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Education in Human Values

Planting the Seed of Sustainability in Young Minds
  • Rohana UlluwishewaEmail author
Living reference work entry

Abstract

Most conventional strategies adopted for achieving sustainability are designed to bring about external changes in the form of technological, institutional, and infrastructural changes. However, past experiences in development show without inner changes – changes in our values, which influence our attitudes and behavior – external changes are unable to achieve sustainability. Materialistic values such as money, material possessions, power, social status, recognition, fame, and reputation etc., dominant in our modern society cause our relationships with fellow human beings and with nature to be self-centered and exploitative, and our behavior unsustainable. To achieve sustainability, these external changes need to be supplemented with inner changes to bring a shift from materialistic values to human values: love, truth, right conduct, peace, and nonviolence, leading to relationships that are selfless, loving, and nonexploitative. Thus, human values can play a significant role in achieving sustainability. Recent discoveries in quantum physics and neuroscience have revealed that these human values are intrinsic to human beings and are hardwired in our brains. Education in human values is a program designed to bring out these values and guide our behavior and attitudes. Drawing on empirical evidence from the value-based water education implemented by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme in six African countries, this chapter highlights the potential capacity of education in human values to plant the seed of sustainability in young minds.

Keywords

Sustainability Intrinsic values Extrinsic values Human values Materialistic values Education Water management Universal consciousness Quantum-neuroscience 

Introduction

Sustainability is variously defined depending on the context in which the term is used. Following the concept and the definition of sustainability presented by the Brundtland Report (1987) there is a general agreement that sustainability entails meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Sustainability is also seen in three domains: (1) environmental sustainability : the ability of the environment to maintain its capacity to support the human society indefinitely, (2) economic sustainability : the ability of an economic system to maintain its production indefinitely, and (3) social sustainability : the ability of a social system to function at the defined level of social well-being indefinitely. Sustainability of environment, economy, and society is necessary for human society to be sustainable. Therefore, sustainability generally refers to the ability of the humankind to sustain itself indefinitely. It is now widely evident that the ability of the humankind to sustain itself is under threat. There is a growing concern about the capacity of the environment to support our survival. Some of the major concerns are global warming, loss of biodiversity, erosion of soil, and pollution and contamination of water and air. Beside these environmental concerns, there are also social and economic concerns. These include: overconsumption of Earth’s resources by the rich whose greed for material wealth and power results in the unequal distribution of resources, poverty , hunger, malnutrition, poor health, divisions and conflicts in social and political fields, and the breakdown of the family institution.

Most strategies that have been designed and adopted by development agencies and policy makers to achieve sustainability have almost exclusively aimed at bringing external changes: introduction of technologies which improve resource efficiency and substitution of nonrenewable resources with renewable resources; development of environment-friendly infrastructural facilities for production of goods and services such as transportation, communication, and housing; providing legal and administrative measures to control and regulate individuals’ behavior; and adopting environment-friendly public policies. There is no doubt that all these external changes are necessary to achieve sustainability goals. However, it has been pointed out that external changes are insufficient without inner changes in people (Ulluwishewa 2014, 2016). The success of external changes in achieving sustainability ultimately depends on how individuals value sustainability, their sense of responsibility for the well-being of others and the natural environment around them, and the extent to which they are willing to sacrifice their own comforts for sustainability of the humankind.

This is where values can play a crucial role in achieving sustainability goals. Values generally refer to beliefs and ideals shared by the members of a society about what is good or bad and desirable and undesirable. They are psychological representations of what we believe to be important in life (Rokeach 1973). Psychologists, sociologists, and anthropologists (Schwartz 2006; Williams et al. 2000; Kluckhohn 1951) view values as the criteria people use to evaluate actions, people, and events. They influence individuals’ behavior and attitudes and serve as broad guidelines in making choices in all situations. Schwartz (2006), in his theory of basic human values, identified ten basic human values that he claimed to be common in all cultures: self-direction, stimulation, hedonism, achievement, power, security, conformity, tradition, benevolence, and universalism. According to their congruities and conflicts, he clustered power and achievement into one group he calls the self-enhancement values , and benevolence and universalism into another group he calls the self-transcendent values . While self-enhancement values emphasize the pursuit of self-interests, the self-transcendent values involve concern for the welfare and interests of others. Kasser (2009), based on an extensive cross-cultural research, has identified a cluster of three materialistic values: (1) financial success, which concerns the desire for money and possessions; (2) image, which concerns the desire to have an appealing appearance; and (3) status, which concerns the desire to be popular and admired by others.

The present study, based on the origin of values and their relevance to sustainability, identifies two groups of values:
  1. 1.

    Intrinsic Values : These are the values that originate from within us and therefore are shared by all human beings regardless of their cultural, racial, or other personal differences. For instance, we all value love : everyone likes to love and be loved. In the same way, as it will be discussed in detail later in this chapter, all human beings value peace, truth, right conduct, and nonviolence . The intrinsic values encompass the values identified by Schwartz (2006) as transcendent values. As it will be pointed out later in this study, intrinsic values make our relationships with fellow human beings and with the environment selfless, loving, nonexploitative, and sustainable.

     
  2. 2.

    Extrinsic Values : Extrinsic values refer to the values that individuals learn from or are imposed by external sources such as the society, culture, education, and media, etc. Such values vary from culture to culture and over time. As cultures transform, their values change. Historically as human societies transformed from hunting and gathering to agricultural and then industrial and post-industrial, their extrinsic values have also changed. The extrinsic values encompass the values identified by Schwartz (2006) as self-enhancement values. As it will be pointed out later in this study, extrinsic values make our relationships with fellow human beings and with the environment self-centered, unloving, exploitative, and unsustainable.

     

This chapter first discusses the definition of intrinsic and extrinsic values and how they differ in origin and characteristics. Recent discoveries in quantum physics and neuroscience provide evidence that intrinsic values stem from the “Golden Rule” and altruistic love hardwired in the human brain, and are therefore common to all human beings. The discussion highlights the potential capacity of intrinsic values, also known as core human values, to guide individuals towards sustainability. The role of extrinsic values, with special emphasis on materialistic values in modern industrialized societies, is also discussed. With the help of empirical evidence, this section outlines how materialistic values cause our relationships with others and with the environment to be self-centered, unloving, exploitative, and unsustainable, and highlights the importance of shifting from materialistic to human values to achieve sustainability. The final section of this chapter introduces the program of education in human values (EHV) , and drawing on evidence from the value-based water education undertaken by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), demonstrates the potential capacity of EHV for planting the seed of sustainability in young minds.

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Values

As already mentioned, intrinsic values originate from within, from our inner reality, from what we really are. What is our inner reality? Perhaps, the best way to discover our inner reality rationally is to look into ourselves through a powerful microscope. If we do so, we will discover the energy which fills each and every atom of our body. Thus, our ultimate reality is energy and it represents 99.999% of what we call “I.” The same energy that fills the atoms of our body fills the universe too. In spite of its vastness, the Universe, a mass field of energy, functions as an inseparable and indivisible single field of energy, or as “a single undivided whole” as described by Bohn (1980), Bohn and Hiley (1993), a renowned theoretical physicist. Recent scientific discoveries reveal that the Universe, “the single undivided whole,” is alive, aware, and conscious. The view that the Universe is conscious, which has so far been a philosophical concept, is now supported by prominent scientists. Elgin (2009), a bestselling author and speaker, in his book The Living Universe brings together extraordinary evidence from cosmology, biology, and physics to show that the universe is not dead but rather uniquely alive. Referring to the consciousness of electrons, he quotes Freeman Dyson, a theoretical physicist, as saying “matter in quantum mechanics is not an inert substance but an active agent, constantly making choices between alternative possibilities. It appears that mind, as manifested by the capacity to make choices, is to some extent inherent in every electron.” He thinks it is reasonable to believe in the existence of a “mental component of the universe.” Using scientific evidence he shows that consciousness is present in molecules consisting of no more than a few simple proteins. Phillip Cohen, one of the researchers who made the discovery, has stated that “we were surprised that such simple proteins can act as if they had a mind of their own.” Lanza (2009), a prominent American scientist, presenting his theory of “Biocentrism ,” says that the universe is fine-tuned for life and life creates the universe, not the other way around. The conscious and living universe is widely called Universal Consciousness . It is our inner reality and what we really are. Some call it Ultimate Reality, Higher Self, Spiritual Self, and Infinite Self. This is what is called God in most religions, according to Haisch, a German-born American astrophysicist. He states in his book The God Theory (2009) that consciousness is not a mere epiphenomenon of the brain; it is our connection to God, the source of all consciousness. Ultimately it is consciousness that creates matter and not vice versa.

The Universal Consciousness (God), while remaining as an indivisible and inseparable single entity at the quantum level, manifests itself at the material level as separate forms, e.g., rocks, soils, plants, animals, and human beings, creating the material world. Thus, conscious energy manifests itself as matter. Though we perceive ourselves as separate individuals at the material level, at the quantum level, we all are interconnected and remain as inseparable parts of the Universal Consciousness. In the words of Lanza (2017):

Our individual separateness in space and time is, in a sense, illusory. We are all melted together, parts of an organism that transcends the walls of space and time. This is not, you understand, a fanciful metaphor. It is a reality.

Recent discoveries in neuroscience suggest that this inseparability, interconnectedness, or oneness is hardwired in our brain as an inner urge to connect with others and serve others. Just as neurons connect and communicate with each other, brains strive to connect with one another says Cozolino (2006), an American psychologist and social neuroscientist. He considers brain as a social organ. Lieberman (2013), an American social neuroscientist, points out that our need to connect with other people is wired in our brain, and it is even more fundamental than our need for food and shelter. He argues that if people are motivated only by self-interest, how can we explain why folks cooperate, ensuring that they will earn less? He believes that people are even more motivated by something beyond self-interest: the drive for social connection. In addition to being self-interested, we are also interested in the welfare of others.

Pfaff (2007), an American neuroscientist, based on recent discoveries in neuroscience, says the human brain is hardwired to act according to the Golden Rule – one should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself – which represents common-sense ethics, and is the ultimate, all-encompassing principle for moral behavior. He explains how specific neural circuits in our brain cause us to perceive our actions toward another as they were going to happen to us, prompting us to treat others as we wish to be treated ourselves. In his recent book, Altruistic Brain: How We Are Naturally Good, Pfaff (2015) demonstrates that human beings are hardwired to behave altruistically in the first instance, such that unprompted, spontaneous kindness is our default behavior; such behavior comes naturally, irrespective of religious or cultural determinants. This view is further supported by the discovery of what neuroscientists call “Mirror Neurons ,” which enable us to experience others’ pain and be empathetic (Rizzolatt and Crighero 2004). The mirror neurons instantly project into the other person’s shoes and enable us to experience the other’s feelings. The mirror neurons represent a basic biological mechanism inherent in all individuals and it is the biological foundation of the golden rule.

What is this force which comes from within us to prompt us to connect with others, serve others, be empathetic towards others, and act for their well-being altruistically? This is “Unlimited Love” according to Post (2003), a Professor of Bioethics and Family Medicine and President of the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love in USA. In his Unlimited Love: Altruism, Compassion and Service he defines love as:

The essence of love is to affectively affirm as well as to unselfishly delight in the well-being of others, and to engage in acts of care and service on their behalf; unlimited love extends to all others without exception, in an enduring and constant way. Widely considered the highest form of virtue, unlimited love often demands a creative presence underlying and integral to all of reality: participation in unlimited love constitutes the fullest experience of spirituality. Unlimited love may result in new relationships, and deep community may emerge around helping behaviour, but this is secondary. Even if connections and relations do not emerge, love endures. (p. vii)

This is the purest form of love which is unselfish, unconditional, and unlimited. It does not expect anything in return: love for the sake of love. It is different from what we call love in our ordinary life: love of a mother toward her child which is affection, love that exists between wife and husband which is infatuation, love that exists among friends and relations which is affection, and love toward material objects which is desire. It manifests itself in various forms such as acceptance, forgiveness, compassion, kindness, tolerance, generosity, sharing, empathy, and selfless service. The foundation of love is not our feelings or emotions towards others, but our inner interconnectedness or oneness with others at the quantum level. It is the very nature of humanness and is natural to us. From this perspective, the opposite word to love is not hatred but separateness, individuality, or self-centeredness. It is the basis of our intrinsic values. Intrinsic values are what we would value if our thoughts are guided by the hardwired oneness, altruism and the Golden Rule. The UN-Habitat, in its Value-Based Water Education (VBWE) project which will be discussed later in this chapter, has identified five such values on the basis of the teachings of Sathya Sai Baba (1926–2011), a spiritual teacher who lived in India: love, truth, right conduct, peace, and nonviolence (Unhabitat 2002, p. 3). Since all these values are shared by all human beings regardless of racial, cultural, and class differences, they are called here “Core Human Values.”1

If our thoughts are guided by the oneness of the Universal Consciousness hardwired in our brain, we would know that the separateness we perceive in our ordinary life in the material world is an illusion. Hence, we would not highly value “I” and what “I” needs for its survival and to experience pleasure. Instead, we would highly value what is intrinsic to us: the core human values. These core human values are interdependent. Truth constitutes (1) the absolute truth, the things that never change such as the Universal Consciousness (God) and its oneness, and (2) the relative truth, things we perceive to be true and therefore value. Love arises from the understanding that we all are interdependent, interconnected, and integral parts of the same whole. Therefore, where there is absolute truth, there is love. Where there is truth and love, there are right conduct and nonviolence, because when we act from the understanding that we are all one, our conduct brings well-being to all and therefore it is right and it will never be violent. On the other hand, if one value disappears, then all the values will disappear. For instance, where there is no love, one will become selfish and act only for one’s own benefit. Such a person is likely to engage in wrong conduct and violence. The VBWE program further subdivides these five core human values into their practical applications as follows (Unhabitat 2002, p. 4):
  • Love: Caring, compassion, dedication, devotion, friendship, forgiveness, generosity, helping, consideration, kindness, patience, sharing, sincerity, sympathy, and tolerance

  • Truth : Curiosity, discrimination, equity, honesty, integrity, intuition, memory, quest for knowledge, reason, self-analysis, self-awareness, self-knowledge, spirit of inquiry, synthesis, truthfulness, understanding

  • Right Conduct : Cleanliness, courage, dependability, duty, endurance, ethics, gratitude, goal setting, good behavior, good manners, healthy living, helpfulness, initiative, leadership, obedience, patience, perseverance, proper use of time, protection, resourcefulness, respect, responsibility, sacrifice, self-confidence, self-sufficient, serving, simplicity, teamwork, will

  • Peace : Attention, calm, concentration, contentment, dignity, discipline, focus, happiness, humility, individualism, inner silence, optimism, satisfaction, self-acceptance, self-control, self-discipline, self-respect

  • Nonviolence: Appreciation, appreciation of other cultures and religions, brotherhood, citizenship, concern for all life, co-operation, equality, fellow feeling, loyalty, minimum natural awareness, respect for property, service, social justice, unity, universal love, unwillingness to hurt

However, in our ordinary life, our thoughts are not guided by the oneness hardwired in our brain. When we experience ourselves and the rest of the world through our senses, we perceive ourselves as entities separated from each other and from the environment. The brain’s neuroplasticity – the ability of the brain to change itself in response to our interactions with the external world – allows the perceived separateness to be “soft-wired ” (Merzenich 2013) in our brain. Therefore, our thoughts are guided, not by the hardwired oneness but by the soft-wired separateness, and therefore we perceive ourselves as entities separated from others and from the environment. This gives rise to “I”-centeredness or self-centeredness. For each of us, “I” is the most important thing and we value “I” most, and then the things in the material world that “I” needs for its survival and pleasure, e.g., money, material possessions, power, social status, recognition, fame, and popularity, etc. These materialistic values or the “self-enhancement values” as Schwartz (2006) called them, become internalized. How do materialistic values become internalized (or soft-wired) in our brain? Kasser (2009) suggest two pathways:
  1. 1.

    Social Modeling : Social modeling involves the extent to which individuals are exposed to people or messages in their society suggesting that money, power, achievement, image, and status are important aims to strive in life. The empirical evidence provided by the authors show how the people’s level of materialism is determined by that of their parents, friends, and peers; how advertising internalizes materialistic values in people; and how the exposure to advertising in schools promotes strong materialistic concerns.

     
  2. 2.

    Insecurity: Based on empirical evidence they have documented, the authors suggest that people tend to orient towards materialistic aims when they experience threats to their survival, their safety, and their security. For instance, children are more likely to be materialistic when they grow up in insecure environments, e.g., in broken families, controlling parents, and in poverty. Some experiments have revealed that economic hardships and poor interpersonal relationships lead people to care more about materialistic aims. In situations that promote insecurity, people tend to become self-interested and more concerned about acquisition of material possessions.

     

The neuroplasticity of the brain allows us to change these soft-wired values if we want to do so. Research findings in neuroscience reveal we have the capacity to re-wire our brain and change it permanently and transform ourselves (Begley 2007; Arden 2010; Newberg and Waldman 2015). This is particularly true for children. Research and experiments undertaken with children have shown that at a younger age, before materialistic values are firmly wired in the brain, their behavior is mostly guided by hardwired intrinsic human values. Tomasello (2008), an American psychologist, says that children show altruism in their behavior. They do not get this from adults but it comes naturally. According to his research findings, children have an almost reflective desire to help, inform, and share and they do so without expectations or desire for reward. Warneken and Tomasello (2013) believe children are naturally altruistic. His studies reveal toddlers as young as 14 months show spontaneous helping tendencies, the precursor to altruism. This evidence suggests that if we want a value-shift in our society, a shift from extrinsic materialistic values to intrinsic human values, it is wise to do it with our younger members, the future decision-makers and leaders and the best ambassadors to bring about this value transformation. The EHV is a program designed to achieve this goal.

Values, Relationships, and Sustainability

Values determine one’s perceptions, attitudes and behaviors. Extrinsic materialistic values lead to the perception that we are independent entities separated from others and the natural environment, and the belief that it is okay to exploit others and the earth’s resources for our pleasure and well-being. Such a perception and belief leads to unloving, self-centered, and exploitative relationships in which we take more from and give little to the other party, and to anti-sustainable attitudes and behaviors. On the other hand, intrinsic human values lead to the perception that we are dependent on and connected to others and the natural environment, and to the belief that our well-being is dependent on the well-being of others and the natural environment. Such a perception and belief lead to loving, selfless, and nonexploitative relationships , and pro-sustainable attitudes and behaviors. This view is supported by empirical evidence provided by psychologists. A cross-cultural study undertaken by Schwartz (1992, 2006) has revealed that materialistic values are associated with caring less about values such as “protecting the environment,” “attaining unity with nature,” and having “a world of beauty.” In samples of American adults, both Richins and Dawson (1992) and Brown and Kasser (2005) have found that materialistic values are negatively associated with how much people engage in ecologically friendly behaviors such as riding one’s bike, reusing paper, buying second-hand, recycling, etc.

Similarly, Gatersleben et al. (2008); Kasser (2005), based on their sample studies in the USA and UK, have reported that adolescents with a stronger materialistic orientation are less likely to turn off lights in unused rooms and recycle and reuse papers. Some have provided evidence that shows the correlation between values and exploitation of natural resources. Brown and Kasser (2005) have examined the ecological footprints of 400 North American adults and found that those who cared more about materialistic values used significantly more of the Earth’s resources in order to support their lifestyle choices around transportation, housing, and food. Furthermore, Kasser (2011) obtained measures of the ecological footprints and carbon emissions of 20 wealthy, capitalistic nations and correlated these with measures of how much the citizens in those nations cared about materialistic values. As predicted, the more materialistic the citizens of a nation, the more CO2 that nation emitted and the higher that nation’s ecological footprint. Research undertaken by Sheldon and McGregor (2000), using a resource dilemma game, has revealed that materialistic individuals are more motivated by greed for profit and they are more likely to make ecologically destructive decisions. This evidence suggests that to the extent individuals are materialistic, they are more likely to have negative attitudes about the natural environment, are less likely to engage in environment-friendly behaviors, are more likely to make behavioral choices that contribute to environmental degradation, and are more likely to have self-centered, unloving, and exploitative relationships with the environment.

There is also evidence to substantiate the perceived correlation between values and human relationships. Cohen and Cohen (1996), and Schwartz (1996) reveal that a strong materialistic value orientation tends to conflict with the desire to help the world be a better place and to take care of others. Kasser and Ryan (1993) and McHoskey (1999) show that people strongly focused on materialistic values are also lower in social interests, pro-social behavior , and social productivity and are more likely to engage in anti-social acts. Kasser et al. (2003) have provided evidence to show that the love relationships and the friendships of those with a strong materialistic value orientation are relatively short and are characterized more by emotional extremes and conflict than by trust and happiness. Drawing on evidence from research studies undertaken by psychologists, they have revealed that compared to those with a low materialistic value orientation, people who are strongly focused on materialistic values are less empathetic, more often use their friends to get ahead in life, score higher in Machiavellianism , (Using clever but often dishonest methods that deceive people so that you can win power or control (Cambridge Dictionary).) and are more likely to compete than cooperate with their friends. Furthermore, Kasser (2002), in his book High Price of Materialism, points out how materialistic values undermine our interpersonal relationships. This evidence suggests that to the extent that individuals value materialistic goals, their relationships with fellow human beings are more likely to be unloving, self-centered, and exploitative.

The anti-sustainable attitudes and behaviors driven by extrinsic materialistic values create obstacles to sustainability that cannot be resolved by technological, infrastructural, and institutional means used in conventional development. Such obstacles can only be resolved by the transformation of values from extrinsic to intrinsic values. The empirical evidence provided above reveals that those who hold materialistic values consume more and have larger ecological footprints . Overconsumption of the Earth’s resources by the rich in consumer societies is now recognized as an obstacle to sustainability. It constrains sustainability directly by reducing the capacity of the Earth’s resources to sustain human society and indirectly by worsening poverty and inequality. Mass production of the developed industrialized countries need mass consumption without which it cannot sustain itself. The consumer society and its overconsumption emerged to meet this need. Now it is often call “affluenza .” Graaf et al. (2001) in their book Affluenza: All Consuming Epidemic describe it as: “a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from dogged pursuit of more” (p. 2). As Hamilton and Denniss (2005) pointed out in their book Affluenza: When Too Much Is Never Enough, overconsumption constitutes three aspects: (1) people consume more than their income allows so that they become indebted; (2) they have to overwork because they feel they have to work longer and harder to meet ever-rising aspirations, imposing severe cost and strain on health and relationships; and (3) heavy consumption generates a lot of waste, causing heavy pressure on the environment. This lifestyle of the consumer society is simply unsustainable. For instance, Americans constitute 5% of the world’s population but consume 24% of the world’s energy. It has been estimated that if China was to increase its car ownership to the US level, it would need to pave over an area for parking lots and roads equivalent to more than half of its current rice-producing land. On average, one American consumes as much energy as 13 Chinese, 31 Indians, 128 Bangladeshis, 307 Tanzanians, and 370 Ethiopians. It is said that if rest of the world would consume at the same rate as the USA, four complete planets the size of the Earth would be required. Clearly, sustainability cannot be achieved while maintaining this high level of consumption. It is widely accepted that a shift from fossil fuel to renewable energy is necessary to achieve sustainability goals, especially to reverse climate change. But, Trainer (2007), with the support of substantial empirical evidence, revealed that renewable energy cannot sustain the consumer society. Hamilton and Denniss (2005) identified overconsumption by the rich as a prime cause of poverty and inequality which constrains sustainability. It is generally accepted that the world’s resources are sufficient to meet our needs but not to meet our greed. If the rich and greedy consume more, the others will not be able to meet their needs. Then, poverty occurs, threatening sustainability.

There is a deep rooted belief in materialistic societies that having more money and the things that money buys make us happier. Therefore, one’s income and material possessions are highly valued, and economic growth as measured by gross domestic product (GDP) is considered as the ultimate goal of development. But, the GDP does not take into account the environmental and social cost of economic growth . The high priority given to economic growth undermines sustainability in numerous ways. Economic growth generates more employment and higher incomes which in turn increase demand for goods and services. The increasing demand further stimulates economic growth. Hence, our drive for economic growth is endless. It continuously puts pressure on the Earth’s limited resources and generates wastes and pollutants, reducing nature’s capacity to regenerate resources and threatening sustainability. Governments of almost all countries want to further economic growth and corporations want to increase profit. In pursuing economic growth, governments set short-term targets – to accomplish goals before the next election. Corporations seek short-term profits. Both fail to pay attention to long-term environmental consequences of their actions. Corporate greed is an outcome of the values held by the executives. According to Hersh Shefrin, a professor of finance in the USA, executives view their personal millions and corporate profits as a way to measure their success relative to that of their peers, rather than as something to be spent (Fox 2010). Greed occurs when the natural human impulse to collect and consume useful resources like food, material wealth, or fame overwhelms the constraints that maintain the social ties in a group. When a person acquires resources, neurochemicals are released in the brain that causes pleasure. Greed is simply the addiction to that pleasure. “When we gather resources, we feel good. And because we feel good, we want more” says Andrew Lo, an MIT professor (Fox 2010). The environmental consequences of corporate greed for short-term profit are well documented.

The breakdown of the family which is becoming increasingly common in modern societies poses a threat to sustainability. Research evidence shows that while the couple’s high focus on materialism leads to marital dissatisfaction and breakdown of families, the breakdown of families make children more materialistic. A study undertaken by Dean et al. (2007) on materialism, perceived financial problems, and marital satisfaction has revealed that husbands’ and wives’ materialism is positively related with increased perception of financial problems which is in turn negatively associated with marital satisfaction. They have also found that materialism had negative association with marital quality, even when both spouses were equal in their materialistic values. According to their findings, when both spouses hold equally low materialistic values, their marital quality is likely to be better off than the couples in which one or both spouses hold high materialistic values. Marital dissatisfaction of the couples with high focus on materialism is most likely to lead to divorce. In a survey undertaken by Aric Rindfleish and his colleagues, 165 participants from nondivorced families were compared with 96 from divorced families and found that the latter were more likely to be materialistic (cited in Kasser et al. 2003). As pointed out by psychologists, children of divorced parents are likely to be more materialistic. Kasser et al. (2003) states that

When families experience divorce, parents’ ability to engage in optimal parental practices often diminishes, leading children to experience lessened warmth and nurturance. As a result, many children turn to materialistic pursuits as a way of trying to fill this gap and feel safer, secure, and connected to others. This strategy does not seem to be very effective. (p. 32)

Can sustainability be achieved only by external means without shifting from materialistic to core human values? Evidence shows that the obstacles to sustainability discussed above cannot be resolved by technological, infrastructural, and institutional means. As already seen, they are products of materialistic values and they can be resolved only by changing values. Furthermore, the values that people hold and base their attitudes and behaviors on are probably the most crucial factor for deciding whether they do or do not support sustainability. This is because, arguably, if people do not support sustainability, all technological, institutional, and infrastructural measures undertaken for sustainability are bound to fail. “Most advocates of sustainable development recognize the need for changes in human values, attitudes, and behaviours in order to achieve a sustainability transition that will meet human needs and reduce hunger and poverty while maintaining the life support systems of the planet” (Leiserowitz et al. 2006, pp. 413–444). Ikerd (2015) believes that we have created an unsustainable economy and society because we have accepted as facts only those things that were based on materialistic value system that are inherently in conflict with the values of sustainability. Dahl (2001), former director of the United Nations Environmental Programme, recognizes values as the missing ingredient in most approaches to sustainable development. He states that “Grand declarations and detailed action plans, even when approved by all the governments, do not go far if people are not motivated to implement them in their own lives” (p. 5). Kasser (2009) suggested that “if we are to promote ecological sustainability, we must not focus solely on technological shifts and ‘buying green,’ but instead must consider the kinds of values that people hold, for these values can either lead individuals and nations to act in ecologically-destructive or ecologically-sustainable ways” (p. 199).

Education in Human Values and Sustainability

This section introduces the education in human values (EHV) program and then, drawing on empirical evidence from the Value-Based Water Education (VBWE) program implemented by the UN-Habitat in six African countries, highlights the potential capacity of the EHV to plant the seed of sustainability in young minds. Today’s formal education is oriented towards imparting the knowledge and skills necessary for wealth generation, and so many educational institutions produce individuals who are rich in worldly knowledge and skills but with poor human values. Yet, education can be an effective tool for guiding the younger generation towards human values and for passing the understanding of human values to parents as well. Young minds are not yet fully conditioned by the materialistic values dominant in modern society. If guided at a young age, they will be able to bring out the human values from within. Some philosophers and spiritual teachers have already taken initiatives to develop human value-based educational institutions. Sathya Sai Baba has founded an education in human values program which later came to be known as Sathya Sai Education in Human Values (SSEHV) . This is a multicultural, multi-faith self-development program designed for children and young people all over the world. The aim of the SSEHV program is to help children to realize their innate goodness, to bring out the inherent values of love, truth, right conduct, peace, and nonviolence and help them to sustain it by regular practice. In this program, it is emphasized that human values cannot be taught but have to be brought out from within. Teachers and parents both play a critical role in bringing out these values. While parents are the primary character trainers, teachers are responsible for incorporating human values teaching into lessons and leading by example.

There are over 70 Sathya Sai schools in India with an enrolment exceeding 16,000 students and 700 teachers. Outside India, there are 41 schools in 26 countries. Apart from the schools, the SSEHV program is introduced as appropriate in the public sector schools in 69 countries. The schools are philanthropically funded private schools. Literature published by the schools’ and parents’ testimonials document their children putting human values into practice in daily life. “Parents comment frequently that their children are calmer, more considerate and compassionate. There are even reports of children setting an example for parents to discontinue negative habits” (Rousseau 2013). The Sathya Sai School of Ndola, Zambia, has been awarded the International Gold Star Award for Quality in terms of leadership, innovation, training, and excellence in education. This school was started in 1992. Right from the start, they took only students who did not fit into standard schools – they had been failed and been thrown out. Many were trouble makers. Nevertheless, in the second year, the school had 93% passing rate on the national exams, and for the next 7 years, they had a 100% passing rate (Satyasaiuk 2017). This school came to be known as “miracle school.” The school has become very famous and is often mentioned in the press (cited in Satyasaiuk 2017):

Today to say the Sathya Sai Baba private school is the best school would be an understatement. The school which is situated in Ndola, Pamodzi Township has overshadowed all schools in Zambia again. The school has been hailed by many as a success story. Times of Zambia 12-02-96

Sathya Sai has all it takes to be called a miracle school. Former truants, dunces and those considered untouchables are shaped into disciplined and hardworking students. Times of Zambia 26-04-97

Similarly, it has been reported that the Sathya Sai School in Toronto, Canada, has also produced excellent performance in results (Rousseau 2013). Drawing on evidence from Sathya Sai schools in Canada, Australia, and Thailand, the author reveals the capacity of the EHV values program to produce a generation of youths with goodness, love, and compassion.

It is with the collaboration of The Institute of Sathya Sai Education in Zambia that the UN-Habitat initiated the VBWE program as a part of its Water for African Cities Programme in 2001. There was a growing recognition that “improvements in water management cannot be accomplished by technical and regulatory measures alone; these must be complemented with changes in behaviour and in attitudes to the use of water in society” (UNESCO 2012, p. 436). A valued-based water education program was necessary to generate changes in attitudes and behaviors. The human values approach for water education was recommended by an expert group meeting which comprised of international and regional experts on urban water management and education. They have observed that the national goal – provision of adequate cost-effective and good water supply to all – cannot be achieved only by external means, and introduction and implementation of the human values approach to water education through formal, nonformal, and informal channels of learning is a promising strategy to bring a positive and lasting change in attitudes and behavior towards water at all levels of society.

The VBWE program was launched in six African cities: Abidjan in Cote d’Ivoire, Accra in Ghana, Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, Dakar in Senegal, Lusaka in Zambia, and Nairobi in Kenya over a period of 18 months. The broad aim of the project was to facilitate changes in behavior and personal attitudes among water consumers and to promote better understanding of the environment in a water context. The project is:

a strategic entry point to bringing about positive attitudinal changes among both water consumers and providers, and in the longer term, can help develop a new water-use ethic in society. Children and youth are the best ambassadors to bring these attitudinal changes. Water education in schools and communities can therefore play an important role in bringing about a new water-use ethic in cities. (Unhabitat 2002, p. 2)

This section, drawing evidence from the documents published by the UN-Habitat on VBWE project, demonstrates the significance of human values in achieving sustainability in urban water management. It shows external measures are insufficient to achieve sustainability without bringing out the intrinsic core human values from within, how EHV brings out these values, and the potential capacity of the EHV in planting the seed of sustainability in young minds.

All technological, infrastructural, and institutional measures necessary for collection, purification, storage, and distribution of water for urban dwellers in all six cities were well in place, but sustainable use and management of water was impaired by a set of issues that cannot be addressed solely by technological, infrastructural, and institutional means. Some of these issues identified were water wastage, pollution of water, illegal connections, vandalism, nonpayment and late payment of water bills, tampering of water meters, corruption, and poor sanitation and poor hygiene. The root cause of these issues lies within people, specifically in their values. Kanu (2002) Director, African Institute of Sathya Sai Education, who acted in close collaboration with the project management, stated that:

It is people who use water. People waste and pollute water; industry owners contaminate water; the wealthy monopolise available water at the expense of the poor and the less powerful; ignorance and misconceptions of the value of water – on the part of the poor – lead to wastage and result in unnecessary hardships. At the same time, institutional policing of water usage, to promote its efficient exploitation, has, on the whole, been costly and ineffective. (p. 19)

Wastage of water has been identified as one of the very serious issues. Andre, D., Programme Manager, Water for African Cities Programme, stated that “while the urban poor struggle for water, more than half the water abstracted and treated at a high cost is wasted due to leakage and profligate use. There is a growing understanding that regulation of much of this wastage cannot be accomplished by technical and regulatory measures alone” (Unhabitat 2002, p. 2). Gravity of the wastage of water has been identified in the all six cities. Barraque (2011) has highlighted the wastage of water in South African cities. He has identified wasteful domestic water use through community standpipes being left running and household water leaks being left unattended. While Hailu (2002) has attributed misuse and wastage of water in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) to profligate use, unnecessary leakages, and evaporation, Oto and Alaye (2002) have identified some irresponsible behavior of the water consumers in Accra (Ghana). They have stated that:

In our cities and towns, the main source of water is pipe-borne, which is supplied at great cost. But unfortunately some people misuse this facility. This has resulted in the wastage of millions of gallons of water. For example, taps are left running when the water is most needed; burst pipelines are ignored for hours before action is taken to remedy the situation; water hoses are used to wash cars and in the process they are left on the ground to go to waste; gardens are flooded with treated water because the hoses are left to run freely on the ground. (p. 24)

Corruption is another obstacle to sustainability that cannot be resolved by external means without changing values. Plummer and Cross (2006) identified four forms of corruption in water and sanitation sector in African counties: (1) abuse of resources – theft and embezzlement from budgets and revenues, (2) corruption in procurement which results in overpayment and failure to enforce quality standards, (3) administrative corruption in payment systems, and (4) corruption at the point of service delivery. The ultimate victim of all these forms of corruption is the poor. As pointed out by IRIN (2013) wealthy or politically connected people use their position to unduly influence the location of a water source at the cost of the poor. Most low-income squatter settlements in cities are not connected to water distribution networks, and poor people living in such areas have to seek alternative means for water. Water kiosks run by private providers is the common alternative for the urban poor . The providers purchase water in bulk from the authorities and establish supply points where householders queue for water. Referring to the sales of water by water kiosks in squatter settlements in Nairobi, Plummer and Cross (2006) revealed that the price for water is fixed and competitive within the squatter settlement, although it is five times the price of utility water, and varies according to the season and availability. The unduly high price of water provided by water kiosks is partly attributed to the corruption of the Nairobi Water Utility officials in meter reading, billing, and collection.

There appears little the providers can do to bring the bills back in line. And so they tip the officials to revise the bills. The irregularity of the bulk water supply to the provider kiosks provides the utility with leverage over the providers and incentive for them to grin and bear the extortive demands. The losers are the poor who pay a higher price for their water each time this ‘surcharge’ is levied. (p. 18)

While legal kiosk operators bribe officials to obtain a more reliable and longer daily bulk supply, illegal operators bribe officials to connect into the network or deliver bulk water that they then distribute in a competitive market. Some common corrupt practices in the operation and maintenance of water services are officials providing illegal connections, using utility water for resale in utility vehicles, or offering preferential treatment for repairs or new services.

These kinds of obstacles to sustainable use and management of water in cities can only be resolved by changing values. This is the aim of the water education program based on values or the VBWE. It is not simply about teaching chemistry, physics, and economics of water; types of water; and their sources, uses, treatment, and management. It is also about other intangible aspects of water such as people’s perceptions of water and their attitudes, cultural beliefs and practices, their sense of duty and responsibility to each other and to the use of water. In short, it is about human values. As Johannessen (2001) described it, water education is “about understanding the interactions of people and nature and the mutual love and respect that has to be a guiding principle in such a system. That is also how we will transmit the importance of water use, striking a chord in the beings and hearts of people, not in the minds” (p. 35). Such an education would hopefully generate incentives to preserve water and share it with fellow human beings with love and care.

Value-based water education is an innovative approach that not only seeks to impart information on water, sanitation and hygiene but also inspire and motivate learners to change their behaviour and adopt attitudes that promote wise and sustainable use of water. The value-based approach to water education seeks to bring out, emphasise and stress desirable human qualities [core human values], which therefore help us in making informed choices in water resource management.

Andre D. (2002), Programme Manager, Water for African Cities programme, UN-Habitat (p. 3).

The human values approach to water education uses two main methods: direct method and integration method.
  1. 1.
    The Direct Method: This method is to help children learn the values in an illustrative and enjoyable way. This method gives them an opportunity to explore and discover for themselves what right and wrong mean, develop greater empathy and therefore more compassion for others, take greater responsibility for their actions, and discover how to be happy, confident, and responsible members of society. This method includes five components:
    • Silent sitting/meditation/guided visualization

    • Quotations, proverbs, poetry related to water

    • Stories about water

    • Songs (local/international) about water

    • Group activities relating to water

     
  2. 2.

    Integration Method: This method is more suitable in dealing with academic subjects in the school curriculum. Every academic subject has inherent values. Lessons are planned for each subject in such a way that their inherent values are drawn out during the course of teaching. The teacher looks for teachable moments to bring out values in any particular subject being taught, including extracurricular activities, sports, and field trips. For instance, when mathematics is taught in water education, values such as caring, sharing, compassion, love, and consideration can be emphasized by wording a mathematical problem as follows: “Mr. X draws 20 buckets of water from the well daily. If 7 buckets are given to the sick old lady next door, how many buckets will remain?” Similarly, environmental science can be taught in such a way that it generates in children love, respect, and reverence to natural resources, especially water.

     
Both methods have their focus on the key issues which impede sustainability of urban water management such as water wastage, pollution of water, illegal connections, vandalism, nonpayment and late payment of water bills, tampering of water meters, corruption, and poor sanitation and poor hygiene. Lesson plans are aimed at applying human values to address these issues and generating pro-sustainable attitudes and behaviors in children. The examples illustrated in Table 1 demonstrate the potential capacity of the VBWE in resolving some of the issues. The report of the evaluation undertaken by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) which funded the program has found the VBWE quite successful and endorsed a continuance into Phase 2 (Norman Clark 2004). Its success has generated interest in other countries and led the UN-Habitat to extend the program to Asia and South America too.
Table 1

Value-based management approaches , underlying human values, and teaching techniques

Issues

Value-based dilemma

Value-based solution

Underlying values

Teaching techniques

How could water and sanitation be made accessible and affordable to the poor in cities?

Am I willing to share the cost of providing water to the poor in the slums? This may mean that I will have to pay a higher price for water than I pay today

Yes, I care for my poor neighbor. I am ready to pay a higher price for water when I am convinced this will help extend water supply to poor neighborhoods. I will afford it by cutting down my entertainment expenses

Love: caring for and sharing with others

Right conduct: self-sacrifice, respect for others, service to others

Story telling

Group activities

Prayer/quotation

How to deal with corruption in daily life which ultimately affects sustainability of services in cities?

Should I pay the high water bill every month or make a deal with the meter-reader, who offers to under-read it or tamper with it so that I can pay a flat rate which will be less costly to me?

Yes, I will pay the actual cost of water I consume. If I follow unscrupulous means, this will set a bad example for my children, whom I want to see growing up as responsible citizens

Truth: truthfulness

Right conduct: honesty

Peace: integrity and self-respect

Group discussion

Role playing

Group singing

Prayer/quotation

How to deal with profligate wastage of water in households?

Should I stop watering garden and washing my cars when water is scarce? I can afford the water bill and I want my garden to be green and my car to shine even if it may mean less water available to others

Yes, I should take every opportunity to conserve water, even if it means a little inconvenience to me and even if I can afford a higher water bill

Right conduct: proper utilization of resources

Peace: self-discipline

Nonviolence: consideration of others

Quotation

Story telling

Group discussion

Role playing

How to promote the concept of water as a social and economic good?

We are told that water is a gift of god. Then why are we asked to pay for water? Water in the river and the wells, after all, belong to everybody and should be freely available to all

Yes, I have an obligation to pay for water I consume. Water is a limited resource, to be shared by many users. Each must pay according to his need and ability, to cover the cost

Right conduct: respect for others’ needs

Nonviolence: awareness of responsibility towards common goods; readiness to cooperate; fellow feeling

Group discussion

Group singing

Prayer/quotation

Source: Victor Kanu (2002)

Conclusion

The Universal Consciousness (God), while remaining as an inseparable and indivisible single whole at the quantum level, manifests itself at the material level as a multitude of separate entities: inanimate objects, plants, animals, and human beings. Though the material world appears to us as an assemblage of many separate entities, deep at the quantum level, they all are integral parts of a single entity. The separate entities we perceive at the material level are subject to change over time and space and therefore transient, whereas the oneness at the quantum level is changeless and therefore eternal. Hence, what we experience in the material world is true only relatively, whereas the oneness at the quantum level is true absolutely. Recent discoveries in neuroscience suggest that the absolute truth, the oneness at the quantum level, is hardwired in the human brain as the Golden Rule, altruism and unlimited love, prompting us to value love, truth, right conduct, peace, and nonviolence. However, these core human values cannot ordinarily guide our thoughts and actions because:
  • We experience ourselves and the external world through our senses, thus perceive ourselves as entities separated from others and the natural environment.

  • The neuroplasticity of the brain allows the perceived separateness to be soft-wired in our brain, preventing our thoughts and actions to be guided by the hardwired core human values.

  • The soft-wired separateness leads us to value “I” and the things in the material world that “I” needs for its survival and pleasure such as money, material possessions, power, social status, recognition, and fame.

  • These materialistic values guide our thoughts and actions.

This study highlights the significance of integrating the core human values into formal education. Empirical evidence provided by psychologists demonstrates that materialistic values make our relationships with others and with the environment self-centered, unloving, and exploitative, and our behavior anti-sustainable. On the other hand, the core human values make our relationships selfless, loving, and nonexploitative, and our behavior pro-sustainable. Therefore, if sustainability is to be achieved, a fundamental shift of values is necessary: a shift from materialistic values to the core human values. The conventional strategies of achieving sustainability based on technological, infrastructural, and institutional changes should therefore be supplemented with strategies aimed at value changes. The EHV is a strategy designed to bring out the core human values in young people. The value-based water education program implemented by UN-Habitat demonstrates the capacity of the EHV to plant the seed of sustainability in young minds. Without due attention to the core human values, the current education system will continue to produce individuals who are rich in knowledge and skills in their specific fields, but poor in core human values.

Cross-References

Footnotes

  1. 1.

    (Sathya Sai Baba was a highly revered spiritual leader and world teacher, whose life and message are inspiring millions of people throughout the world to turn God-ward and to lead more purposeful and moral lives. His timeless and universal teachings, along with the manner in which he leads his own life, are attracting seekers of Truth from all the religions of the world. Yet, he is not seeking to start a new religion. Nor does he wish to direct followers to any particular religion. Rather, he urges us to continue to follow the religion of our choice and/or upbringing. For further information, please visit https://www.sathyasai.org/intro/message.htm)

Notes

Acknowledgments

The author wishes to thank Richard Wallis and Kim Penny for providing editorial assistance.

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© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.(Former) Massey UniversityPalmerston NorthNew Zealand

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