Encyclopaedia of Life Support Systems (EOLSS)

Comments by Anwar Fazal, Regional Coordinator, Asia Pacific 2000, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), for the EOLSS Regional Workshop (South and Southeast Asia), Kuala Lumpur, 18-20 March 1997.

The Spiritual

The spiritual basis and elements of the life sciences deserve key attention. Not only are “values” and “ethics” going to be central to fundamental transformational change, the spiritual basis gives them a foundation and accountability system. The recent set of five books produced by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) – “Ecology and Buddhism”, “Ecology and Christianity”, “Ecology and Hinduism”, “Ecology and Islam” and “Ecology and Judaism”, give an excellent treatment of this subject. A synthesis will be useful. An outstanding scholar for making such a contribution will be Dr. Fazlun Khalid, Director, Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environment Science, United Kingdom and also Coordinator, Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC).

Mapping the Earth

There is a need to review the kinds of maps that are used to portray and explain the world. Too often they use distorted cartography of an imperial era (e.g. the Mercator projection) are used. Increasingly, the Peters Projection is used but my favourite is Buchminister Fullers Dymaxion Sky – Ocean World map of the earth. It is a paradigm shift in format and truth regarding actual area. This project could make a major contribution by having a good section of mapping the Earth. I could suggest some World outstanding “map” experts, e.g. Ronald vere Tosley, Editor-in-Chief of Maps Collectors Circle and Charles Bricker, who together co-authored Landmarks of Mapmaking. A whole new genre of “eco-mapping” could emerge that could influence a mindset for a sustainable future.

Getting the First Food Right

Nutrition and food security is central to human security. “Modern” civilisation has severely undermined a “life force”, the first food – breast milk – a product that from the nutrition, ecology, economic, psyco-social and medical (immunological properties) is unbeatable. Instead it has been undermined, “substituted”, commodified and corporatised into a multi-billion dollar business. If we cannot get our first food right, we will sadly follow a track of unsustainability. An excellent contribution on nutrition with the ecological perspective can be provided by

a.       Dr.Naomi Baumslag, Professor, Medical Faculty, Georgetown University, author of Milk, Money and Madness.

b.        Dr Penny Von Esterik, Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto, author of Women and Work.

c.       Prof. Michael Latham, Professor of International Nutrition can provide the best global overview.

d.       Dr. Wenche Barth Eide, Director, Institute for Nutrition, Norway and Coordinator of the World Alliance for Nutrition Rights.


The Urbanising World

The explosion of urbanisation is unprecedented in history with enormous consequences for the environment. The UN “Summit” in Istanbul has brought out many dimensions. Of particular interest is the tumultuous change in China. I have in the list below suggested two China Watchers.

  • Diana Mitlin and David Satterthwaite of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IFED), United Kingdom – excellent for overview on urban environment.
  • Prof. Peter Newman, ISTP, Murdoch University, Australia – the world’s best on transportation and environment.
  • Prof. Leonard Duhl, Prof. of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley, founder of “Healthy Cities” movement.
  • Jorge Weilheim, Brazil, former Asst. Secretary General, UN Conference on Human Settlements.
  • Dr Ximena de la Barre, Urban Advisor, UNICEF, New York.
  • Prof Dr Yeu Man Yeung, University of Hongkong, leading authority on urbanisation and China.
  • Dr Lee Yuk Shiu, University of Hong Kong – expert on the urban environment of Asia.
  • Dr P Mathur, former Director, National Institute of Urban Studies – good on overview and governance issues in relation to urban settlements.

The Future of Ecology

Some of the most outstanding contributions of the literature of the future are contained in the “Encyclopedia of the Future” (2 volumes – Macmillan, a real treat for opening up the mind to future possibilities). An outstanding scholar, scientist and expert on information sciences in the following: Dr. Ziauddin Sardar, author of Exploration in Islamic Science, The Future of Islamic Civilisation and An Early Crescent – The Future of Knowledge and Environment in Islam. Dr. Ziauddin commutes between United Kingdom and Malaysia.


Two good contributors will be:

·                     Dr. David Korten, whose recent “bestseller” book – When Corporations Rule the World has been described by Bishop Desmond Tutu as a “must read”. He has an excellent chapter on “The Ecological Revolution”. David Korten also authored an important book on civil society’s contribution to Sustainable Development – Getting into the 21st Century. David is the President of the People Centered Development Forum based in New York, USA.

·                     David Hawkin, the author of The Ecology of Commerce could do a good piece that the greening of business is not only the only way but it also pays. David is also author of The Next Economy and is based in California, USA.

The Gender Agenda

Dr. Vandana Shiva is the most outstanding Asian and Global writer on bio-diversity and gender related issues in a holistic context. She is active in the Third World Network, a prolific writer and advocate. She wrote out of India.

The Water Wars

Water and Wetlands issues are going to be critical issues. A new organisation has been established called “Wetlands International” (I chair the Asia Pacific region). Among the most outstanding persons on this will be Dr Patrick Denny, Professor, Wetlands and Aquatic Ecology Department of the Institute for Infrastrutural Hydraulic and Environmental Engineering (IHE), Delft, The Netherlands.

Toward a Green Universe

It will be of importance of mention our place in the Universe, especially in relation to the management of “outer space” with the use of it as a “garbage dump”, the possibilities of life elsewhere and the general impact of movements in space and on the earth. The Life Sciences have to have this “universal” dimension. Perhaps, Arthur Clarke of “Space Odyssey 2000” fame who lives in Sri Lanka can contribute a piece.

A Natural Peace

Johan Galtung of Norway, probably the world’s leading authority on peace issues or Alice Boulding, the wife of the leading ecological economist, the late Kenneth Boulding can do a piece on “The Nature of Peace” and “The Peace of Nature”.

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