How optimistic is our future?

2015 is nearby, hence the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDG's) comes closer and closer. However optimistic these goals may have seen at the moment they were created, we have by far not accomplished them all. When we look at diminishing poverty, we seem to have done well. However, if we look at this issue closer, we find out that this goal was achieved alone by China’s (and other South-East Asian countries’) tremendous economic growth. Only in China, so many people have escaped poverty because of the rise of China’s GDP, that the absolute number of poor people had fallen even below the goal that was set. If we look at whether African countries have achieved at decreasing poverty numbers, then it seems they have not even attempted to achieve these goals (see attached pictures with the accomplishments. Each box represents one (sub)goal. Unfortunately, Africa lays behind on many goals).

There are many targets that were quite realistically set, resulting in an overall improvement. But because countries were not enforced to take measurements concerning these goals, and because the policies regarding these goals were not wide-spread and demanding, many of the goals have seen little fulfilment. I think I can say that the goal for sustainable development and environment has had the littlest concern of all. Almost none of the countries had achieved anything in this field. Yet, this issue is one that will cause us huge problems in the (near) future. I recently read an article which had defined ‘planetary boundaries’: boundaries that set up a safe operating zone for the human kind before reaching the Earth’s thresholds. If we cross these boundaries, we may damage the Earth in an irreversible way. These boundaries are warning, before the Earth’s ecosystems experience a real tipping point: a point where an ecosystem is changed in such a way, that it will radically shift into a phase that is often undesirable. According this article, we have already crossed three boundaries: the ones of climate change, biodiversity loss and we are interfering too much with the Nitrogen cycle. All of this is because humans use the Earth in a very extensive way. The Earth recycles its resources in a natural way, but if we take the resources out and use them for things the Earth has not intended too, we do come in her way. A rising sea level, a higher global temperature and shortages of resources are a few of the results. However, it seems as if the global leaders are not too much concerned with this problem. As often, something is done when it is (almost) too late, and when we have almost crossed the thresholds that prevent us from doing ourselves and the Earth much harm.

During the last few months, I have taken courses such as Globalization and Inequality, Modelling Nature, Political Philosophy and Sustainable Development. These courses are both interconnecting and show me different ways to look at the world. One thing I know for sure, is that we cannot keep consuming the way we do, and we cannot keep exploiting the Earth at the current rate. This is also why for the period 2015 and after, the Sustainable Development Goals are created; a follow up program for the MDG's combined with acknowledging the existance of Earth's support systems (such as ecosystems and nutrient cycles). From now on we are in need for sustainable growth, both economically and developmentally, as that will benefit us all. In our strive for welfare and well-being, we should not only look at material wealth and economic liberties (which we have done the last hundred years), we should look at inequalities, capacities and moral duties in order to help the poor and sustain a stable Earth. 

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