The Big Denial – interview with Johan Rockström and Anders Wijkman

17/05/2011 / Kaj

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Morals and ethics for sustainable development

The past weekend’s media coverage gave me reason to reflect on some fundamental questions about the attitude of individuals in a global world that is calling out for credible leaders. Here was Obama who gave permission for oil exploration in the Antarctic, sports leaders involved in bribery and sexual abuse, an IMF leader accused of sex crimes, the USA’s own “Bin Laden” who set up a private army for rich oil sheiks.

These were the most spectacular events, but there were also examples of more profound social crises relating to the survival of nations and sustainable development. One was about how the US would handle its budget deficit with one of the most expensive health care systems in the world, that cannot deliver health care to cover the entire population’s basic needs, and an education system that reinforces the gap between rich and poor.

We Swedes may have had the ability to work with taxes and other instruments that can deliver, but we have not reached a level where we meet the global sustainability challenges, some of which were highlighted in an excellent polemical article in the Dagens Nyheter newspaper on May 16.

One of the authors was John Rockström, who I interviewed with Anders Wijkman a week ago. One of my conclusions from the interview is that we need to strengthen our ambition for both accountability and behavioral changes.

Credibility/Accountability form one of the cornerstones for success in changing people’s behaviour patterns. The insight that morality and ethics are closely related to how one perceives a man’s credibility has been documented in many of the many crises society has gone through.

Leaders are particularly vulnerable and the question is whether we have a leadership that is credible in the long-term and courageous enough to deal with emerging issues in a sustainability perspective.

Of course it was one of my questions to John Rockström and Anders Wijkman when I interviewed them on the subject of accountability and behavioural change with the emphasis on how politicians and business leaders come to terms with the knowledge of our growing global threat.

Feel free to take part in the dialogue.

With regards

Kaj Embrén



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