The Nobel Prize and the Sustainable Development Era – New challenges need diverse global solutions

Without hesitation the announcement of the Nobel Prize winners in Economics for 2018 to William Nordhaus and Paul Romer has been received with enormous satisfaction from a wide-range of diverse audiences around the world. Though it is awarded by The Sveriges Riksbank in Memory of Alfred Nobel, commonly referred to as the Nobel Prize in Economics, it has given an awakening signal to the global citizen; in particular young and marginalized people in the less favored regions; about the emerging importance of scientific innovation in supporting sustainability: (https://amp.theguardian.com/business/live/2018/oct/08/nobel-prize-2018-sveriges-riksbank-in-economic-sciences-awarded-live-updates; https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/oct/08/two-us-economists-win-nobel-prize-for-work-on-climate-and-growth-william-nordhaus-paul-romer).

In the new era of sustainability, more diverse and effective instruments are urgently needed to meet the needs of the ongoing global transformation and to effectively face the huge and accelerating threats imposed on planet Earth. The focus should not only be on us, i.e. what humans can do for each other, but also on what we can do for planet Earth. Though the huge data and research in global change and climate change since the later part of the past century, i.e. shortly after the WW-II, little attention was given for the role of innovation in trans-disciplinary and trans-sectorial sciences and technologies, i.e. what regards supporting all life forms on planet Earth. Though the Nobel foundation (https://sv.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nobelstiftelsen) has been a dynamic source of inspiration, its support and recognition for the diverse, collective and inclusive benefits of life requirements on planet Earth, per se, was, and still, not clearly and effectively coupled to the individual disciplines of science and technology. Probably this has also, to do with the great lack of interest at the universities and the academies in coupling science and technology to the wider socio-economic-environment sustainability benefits specially on regional and global scales. Trans-disciplinary and trans-sectorial issues within and between science and technology have emerged more and more in the later part of the past century, however the coupling to socio-economic-environment aspects has only grown rather slowly by the end of the past century.

It is very clear from the will of Alfred Nobel that the Prize should be given to anyone that have made mankind the greatest benefit within the fields of physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and peace “utdelas som prisbelöning åt dem som under det förlupna året hafva gjort menskligheten den största nytta. Räntan delas i fem lika delar som tillfalla: en del till den som inom fysikens område har gjort den vigtigaste upptäckt eller uppfinning; en del den som har gjort den vigtigaste kemiska upptäckt eller förbättring; en del den som har gjort den vigtigaste upptäckt inom fysiologiens eller medicinens domän; en del som inom litteraturen har produceradt det utmärktaste i idealisk rigtning; och en del åt den som har verkat mest eller best för folkens förbrödrande och avskaffande eller minskning av stående arméer samt bildande och spridande av fredskongresser“.

The distinct definition and conservative classification of science and technology into individual and separate disciplines, e.g. physics, chemistry (and to lesser extend physiology or medicine, literature and peace) is of considerable importance for the advances within these disciplines themselves. Nevertheless, it has definitely caused greater gaps between the expectations of common people around the world what concerns achieving sustainable societies and the current achievements in science and technology. Planet Earth is our generous home and has to come in the first place what regards “mankind greatest benefit”. No one of us would like to go to a home that has restrictive and not fit for living?

But what is/are the problem(s), the market?, the economy?, the management?, planning?, ????. Since the early history of the Nobel Prize there have been many advances in science that promoted the same sort of innovation in technology with further positive feedback on science and visa versa. This has promoted strong and narrow coupling to engineering and industry with huge benefits for market economy “growth economy”. But there has been little, or even lack of, attention to the health and the wealth of the planet Earth in general. In this context, the Nobel Prize and other motivational instruments around the world, including the education and the research systems and the supplementary management infrastructures around them, have not been supportive enough to counteract these trends that caused more and more degradation in the health of planet Earth. Alternatively, the world community has not developed timely solutions, diverse and effectives instruments to meet the existing vacuum in innovation, inventions and employment that the world is currently dreaming about. The journey of science and technology has supported primarily the market economy “growth economy” rather than promoting science and technology to empower sustainable developments in general, i.e. to achieve appropriate and coherent coupling of science and technology to the “socio-economic-environment” requirements of future sustainable societies (https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/; https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/envision2030.html).

Though these trends and obstacles there have been positive (but still limited) developments on personal, collective and organizational levels including few ones from the Nobel-foundation related groups (http://nobelsustainability.org/; http://np4sd.org/; http://www.climateaction.org/news/nobel-family-members-establish-the-nobel-sustainability-growth-fund; https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/2004/summary/; http://businessworld.in/article/Nobel-Prize-For-Sustainability-And-Global-Green-Investment-Bank-Announced-Mungo-Park-Chairman-Of-Innovator-Capital/12-03-2018-143141; http://science.sciencemag.org/content/294/5541/303.2.full; https://www.kth.se/blogs/studentblog/2017/10/nobel-prize-for-sustainability/; https://www.origingreen.com/en/sustainable-sourcing/; https://protix.eu/press_and_media/katerva-nobel-prize-sustainability/; http://www.nobelprizedialogue.jp/tokyo2018/; https://www.jsps.go.jp/english/e-nobel_prize_dialogue/npd_tokyo2015/index.html). This gives much pleasure for anyone of us who have followed the long journey of how sustainability emerged from the dark ages of the unconscious era of being in war with planet Earth, to be a central dream for many of us. It is indeed a long way to see how the role of science and technology has evolved from being focused on internal science and technology issues to the wider benefits for the human being by recognizing the imperatives of achieving and promoting sustainable life on planet earth.

While we are celebrating the Nobel Prize winners in the memory of Alfred Nobel, we ought to be reminded that we need many generous entrepreneurs like Alfred Nobel who can put more efforts to support the innovations and inventions for making our planet Earth Great Again. For several reasons the selection mechanisms of the Nobel Foundation what regards the Nobel Prize have its own technicalities that cause limitation to deal with what is addressed here. There are, still considerable needs for more effective and diverse innovative platforms to push forward and strengthen coupling science and technology with the basic sustainability pillars for future generations to come.

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