A Declaration of Values – to guide our work as academics

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what-makes-medicine-scientific-15-638How often are those of us at the public university told that science must be “value-free”….. that is objective and impartial?  I disagree…..

Rather, I suggest that we need to clarify the values that drive our work and make them transparent to the public.  In fact, the so-called “value-free” university must be more influenced by values, public values such as; truth over objectivity, public service over selfishness, scholarship over politics, and compassion over competition. This blog presents a set of values and a belief system that guides my work as an academic.

About 15 years ago, I was privileged to participate in a group of activists and scholars who created a so-called Declaration of Interdependence which presents a clear statement of values to guide our work as academics.

Please post your response to this statement below.

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The declaration states;

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Thus begins the Declaration of Independence, the first premise of American democracy, signed by the Founding Fathers on July 4, 1776, to establish independence from tyrannical foreign rule. While honoring the wisdom of the founding documents, we recognize that they have fallen short of providing essential protection against a modern form of tyranny not envisioned in the 18th Century: the tyranny of unbridled market competition, combined with rapidly expanding corporate control of production, marketing, and political power. This new form of tyranny often undermines the Right of humans to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Further, conventional economic analysis, being inherently devoid of ethics and compassion, often supports and directs public policy and private actions detrimental to these Rights. Specifically, we hold these truths to be self-evident:

  • that the Earth and all its components (both living and non-living things, including Air, Water, Fire and Earth) and all species have inherent worth apart from their current or anticipated future market value;
  • that humans as an integral part of Earth, and Earth as a living entity, are worthy of respect and protection from exploitative actions motivated by unlimited greed and financial self-interest;
  • that in community relationships based on love, respect for life, and stewardship of Earth rests the primary source of true abundance, beyond short-term material gain;
  • that all things on and in the Earth are interconnected, and that this interdependency is eternal and universal, transcending time and space;
  • that according to universal laws of Nature, the quality and sustainability of human life depends on harmonious, interdependent relationships among people, and between people and their natural and social environments.

Humanity’s struggle for independence and prosperity has not benefited all persons equally. While many have attained freedom and material prosperity, hundreds of millions chronically lack essential freedoms, the bare necessities of survival, and hope of a decent quality of life. Humanity’s struggle has often created dis-harmony with Nature and among people. Where resources essential to future generations are depleted or degraded, and where equitable access is denied, both the current and future quality of life for all humanity is jeopardized and Earth itself is imperiled.

Humanity lacks the wisdom to anticipate which resources will become critically limiting in the future, and which seemingly benign technologies and institutions will later prove to be destructive to the environment, harmful to human health, and contrary to community values and norms. Therefore, we should follow the Precautionary Principle of taking steps to prevent unknown harm, and the Seventh Generation Principle traditionally practiced by many Native Americans, seeking to leave for future generations opportunities better than those we inherited from our ancestors.

Therefore, We Declare Our Interdependence with all things, all peoples and the Earth, of which humanity is an integral part. All decisions must be made wisely, in view of this interdependence.

The dominant economic paradigm, postulating unlimited greed and financial self-interest as the basis for allocating income and wealth, must no longer be allowed to miss-direct public policy or to justify socially, ecologically, and economically harmful behavior of firms and individuals. We challenge the profession of economics to re-invent its paradigm in ways that will become consistent with the first premise of democracy — that all humans have an unalienable Right to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. Economics can and should begin to promote sustainable human well-being and long-term stewardship of Earth.

We acknowledge and embrace our responsibility for ourselves, for each other, and for the stewardship of Earth. We invite all people to join us in dedicating our lives and fortunes to the goal of sustaining the ecological integrity of the Earth, and attaining prosperity and quality of life for all.

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The Declaration of Interdependence is a call for changing the focus of the questions we address through our research and education to be more inline with service to the public good.  I believe as academics we have a responsibility to clarify our values and make them visible to the public.  The university has never been a “value-free” environment but at times the values that drive our work are not transparent.  We can do better…..

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If you want to explore an academic program based on these values, check out our UMass Sustainable Food and Farming Bachelor of Sciences degree program and our Online Certificate Program at the University of Massachusetts.  And see my other World.edu posts, or join my Just Food Now Facebook group, or follow my Twitter posts.

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