By Idowu Ajibade (Sauvé Scholar 2008-09)
With more than three of this year’s Sauvé Scholars passionate about exploring the connections between environmental sustainability and socio-economic concerns, it was not surprising that the House gave a warm reception to the renowned ecological economist and conservationist, Professor Peter G. Brown for the launch of his most recent book – Right Relationship: Building a whole Earth Economy.The book provides a dispassionate, rational and compelling argument for the need to change our economic, political and social systems in order to properly steward the planet, and practical ideas on how to do so. Professor Brown was introduced by Philip Osano whom he had mentored during Philip’s time as a Sauvé Scholar, and continues to advise. He then treated the Scholars and guests – including his co-author, Geoffrey Carver – to a PowerPoint presentation that accentuated the salient arguments advanced in the excellent book.
In Right Relationship – Peter Brown and Geoffrey Garver use the core Quaker principle of ‘right relationship’ – interacting in a way that is respectful to all life and that aids the common good—as the foundation for a new economic model. Right Relationship poses five basic questions: What is an economy for? How does it work? How big is too big? What’s fair? And how can it best be governed? Brown and Garver expose the antiquated, shortsighted, and downright dangerous assumptions that underlie our current answers to these questions, as well as the shortcomings of many current reform efforts.
The duo propose new answers that combine an acute awareness of ecological limits with a fundamental focus on fairness and a concern with the spiritual, as well as material, well-being of the human race. Brown and Garver describe new forms of global governance that will be needed to get and keep the economy in right relationship with the earth and all life on the planet. Professor Brown emphasized that the recent global financial tsunami should be perceived as a blessing in disguise because it offers humanity a fresh start to shred into pieces the current economic model that promotes unlimited growth and wealth accumulation in a finite planet, in exchange for greener economy principles marked by waste reduction, limited exploitation of natural resources, control of human population and protection of all species and preservation of the beauty and resilience of the earth.
To prevent the earth from turning into a ‘spaceship economy’, what needs to be done, amongst many other things, is a conscious rethinking of our relationship with the natural environment, understanding that man is just a small speck amongst the millions of wonderful creatures and species inhabiting our finite earth, said Brown. The forward-thinking insights outlined in the presentation were welcomed by the Sauvé Scholars especially those who have woven their career and social campaign around global environmental sustainability.
With Marie-Marguerite Sabongui actively advising film and television shoots on sustainability; Idowu Ajibade working consciously to engage young people in finding solutions to the climate crisis in Africa, and Elizabeth Kirstin’s research on water and trans-boundary governance issues; it is safe to pronounce Sauvé Scholars – the next generation of environmental leaders following in the footsteps of the likes of Peter Brown and Geoffrey Garver. A lively Q & A period and a warm thank-you from Idowu Ajibade, who is mentored by Professor Brown this year, concluded the formal part of the event. During the reception that followed, the Scholars and guests enjoyed further discussions with the authors and took advantage of their presence to purchase their book and have it signed by both.