Lo­cal ac­tion needed to re­solve world’s big­gest prob­lems

The Western Star - - Science / World -

Hu­mans are an as­ton­ish­ing anom­aly. As many species teeter on ex­tinc­tion, our pop­u­la­tions grow in size and com­plex­ity. From ex­plor­ing space to erad­i­cat­ing dis­eases and other re­mark­able achieve­ments, hu­man cu­rios­ity has pushed the outer lim­its of our phys­i­cal uni­verse. Yet our abil­ity to em­brace shared val­ues has been chal­leng­ing.

More than a bil­lion peo­ple live in poverty, in­equal­ity gaps are ex­pand­ing, and we face un­prece­dented en­vi­ron­men­tal chal­lenges that threaten our sur­vival.

To con­front these, heads of states met in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992 and es­tab­lished sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment as a global un­der­tak­ing. Known as Agenda 21, the non-bind­ing plan posited that meet­ing to­day’s hu­man needs shouldn’t com­pro­mise the needs of fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. Lead­ers re­ferred to the 1990s as the “turn­around decade”, with mul­ti­lat­eral ap­proaches guid­ing na­tion states to sign treaties to tackle the world’s most press­ing is­sues. (The David Suzuki Foun­da­tion was founded in 1990 to help press so­ci­ety to work to­ward a truly sus­tain­able fu­ture.)

In 2000, na­tions agreed to eight Mil­len­nium De­vel­op­ment Goals to guide the world to 2015. Although some coun­tries made re­mark­able gains with these goals, over­all suc­cess was elu­sive. Car­bon diox­ide emis­sions and the con­se­quent ef­fects of cli­mate change con­tin­ued to in­crease, as did wa­ter scarcity. The fail­ures were in part be­cause the goals were con­ceived by heads of states and tech­nocrats in closed-room ne­go­ti­a­tions with lit­tle in­volve­ment from the com­mu­ni­ties and peo­ple most af­fected.

Coun­tries met again in 2015 and em­ployed a more open and col­lab­o­ra­tive ap­proach to come up with 17 Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals. Un­like the pre­vi­ous goals, these “global goals” set a new stan­dard for the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties ex­pected from every­one, in­clud­ing po­lit­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tives, civil so­ci­ety, sci­en­tists and cit­i­zens, and ap­ply to both de­vel­op­ing and de­vel­oped na­tions.

Although Canada ranks 13th out of 149 coun­tries in the 2016 SDG in­dex, 4.9 mil­lion peo­ple here live in poverty and more than four mil­lion ex­pe­ri­ence food in­se­cu­rity. Out­comes re­lated to vi­o­lence against women and women’s eco­nomic par­tic­i­pa­tion have seen lit­tle im­prove­ment and Canada has been crit­i­cized for hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions to­ward 1.4 mil­lion Indige­nous peo­ple, who lag be­hind in al­most ev­ery SDG cat­e­gory, a legacy of colo­nial­ism.

For­mer UN sec­re­tary-gen­eral Ban Ki-Moon held high hopes for hu­man­ity in light of the goals: “Ours can be the first gen­er­a­tion to end poverty — and the last gen­er­a­tion to ad­dress cli­mate change be­fore it is too late.” Around the world, with sup­port from or­ga­ni­za­tions such as ONE, artists, ac­tivists, faith and busi­ness lead­ers, stu­dents and sci­en­tists are work­ing to­gether to ad­dress ex­treme poverty and pre­ventable dis­ease and re­spond to in­equal­ity and in­jus­tice.

We’re also see­ing a mas­sive global shift to re­new­able en­ergy, with 48 of the most vul­ner­a­ble coun­tries com­mit­ting to a 100 per cent re­new­able en­ergy tran­si­tion to achieve the his­toric Paris Agree­ment. In Canada, a num­ber of Indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties are build­ing mi­cro­grid re­new­able en­ergy sys­tems.

The Lu­bi­con Cree Na­tion in North­ern Al­berta is look­ing away from oil­sands to­ward the sun for en­ergy, launch­ing the Lu­bi­con So­lar ini­tia­tive — an 80-panel so­lar project that will cre­ate green jobs and re­duce the com­mu­nity’s fos­sil fuel re­liance.

Or­ga­ni­za­tions and so­cial en­trepreneur­s are us­ing in­no­va­tive tech­nol­ogy to ad­vance the goals. At this year’s World Eco­nomic Fo­rum in Davos, Switzer­land, Project Every­one teamed up with Poké­mon Go to make PokéS­tops that high­lighted the world’s most press­ing is­sues. The app Let­tuce Grow helps small-scale farm­ers across Por­tu­gal who are strug­gling to com­pete with cheap bulk im­ports con­nect di­rectly with con­sumers, boost­ing Por­tu­gal’s agri­cul­tural in­dus­try and lo­cal economies.

In Canada, a blue­print to im­ple­ment the Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals ex­ists: the Leap Man­i­festo, sup­ported by more than 46,000 in­di­vid­u­als, com­mu­ni­ties and or­ga­ni­za­tions. In my home prov­ince, the BC Coun­cil for In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion has de­vel­oped an in­ter­ac­tive map to con­nect more than 1,600 civil so­ci­ety groups that work on the global goals with lo­cal cit­i­zens and change-mak­ers.

At the heart of the global goals is one sim­ple mes­sage: Leave no one be­hind. Po­lit­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tives have given us an am­bi­tious agenda for the next 15 years, but it’s up to us all to re­spond.

An enor­mous amount of re­spon­si­bil­ity falls on gov­ern­ments, but they can’t achieve these goals alone. Their suc­cess re­lies on in­no­va­tive, in­clu­sive so­lu­tions from ac­tive cit­i­zens work­ing to bet­ter their com­mu­ni­ties. %BWJE 4V[VLJ JT B TDJFOUJTU CSPBEDBTUF­S BVUIPS BOE DP GPVOEFS PG UIF %BWJE 4V[VLJ 'PVOEBUJPO 8SJUUFO XJUI DPOUSJCVUJ­POT GSPN %BWJE 4V[VLJ 'PVOEBUJPO # $ BOE 8FTUFSO 3FHJPO 1SPHSBN $PPSEJOBUPS +FOOJGFS %FPM %BWJE 4V[VLJ T MBUFTU CPPL JT +VTU $PPM *U 5IF $MJNBUF $SJTJT BOE 8IBU 8F $BO %P (SFZTUPOF #PPLT DP XSJUUFO XJUI *BO )BOJOHUPO -FBSO NPSF BU XXX EBWJETV[VLJ PSH

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