1. Change in handling with the nature - current culture - environment
The concept of culture - environment is the combination of two concepts culture and environment. There are hundreds of different definitions of culture and environment. Therefore, the author will not focus on the “academic” definition of that.
In recent found definitions of the culture concept, there are meanings of material culture and non-material culture; therefore, culture - environment also consists of material culture - environment and non-material culture - environment. Key points in culture - environment definition consist of knowledge, moral norms; consequently, human beings can develop and modify their behaviours and reactions in the relationship with the nature and the surrounding environment. Concepts, knowledge and norms are accumulated, inherited and finalized in practice along the history of social human development, which are specified spatially and temporally, illustrated through lifestyles and behaviours to the nature.
As a basic content of culture - environment, the awareness on the nature plays a very important and critical role in affecting our conduct on the environment. If the environment is infinite, unlimited exploitation will be harmless. However, the fact shows that the environment is finite, the Earth is fragile, gain - loss should always be put into consideration. Human beings must be aware of, although it is a whole process on limits of the Earth, the systematic and constituent manner of the environment and their impacts. We must assess and recognize trends and changes of the environment, forecast the carrying capacity of natural resources in daily lives. Moreover, we must be aware of moral relationships between human and the nature, impacts of lifestyles, our behaviours to the nature.
To develop an advanced and modern culture - environment on the basis of inheriting positive cultural aspects of the traditional cultural values in the past, of being internal resources for the construction and protection of the country in the upcoming time, it is necessary to have basic and strategic changes from the concept and the awareness of behaviour to the nature and the environment, which are appropriate with new moral norms - environment ethics in a society that is environmentally friendly and considers green and sustainable development to be one of desired targets.
2. Development of an advanced culture - environment - towards sustainable development in Viet Nam
Appraise the role of environmental ethics - ideological foundation of the advanced culture - environment in the society
Environment ethics is one of the new emerged issues, probably in the same time with the formation of sustainable development concept. According to many scientists of the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences in recent years, there are different trends explaining environmental ethics such as biologism, ecologism, deep ecology… Common features of these trends are considered environmental ethics as a new ethic which is higher than the traditional humankind ethics. On the contrary, the social-ecologism trend only considers environmental ethics as a special case of traditional ethics in the current context.
Environment ethic is an aspect of the common ethic, illustrating and implementing human ethics, in the relationship between humans and the nature. To illustrate this sprit, in June 1997, the Seoul Declaration on environmental ethics was published, marking important advances on environmental protection awareness after the Rio Summit on environment and development in 1992. The declaration identifies the interdependence between human and nature in a system.
The Seoul Declaration sets principles of environmental ethics, including the principle of creating a spiritual culture as a requirement of the proper balance between materialistic pursuits and the need for spiritual fulfilment, in order to embrace life more fully. The second principle is achieving environmental equity among nations, ethic groups, current and future generations of humankind. The third principle is greening science and technology. Finally, important and basic principle of environmental ethic is sharing responsibilities in environmental protection in interacting with the nature and among nations, sectors and social groups... The implementation of this principle is a very important ruler of environmental ethic. In practice, the implementation of international conventions, protocols, global environment issues or similar issues, the most difficult aspect is the division of responsibilities of stakeholders. The reduction of greenhouse gases known as the implementation of the 3rd objective of the Convention on Biological Diversity (access to genetic resources, fair and equitable sharing) has been stuck and thorough settlement has not been identified.
It is not difficult to list evidence of violations at international as well as national scope, including Viet Nam on the violation of environmental ethic norms in culture - environment. The strict compliance of legal documents on environmental protection of organizations, enterprises, communities is limited. In addressing conflicts on the environment, responses that lack culture - environment are often seen. The situation is similar to of that of in other countries; developed countries find the way to “export” pollution to other less ones, such as the toxic dismantling of old ship to South and Southeast Asian countries. Particularly, America has a strong economy but is the only country by now that has not adopted the Convention on Biological Diversity, or signed the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.
According to the Resolution No. 24-NQ/TW dated 3/6/2013 on proactively responding to climate change, enhancing natural resources management and environmental protection, in recent years, responses to nature have been put into consideration, changed and achieved some initial important results, although there are still weaknesses and limitations. Major objective causes of these weaknesses and limitations are inappropriate and inconsistent awareness and vision, and the undermined importance of sustainable development. Therefore, the Resolution has proposed some main solutions which are “Enhance, renew the propaganda, education, awareness raising, awareness formation to actively respond to climate change, to save natural resources and protect the environment”. Importantly, the Resolution refers to the notion of “form cultural institutions, environment ethics in the society”, which are being discussed here.
Originated from current situation and basic principles of environmental ethics according to the Seoul Declaration, many authors have proposed basic principles for environmental ethics in Viet Nam. Together with the regulations, principles and norms will be gradually developed; the environmental ethics will soon become the norms aiming at by individuals, communities, organizations, sectors, professions, regions, and countries and even broader. This is the basic and long-term method and pathway to be the foundation for the deep change of culture - environment from unsustainable development to sustainable development. This is an important ignition to develop a sustainable development society.
Urgently develop a sustainable development society - a condition to ensure the advanced culture - environment.
Respect and consideration of livings of the communities are the first principles to develop a sustainable development society. This is also an ethic principle to human lifestyles. It is necessary to share benefits and expenses equitably and fairly in natural resources exploitation and usages and environmental protection of the Earth among communities and individuals between current and future generations.
The principle of biodiversity protection of the Earth is the next basic principle to develop a sustainable development society. All ecosystems in the Earth are combined to form the biosphere and the nursing system for human lives. The United Nations has proclaimed 2011 - 2020 as the decade of biodiversity with a clear message on systematic and dependent relations of livings on the Earth.
An important principle to develop a sustainable development society is to change human attitude and behaviour. In the past and even now, many people do not know how to live sustainably. Poverty forces people to find all ways to survive such as deforestation for shifting agriculture, wildlife hunting… which cause negative impacts on the ecological environment, degrade land areas, and natural resources. In high-income countries, the demand of natural resources use increases and is higher than the carrying capacity of the nature, causing significant impacts on the communities. Therefore, we must change our attitude and behaviour to combat the problem.
Finally, it is necessary to refer to the principle “Communities self-manage their environment”. Environment is the common house, not only for anyindividual or community. Therefore, saving the Earth and developing a sustainable life depend on beliefs and contributions of each individual. When people self-organise their sustainable lifestyle in the community, they will have a strong vitality despite their community is rich or poor, urban or rural.
At the global scale, Stockholm Declaration at the United Nations Conference on “Human Environment” in 1972 and Rio declaration at the Summit “Environment and Development” in 1992 have proposed principles responding to the environment.
To develop a sustainable development society, Viet Nam needs to be based on above basic principles. In practice, Viet Nam recognizes and develops a sustainable development society, including culture - environment which is confirmed in Directive 36-CT/TW dated 25/6/1998 and Resolution 41-NQ/TW dated 15/11/2004 by the Politburo on enhancing environmental protection in the industrialization and urbanization. Consequently, the Prime Minister approved Decision 153/2004/QD-TTg dated 17/8/2004 on orientations of the sustainable development strategy in Viet Nam (Agenda 21 of Viet Nam).
Accordingly, Decision 153/2004/TTg introduced 8 principles of sustainable development of Viet Nam including many important aspects of culture - environment such as ensuring “all areas: economics, society and environment all benefit”, “to make development sustainable to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”, “sustainable development is the task of the Party, authorities, ministries, sectors and localities; of agencies, enterprises, social organizations, communities and all citizens”, etc. Therefore, the orientation of sustainable development in Viet Nam is also the orientation to bring the advanced culture - environment to become the practical in society of Viet Nam. On the other hand, the advanced culture - environment contributes to covert the society towards sustainable development.
3. Support for advanced culture - environment activities and behaviour being established in the society
The national Strategy on Green Growth to 2020, vision to 2030 promulgated in 2012 identifies: Viet Nam follows the environmentally friendly growth model, reducing of greenhouse gas emission, increasing solar energy use, renewable energy, greening production, greening lifestyle and promoting sustainable development. To 2020, Viet Nam aims to reduce 8 - 10% of greenhouse gas emission compared to that of 2010; energy reduction in GDP is 1 - 1.5% each year, greenhouse gas emission reduction in energy activities of 10 - 20% compared to the normal development plans. The Strategy considers the implementation of the orientation of “clean industrialization”, using natural resources in an effective and saving manner, developing “clean industry”, “green agriculture”, environmentally friendly, aiming to 42 - 45% values of high technology products, green technology in GDP.
To be appropriate with the strategy, many behaviours having environmental ethics contents of the advanced culture - environment are being applied by enterprises, communities, sectors, localities, such as Go Green by Toyota Motor Viet Nam (TMV) launched by the VEA and the Ministry of Education and Training. Initial period of the Go Green aims to: educate to enhance awareness and then change behaviour to environmental issues. In addition, the Go Green aims to promote the youth to take actions on the environment through practical activities. The ecological hand connection together with the green generation is the campaign launched by the Green Generation network of Ha Noi to celebrate the International Year of Biodiversity - 2010, 1000 years of Thang Long - Ha Noi and the International Day of Climate Action - 350 movements. There are many other movements such as: “Earth Hour”, “Moving planet”, “Action month for green school”, “White roof - green wall”, Clean the world... all celebrating environment and climate change events to propose actions having environmental ethics which apply to each specific object and community.
In 2010, on the occasion of 1000 - year anniversary of Hoa Lu - Thang Long - Ha Noi and at the start of the United Nation Decade on Biodiversity, the Vietnam Association for Conservation of Nature and Environment (VACNE) has initiated to launch the event “Conservation of Vietnam Heritage tree”. Recognized heritage tree has become a symbol for the longevity and wonderful adaptation with the natural environment, creating a peaceful and harmonious environment between human beings and the universe, maintaining the love for the nature and the environment. The event has been highly evaluated by authorities and foreign and domestic mass media, being considered as a typical cultural characteristic of our country, a feature of Viet Nam’s advanced culture - environment.
In order to contribute to develop an advanced culture - environment of Viet Nam, making culture - environment become an important motivation in the country development, the author would like to propose three solutions, namely: Pay attention to environmental ethics on the basis of current viewpoints according to the Seoul Declaration on environmental ethics; Actively develop the society towards sustainable development orientation as approved by the Government; Develop, nurture; Finalize and expand behaviours and responses having environmental ethics existing in the society.
Dr. Nguyen Ngoc Sinh
Vietnam Association for Conservation of Nature and Environment