This article is the first in a series of ‘co-creating the Future We Want’ articles. The first three articles are written from a climate-change perspective to bring into focus the context and urgency of change on a global scale. Subsequent articles will explore various tools, methodologies and processes for inspiring change for sustainability.
Our World in Figures
We are currently living with more than 7 billion people on our planet, which is said to increase to 9 billion people by 2050. 783 million people do not have access to clean water and almost 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation. 6 to 8 million people die annually from the consequences of disasters and water-related diseases.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that nearly 870 million people of the 7.1 billion people in the world, or one in eight, were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2010-2012. Almost all the hungry people, 852 million, live in developing countries, representing 15 percent of the population of developing counties. There are 16 million people undernourished in developed countries. Poverty is the principle cause of hunger.(Source: click here)
According to the recent 2012 UNEP report – GEO5 Global Environment Outlook: “The currently observed changes to the Earth System are unprecedented in human history. Efforts to slow the rate or extent of change – including enhanced resource efficiency and mitigation measures – have resulted in moderate successes but have not succeeded in reversing adverse environmental changes. Neither the scope of these nor their speed has abated in the past five years. As human pressures on the Earth System accelerate, several critical global, regional and local thresholds are close or have been exceeded. Once these have been passed, abrupt and possibly irreversible changes to the life-support functions of the planet are likely to occur, with significant adverse implications for human well-being.” (p.6)
With regards to Climate Change, we have already committed ourselves to a two degree rise in temperature by 2050 and we are currently heading for four degrees rise in temperature by the end of the century with the ‘business as usual’ scenario. What kind of world will we be living in and leaving for our children if we do not take action today to avoid this four degrees warming? There is a wide consensus in the scientific community that the main factor for this rise in temperature is human activity.
Developing countries will be most impacted by Climate Change especially with regards to food security and water resources, and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are particularly vulnerable. Click here for an Infographic by the World Bank to showcase what Climate Change Means for Africa and Asia, and learn more from the video below of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) about Climate Change impacts, adaptation and vulnerability.
Our World in 2013 – learning from the past
If we take serious these figures about our human impact on our planet’s life-support systems we may start to see that our current sustainability challenges, including climate change related issues, will soon become the main driver for change. If we continue our ‘business as usual scenario’ and we add this to the already existing global challenges due to a growing population, increasing consumer demands, and a greying society we can start to see how the pressures for systemic changes are growing.
In the near future, access to clean water and food security can become a critical factor for increased risks for war and violence. Knowing where we are currently heading and what may be ahead can empower us to consciously prepare for climate change and other related sustainability challenges, and develop resilience at a community level. Now more than ever collaboration and partnership are critical for finding solutions to the sustainability challenges that affect all of us.
Each crisis and difficulty brings forth the possibility for new growth, new discoveries and innovation. Around the world there is a growing network of people and communities who have decided to take action and lead the way for change. This is resulting in the emergence of new models, systems, and strategies for governance, education, institutional design and new ways of doing business that are focused on value-creation, social innovation and future well-being. Essential in this process of transformational change at a system’s level is a new and different way of appreciating and accounting for Nature and the eco-system services that we receive freely from Nature.
How we value our Natural World
Our current economic systems does not account for and does not protect our Natural Capital. Our Natural World provides essential eco-system services on which our life and that of future generations depends. Developing a different relationship with our Natural World – a shift from exploitation to collaboration- is essential for the sustainability of our societies and the Web of Life.
Reflections and looking forward
ELIA has been working on raising awareness and igniting change for sustainable development for almost 8 years in Mauritius and across the Region. We have seen a noticeable shift in Mauritius over the last two years, with increased willingness and openness of private sector and educational institutions to start contributing to solutions for sustainability.
Whereas before we still needed to explain and put a lot of effort in making clear that there is a sustainability crisis, more people now seem to know and realize that the way we have been living as humanity is not sustainable and requires drastic changes.
The purpose this article is to provide a reality check-in as to where we have come and where we are heading. People have a tendency to postpone the most difficult changes to last and to place into the future what we don’t want to commit to changing now; in the hope that in the future someone will provide the solution for us. In this case, technology alone is not going to save us from climate change impacts. Everybody will be impacted and everybody needs to get on board to become part of the solution. In our meetings with people we often hear “but Nature is strong and will restore and these effects will reverse“. It is important that we realize that some of the changes are irreversible and may effect living conditions on this planet for many centuries ahead. Despite this we are hopeful that more and more people do want to make a positive difference and we will continue to advocate for collaborations and partnerships that put priority on securing the wellbeing of present and future generations.
Copyright © Anneloes Smitsman – first published on ELIA-Ecological Living In Action blog 17 May 2014.