ICE blogs

August 12, 2009

Why communication ethics lies at the heart of global sustainability

Filed under: Blogroll, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 4:38 pm

Robert Beckett argues that citizens need to demand their right to participate in the process of agenda-setting for global sustainability

Anyone looking ahead to the ‘civilisation defining’ decisions to be taken, or avoided, at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen later this year, should read the Earth Institute’s Plan B 3.0 (2008). It’s a substantial, exactingly researched summary of global sustainability issues and offers a template by which to judge the manoeuvres and commitments that must be made at the UN conference in December, 7-18th.

For interested watchers of global politics, the signs are not good. Never before have such enormous resource decisions been necessary and seldom have world leaders shown themselves to be above the over-riding self-interest that drives each nation state. The Kyoto Protocol (1997), which took ten years to negotiate, was a cake walk in comparison.

Plan B (3.0), and its author, Lester R. Brown, identify the solutions, but not the actions to ensure the solutions are implemented, which is where a considered practice of communication ethics is essential.

To ensure the legitimacy required for every decision and so that nation states don’t quietly opt out of their commitments, or water down the requirements for a just and long-lasting environmental settlement, citizens need to be involved at every level of decision-making. In addition to the citizen protected dialogue on how to implement the biggest change the world has ever had to face, transparency in informational resources must also be assured. By engaging billions of citizens to oversee the effective commitment of massive once-only resourcing, only clear rules of ‘dialogue participation’ and ‘information systems transparency’ can assure due process and equitable outcomes for all.

Such a huge undertaking not only requires a commitment to environmental targets, but to targets that ensure real democracy and civic participation are achieved across each nation state. New democratic practices are bound to be met with resistance by an embedded coterie of professional politicians and administrative functionaries . This is where citizens should concentrate, rather than on the targets themselves. Not by taking up arms, which will surely be the outcome of any failed global environment programmes, but by taking to every street, council and corner shop, demanding their right to participate in the process of oversight and agenda-setting for global sustainability.

Founded in the spirit of a communication ethics, such participation demands simple procedural recognition of the moral integrity of every individual in making decisions that effect all, a commitment to continuous and on-going dialogue. Anyone with children should welcome the chance to participate in a practice that assures the future of their offspring, while all others need to  convince themselves that a small group of self-interested professionals, or national warriors, are not leading the rest of us into oblivion. The Time is Now.

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