Global Beacons of Hope

Global Beacons of Hope are places carefully chosen to symbolize the imagination, exploration, and moral behavior needed to move the world toward greater justice and sustainability. 

We believe putting a spotlight on them will help change minds and inspire action. 

This project will show how that can be done, starting with representative places in around 20 countries.  

This is a preliminary website. Global Beacons of Hope has been convened by InterEnvironment Institute, with the  World Academy of Art & Science as lead cosponsor. More information will be posted here as soon as it is available. 

Inspiring action toward greater justice and sustainability



We aim to inspire people to take action to move the world toward greater justice and sustainability. 


This is a civil society, not-for-profit initiative led by nongovernmental organizations. 

We will select, designate, explain, and publicize places associated with extraordinary people, events, and ideas as Global Beacons of Hope to serve as tangible symbols of the kind of imagination, exploration, and moral behavior needed to move the world toward greater justice and sustainability. 


Global Beacons of Hope are meant to be representative, rather than the “best.” Beacons are not an award, and there is no contest. Although designation of places as Beacons may encourage people to visit them, this is not their main purpose, and some of the places are remote or closed to the public. 

Our main audience is the educated public, especially those who have influence over decisions and opinions at all levels of society. 

Above: Stocznia Gdańska (Gdańsk Shipyard), Poland. Top of page: Chimborazo, Ecuador
Above: Stocznia Gdańska (Gdańsk Shipyard), Poland. Top of page: Chimborazo, Ecuador

Changing minds and changing behavior


We aim to change attitudes and change behavior, not by propagandizing but by drawing out the best in people. 

Stories about real places and what has happened in them are powerful communication tools. Tangible symbols are needed even more these days in a world of “cyber-existence” and “virtual reality.” 

For this purpose, emotion is as important as knowledge. Behavioral scientists tell us that raising awareness of facts, by itself, rarely leads to changing behavior. People often make decisions based less on what they know than what they feel and believe. Our communication strategy will take this into account.

Details to come . . . 

Gustav Mahler's composing hut, Austria
Gustav Mahler's composing hut, Austria

Six themes

Within the broad goals of justice and sustainability, the project is structured around six themes. Each of the places chosen to be a Global Beacon of Hope will represent one or more of them. Other themes could be added, but we wanted to keep this as simple as possible.  

The first five are about both means and ends. For example, respecting human rights is an imperative in itself, and also makes possible progress in the other four areas. These relationships are an example of the sixth theme, Interconnectedness. 

1. Human rights


2. Tolerance and harmony among peoples


3. Valuing and conserving nature


4. Exploration, including scientific research, invention, navigation, astronomy, and voyages in space


5. The mind, including reason, emotion, imagination, creativity, higher consciousness, and spirituality, among other things

6. Interconnectedness: Everything and everyone is interconnected. This is often lost in discussions of global problems. The American scholar and diplomat Harlan Cleveland wrote: "All real-world problems are interdisciplinary, interprofessional, and international… A committee of narrow thinkers doesn’t produce integrative outcomes. The best interdisciplinary instrument is still the individual human mind.” 

Hong Kong Country Parks, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China
Hong Kong Country Parks, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China

Six examples of proposed Global Beacons

Chimborazo, Ecuador


Nature: "A web of life and a global force"

Climbing this peak in 1802, the German explorer Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) realized that nature is a web of life and a global force. His biographer Andrea Wulf wrote that this new idea "was to change the way people understand the world ... At a time when other scientists were searching for universal laws, Humboldt wrote that nature had to be experienced through feelings." [Themes: Nature, Exploration, Mind, Intercon-nectedness] 

Gdańsk Shipyard, Poland


"Desire for freedom is rooted in the very quality of being human"

In 1980, this shipyard on the Baltic Sea was the birthplace of the Solidarity movement, a key step in civil resistance leading to the eventual collapse of communism in Central and Eastern Europe and then the Soviet Union. The quotation is from the exiled philosopher Leszek Kołakowski, who was a major inspiration for the movement's leaders. [Themes: Human Rights, Mind]

Freedom Corner, Kenya


"Humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness"

This spot in a city park in Nairobi symbolizes the accomplishments of Wangari Maathai (1940-2011) , a social, environmental, and political activist who attracted global attention for leading the Green Belt Movement and later organizing demonstrations against political oppression. A Nobel Peace Laureate,  she wrote the words quoted above, and added, "Recognizing that sustainable development, democracy, and peace are indivisible is an idea whose time has come." [Themes: Human rights, Nature, Mind, Interconnectedness]

Hong Kong Country Parks, HKSAR, China


Connecting urban people with nature

Urban people need regular contact with nature for physical and mental health. These parks, rich in biodiversity and easily accessible, are one of the best examples anywhere of how this can be achieved. Protected in the early 1970s, they cover a remarkable 40 percent of Hong Kong's small (1,100 sq km, 425 sq mi) territory, which has a population of more than 7 million. [Themes: Nature, Mind]

Marie Skłodowska Curie's laboratory, France


Understand more so that we may fear less

This is where Skłodowska Curie (1867-1934) conducted pioneering work on radioactivity, for which she was twice awarded a Nobel Prize. She wrote, "Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more so that we may fear less." [Theme: Exploration]

Gustav Mahler's composing hut, Austria


Confidence in the human spirit

Among the works Mahler (1860-1911) produced here at the edge of a mountain lake is the massive choral Eighth Symphony. He offered it as an expression of confidence in the eternal human spirit. He wrote, "If a composer could say what he had to say in words, he would not bother trying to say it in music." [Themes: Mind, Nature]


Note: When designated, descriptions of Beacons will be substantially more detailed.   



Why “hope”? 

A strong word is needed to encompass what is required to move the world toward greater justice and sustainability. Dictionary definitions are less important than perceptions and impact. 

"Hope" is such a word. We use a definition based on the one in the Cambridge Dictionary: Noun: A confident feeling about what will happen in the future. Verb: To want something to happen or to be true, and usually have a good reason to think that it might.


Here is a definition based on consensus in the field of positive psychology: “Hope, optimism, futuremindedness, and future orientation represent a cognitive, emotional, and motivational stance toward the future. Thinking about the future, expecting that desired events will occur, acting in ways believed to make them more likely, and feeling confident that these will ensue given appropriate efforts sustain good cheer in the here and now and galvanize goal-directed actions.”  


Can't this just be added to existing heritage programs? 

Usually the first question people ask about this initiative is whether it couldn’t just be added to existing official global designations of heritage sites. Unfortunately this isn’t possible. 

The top tier of heritage designations is the World Heritage List, which now includes over a thousand sites in 167 countries. World Heritage is a highly successful program of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). To be listed, properties must meet certain stringent criteria; decisions are made by a committee composed of representatives of national governments. In order to protect the World Heritage List from “political and nationalistic uses,” the committee discourages nominations concerning “historical events or famous people [that] could be strongly influenced by nationalism or other particularisms.” Since governments can disagree about what constitutes nationalism or a “particularism,” the committee goes out of its way to avoid dealing with such issues. None of the six places described above, for example, are on the World Heritage List. 

This will be explained in more detail in an online paper. The bottom line, however, is that for the purpose of designating the places we are calling Global Beacons of Hope, a nongovernmental initiative is needed. 


Global Beacons of Hope is a project in formation. Comments are welcome; however, at this stage, suggestions for designation of individual Global Beacons of Hope are by invitation.  

Convener: Ted Trzyna, InterEnvironment Institute

The views expressed in this website do not necessarily reflect those of the project sponsors, members of the organizing committee, or advisors. Designation of geographical entities does not imply any opinion concerning the legal status of any country, territory, or area, or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of frontiers or boundaries.