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The last shall be first, 1980s style

By Hazel hendersonHazel Henderson is an independent futurist, author of "Creating Alternative Futures" and the forthcoming "Politics of Reconceptualization. / May 16, 1980



An emerging view in the third world sees the growing instabilities in nations of the Northern Hemisphere -- their monetary stress, inflation, unemployment, military escalations, and confrontations over depleting resources -- all as crises of industrialism itself. No longer is the development debate limited to the terms of the 19th century, as capitalism versus socialism. Both are seen now as differing styles of industrialism and its single-minded goal of maximizing production and economic growth (whether defined in dollars, rubles, yen, or francs) regarding of social and environmental disruption and erosion of traditional values.

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This lesson is now clear, because the commonality of interests of resource-dependent industrial nations is demonstrated at many international meeting. For instance, at the 1978 UN Conference on Science and Technology for Development in Vienna this mutuality was already visible. There, in spite of speeches supporting more equitable sharing of technological resources and information with less-developed countries, the US and the Soviet Union voted togetherm with other East and West European nations -- as an industrial bloc -- to thwart these goals.

The new view is much in evidence in Africa, for example, in the recommendations of the 1979 meeting in Liberia of the Organization of African Unity on "Africa in the year 2000." The African states called for a radical break with the imitation of Northern Hemisphere-style industrialism and its obsessive materialism.

In the same vein the First Congress of the World Social Prospects Study Association in Dakar, Senegal, in January, 1980, convened some 200 leaders, futurists, and scientists with diverse views, from North and South, East and West, but predominantly from the third world. The association, founded by Albert Tevoedjre, an African director of the International Institute for Labor Studies and author of "Poverty: The Riches of Peoples," will study alternative social development paths to the future, rather than the "trickledown" industrial , economic, and technological models which have so clearly run out of steam.

I found the discussions in Dakar quite different from those I encountered in 1973, visiting Malaysia, India, and Africa, when the goals of rapid industrialization were rarely questioned. Today, the social, human, and environmental costs are visible, whether spectacular, such as Three Mile Island, or insidious, such as the "stagflation syndrome," disease, and mental illness.

The issues hotly debated at Dakar included how third-world countries could deal with the next stage of the crack-up of the Northern Hemisphere's vulnerable industrial machine which is already in evidence: that of "exporting our crises" to the rest of the world. Thus, if our multinational corporations cannot sell nuclear plants in the US or Europe because of public opinion demanding safer, renewable energy alternatives, they try to sell the nukes to Brazil, Pakistan, and the Philippines. As hazardous pesticides and drugs are banned in the US, they are dumped in countries with no experience or regulation of them. And, as toxic dumps cause illness and protests here, companies seek dump sites in Africa and elsewhere.