Toward Sustainable Development: Defining Figures

People whose work advances the frontier of knowledge in our field and whose contributions (and character) you should know something about.

brain2Sustainable development, the topic of our seminar, is pure concept.  It is not a “fact” as such; it is rather an ongoing and ever shifting interpretation of an imperfectly understood complex system. And as such it is defined by human minds.  To get the ball rolling on this important aspect of the sustainability phenomenon here you have a very personal and very incomplete  list of a number of the people who in my view are, though their contributions and unusual character, collectively defining the field.  With  all the necessary contradictions that entails.

The one-click references you find here are in each case to Wikipedia, and are presented as only a starting point to understand  the contributions that these splendid people are making to our more than challenging topic.

Any such listing will ultimately be very personal, even if it has been carried out by a committee, which was definitely not the case here. I have developed this particular personal pantheon of independent  thinkers, writers and doers who in my view have been among the leading influences in the move over the last half century from (a) a world not giving much attention to the broader implications of our collective choices and actions, to (b) the one that we live in today where we are at long last starting to become more aware that much of what we do, or make done, actually does impact on the future our small planet and others in many and often drastic ways.


Working under such a tight schedule with close to no time for outside reading, in order to get a feel for what is happening at and indeed shaping the leading edge of understanding and development in our chosen field of study, we have to divide this important part of the seminar into convenient parts and tasks.  To this end I have asked each of you to spend a bit of time in getting to know something about the character and contributions of at least one assigned person on this list, and then in the class and later in writing provide us with a brief introduction to them, to their work . . . and to the extent that your research permits to their character. (Admittedly that being no easy job. But do give it a try.)

I have asked you to spend some time in finding more about your assigned sustainability hero, so that you can share with all of us around the table in concise written form your thoughtful statement about who that person is and what makes her or him tick.  This is a group learning process and the results will be as good as each of your efforts and goodwill make it.

Here’s the list of people whom I have suggested for this exercise. I have marked with an asterisk those who were assigned for Short Reports during the class.  Thank you for taking the time to review your selection and make sure that it meets your high standards.  And be sure to mention if only briefly the main sources you consulted for this information.

Please take careful note of the following.  Since each of the figures on this list have already been directly linked to their respective Wikipedia listings, for the your convenience, it is anticipated that in your short reports you will show the class how  you have used your brain to seek out and share not only the basic facts, but also some thoughtful lines  that will help the class understand something about the unique qualities of this person and their contribution.  You will be judged to the extent you give proof of your understanding of this principle. Your short report should note exceed a page in length, say in the area of 300 to 400 of your own thoughtful words.

Donald Appleyard

Robert Underwood Ayres

Kenneth Arrow

Kenneth E. Boulding

David Brower

Gro Harlem Brundtland *

Rachel Carson *

Herman Daly

René Dumont

Paul R. Erlich

John Kenneth Galbraith

Henry George

Garrett Hardin

Albert Hirschman *

Ivan Illich

Jane Jacobs *

John Maynard Keynes

Bill McKibben

Aubrey Meyer

William Nordhaus

Carlo Petrini

Wolfgang Sachs

F. Schumacher

Nicholas Stern

Maurice Strong

James Tobin

Edward Tufte

Barbara Ward

John Whitelegg

E. O. Wilson

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