Part 1: Introduction to Sustainable Societies

9. Voices on Achieving Sustainable Development

Well-known Africans speak about the need for more intelligent approaches to social, economic, and environmental problems


      • Assign core readings
      • Select content from the core readings for the activity to review in class. Content selection should be based on what you judge will be most likely to connect with the students.
      • Select students to read or recount the selections. Selecting a group of students to present the selections is encouraged.

In Class:

      • To open the discussion, one student reads this first section of the Amoako speech:

        "Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, I consider the development of Africa to be among the most pressing issues of our time. That's why we have no alternative but to speak candidly together about it. That's why there's no point in me pretending that Africa hasn't got very major challenges to face, or that it's going to be anything other than a very tough slog to meet these challenges successfully. I'm going to spend some time outlining these problems this afternoon, so we can have no illusions about them. But I'm going to insist that we can't be defeated by these problems, that the needs of our people are so great that we must move forward, and that it is still possible to see a brighter picture in which Africa takes her destiny into her own hands and designs her own future…

        The truth is that Africa cannot afford to miss the opportunities that science and technology are now offering it. It's all there in front of us. The time for speeches is past. As Secretary-General Kofi Annan said only last month in his World Water Day message, ‘We must move from promises to practice, from commitments to concrete projects, from intentions to implementations.’

        Ladies and Gentlemen,

        It is, in the end, in our own hands.”

      • Lead a discussion on the problems and challenges discussed in the speech by asking questions such as:

        1. What problems and challenges mentioned in the speech do you think are most critical? Why?
        2. What challenges should be dealt with first? Why?
        3. What changes are needed?
        4. How feasible and acceptable are Amoako’s suggestions?
        5. How can we picture turning things around?
        6. Can we turn things around? 
          * Referring to particular facts or ideas may help the discussion along.
      • Ask four students to assume the characters of each of the other voices and deliver their remarks.
      • Lead a discussion on these voices by asking questions such as:

        1. What is this speaker most concerned about?
        2. Why does this speaker have this/these concern(s)?
        3. What personal background might the speaker have that is generating this/these concern(s)?
        4. What does the speaker want to happen? Why is the speaker making this particular speech?

        • One student then reads the following section of the Amoako speech:

        "Well, Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen. That's the way we can move forward. There's no hidden agenda; this prescription is becoming pretty familiar. So now we come to the really hard question: Who's going to do all of this? Who's going to take the initiatives and design the necessary strategies? Let me answer by telling you a short story. It is the story of some mischievous young boys who set out to embarrass the village wise man.

        They wanted to prove that the old man was just as foolish as all the others. They went to him with a bird, and asked him if it was dead or alive. If he said it was dead, they would let the bird fly; if he said it was alive, they'd wring its neck and kill it. One way or another, the old man had to lose.

        "Old man," they said, "is this bird dead or alive?"

        The old man took a good look at the boys, paused for a long time, and said thoughtfully: "Young men, it is in your hands."

        • As a class, students list the sustainability issues they think should be of highest priority. The instructor should inform them that while they may not necessarily know what to do about them now, by the end of the course they will be able to put together strategies to take on these challenges.