comes to understand these similar thoughts through very different cultural and social contexts. 


Any person with an open mind and who has extensively travelled about or lived in different parts of Planet Earth should well eventually come to the realisation that any claimed truth or falsity of concepts can only be understood as relative to time and place.  This realisation may not correspond well with Western Enlightenment thinking (itself grounded in “thought”ful concepts) but it is, nonetheless, an unmistakable understanding a person can realise when they experience even a few small bits of the great diversity of human societies on Earth.


For even concepts such as “rule of law”, “freedom of expression”, “democracy”, “citizenship”, “right to education”, “private property rights”, “multiculturalism”, or more generalised concepts related to “trust”, “community”, “family”, “society”, “ethics”, “moral behaviour”, “public security”, “communication styles”, “urban planning” and so on will be understood as being clearly relative to any given society that a person may become a part of.


For example, take only the concept of “Rule of Law”.  This is a concept held in high importance by Anglo-American societies, as well as some other Western societies.  It is also a concept that Anglo-Americans in particular have come to see as important for their ideas on “free markets” and its related ideas on “liberalised trade”.  Yet what exactly is the “Rule of Law”? 


Textbook definitions of the “Rule of Law” are many, yet a legal website definition captures the essence of the term as I have come to understand it through an Anglo-American lens: 


“That individuals, persons and government shall submit to, obey and be regulated by law, and not arbitrary action by an individual or a group of individuals.”


Duhamime.org – Law – Legal Information – Justice. (2009). Rule of Law.  Duhaime’s Legal Dictionary [online]. Available from:  http://www.duhaime.org/LegalDictionary.aspx [Accessed: 27 January 2009].)


This is a fine definition of the “Rule of Law”. Yet remember, it is only a Western definition of this idea and concept.  And, I respectfully suggest, only a rather rigid mind would argue that mental concepts as defined by the people of one small region of Earth (i.e. white-skinned, cultural Westerners) are the definitive statements for those same concepts as they are to be understood by that much larger body of humanity that lives in most other regions of Earth (i.e. non-white, cultural others). This is because, as I will next discuss, non-Western understandings about the concept of the “Rule of Law” do exist and these are most particularly evident in practice. 


Certainly, non-Anglo-American and non-Western countries have laws that exist to define societal rules and behaviour.  Yet borrowing from the sciences, which has an expression that goes along the lines of “Theory ends where practice begins”, the same can be said as this relates to the Western concept of the “Rule of Law” as it is applied in non-Western societies:  that being, the Western theory of the rule of law ends where the local practice of rule of law begins. And the local practice for many non-Western countries is very different from the Westernised theory.


In many countries, even those who claim to practice the “Rule of Law,” laws are often not applied equally. In France (itself a hotbed of Enlightenment thinking) and many other countries, elected Presidents are not able to be prosecuted while they hold elected office (witness the recent example, as amply-reported in the French and international media, of former French President Jacques Chirac).  In many other countries, once a person holds the office of President they are often even “seen” as being figures above any future prosecution, regardless of their actions while they held political office. (The examples of this are too numerous to mention, but would include cases on all continents (except Antarctica) and include, in full-fairness, the example of Richard Nixon of the USA, who received an unconditional pardon for the seemingly criminal activities that he was a part of when he held the Office of the President of the USA).


I think I would not be far from the mark if I said that the “global norm” over the “global exception” is that laws are often easily skirted through their offenders offering subsidiary payments to an appropriate authority (or offering what we Westerners might otherwise refer to as “bribes”).  These unofficial payments have become integral to the perceived proper functioning of the legal systems of so many countries.  They have been embraced by many non-Western societies and so have come to inform local, non-Western, practical definitions of the “Rule of Law”.  These unofficial practices are also evidenced in Western societies, although to much lesser degrees.  (See “Transparency International” at: http://www.transparency.org , for further information on matters related to individual countries and “subsidiary payments”, aka “corruption”). 


When I held my regular university classes in México on the topic of corruption, the majority of students I taught (yes, the majority and that was upward of 70% or so of all students) argued that corruption was a “good thing”.  Why? Because the practice was seen by them as speeding up legal processes for all parties involved, whether these were the legal officials themselves or the legal offender.  Clearly, this was not my own encultured idea of how the “Rule of Law” is to work, but nonetheless it was the local idea that seemed embraced by the majority of students in my classes. 


So, were these students in the wrong because their own local definition of the “Rule of Law” did not meet the test of my western, theoretical, definition?  Or was I possibly in the wrong for trying to suggest to these Mexican students that my foreign-developed theoretical definition for the “Rule of Law” had a cultural superiority to their own local and practical understanding of the idea and concept?  I leave to you to decide an answer for yourself.


That said, as a Westerner, I still personally hold my head high in that no matter where I have travelled or lived on Earth, I have never purposely or intentionally paid a bribe to any official, even when pressed to do so or when placed under situations of duress. (But, of course, this is only me speaking as a Westerner and from a Western perspective, so take those factors in to account when considering these words of mine!)


“Rule of Law” is itself just one example amongst countless others that can help us to identify ways in which various human societies might differently interpret and understand seemingly similar concepts and ideas.


After my time working in México, I came to identify some very clear differences in how similar concepts and ideas are understood and applied between Canadian and Mexican societies.  Actually, the differences between our two countries were so unexpectedly and starkly contrasted for me that I started to engage in some mental math to arrive at the conclusion that, 7 out of 10 times, if I thought of how things were done in Canada and then thought of the complete opposite scenario, then that was how Mexican society operated.  This life experience eventually came to provide me with a great understanding of exactly “what” my Canadian socialisation (indoctrination?) was and is.  


Now before I share some of the differences I identified between how Mexicans and Canadians comprehend seemingly similar concepts and ideas, I ask you to consider the further “idea” that no one way of being or living should itself be seen as either better or worse than any other way.  I encourage you to seriously contemplate that there are only unique ways of living for humans, which then offer human beings with very different ways for us to understand and experience this thing we call life.  Try to suspend your judgment on differences, so that you can then better consider them with an open mind.


A few of the differences in concepts and ideas (amongst a countless many), which I experienced and mentally noted as existing between México and Canada, include:


  • The idea of “trust” in relationships differs.  Canadian society seems grounded in the idea of what I might term as “positive trust”, which results in our citizens giving another person the benefit of the doubt if and until that same person might demonstrate to us that they cannot be trusted.  Mexican society, on the other hand, presented to me the complete opposite perspective and what I might term as the idea of “negative trust”, in that people often mistrust one another and are not given full trust until such time as they prove themselves as trustable.


  • The idea of “lemons” differs.  Lemons in México are coloured green (and these green lemons are not the same as limes), whereas in Canada the lemons we eat are yellow.  So in contrast to Canada, the “idea” of a lemon in México is not something that is yellow, but something that is green.


  • The concept of “time” differs.  In México, time is seen for the mental construct that it is, resulting in people “using” time as a tool but not in their constricting their lives by the “idea” of time (thus arises the famous Mexican phrase of “mañana” or “tomorrow”).  In contrast, Canadians seem taught to live their lives governed by time, just as if time was actually real and had a life of its own.


  • The idea of “work week” differs.  In México, the formal work week is spread over 6 days, Monday to Saturday, and the weekday workday (at least as it operates in the tropical southern region of México where I worked) is scheduled around the afternoon siesta.  This results in a weekday workday in this part of México going from 9 AM to 2 PM, then the siesta is held from 2 PM to 5 PM, and then the weekday workday continues from 5 PM until 8 PM.  The Saturday workday in the tropical south of México operates from 9AM until 2 PM.  This is contrasted in Canada, where the average workweek is of 5 days, Monday to Friday, and runs on average from about 8:30 AM until 5 PM, and with the Canadian workday including (but not designed around) a brief, mid-day, lunch period.


  • The idea of “fashion” differs.  Outside of culturally-traditional areas in México, Mexicans seem to be generally fashion conscious (over “label conscious”) and tend toward wearing brighter, more vibrant, colours in clothing along with wearing more noticeable pieces of jewellery.  By contrast, Canadians seem more “label conscious” and tend to wear darker, more subdued, colours in clothing while also tending to wear less noticeable jewellery pieces.


  • The idea of “pedestrian crossing” differs.  Cars have the right of way in Mexico, resulting in that when a person wants to cross a street at a pedestrian crossing, cars are given the priority.  Contrast that to Canada, where pedestrians are given the right of way at street pedestrian crossings.


  • The concept of “communications” styles differs.  Mexicans, joined by most Latin Americans and Mediterranean persons, use what is termed (at least in academic literature) as an “Inter-actional” style of communications, where the conversation itself and the relationship with the person(s) involved in the conversations are seen as most important, with any eventual transaction that might take place between all people involved in a conversation considered as secondary to the dialogue itself.  In contrast, Anglo-Americans utilise what is termed as a “Trans-actional” style of communications, whereby a trans-action is the focus of the conversation and is often the basis of the relationship, and where the trans-action itself is often considered as being more important than the person(s) involved in the dialogue.


  • The concept of “counting numbers” differs.  In México (and elsewhere in the Latin-rooted world), when counting numbers the “billions” is arrived at when a given number is followed by 12 zeros, whereas when we count numbers in the Anglo-American world the “billions” is arrived at when a given number is followed by 9 zeros.


  • The concept of “family” differs.  In México, your family – which is not just your mother, father, siblings, and grandparents, but also your aunts, uncles, first and even second cousins – are THE most important people in your life.  They are not seen as only your family, but are also considered as your best friends, your social network, your safety social net, your health insurance policy, your unemployment bailout package, your retirement plan and so much more.  And visiting with extended family on a daily basis is quite common in México.  Contrast that to Canada where, at the least, family is often seen as persons connected to us by blood, yet it is our non-blood related friends who are often considered as the closest people in our lives and who we might see on a daily basis.  Governments in Canada also provide many of the social services people need in social emergencies, resulting in blood family being less important to Canadians for these purposes.


  • The idea of “public security” differs.  Machine-gun toting police officers and military soldiers, guns-at-the-ready police caravans, and gun-ready military checkpoints are a common sight and occurrence in México, and they seem to provide Mexicans with a sense of public security.  In contrast, such occurrences and sights are rare in Canada, for their presence is considered as a sign of public insecurity.


  • The concept of “education” differs.  Canadians are legally required to attend school from Kindergarten to Grade 12, whereas Mexicans are only legally required to attend school from Kindergarten to Grade 9 (and even then, dropouts before Grade 9 are high across the country).  As well, whereas in my experience the Canadian formal education system seems designed to teach people “how” to think, what I witnessed in the Mexican formal education system is that it is clearly designed around teaching people “what” to think.

(For more information on México and its education system, you can read a paper I co-authored on the Mexican education system: 

Esakin, Thomas C.; Lòpez Rivera, W.; Rivera Ruedas, N; and Barbour, M.K. (2006). “Educational Technologies in Mexico: Nation Case and Case Study”. In. Orey, M.; Amiel, T.; & McClendon, J. (Eds.) The world almanac of educational technologies (online). Athens, GA: University of Georgia. Available from: http://www.waet.uga.edu/wiki/index.php/Mexico).


  • The idea of “thinking styles” differs (and this may well arise from the previous point on education).  In my own experience, Canadians often seem more inclined toward “lateral thinking” patterns (i.e. creative thinking), whereas Mexicans I know and also those Mexicans for whom I served as a teacher seemed most inclined to a “linear thinking” style (i.e. more structured thought processes).  Yet these cultural thinking styles struck me as being quite contradictory to each of our differing societies’ internal workings, for while Canadians may be more inclined to creative thinking patterns, Canadian society itself is self-evidently and strongly developed around structure, with rules and planning and other such related things being normal practice in Canada.  Yet while I found Mexicans more inclined to structured thinking patterns, their society clearly operates in a strongly unstructured manner. 


  • The idea and treatment of “indigenous peoples / First Nations” differs.  After extensive travels and work throughout the south of México (a region which has some of México’s highest-concentrations of “indigenous peoples”, which is the name that First Nations peoples’ are referred to by in México), it would seem that México relates to its 62 distinct indigenous cultures in a much more respectful, even less assimilative, ways than has been the Canadian example with its First Nations peoples.  This may well be a result of the Mexican people considering themselves as “mestizos”, a people who are a mix between indigenous and Spanish bloods.  México’s most famous and respected elected President, Benito Juarez, (who is also famed throughout Latin America) was himself a person of indigenous heritage.  In my own humble view, Canada’s treatment of its First Nations peoples continues as a blight on the history of Canada.  Canada has also yet to elect a person of First Nations heritage as the leader of a major national political party.


Noguez, Alejandra. (2008). México: indígenas que emigran [online]. BBC MUNDO.com, 29 marzo de 2008. As available from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/spanish/misc/newsid_7320000/7320099.stm . [Accessed: 23 April 2008].)


  • The concept of “citizen” differs.  Canada seems a country more welcoming to new immigrants, as evidenced in the multicultural makeup of the country’s demographics.  Canada also welcomes naturalised Canadians to take full part in the social, cultural and political life of the country.  In contrast, while México has many local indigenous cultures that make up its ethnic landscape, the faces you see on México’s streets (excluding its main tourist zones, which themselves tend to be heavily visited by, firstly, Americans (called Norte Americanos by Mexicans) and secondly, by Canadians), are by and far Mexican over reflecting any real sense of the ethnic diversity of Earth.  Like many other countries on Earth, to be Mexican seems to mean (even paper documentation aside) that one is “born” Mexican.  Naturalised Mexicans are also restricted in the national activities which they can legally engage in, with their restrictions including that they are forbidden by law from: holding any political office, serving as police officers, serving in the army, or being an airline pilot.


  • The general idea of “police” differs.  When a traffic policeman pulls you over in México, you can generally expect “he” (and policemen in México are mostly male) wants an unauthorised payment (i.e he is soliciting a bribe or, as many of my Mexican university students would politely state the matter, he “wants to buy a Coca Cola” or he “wants to buy lunch”).  Additionally, police cars in México are wired so that the overhead police-lights are always flashing when the police vehicle engine is on.  By contrast, when a police-person pulls you over in Canada (and police in the country can as easily be female as male), you can almost always expect that you have broken a law.  Additionally, police cars in Canada generally only turn on their overhead flashing police-lights when they are pulling some one over or in transit to a crime scene.


  • The concept of the “federal police” differs.  When a person faces a situation of personal insecurity in México, the Mexican federal police are often only contacted as a last-resort as México’s citizens consider these police to be “sharks” (dishonest) and Mexican police are even acknowledged by the federal government as being behind many of the kidnappings and drug-related activities which have engulfed the country.  In contrast, Canada’s federal RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) are held in international regard as a trusted, credible, and respected police force, one which has even been called upon to help rebuild police forces in troubled foreign countries (i.e. in the Republic of Haiti).


Bussey, Jane. (2008). Mexico mourns another kidnapping death.  McClatchy Newspapers, August 12, 2008 [online].  Available from:  http://www.mcclatchydc.com/226/story/47821.html . [Accessed: 30 January 2009].


The Economist. (2008). Spot the drug trafficker.  Economist.com, October 30th, 2008. Available from: http://www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=12514107 . [Accessed: 30 January 2009].


Human Rights First. (2003).  Mexico Policing Project. Available from: http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/mexico_policing/mex_policing.htm . [Accessed: 30 January 2009].)


(For the views that some of México’s young adults citizens hold of their police forces, see Section 11.4.8 (which is available from: http://sustainable-mexico.wikispaces.com/11 ), of: 

Esakin, Thomas C., ed. (2008). México and Sustainable Development: Ideas founded in youth [online]. Cancun, México: Universidad del Caribe. Available from: http://sustainable-mexico.wikispaces.com/ .)


  • The idea behind “walking” differs.  For many Canadians the act of walking, especially in the outdoors, is often culturally-considered a social or recreational past-time.  In México, walking is something you only do out of necessity because you are poor (and so you do not own either a vehicle or a bike, or you have no money for public transit), OR walking is something you do at a shopping area.  These contrasted differences in perceptions on walking are captured in a double-entendre that a Mexican friend once said to me: “Walking is for dogs.”


  • The concept of “public transport” differs.  In México, public transit is seen as something offered for the poor.  In Canada, public transit is used by people from all cross-sections of the social strata and also seen as something akin to an efficient and cost-effective way of moving people within a city or town.


  • The concept behind “highway signage” differs.  In México, highway signage (i.e. related to speed limits, distances to destinations, construction signage, etc.) seemed to me to serve more as “general guidelines” to drivers over their being legal directives. (Construction work on federal highways seldom seemed to be signed and instead was often marked by rocks placed on the highway to warn of an even later impediment.  Mileage signs on federal highways often seemed to contradict one another.  The private collectivos (public transit) vans that travel between Cancun and Playa del Carmen in the Riviera Maya, which have signs posted at the back of the vehicles noting they have a 95 kilometre per hour speed limit on a highway that has a posted speed limit of 100 kilometres per hour, were most commonly experienced by me as travelling at speeds of up to 140 kilometres per hour and without one ever having been stopped by the highway police). Contrast that to Canada, where highway signage represents regulations to be followed and is provided for driving safety.


  • The idea behind the “use of words” differs.  In Canada, verbal words are generally accepted at face value, people are generally “taken at their word”, and words can even be considered as legal contracts.  Contrast that to México where words are only words and where words very often do not connect with the actions of the person who says them (people often seem to say what they ‘think’ someone wants to hear, before then doing what they wanted to do anyways).  However, paper documentation means absolutely everything in México and can be as important as the holiest of books (thus the Mexican phrase: “papelito habla” or “paper speaks for itself”).


  • The idea behind “manual labour” differs.  Many physically-intensive labour activities in México are still undertaken using manual human labour (i.e construction and road work still often utilises humans using picks, shovels, and manual-pulleys), whereas in Canada energy-intensive machines are the common tool used for such work.


  • The concept of “urban planning” differs.  Canadians are said to engage in the structured urban-planning of their cities and towns (although the design and appearance of cities like Toronto (built around the car), and the urban sprawl found across much of Canada would certainly call this premise in to question).  By contrast in México, the country’s cities and towns develop in a virtually organic, unplanned, manner.  As I found in my neighbourhood in Playa del Carmen and also saw in Cancun, people seem to build what they want, where they want, and as they want, without regard for neighbours or laws.  Any fines in México that might be levied for violating supposed building-codes or even for violating federal laws that are said to strictly-protect mangrove lands seem to be helpfully off-set by unauthorised payments (as discussed earlier in “bribes”).


  • The idea of “community” differs.  In México, the community you are most specifically concerned with and also the one that you even more broadly care about is that of your immediate, extended, blood-family.  Volunteerism and charitable service to help a broader-community is almost non-existent in México and is not part of the national psyche. (The Mexican State of Quintana Roo in which I lived, where Cancun and its one million inhabitants reside, had only 5 federally registered charities located in it up until the end of 2006).  In Canada, there is a broader sense of community that extends to other people beyond your blood-family.  Volunteerism and charitable work are an integral part of the culture, with there being over 83,000 charities registered in Canada in 2008 and with Canada, in 2004, having an estimated “45% of the population aged 15 and older [who] volunteered their time to charities and other nonprofit organizations”.


Personal interview held with the President of Ayuda de los Angeles, AC, one of the 5 federally-registered charities then existing in Quintana Roo.  Fall 2006, interview held in the offices of Ayuda de los Angeles, AC, Playa Del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico).


Government of CanadaCanada Business. (2008).  Information of Charities [online].  Available from:  http://www.canadabusiness.ca/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=CBSC_NB/display&c=Regs&cid=1081944192196&lang=en [Accessed: 28 January 2009].


Statistics Canada. (2006). Caring Canadians, Involved Canadians: Highlights from the 2004 Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering, and Participating.  Available from:  http://volunteer.ca/sites/volunteercanada/files/CSGVP_Highlights_2004_en.pdf .  [Accessed: 30 January 2009], p. 31.)


  • The concept of “workplace” differs.  Working within the formal, structured, economy is generally considered a cultural norm in Canada (although some statistics suggest that Canada has upwards of 20% of its workforce working within the informal economy of the country). This is contrasted with México, where anywhere from 27% to 44% of Mexicans choose to work in the informal, unstructured, economy of their country (and so don’t pay any taxes on their efforts).


Hill, Roderick. (2002).  The Underground Economy in Canada: Boom or Bust?  Canadian Tax Journal [online], Vol. 50, No. 5 [online].  Available from:  http://www.ctf.ca/pdf/ctjpdf/2002ctj5_hill.pdf . [Accessed: 30 January 2009], p. 1642.


Brambila Marcias, Jose. (2008).  Modeling the Informal Economy in Mexico. A Structural Equation Approach.  Research Papers in Economics [online].  Available from:  http://ideas.repec.org/p/pra/mprapa/8504.html . [Accessed:  28 January 2009].


Schwartz, Jeremy. (2007).  Mexico City seeks to Corral an Army of Street Vendors.  Cox Newspapers, May 08, 2007 [online].  Available from:  http://www.coxwashington.com/news/content/reporters/stories/2007/05/08/BC_MEXICO_STREETS06_COX.html . [Accessed:  28 January 2009].


Franco, Pilar. (1997). Informal Sector – A Billion Dollar Lifeboat.  InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS), 23 May 1999 [online].  Available from:  http://www.converge.org.nz/lac/articles/news990523a.htm . [Accessed:  28 January 2009].)


  • The concept of “taxation” differs.  Through their tax system, Canadian citizens are major contributors of revenue to all their levels of government by their contributing the equivalent of 33.3% of Canada’s GDP in the form of taxes (which are then returned to the Canadian populace in the form of health care, education, other social services, infrastructure, police and national defence services, and more).  In comparison, the practice of paying taxes is less common and less accepted in México, with Mexican citizens contributing the equivalent of only 19.8% of its GDP in the form of taxes (and, thus, the clear evidence one sees in México of reduced social services offered to its citizens and the much-needed infrastructure improvements required in the country). 


Wikipedia. (2009).  List of countries by tax revenue as a percentage of GDP [online].  Available from:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_tax_revenue_as_percentage_of_GDP . [Accessed: 28 January 2009].


Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. (2007).  Tax Reform:  Mexico Marks the Path to Follow in Latin America [online].  Available from:  http://wharton.universia.net/index.cfm?fa=viewArticle&id=1414&language=english&specialId= . [Accessed:  28 January 2009].)



So let us again return to Sustainable Development, to end our discussion by considering its connexions to this dialogue on differences in understanding that diverse human societies may have related to seemingly similar ideas and concepts. 


The simple thing to take away from this discussion is that, while it is accepted that it is important for Sustainable Development to account for local differences in flora and fauna, it must also become as equally, if not more, accepted for Sustainable Development to also account for local differences in understandings of concepts and ideas.


Otherwise stated, if Sustainable Development is to realise any significant degrees of success, its practitioners must not wrongly assume that ideas and concepts themselves have any real universal meaning across all human societies and cultures.


Just as Sustainable Development treats flora and fauna as relative to place, so must it accept that understandings about ideas and concepts are also relative to place (and even also relative to time).


As practitioners of Sustainable Development, it is the actions of human beings that we are ultimately trying to change.  For we, as Sustainable Development’s practitioners, are trying to change human behaviour toward those actions that are more strongly aligned in harmony with nature’s own workings. 


However, that said, changing human behaviour is never easy. 


Changing human behaviour requires those who are trying to do the changing of human behaviour to also attempt to understand the individual and collective motivations behind human actions.  Yet motivations themselves are often based in thoughts, such as ideas and concepts.  So to ensure that our understandings about other humans motivations are as accurate as possible, we must not assume that our own understandings about a given idea and concept will be the same understanding held by other human beings located at each and every locale on Earth. 


Thus, there is a need for practitioners of Sustainable Development to try and understand, as best as we are able, the local interpretations of seemingly similar ideas and concepts. 


Only that way are we, as Sustainable Development’s practitioners, better prepared to try and change human behaviour toward that which is more in harmony with nature’s workings and, thereby, more sustainable.


Hopefully this discussion helps you understand a little more about why Sustainable Development is about so much more than the environment. 


As always, your thoughts on this blog are encouraged and appreciated.


Thomas Esakin



Other sources used for this month’s blog:


Labossiere, Michael C.  (1995).  Fallacy Tutorial Pro 3.0.  The Nizkor Project [online].  Available from:  http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies .  [Accessed: 30 January 2009].

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