Pursuit of the common good

Peer-reviewed paper by Partha Dasgupta, Veerabhadran Ramanathan
Published on 19 September 2014

Religious institutions may mobilize public opinion and action

Humanity is at a crossroads. Do we continue trends of preceding decades that lift people out of poverty and extend life spans, but in the process run down the planet’s natural capital?

Solutions to this profound problem will require greater cooperation among people. The rise of market fundamentalism and the drive for growth in profits and gross domestic product (GDP) have encouraged behavior that is at odds with pursuit of the common good. Finding ways to develop a sustainable relationship with nature requires not only engagement of scientists and political leaders, but also moral leadership that religious institutions are in a position to offer. So it was significant that the Vatican convened a workshop earlier this year at which scholars (including the authors) from the humanities and the social and natural sciences reflected on issues at the nexus of poverty, population, consumption, and environment (1). Given the secular nature of the issues and the requisite solutions, scholars’ religious beliefs were not a criterion for participation (2). Hosted jointly by the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and of Social Sciences, the workshop held one of the broadest and most interdisciplinary discussions to date on those issues. Such discussions are critical, as the United Nations General Assembly convenes later this month with a focus on a “transformative post-2015 development agenda.”

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