KIT-Logo Gerhard Banse, Gordon L. Nelson, Oliver Parodi (Hrsg.)

Sustainable Development - The Cultural Perspective.
Concepts - Aspects - Examples

Berlin: edition sigma, 2011, ISBN 978-3-89404-945-4, 384 S., kart., 27.90 Euro
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This volume is the eighth in a series based on workshops that have been organized as an International Forum on Sustainable Technological Development in a Globalizing World.

A brief discussion about the origin of the Forum is important. Two universities, Florida Institute of Technology (Florida Tech) located in Melbourne, Florida, and the Budapest University of Technology and Economics (BME) have cooperated together beginning in 2001, supported by a U.S. State Department CUAP Grant for 3 years in the field of environmental protection and environmentally sustainable technologies (environmental studies). The then Department of Innovation Studies and History of Technology at BME also had long periods of cooperation with the Institute of Technology Assessment and Systems Research at the Research Center of Karlsruhe (ITAS/Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe, Germany) (now the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology - KIT, with the University of Basque Country, and with the former head of the Research Evaluation Unit of DG Research of the European Committee, Dr. Gilbert Fayl, (he also became foreign secretary of the European Academy of Sciences and the Arts). When BME and Florida Tech personnel met, in June 2002, in the beautiful small Hungarian town of Eger to conduct a "Sustainable Tourismus" workshop, Professors Gerhard Banse (KIT) and Imre Hronszky (BME) explained their idea to Professors Gordon Nelson (Florida Tech) and Nicanor Ursua (University of Basque Country) to initiate and develop a process to provide for a (loose) organizational forum for discussing how technological development can be made sustainable. It was decided that these institutions would try to develop and realize an annual international workshop devoted to this goal. Professor Imre Hronszky, Vice-President, and Mr. Peter Gresiczki, Secretary General of the Hungarian UNESCO Commission promised that the Hungarian UNESCO Commission would also do its best to support the Forum.

Sustainability Ideas & Topics

Three main ideas for a forum were put into focus. One was that a continuous discourse between European and US institutes could make the discourse truly trans-Atlantic. To this was added the perspective of UNESCO, and through this the thought that the views and interests of less developed countries should also be represented. It was agreed that a continuous effort should be made so that the workshops would be multi and transdisciplinary as far as possible and would represent different research and participant perspectives, including not only scientific researchers but also students, representatives of companies, governments, and NGOs. The topic for the first year was chosen to be: Rationality in an Uncertain World, for the second year International Sustainability, and for the third a look at the social visions around so-called "Converging Technologies", based on recent and expected developments of the nanotech, biotech, infotech and cognitive sciences.

Meeting Logistics and First Forum

Based on the invaluable importance of trans-Atlantic discussion, the initiators decided on trying to realize yearly workshops alternately in Florida and in Europe. So, the first Forum was held in Budapest, with BME as the local organizer in December, 2003. The second Forum was realized in February, 2005, in a modified form in Melbourne, Florida, at Florida Tech, and a third was held at BME in Budapest in December, 2005.

The first workshop was organized by Imre Hronszky and Gerhard Banse with thirty participants from 13 countries and 3 continents. They were not only professors in their specialty, but also students and governmental specialists, including the EC. Natural science, technology, social science and humanities were represented in the presentations.

Second Forum

The second Forum held February 21-23, 2005, on the campus of Florida Tech was entitled "Sustainability's New Age, Preservation & Planning (SNAP)".

Sustainability means different things to different people. How do we know that an activity or product is truly sustainable and for how long? Sustainability assessment requires a detailed factual basis, i.e., a comprehensive scientific foundation. The Forum's annual mission encompasses the humanities, social sciences, sustainable development, economics, environmental sciences as well as legal and policy aspects as they broadly intersect with the theme of environmental studies.

The February, 2005 meeting focused on introducing European colleagues to a typical US understanding of sustainability problems in the context of the environmental issues, science drivers and practices used in Florida - where rapid development and one of the world's largest tourism industries impact a particularly sensitive environment.

Available funding provided travel expenses for ten, non-US participants with critical expertise from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Korea, Romania, the United Kingdom and the Ukraine. The meeting brought together both environmental and social sciences, involving experts (and graduate students) in the fields of Biology, Business Management, Chemistry, Ecology, Economics, Engineering, Policy Making, Politics, Science Education, etc.

Third Forum

The Third Forum held in Budapest in December, 2005, concerned the convergence characteristics of typical technological developments of today.

It was one of the goals for the Forum that a follow-on book be published. That book would not be a proceedings, but would capture the flavor of the Forum and move beyond it. As mentioned at the beginning of this Preface, the workshops were organized in the framework of a Forum on Sustainable Technological Development in a Globalizing World. The materials of the first Forum were published by edition sigma, Berlin, in 2005. Its title was "Rationality in an Uncertain World" (eds.: Gerhard Banse, Imre Hronszky & Gordon Nelson). The second workshop was published in a series funded for the yearly reports of the cooperation of Florida Tech and BME/Budapest with the title "Environmental Studies: Implications for Sustainability" (eds.: Gordon Nelson & Imre Hronszky), Arisztotelesz Publishing Company, Budapest, 2005. It is also available on Florida Tech's website at Materials from the third workshop were published in 2007 by edition sigma, Berlin. Its title is "Assessing Societal Implications of Converging Technological Development" (eds.: Gerhard Banse, Armin Grunwald, Imre Hronszky & Gordon Nelson).

Fourth Forum

The fourth international, interdisciplinary forum, "Sustainable Pathways: New Research and Practices" was held on the Florida Tech campus in Melbourne, Florida, on March 6-7, 2007. The forum was a collaborative effort of the Florida Tech College of Business and the College of Science, with active involvement by BME/Budapest.

The forum took a holistic approach for the 100 attendees (coming from as far away as the Philippines), looking at sustainability issues from business, science and socio-political viewpoints. It was designed to appeal to a varied audience and offered the latest academic research and perspectives for practitioners and public policy makers. The forum began with a look at developments in ecotourism. Former Florida Governor, Bob Martinez, passionate about sustainability in public policy, was the keynote speaker. The final day of the forum offered a panel discussion on smart growth and regional planning, coordinated by Brevard County Commissioner, Sue Carlson. Other sessions included "Sustainability, Technology and Innovation", and "Renewable Energy", led by speakers and panelists from Florida Tech, BME and the European Commission.

A book was published with the title "An International Forum on Sustainability" (eds. Gordon Nelson & Imre Hronszky), Arisztotelesz Publishing Company, Budapest, 2008. It is also available on Florida Tech's website at

Fifth Forum

The Fifth Workshop entitled "Foresight, Roadmapping and Governance - Forum on Sustainable Technological Development in a Globalizing World" was held at BME in Budapest, December 7-8, 2007. Sponsors were BME, Florida Tech, KIT, and the Hungarian National Commission for UNESCO. There were 18 invited participants. There were 13 papers presented.

The 2007 Workshop concentrated on problems of relations of foresight, roadmapping, and governance of forefront technological development; methodological problems were concentrated upon. These included how trends solidify when some players are "overweight" in the dynamics, what the possible effects will be and how ethical assessment may help foresight and governance.

Work from the fifth forum has been recently published. It seemed worthwhile to unify Fifth Forum materials with selected presentations from a symposium on History of Prospective Technology Studies, in the framework of the XXII International Congress of History of Science and Technology, Budapest, July 2009. That symposium was actually organized by nearly the same persons who established the Forum. The publication will be a KIT-report (Karlsruhe 2011; eds.: Gerhard Banse, Armin Grunwald, Imre Hronszky & Gordon Nelson).

Sixth Forum

The 6th International Sustainability Forum was entitled "Sustainability 2009: The Next Horizon" and was held on the Florida Tech campus March 3-4, 2009.

As defined at a 1987 United Nations conference, sustainability is "Meeting present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs." This ambitious and critical goal is an enormous global challenge. To share knowledge and demonstrate what's happening in this area, Florida Tech's College of Science and College of Business hosted the sixth international sustainability forum with partner BME. The conference was a showcase of Florida Tech's involvement as a global player in sustainability. Its focus was on practical solutions to emerging sustainability issues from business, science and social-political viewpoints. It was designed to appeal to a varied audience and to offer the latest academic research and perspectives for practitioners and policymakers. With 175 registered for lectures (some 30 in number, with presenters from 7 countries), it was standing room only for some forum sessions. Participants filled the room to hear keynote presenter Michael Sole '86, Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. He spoke on "climate change, the most significant challenge of our lifetime", and related it to what's happening in Florida. Sole discussed the Sunshine State's sustainability issues and how the state government has risen to meet the challenges. He has also been involved in efforts to, among other things, increase energy efficiency in buildings, reduce greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles and increase the production and availability of renewable transportation fuels. "Both our economy and our way of life depend on our ability to preserve and maintain a healthy and sustainable marine and terrestrial ecosystem for Florida's future generations", he said. "The economy is always a factor in the ability to attain sustainability. Where resources are few and people are poor, it's difficult to make the necessary investments. The need for sustainability is real; the question is can or will people pay for it?"

More than a dozen Florida Tech researchers presented their sustainability research. They presented their work on such issues as abrupt climate change; climate change and coral reefs; predicting climate in Florida; sustainable tourism; economic drivers of sustainability; opportunities in reclaimed asphalt pavement; and the legal and policy developments of the United Nations on climate change. From the conference came three keys to sustainability. The first is that everyone must have clean water. There can't be good health without it and we have to figure out how to make that happen. Second, sustainability is a global issue because everyone on the planet is affected by the decisions of individual countries. Third, sustainability involves new technology. We need to use it correctly and cost-effectively. Summing up a major conclusion from the forum was that you can have the best environmental science, but it's of no use unless you have the proper economic and political climate. The resulting book captured the essence of and follows on from the 2009 Forum and was published as Gordon L. Nelson, Imre Hronszky (eds.): Sustainability 2009: The Next Horizon, Melville, New York, 2009, AIP Conference Proceedings, volume 1157.

Seventh & Eighth Forums

This current volume is a result of the Seventh and Eighth Forums. The Seventh Forum was held June 9-12, 2010 in Berlin. The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology hosted the event, which was organized around culture and sustainability. What we each value as a society, as a country, in our culture, is what we want to protect. What is sustainable is only what we value. This applies all the more to sustainable development which is planned for long time scales and therefore to go beyond individual sustainable technology solutions as well as economic and political cycles. What we hold in high regard is the result of cultural influences. Consequently, we need cultural change in the sense of sustainable development in order to secure sustainability pathways in the long term. The key question arising is whether and how this change can be brought about. The following Introduction leads us into the specific discussion.

At the end of the Seventh Forum, participants concluded that more specific case studies would be useful and recommended that the Eighth Forum provide a focus for case studies. Since the remainder of the Eighth Forum, held March 8-10, 2011, in Melbourne, Florida, focused on Alternative Energy with oral papers not really appropriate as written papers, it was decided to include the case studies in combination with those papers from Berlin to provide a holistic discussion of culture and sustainability. That is the concept for this volume.

Ninth Forum

The Ninth Forum (10th Anniversary) has been scheduled for June 2012 in Eger, Hungary, where the Forum series began in 2002.

Karlsruhe & Florida, June 2011

Gerhard Banse, Gordon Nelson, Oliver Parodi


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