For a Sustainable Global Society: Learning for Empowerment and Leadership

by Daisaku Ikeda, President, Soka Gakkai International



The following is excerpted from a proposal written by SGI President Daisaku Ikeda on the occasion of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June 2012.

[Photo by Daisaku Ikeda © Seikyo Shimbun]

Addressing the significance of the [Rio+20] Conference, Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), made the following powerful statement:

Sustainability is not exclusively or even primarily an environmental issue . . . It is fundamentally about how we choose to live our lives, with an awareness that everything we do has consequences for the 7 billion of us here today, as well as for the billions more who will follow, for centuries to come.

Today, there are widespread calls for a paradigm shift from the pursuit of material wealth to sustainability. To achieve this, we must of course review and revise current economic and environmental policies; but this will not be enough. Rather, we must interrogate the very nature of human civilization, from the ways in which our societies are organized to the manner in which we conduct our daily lives.

This is not to deny the reality that many societies will continue to prioritize economic growth. But I believe it is necessary for all societies to reexamine the underlying objectives and rationales for growth and be clearly aware of other priorities. I hope that the Rio+20 Conference will spur deep and earnest consideration of such questions.

The devastating earthquake that struck Japan in March last year brought these issues into stark relief . . .

Toward Sustainability

The loss of human life, the wounding of dignity, the destruction of the familiar nature and ecology of the community—such are the cruel outcomes wrought not only by natural disaster but by armed conflict and environmental degradation. In the case, for example, of climate change, no place can be fully free from risk over the long term; the impacts will be felt by all present inhabitants of Earth and, further, by future generations.

related article Education for Sustainable Development View exhibitions and other resources highlighting the importance of education for a sustainable future and SGI President Daisaku Ikeda’s environmental proposals. In this sense, shifting the orientation of human civilization toward sustainability requires that the issues involved be considered on an authentically human scale, within the context and experiences of daily life. This is where we must sense the full weight of life’s inalienable dignity, and reflect on what is truly important to us and what we must come together to protect.

This is why it is unacceptable to consider the pursuit of sustainability as simply a matter of adjusting policies in order to find a better balance between economic and ecological imperatives. Rather, sustainability must be understood as a challenge and undertaking requiring the commitment of all individuals. At its heart, sustainability is the work of constructing a society that accords highest priority to the dignity of life—the dignity of all members of present and future generations and the biosphere that sustains us . . .

To many people, sustainability evokes images of various constraints being imposed upon individuals and societies. But such a narrow approach will not give rise to the kind of transformative ripple effects that are required.

Although physical resources are finite, human potential is infinite, as is our capacity to create value. The real significance of sustainability is, in my view, as a dynamic concept in which there is a striving or competition to generate positive value and share it with the world and with the future.

To read the full text of the proposal, visit

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