The Kolding Manifesto - Introduction

A progress report from a talk on technology, democracy, and sustainability

On Oct. 3-5, 1997 a good hundred people met at Kolding Højskole, a Danish folk high school, under the heading:

Should the numskulls save the world, since the eggheads won't?

This was the year when Mariager Fiord died, when Limfjorden, another Danish fiord, died (though just by 30 percent), and when Denmark's CO2 emissions increased by 23 percent. This very year our government announced its goal: a doubling of road haulage over the next 10 years, and a 40 percent consumption increase.

With our manifest we wish to voice our criticisms of such a society, and also set up a few goals for the kind of social development that any sensible and thoughtful person will agree is wanted and needed - however impossible they may call it. Thus, the subject-matter is bound to amount to truisms - and with a purpose. Let's get back to simple truths and common sense. That's our challenge!

There is a need for a radical break with how we think of progress, how we 'know' things, and with our entire way of living and organising. It's time for the simpletons to try their hand, without more ado, since the eggheads have already done enough harm. And in order to progress we need to resort to a few of the insights, virtues and technologies that have been engulfed in the abysmal churning money-maelstrom.

The manifest-ness of our manifesto does not consist in pompous paroles, but in the inevitable and to some extent general nature of its standpoints. We'll leave the debate and means for a future talk - one that will make sense only if taking place among people who want or have the power to rule - true democracy. Our political latitude will have to be recaptured. It is time for the political politician to be reinstated. As for necessities, truisms, terms of Good and Evil, the curse of expert dominance and not least, respect for common sense and common rule, we will be unyielding.

This manifesto has not been put to the vote, and consequently has not been formally adopted. Nor is it the work of any single individual. It is a status report - the cross-section of a long-standing, multifaceted communication that has still a long way to go. The manifesto was put together by a working group. It was first presented under the heading, 'Ecology suspended between Humour and Earnest' during our network seminar and annual meeting at Snoghøj Folkehøjskole, Denmark, January 23-25, 1998.

We wish to extend our thanks to Den Grønne Fond (the DK Green Foundation) and Græsrodsfonden (the DK Grassroot Fund) for financial support, and to Per Marquard Otzen, 'Information' (a DK newspaper) for his illustrations.

To further encourage the debate our website includes reference literature. Additional suggestions are welcomed.

Lars Myrthu-Nielsen Secretarial manager Network for Ecological Education and Practice

We consider the following to be self-evident facts:

Planet Earth has limited dimensions, implying that there is a limit to what it can sustain.

Man is a biological, cultural and social being, implying that there is a limit to what he be made to suffer.

Man has right to search for happiness, but no right to destroy planet Earth.

Man is part of the biosphere, and the biosphere is prerequisite for human life. We merely have the power to destroy it - which does not entitle us to do so.

Improving nature is beyond the reach of mankind. We need to satisfy ourselves with living in, off and with it - the latter being a must.

The number one reason why Planet Earth is increasingly endangered is the ongoing expansion of production and productivity in countries already overconsuming.

If today the poor parts of the world were to have a standard of material wealth comparable to the present rich world, this would require seven more Planets Earth - which we do not consider realistic.

The number one reason why Planet Earth is increasingly endangered is the ongoing expansion of production and productivity in countries already overconsuming.

All over the planet considerations and rights associated with nature and human life are giving way to a statutory, global boundlessness for money and its managers‹.

The social and cultural poverty of the rich world is closely intertwined with productivity increases, global economy, money's fundamental rights of freedom and the democratic deficit.

Only a consistently democratic organisation can handle such overall conditions, and above all the discrepancy between economic power and common sense.

Gradually, our production of knowledge has grown so fragmented as to produce massive ignorance, non-knowledge and downright stupidity.

Our respect for common sense has to be reinstated, experience-based knowledge rehabilitated, and expert knowledge reduced to what it actually is, mere technicalities.

State-of-the-art technologies have grown so complex and immense that no human systems, let alone humans, can control the emerging risks.

It does make a difference whether a dairy or a nuclear plant goes down. We need to develop technologies that will take us back to manageable types of risks.

Technologies have to be developed that allow and call for democratic administration practices.

Such basics are not confined to the latitude of the ordinary political framework. With some caution they should be seen as absolutes for which only the means are debatable.


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