Part 3: Kosen-rufu and World Peace
Chapter 31: The Great Path to World Peace [31.32]

31.32 Toward a Sustainable Global Society

Commemorating World Environment Day on June 5, 2012, President Ikeda submitted a proposal to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development held in Rio de Janeiro (Rio+20). Delving into the important theme of sustainability, he discusses what individuals can do to overcome feelings of powerlessness and transform global society.

Today, there are widespread calls for a paradigm shift from the pursuit of material wealth to sustainability. To achieve this, we must of course review and revise current economic and environmental policies; but this will not be enough. Rather, we must interrogate the very nature of human civilization, from the ways in which our societies are organized to the manner in which we conduct our daily lives.

The loss of human life, the wounding of dignity, the destruction of the familiar nature and ecology of the community—such are the cruel outcomes wrought not only by natural disaster but by armed conflict and environmental degradation. In the case, for example, of climate change, no place can be fully free from risk over the long term; the impacts will be felt by all present inhabitants of Earth and, further, by future generations.

In this sense, shifting the orientation of human civilization toward sustainability requires that the issues involved be considered on an authentically human scale, within the context and experiences of daily life. This is where we must sense the full weight of life’s inalienable dignity, and reflect on what is truly important to us and what we must come together to protect.

This is why it is unacceptable to consider the pursuit of sustainability as simply a matter of adjusting policies in order to find a better balance between economic and ecological imperatives. Rather, sustainability must be understood as a challenge and undertaking requiring the commitment of all individuals. At its heart, sustainability is the work of constructing a society that accords highest priority to the dignity of life––the dignity of all members of present and future generations and the biosphere that sustains us.


To many people, sustainability evokes images of various constraints being imposed upon individuals and societies. But such a narrow approach will not give rise to the kind of transformative ripple effects that are required.

Although physical resources are finite, human potential is infinite, as is our capacity to create value. The real significance of sustainability is, in my view, as a dynamic concept in which there is a striving or competition to generate positive value and share it with the world and with the future.

Put simply, efforts by people, communities, and societies to benefit others bring to the fore our most positive and creative aspects. Likewise, the most profound improvement to our present condition comes when we strive for a better future. It is through such repeated efforts, with constant reference to self and other, present and future, that we can protect each other’s inalienable dignity and work to build a world in which all people can live in peace and happiness.

The key here is our sense of responsibility to those with whom we share the planet, our sense of responsibility toward the future.

Although many people, confronted with news of horrific events in different parts of the world or of the dire threats to the global ecology, are pained and feel compelled to take action, the cumulative effect of the ceaseless flow of such news can be a deepening sense of powerlessness.

To avoid becoming overwhelmed by these feelings, it is crucial to be grounded—to find a standpoint from which one can sense the impact of one’s actions and feel one is making concrete progress in transforming reality. This, in my view, is the role of the local community. A sense of responsibility toward the world or the future is not something that can be developed overnight, in isolation from the realities of daily living. If we cannot establish this within our immediate relationships and environment, we cannot hope to do so relative to the entire planet or the distant future.

The word “responsibility” indicates the ability or capacity to respond. It is through the persistent effort to strengthen and forge our capacity to respond to the evolving realities of the community that a sense of commitment toward all those with whom we share the planet and toward future generations is developed.

From a proposal titled “For a Sustainable Global Society: Learning for Empowerment and Leadership,” commemorating World Environment Day, June 5, 2012.

The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works on key themes.