A Paper Without Borders Between Disciplines, a Manual of Practice for the Whole of Life, A New Level of Thinking from which to Solve the Intractable Problems of Our Era.

A must read Sustainability Concept Paper

Starting with a long view for reflecting on how to transform Cities as Forces for Good in their Environment, Bruce Beck blurs the borders between disciplines, looks at his subject from a Higher Level of Thinking, and reaches conclusions about how a New Governance can resolve the intractable problems of our Era and Change the World. The result: A Manual of Practice for the Whole of Life.

Cities as Forces for Good in the Environment won attention by being retained as a Grand Challenge of Engineering by the US National Academy for Engineering.

The initiative  was then spearheaded by Bruce Beck who worked from his position as Professor and Eminent Scholar in the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources at the University of Georgia, where he holds the Wheatley-Georgia Research Alliance Endowed Chair in Water Quality and Environmental Systems, working mainly on modelling the city of Altanta and its .

A white paper was published in 2009, for the US National Science Foundation (NSF) called  Grand Challenges for Environmental Modeling.

Then Bruce created the Cities as Forces for Good Network, and in January 2011 the CFG website was launched.

I was immensely privileged to have been invited in the close circle of this fabulous initiative, as a Core member. I accepted with great enthusiasm, as is explained in this blogpost.

My enthusiasm today reaches peak levels, having read and re-read and studied Bruce’s Sustainability Concept Paper. This is the second in Bruce’s trilogy: Part one being the white paper, part two this Sustainability Concept Paper. Part 3 will address critical issues of “Handling Uncertainty in Models of the Science-Policy Interface”.

But let us focus briefly on the second part of the trilogy, “The Sustainability Concept Paper”.

Einstein is believed to have said that the intractable problems of our time cannot be resolved at the same level of thinking with which they were created in the first place.

Well, I do believe that Bruce’s Paper indicates the way and the level at which we should think for solving the intractable problems of our time. And therefore this paper is fundamental, and becomes universal.

Here’s is how he explains it himself:

“Begun as the Background Discussion Document for the First International Water Association (IWA) Leading Edge Sustainability (LES) Conference, this is the culmination of nine years of work. It also benefits from a career in Systems Thinking. Yet I am an Engineer; and Engineers rarely publish Concepts Papers. This one necessarily has to embrace all of the Triple Bottom Lines of social legitimacy, economic feasibility, and environmental benignity — and express them seamlessly. The experience has been an unending quest for me (and remains so); a path without end; a path without intellectual bumps. From neuroscience, personal well-being, human motivation, and a refurbished pluralist democracy, through the grand economic program of our writing “last environmental wills and testaments”, to the business of bio-diversity in ecosystem services, and the City as a Force for Good in the Environment — the goal of this intellectual odyssey has been to compose a Paper without borders between disciplines.Nothing less should be expected of Sustainability: a BIG idea; an overwhelming task for any author, of producing a “Manual of Practice for the Whole of Life”.(Emphasis added)

So this is not just about “concepts”, nor just about a Triple Bottom Line of the distant, inter-generational future, not just about a conjectured TBLfuture. The Sustainability Concepts Paper records who in 2011 — businesses, public utilities, non-governmental organizations, social entrepreneurs — is achieving the most at the frontiers of practice. Indeed, it reveals where this TBLfrontier is reaching beyond the imagination of any conceptual TBLfuture. “

“Arise then the self-confident Engineer!”, says Bruce Beck. “It is time for Engineers and Engineering to play their vital, inimitable parts in the great sustainability debate and experience of this new millennium.” (Emphasis added))

I will now leave it here, it is my intention in the days and weeks to come to come back and highlight some of the remarkable ideas that are hidden in Bruce’s work.


About charlesvanderhaegen

I am a grandfather of an immensely inspiring family, thanks to the most incredible wife. To satisfy my family's needs, I was for 30 years business entrepreneur, roller coasting between success and failure. 17 years ago I was forced to stop and reflect. I dug into theory and discovered the World out there, that my involvement in Business had kept hidden to me. I feared that I will not escape remaining amidst my trans-disciplinary quest forever, bouncing back and forth from action to theory, always puzzled by Europe's apparent incapacity to free itself from its Institutional/Technological Lock-ins. My horizon opened up when Gunter Pauly, my intimate friend of 35 years, asked me to join him and take charge ZERI's development in Europe. I am now fully engaged alongside Gunter Pauli in the http://www.zeri.org and the @myblueeconomy Networks as CEO of ZERI.EU vzw (Non for Profit association)
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One Response to A Paper Without Borders Between Disciplines, a Manual of Practice for the Whole of Life, A New Level of Thinking from which to Solve the Intractable Problems of Our Era.

  1. Pingback: Charles van der Haegen's Blog

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