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Sustainable Society Index

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Obituary Arthur Manuel

When we wish our footprint was as big as his

The world is in dire straits environmentally. Most of us leave behind a much too big CO2 footprint, endangering the planet’s future. However, our attempts to achieve a turnaround so that the world remains a liveable place are modest, compared to the challenges we face.

Arthur Manuel was different. He devoted most of his professional career to turning unsustainable modes of life into more sustainable ones.

Born in The Hague, the Netherlands, in 1939, he became a civil engineer specializing in water management. He devoted his professional life to easing the environmental burden people in developing countries had to shoulder. Whether at the Dutch Foreign Ministry or later as Managing Director of a consulting company he sought solutions for those most affected by an increasingly menacing environment: outside his home continent, Asia, Africa and Latin America saw him visiting and working tirelessly. He was a contemporary of the discussion of the Millennium Development Goals.

With formal retirement push came to shove: global sustainable development policies required fact-based decisions, and, together with his close ally and friend Geurt van de Kerk, Arthur set about to providing the statistical basis. They developed the Sustainable Society Index (SSI) in 2002, ever since measuring the much too slow progress towards a more sustainable globe. Arthur and Geurt understood well that, besides the natural environment, social and economic conditions played an important role in achieving the turnaround, while the SDGs were still in their infancy. The regular SSI updates have been supplying politicians, companies and researchers with the necessary data for two decades. We took over responsibility for SSI from Geurt and Arthur in 2020. We continue to share their hope that transparent data and facts enhance personal, corporate, and political action towards sustainability.

We met Arthur only on a few occasions, but we admired his passion for the cause and his great sense of humor. When he passed away on July 25, 2022, he left behind a big, sustainable footprint. It will be a tall order for us to fill it.

Babette Brinkmann & Susann Kowalski & Wolfgang Veit at TH Köln


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last update: 2022/08/11
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