Remarks on the Fourth Interdisciplinary Conference on Evolution of World Order
Communications technologies now offer us unprecedented opportunities for networking, social activism and coalition building. One model, involving a Video Conference, was organized by educator Julia Morton-Marr last October at the Fourth Interdisciplinary Conference on Evolution of World Order at Ryerson University in Toronto. The topic: Implementation of Global Sustainability Education.
Other participating sites were Chestnut Hill Teachers College, Pennsylvania; Hall of States, C-SPAN, Ashford Institute, Washington, D.C.; Freie Universitaet Berlin, Germany and Pontifica Universidad Catholica madre y Maestra, Santa Domingo, The Dominican Republic. A series of carefully timed remarks set the stage for discussion, beginning with Dr. Paul Cappon, Director-General, Council of Ministers of Education in Canada. Toronto-based Professors, Helmut Burkhardt and Laura Westra, spoke on universal values and The Earth Charter. From Berlin, Eric Schneider and Heiner Benking, founders of World Future Schools spoke about ISLE, short for Informal Sustainability Learning Environment, a new online magazine focussed on youth leadership and success stories.
In my own remarks, on the use of media in sustainability education I pointed out that our capacity to manage communication technologies in ways that foster positive, transformative learning has not yet been matched by more destructive applications. Many of these are antithetical to Earth Charter principles where the emphasis is on mass media helping to raise awareness of ecological and social challenges.
Advertising messages now surface regularly as product placements in print media, films, and television programs. Over US $15 billion is spent annually in North America, alone, targeting children for consumption. The billion dollar pornography and video game industries have overtaken film and television production in annual revenues. Violence is used as a cheap commercial ingredient that sells well in a global market and translates easily into any language. All of this promotes materialism, impulsiveness, entitlement, unexamined brand loyalty, disengagement and cynicism toward parents and other authority figures. Such values are harmful, not just to individual health and happiness and sustainable democracies, but to the well being of our planet.
Indeed, one of the most distressing things about current trends is the incredible amount of time, energy, money and talent now being diverted from urgent challenges facing us all if we are to save ourselves from extinction as a species. According to Lester Brown of the WorldWatch Institute, mass media, the most powerful educator the world has ever known, is our only hope. So let's all speed up the process of transformative learning for a sustainable future! For how-to tips log onto
Author of MIND ABUSE: Media Violence In An Information Age
Co-author of MEDIA, SEX, VIOLENCE and DRUGS in the GLOBAL VILLAGE and Terrorism, Globalization & Mass Communication