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We must join forces to address economic, ecological challenges
Author: Corporate Communication / Korporatiewe Kommunikasie [Alec Basson]
Published: 08/06/2018

​We can't just leave it to a liberalised market to address the world's economic and ecological challenges. We have to join forces and ask ourselves who we are and where we stand in relation to others and to these challenges if we are to succeed.

This was one of the viewpoints of Prof Martin de Wit from the School of Public Leadership at Stellenbosch University on Thursday (7 June 2018). He delivered his inaugural lecture on the topic Environmental governance, the human person and social order: A reinterpretation.

De Wit said humans are largely responsible for the ecological destruction, so they have to act on it.

“My suggestion in response to the ecological problems in the modern economic order is to start by asking who we are as humans."

“This is a critical time to ask ourselves who we are and where we stand in relation to others and the world's economic and ecological challenges."

De Wit said the market cannot deal with all environmental problems in all contexts.

“The liberalised modern market order is failing in many respects to address the world's greatest ecological and social problems."

He pointed out that the modern economic order has unleashed much protest.

“Globally and locally, the revolution of the masses has already begun. More and more people are willing to exchange the totality of the market for another totality, vague as yet, but shrouded in the rhetoric of power and exclusivism."

De Wit highlighted the role environmental governance (rules, policies and institutions that shape how humans interact with the environment) can play in helping us address current economic and ecological challenges.

“Environmental governance needs to inspire persons living ordinary lives in extraordinary times to act to bring about real change."

De Wit pointed out that today environmental governance is increasingly focused on changing the behaviour of agents within the social order of markets. The state still plays a role, albeit more limited, through direct environmental regulations and by supporting the creation and use of markets, he added.

He said traditional modes of environmental governance have started to shift towards newer ones that involve a greater variety of actors across a greater diversity of institutions, behaviours and sources of knowledge.

De Wit highlighted the need for action that will result in real change in the modern economic order.

  • Main photo: Credit: (Pixabay)
  • Photo 1: Prof Martin de Wit (middle) with Proff Christo Boshoff, Vice-Dean for Research in the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, and Eugene Cloete, Vice-Rector for Research, Innovation and Postgraduate Studies. Photographer: Anton Jordaan.