Bearing in mind that this is a course without a textbook or two to feed your reading and guide the discussions, we have turned instead to the web and more specifically in this section to the Wikipedia for a certain number of introductory pieces, as sources of useful first information on concepts, terms, phenomena and forces, many of which have a role in shaping the environment of the next decade (the scope of this seminar) and beyond (the scope of someone else’s).
Uses and limits of Wikipedia and other Wikis
The entries need to be treated with caution of course, but in many cases they make a good first-stop shop when you are looking into a topic area for the first time. You can think of them as a first-stop shop for researchers, journalists, students and the generally curious citizen. First-stop, but not last-stop shop. OK?
In fact a certain number of them are exceptionally good as introductions and provide references and links for those who wish to go further (an excellent and perhaps a bit surprising example is the entry on Design). But again, it’s just a start.
Sustainable 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 collectively defining the field. With all the necessary contradictions that entails. The one-click references 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.