Our well-being on planet Earth depends on three main essential drivers, i.e. Water, Energy and Natural Resources (fossil minerals and renewables including biosphere and its eco-systems) ‘WENR’. To achieve sustainability and resilience in our societies and to promote prosperity requires using and sharing our common 'WENR' capital with consideration to the complex and multi-layered NEXUS, i.e. the interactions and processes within and between these three drivers 'WENR’. Currently, Earth is facing existential threats caused by us collectively. Scaling-Up and Scaling-Out 'Science, Technology and Innovation' of the WENR-systems and coupling them to the 'Socio-Economic-Environment' pillars of our societies as defined by the UN-SDGs are one of the very few means to mitigate existing and future threats and bring full vitality in the functioning and metabolism of all life forms and processes on Earth. Sustain-earth.com is an open access online platform that allows active contributions and feeback.
Category: Health & Fitness
Traditional medicine is an applied science that helps to maintain and restore health by prevention and treatment of illness in human beings. Nevertheless, nutrition and fitness emerged as supporting health processes in human beings through strengthening basic processes and the immune systems in human beings.
Photosynthesis is the main reaction behind all life forms on planet Earth, it triggers life processes in global eco-systems on land and in aquatic systems (ocean, lakes and rivers). For photosynthesis to do its job and produce all forms of healthy and nutritious food that makes up global biodiversity, including us humans the ‘Homo Sapiens’ (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human) water is needed. Indeed, even if we say water is the origin of life, it isn’t totally 💯 correct as we still need carbon dioxide in trace amounts. An important question is high trace is trace? Even though we have water and carbon dioxide at the right concentration, we aren’t done yet, as we also need solar energy ‘light photons’ to initiate this magic reaction and the very secret of nature that evolved four billions of years ago, the ‘photosynthesis’.
There are many other imperatives that are needed for the natural photosynthesis to do its job properly and to keep it in tact with all the functioning and metabolism processes of life forms on earth apart from the reactants, i.e. water, carbon dioxide and the photon from the sun. We need healthy atmosphere and healthy hydrosphere, these underlying spheres of life are currently undergoing continuous degradation by us humans. This indeed imposes great threat for the proper functioning and metabolism of the very basic mechanism that fuels the life on Earth, i.e. the photosynthesis.
The atmosphere is important for agricultural sectors and farming, apart from supporting the forest eco-systems. Naturally healthy and fertile soils, are also needed, that have the right mixture of nutrients and free from toxic chemical remains and heavy metals. Also, soils need to have good water holding capacity which is regulated by the organic content. For the atmosphere to be healthy environment for the photosynthesis to take place on land, we must have suitable atmospheric composition, e.g. carbon dioxide concentration that allows having appropriate temperature, in addition to being a necessary component for photosynthesis. Also, not to have toxic compounds in the atmosphere such as nitrogen oxides that through photo-reactions can produce boundary-layer ozone that has negative impacts on growth of vegetation, in particular forests.
What regards aquatic systems we still need suitable temperature (which is dependent also on the heat-balance in the atmosphere) in water bodies, suitable pH as acidification from acidic nitrogen- and sulphur-oxides destroys the living-habitats of fish such the corals in the ocean, also it destroys the food-web and kills fish as in fresh-water lakes and rivers; suitable amount and levels of oxygen for breathing is also imperative in aquatic systems. Naturally, we need also other trace nutrients in particular phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium (applies also for healthy vegetation on land and agricultural production). However, excess amount of nutrients cause eutrophication as the water bodies become overly enriched with minerals and nutrients which induce excessive growth of algae. This results in oxygen depletion in the water body after the bacterial degradation of the algae. As an example is the so-called ‘algal bloom’ or great increase of phytoplankton levels. Eutrophication is often induced by the discharge of nitrate or phosphate-compounds, fertilisers or sewage into aquatic systems.
We humans so far failed to imitate nature, i.e. to do what is known as ‘Artificial photosynthesis’ which still science fiction. Would we ever have Artificial Intelligence ‘AI’ to cultivate our earth, produce our food and create an Artificial Biodiversity? ‘AI’ can create robots and machines that imitate us humans in many ways through collecting the patterns of our behaviour. Robots can’t run the life on our planet itself but they can be better version of humans through Machine Learning ‘ML’ and thereby replace humans to do many many jobs in food industries, and also many other industries.
The implementation of AI and ML in food manufacturing and restaurant businesses is already moving our industry to a new level of performance, enabling fewer human errors, less waste of abundant products, less infections. They also allow lowering costs for storage, delivery and transportation. They can create happier customers through timely and quicker service. Even they can allow voice searching, more personalised and effective orders. Robotics for big factories and restaurant businesses will occupy its niche very soon and will bringing more benefits in the long run. Both AI and ML benefit from the enormous flora of sensors, actuators in addition to digital coding and programming.
For more details on these issues see: https://www.google.se/amp/s/spd.group/machine-learning/machine-learning-and-ai-in-food-industry/amp/.
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Introduction to the forthcoming WEBINARS, hosted by sustain-earth.com, on “Sustainability in Science, Technology and Innovation ’SISTI’ of Water, Energy and Natural Resources”. Part One of the introduction – The three main drivers of life on Earth: “Energy, Water and Natural Resources WENR”. These drivers, by being dependent on the main underlying and interactive sphere of the Earth System (atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere and lithosphere) are decisive for the performance and quality of both the life on planet Earth and the life of humans.
These three drivers ‘WENR’ have, so far, sustained all life forms on planet earth. Energy from the sun triggers photosynthesis where water in the HYDROSPHERE together with carbon dioxide in ATMOSPHERE have been the bases of all life in the BIOSPHERE both on land and in aquatic systems. Minor amounts of earth’s mineral resources in the upper LITHOSPHERE are also used as nutrients in the evolution of biodiversity and associated eco-services we benefit from as well as the production of our food. Homo Sapiens are not only part of the global biodiversity but they are becoming the main actor shaping it. Homo Sapiens extended the production. use and consumption of energy, water and the natural resources in the atmosphere (where oxygen is also crucial for life), hydrosphere, biosphere and lithosphere (including fossil minerals) for their living. The extensive and accelerating use of these drivers has surpassed the natural capacities and boundaries of planet earth to sustain all its life forms.
These drivers are imperative to achieve sustainable prosperity through integrated and resilient economic, environmental and social synergies. They involve trans-disciplinary and trans-sectorial (nexus) interactions in the socio-environment-economic fabrics that are shaping the future our planet including all societies around the world. Incorporating Environment-Social-Governace ‘ESG’ is fundamental for healthy and wealthy economies around the world.
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Though the expectation of vaccine is around the corner, we still need to wait for at least few months. Meanwhile COVID-19 will not go away by itself and it will still be with us for sometime.
It is commonly known that COVID-19 can spread through aerosol droplets for quite some distant, get attached and accumulated on surfaces for time periods that allow them to circulation in buildings by ventilation and air-conditioning systems. Though there are risks and indications that AC and ventilation systems can cause spreading of COVID-19 there are still limited, systematic detailed and comprehensive studies on the exact effects of humidity, temperature and the technical specification of filters in large central ventilation and AC system. Through the so-called ‘Memory Effects’, e.g. in Offices, Towers, Restaurants, Hotels and similar Complex Buildings. In theory, it is enough that few infected persons can cause spreading of COVID-19 in the whole building if control, considerations and precautions are not well in place. Though out-door air can be used to some extent to mitigate this problem there are still several limitations. So, degraded indoors air-quality can in itself cause serious public health issues as we still don’t have enough knowledge. Even being tested negative isn’t enough to be safe in air-flights (https://www.google.se/amp/s/www.cnbc.com/amp/2020/10/14/travel-and-coronavirus-do-pre-flight-covid-19-tests-work.html).
We are facing the threats of a second wave that may very well be much aggressive and we need to be very careful about indoors air-quality. Air-quality is definitely a serious matter that requires good sanitation in air and also how to deal with it needs to call our attention.
Few observations, literature and research articles on this matters are given here.
In the past decades we have observed an accelerating urbanization around the world where many old cities expanded enormously. Leaving little spaces for the citizens to move freely, to breath fresh-air, to exercise in natural environments and even be exposed to the sun. In many cities there are no affordable and easy access to parks, forests and green areas. Even more serious new cities in many parts of the world are built intentionally with increasing densification where living areas are designed to meet the needs of working adults, transport systems and cars as if recreation and children don’t exist.
All of us have definitely experienced the considerable degradation in the life-quality of our modern cities. They became parts of complex industrial production sites and we became part of complex machinery systems. Even with the invent and use of ICT we still over crowded in small areas, i.e. to be as productive as possible. In the early days of the ICT is was believed that people can be more flexible and resilient and not always forced to be in working places. However, business-as-usual became part of our life-style as if ICT doesn’t exist.
COVID-19 has drawn our attention to how urbanization and modern life-style brought with several negative impacts to life-quality. In many cities and urban areas around the world it is even hard to apply ‘physical distancing’ as there are no spaces to do so. Also, ‘stay at home’ isn’t a suitable practice as household may have many persons living in the same appartements and houses. Public transport systems, schools and public services can still be very crowded. Even the use of masks are not standard in many places or even not recommended or recognized as being a safe option. One can ask what options are left other than transmitting infections.
A city is more than its buildings and more than just housing. Modern densification is often about constructing as much housing as possible, as quickly as possible. Of course, considerations are great for housing but in the rush to build quickly it is important to slow down and ask ourselves: What kind of environments and life-style are we creating? Why and for whom are we building? How can we create cities and living environments that are sustainable, resilient and comfortable for everyone? Are our urban spaces contributing in a good built environment for pleasant life?
The Swedish National Board of Housing, Building and Planning has produced a document in response to public debate on the densification of cities and communities, and to provide inspiration and guidance regarding ways to supplement the existing environment. Densification is not only about housing, it is about good built environment and life-quality for the people who live, work and spend time in the city. This publication gives views and arguments concerning some of the challenges and opportunities of densification. It also has interviews conducted with a few people about how they approach the challenges that exist. For example: how people’s needs for sunlight and daylight can be satisfied, how disturbing sounds in a dense city can be handled, how vegetation can be used as a resource, how room for public services can be created, and how a densification strategy for the entire city might be developed. It highlights a number of examples of municipal densification projects, all of which have added value over and above new housing. Mirja Ranesköld, planning architect, was the project leader and Elin Normann Bjarsell, landscape architect, was a member of the project team. Other coworkers contributed with their views and suggestions during the course of the project. The interviews were conducted by Elisabeth Klingberg at PratMinus (https://www.boverket.se/globalassets/publikationer/dokument/2017/urban-density-done-right.pdf).
Here some example of successful planning in the city of Gothenburg, Sweden, where I spent marvelous time in its ’Slottsskogens’ (https://www.goteborg.com/en/slottsskogen/) with an animal park, one of the oldest in Sweden. Just to demonstrate the old good times.
Interesting and scary reading that describes the daily reality around the world as experienced during 2020. What is going on planet Earth and the impacts of our irresponsible use of the global natural resources, in particular energy resources (by industry, transport, building and others), is based on scientific data and statistics specially what regards the atmospheric pollution. Among such impacts is the accelerating increase in the earth’s surface temperature (1880-2019).
What is happening in the atmosphere is triggering a global ‘Domino Effect’ with severe impacts on all other key spheres on Planet Earth. In particular the hydrosphere, the biosphere and ecosphere with tectonic threats on our living landscape (both rural and urban) and on daily basis. Global warming is also a medical emergency in times where COVID-19 pandemic makes the life more severe for many of us. The can be. connections between global warming and the COVID-19 pandemic. What is more serious is the scientific and technological advances, for many reasons, would not protect us against the consequences of global warming and will not bring back the decline in natural resources including loss of biodiversity. What is done is done and can’t be redone. As an example the CRISPR/Cas9 genetic scissor is unlikely to solve diseases caused by air and water pollution, also the mitigate the loss in biodiversity and tackle degradation in life-quality of atmosphere, bio and eco-sphere.
The Nobel Prize for Peace (https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/lists/all-nobel-peace-prizes/) has been awarded 100 times to 134 Nobel Laureates between 1901 and 2019, 107 individuals and 27 organizations. Among the International organizaions: Red Cross that got the Prize three times (in 1917, 1944 and 1963), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees got it two times (in 1954 and 1981), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Albert Arnold (Al) Gore Jr. (2007), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Mohamed ElBatadei (2005). These are some examples, in the same manner, we can argue that BBC and Sir David Attenborough would also be excellent candidates that deserve the Nobel Prize for Peace.
The world was just waiting for this incredible event of Sir David Attenborough to join the Instagram. It is just to use Instagram as amplifier for lifting-up biodiversity as an important part of ‘Life on Our Planet’. In just few days his Intagram Account went viral (https://instagram.com/davidattenborough?igshid=11ay0osmkukkp) with millions of followers and more to come. It is as he has an important message to us. The power of social media can hardly be ignored anymore even by highly educated professionals and politicians. What is more important is the content of social media channels that keep improving as more and more are becoming dependent on them and critical voices continue to add new dimensions as ‘survival of the fit’ is becoming an evolution and the norm for progress on the Internet. With the rise of the Internet (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet) and the boom 🤯 of social media (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_media) it is crucial to underline that quality of the content is being recognised more and more by the users. For a great portion of us, that can’t afford regular schooling and/or the expensive higher education, the social media channels are becoming an important source, if not the only source, of knowledge. Classical, conventional and international broadcasting channels (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_broadcasting) aren’t the only standard source of information and knowledge for many of us as they used to be. Though these trends, the global education systems, including higher education, are still closed systems as they don’t necessarily serve, i.e. the needs, the majority of the world population but rather an elite minority, as in football and other sports. Education, knowledge and knowledge transfer are imperative also as tools for public awareness, to share the responsibility, and not necessarily as a passport to the labor market that still support growth/linear economy. Universities and higher education institutes still lack efficient tools to reach out to the normal citizens, mediate knowledge and come near the society through tight engagement and active interactions. This is also the case for public education funded by taxes. Though the extreme importance of education institutes, in particular higher education, they still use ‘business-as-usual’ strategies without enough outreach policies to mediate and advocate knowledge to the public for protection and preservation of our common natural resources. This is the third duty of the universities and not only to perform pure ‘Research and Education’ that still can’t cope to solve existential problems as climate and environment changes, and the collapse in biodiversity, also to offer the necessary services to the citizens in major health disasters and pandemics as COVID-19. This is partly because universities and higher education continue to fail in creating partnership for goals neither with the citizens nor with the politicians as these are also part of their responsibilities, i.e. not to be isolated from the society and live on their own.
Sir David Attenborough and BBC achieved what the world universities failed to do, i.e. communicate science and technology in pedagogic and simple way, to inspire and motivate people, specially the young ones. To raise biodiversity as equally important, as climate change what regards our survival on planet Earth, is without hesitation an outcome of the work of Sir David Attenborough and through the systematic and continuous support of BBC (https://www.google.se/search?q=david+attenborough+nobel+prize&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&hl=sv-se&client=safari). This is why they are very well placed to be nominated for the Nobel Prize.
We are greatly honoured to have Professor Torbjörn Ebenhard on the Editorial Board of sustain-earth.com. Professor Torbjörn Ebenhard is the Deputy director of the Swedish Biodiversity Centre, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Professor Ebenhard is a biologist with a B. Sc. degree from Uppsala University and a Ph. D. degree in zoological ecology from the same university. His early research was focused on island biogeography and conservation biology. Presently he is employed by the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, and based at its Swedish Biodiversity Centre (CBM). It is a special unit for research and communication on conservation, restoration and sustainable use of biodiversity as a crucial issue for society, especially as related to Sweden’s implementation of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. Its mission is to initiate, conduct and coordinate policy-relevant research on the complex interactions between biodiversity and social development, and contribute to society’s capacity to manage these interactions in a sustainable way.
Apart from administrative tasks of Professor Ebenhard at CBM, he works on a number of assignments from the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, supporting their activities on biological diversity in Sweden, and in international negotiations. Professor Ebenhard is mainly involved in the negotiations of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), as a member of the Swedish national delegations. He is also member of the Scientific Council on Biological Diversity and Ecosystem Services at the SEPA, and serves on the board of WWF Sweden.
As explained by Professor Ebenhard “The recent Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services produced by IPBES shows that the present and projected global loss of biodiversity jeopardizes our possibilities to reach the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Humanity is ultimately dependent on biodiversity for its wellbeing and survival. The food we eat, the clean water we drink, the clean air we breathe, fibres for clothing, wood for building homes, and bioenergy to replace fossil fuels – all is provided by biological diversity. But more is at stake. As we deplete the resources that could support us, we also annihilate living organisms and degrade natural ecosystems. According to the IPBES report at least 1 million species of animals and plants are now threatened with extinction. However, the IPBES report also gives hope, as it states that we can bend the curve of biodiversity loss, if we are determined to do so. What it takes is nothing less than a transformative change of the entire human society.”
Professor Ebenhard also reminds us that “Ten years ago the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), to which almost all countries are party, decided on a strategy and a set of global goals to conserve and sustainably use biodiversity, the so-called Aichi targets. They represent a high level of ambition, a much needed component of the transformative change IPBES envisages. CBD’s report Global Biodiversity Outlook 5, issued in September 2020, shows that none of the 20 Aichi targets will be met in full. This disappointing result, at a time when all targets should have been met, is due to a widespread inability by governments to implement the CBD strategy at the national level. Goals and targets at the national level have generally been set at a too low level of ambition, and national measures to reach these goals and targets have been insufficient. We do know, however, that when governments, as well as companies and individuals, have taken appropriate action, it does work, as shown by many successful cases of conservation and sustainable use around the world. But they are too few to bend the negative curve at global level.”
According to Professor Ebenhard “We now suffer the ravages of the covid-19 pandemic to our health and economy, while the growing climate crisis promises to make things much worse, but the looming biodiversity crisis will be of a completely different magnitude. The challenge now is to find integrated solutions, where the entire human society is involved in handling pandemics (there will be more than the present one), climate change and biodiversity loss. For this to happen we need people and decision makers to be aware of the nature of these crises, involve all stakeholders, set new ambitious strategies and goals for biodiversity and ecosystem services, strengthen national implementation and global cooperation, and work in a truly integrated way to address biodiversity loss, climate change and human wellbeing.”
Professor Anders Wörman is the Head of division for Resources, Energy and Infrastructure, The Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm (https://www.kth.se/profile/worman).
His research interest spans over wide-range of trans-disciplinary and trans-sectorial areas in engineering sciences and technology within water resources, hydrology and environmental hydraulics. Ongoing research are due to water and energy availability in terrestrial hydrology, effects of climate fluctuations and landscape changes on runoff, hydropower regulation, extreme flows in rivers and safety of embankment dams. His skill and expertise include: environmental impact assessment; water quality; water resources management; engineering, applied and computational mathematics; hydrological modeling; rivers; civil engineering, hydrologic and water resource modelling and simulation; water balance; waterfall runoff modelling; aquatic eco-systems; surface water geo-statistics; contaminant transport; groundwater penetration; radar and climate change impacts.
Professor Wörman was co-founder and the first manager of the undergraduate educational programme for Environmental and Aquatic Engineering at Uppsala Univ. before being chair prof. at KTH. KTH has dedicated research programmes in Applied Sustainability. One of such programmes is oriented towards finding customized solutions to develope sustainable and resilient technical applications that are climatically and environmentally suited for Africa (https://www.kth.se/en/om/internationellt/projekt/kth-in-africa/africa-1.619441). It is interesting to mention that the world longest river, the Nile, spans over large catchment areas that are located in different climatic/weather (spatio-temporal variability in temperature and precipitation) zones (http://atlas.nilebasin.org/treatise/nile-basin-climate-zones/). These special features of the Nile call for technologies that can cope with climate-environment changes of both natural and man-made origins. Combination of natural and man-made climate changes will certainly induce severe constraints and limitations on what, why and how ‘Water, Energy and Natural Resources (fossil and mineral deposits, eco-systems and biodiversity)’ Nexus need to be carefully accessed on long-term and large-scale bases. In this context, Prof. Wörman has trans-disciplinary and trans-sectorial knowledge suited to handle the complex, inextricable and multi-layered interactions within and between Water, Energy and Natural Resource Systems. These interactions are imperative to understand of coherent and resilient coupling with the Socio-Economic-Environment ‘SEE’ aspects in communities living in river-catchment systems in Africa. These issues are of special interest as river-systems are the dominant landscape units with huge importance for preservation and protection of renewable and fossil resources.
We are delighted to have Professor Bengt, Carlsson at Department of Information Technology, Division of Systems and Control, Uppsala Univesity, on the Editorial Board of sustain-earth.com. As Prof. Bengt Carlsson put it in his words “Treating wastewater is great, but making the treatment resource-efficient is even greater”. Among the expertise of Professor Bengt Carlsson: energy efficiency; automatic control system identification; sustainable development; and wastewater engineering.
Sweden has been been a pioneer in water quality and water cleaning both what regards natural and urban waters. However, the digitalisation is now part of production, use and consumption of water worldwide as the pressure on water resources increased enormously and still accelerate. Here, we give an example on The UK Digital Water Utility Experience (https://youtu.be/V8DEAy3o0S8).
What are the greatest challenges for water and wastewater treatment today? Some of the greatest challenges for water and wastewater treatment today is the contributions of pharmaceuticals that has increased pollution loads on environment. One challenge, is therefore, to effectively separate such residues in treatment plants and another is to cope with achieving climate-neutral wastewater treatment plants.
This post will be further updated and revised very soon.
The ‘ICT’ Information Communication Technology has enormous impacts and caused huge changes in our lives and on all levels, this is however specially true in the developed world. Meanwhile, the heterogeneity, what regards accessibility, affordability and diffusion of modem ICT, is still a worldwide issue. The majority of people in the developing world still suffer from serious inequalities which indeed sets major constraints in many life situations. In this context, the UN-SDGs, including targets therein, represent the intertwined relations and the increasing complexity of the socio-economic-environment aspects in modern societies. The UN-SDGs is an inter-connected package of interactive goals all of it have multi-layered dynamics with continuous and tight feedback impacts within and between each other. They have to be promoted and implemented in parallel and coherently, and above all to operate in phase with each other. Delayed effects in the function between and within the goals can have unprecedented consequences for major groups in societies as is presented here.
COVID-19 has clearly demonstrated, for example, how education is being severely affected in many countries (https://www.un.org/development/desa/dspd/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2020/08/sg_policy_brief_covid-19_and_education_august_2020.pdf) where the teachers and students became incapable of performing their activities as in normal situations. Many indeed were left behind and still. During the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UNESCO came with initiative against the COVID-19 “NO TEACHER OR STUDENT SHOULD BE LEFT BEHIND” as proposed by the Chairperson of the Executive Board of UNESCO. As we didn’t have enough room for preparedness on how to meet the pandemic, the UNESCO initiative provided little solutions to promptly help the situation but it paved the way on how to tackle similar situation in the future, specially the second wave of the pandemic which already started in some countries. The impacts of COVID-19 are devastating to the fabrics of life, in general, as we know it, particularly on the education systems in the developing countries. According to UNESCO, some 107 countries implemented nationwide closures of schools by 18 March 2020, in response to the pandemic. This affected over 861.7 million children and youth, i.e. about 45 per cent of the global population of children and youth in schools or according to latest figures up to 78% of global population of school children and youth. Almost a whole generation in the developing world became at risk over night. In the coming second wave if this isn’t dealt with on time, this unprecedented situation could lead to the collapse of school systems in many developing countries as the local governments can’t cope with such enormous consequences of the virus.
The UNESCO initiative focuses specifically on providing a concrete, meaningful and timely response to the unprecedented crisis that the coronavirus is inflicting on the education system in the developing world. Its objectives were/are: (1) to generate extra-budgetary funds from the World Bank, IMF, regional banks, governments, NGOs, public and private donors, and other voluntary supports; (2) to provide urgently needed funds to schools in developing nations in order to permit the payment of two to three months salaries to teachers; (3) to assist schools to adapt their working methods to enable students to pursue studies under confinement; (4) and to revalue the teaching system/profession in the developing countries (https://en.unesco.org/sites/default/files/no_teacher_or_student_should_be_left_behind.pdf).
As an example, we can see the case of South Africa and how the digital inequalities in e-learning, in their complex education system, has impacted pupils specially those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, e.g. the rural communities. We can name some different reasons for the complexity, which also apply to many other countries in Africa. Language is one, most pupils don’t speak English, as a mother tongue while the official language dominating many classrooms is English. French, for example, is still a dominant language in other African countries while the population in general may have different mother tongues or dialects. Also, the effects of the virus have kept pupils and teachers at home. While e-learning is the solution, the reality in South Africa, as in most developing countries, is very different. Teachers have varying digital skills and many families and teachers cannot afford the systems necessary to sustain some online learning activities. COVID-19 has shown that technology is not anymore a luxury but rather an important component of the education process. However, we still define poverty in conventional ways ‘business-as-usual’ even in world organizations such as IMF (International Monetary Fund) and the WB (World Bank).
In presenting solutions, a wide range of factors must be considered. These range from access to computers, to teacher training, to the social and economic challenges faced by teachers, pupils and schools in their communities. Though Information and Communications Technology ‘ICT’ is taught as a school subject, the government needs to consider an additional range of issues to solidify its commitment towards e-learning. This includes policies and strategies surrounding connectivity, data costs, skills development, hardware access as well as contextual multilingual digital learning content. Many schools still have little or no technology facilities, e.g. tablets and advanced computing systems. Formal training in applied technical skills needs to be extended to all teachers. Adequate digital skills training should become a mandatory component of all teacher training programmes in universities, universities of technology and colleges. Another obstacle is the cost of data-transfer which is among the highest in Africa.This means that pupils can’t always easily access information on their mobile phones. In fact, when pupils and teachers receive the right support for digital learning, the response is often remarkable. Many teachers can willingly dedicate their weekends and school holidays to digital learning and teaching, with no financial incentives. There is also bright spots of collaboration between computing students from the University of the Western Cape with teachers in a high school in an underprivileged part of Cape Town. Their work together has cultivated computing skills and sparked learners’ interest in other subjects like chemistry and astronomy. To know more about the problems of e-learning under the constraints caused by COVID-19 in South Africa see this reference (https://theconversation.com/how-south-africa-can-address-digital-inequalities-in-e-learning-137086).
Historical texts from Spain, Italy, the Middle East and Egypt revealed how lustreware, pottery, batteries, steel swords and hair-dyeing were using nano-composites generating metal-glass and metal coatings on surfaces in different ways to produce impressive products of exceptional quality with enhanced material’s properties (https://www.theguardian.com/nanotechnology-world/nanotechnology-is-ancient-history). Damascus steel swords from the Middle East were made between AD300 and AD1700 with impressive strength, shatter resistance and exceptionally sharp cutting edge. The blades contained oriented nanoscale wire-and-tube-like structures with exceptional qualities. Pottery across the Renaissance Mediterranean was often decorated with an iridescent metallic glaze of colour and sheen down to nanoparticles of copper or silver. Ancient Egyptian hair-dyeing, dating to the Graeco-Roman period, was shown to contain lead-sulphide nanocrystals of 5 nanometre diameter (https://neurophilosophy.wordpress.com/2006/09/06/the-ancient-egyptians-used-nanocosmetics/).
Though craftsmen were highly skilled to produce such materials that by modern definitions falls under nanotechnology they didn’t not know that they were working on the nanoscale. Such amazing inventions from ancient times dated back to thousands of years are numerous examples of ancient technology that leave us awe-struck at the knowledge and wisdom by the people of our past. They were the result of incredible advances in engineering and innovation as new, powerful civilizations emerged and came to dominate the ancient world. Many of such ancient inventions were forgotten, lost to the pages of history, only to be re-invented millennia later. Among the best examples of ancient technology and inventions are: 2000-years-old metal coatings superior to today’s standard; 2000-years-old Bagdad battery; 1600-year-old Roman artisans of impregnated glass with particles of silver and gold; the Assyrian Nimrud lend of the oldest telescope; the steam engine by the Hero of Alexandria and many more (https://www.ancient-origins.net/ancient-technology/ten-amazing-inventions-ancient-times-001539).
In a series of posts we will explore why the 21st century will be prosperous for Africa. Indeed, there are various reasons to predict why Africa will continue to shine more and more though the threats that climate change, including global warming, will hit Africa more than other continents (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_change_in_Africa). Naturally there are other threats that so far hindered Africa from faster developments as compared to the rest of the world, specially that the history of Africa is very much different. Here is a list of key factors, among others, about the ongoing tectonic changes and drivers that will bring a lot of positive socio-economic impacts in Africa.
– African identity, slavery and colonialism distorted her identity and disoriented her values. However, Africa was not the only continent that suffered colonization. The concept of African identity has changed are still changing relatively fast specially with the growing restrictions in migration.
– African independence, decolonization and transition to independence characterized the past century and national identities in many parts of Africa are gradually emerging.
– Large-scale infra-structures, there are mega projects taking place in Africa (the case of Egypt participation in partnership for goals, Goal 17 of UN-SDGs) such as developing its transport systems to connect the continent from the very north in e.g. Egypt to its very south, South Africa, also from the west to the east (https://www.egypttoday.com/Article/1/77914/Egypt-launches-32-projects-in-Africa-in-1-year-report). One example is the enormous use of smart phones technology in trade, business and finance.
– Coupling rural to urban regions, this among key and important issues in the development of Africa as 70% of African are living in rural Africa and producing 70-80% of agricultural outputs.,
– African Union, AU is a continental body of the 55 member states that make up the African Continent. It was officially launched in 2002 as a successor to the Organisation of African Unity (OAU, 1963-1999).
– Human resources, population growth and youth, towards 2100 the population of Africa will peak to about 40% of the world population with very high percentage of youth.
– Natural resources Africa is abundant with natural resources including diamonds. gold, oil, natural gas, uranium, copper, platinum, cobalt, iron, bauxite and cocoa beans. This is of course in addition to its amazing biodiversity.
– Generation shift, new generations and leaders are currently shaping and reshaping Africa, combating corruption, enhance good governance and transparency and taking advantage of modern technologies, e.g. ICT, IOT, crowdfunding, protection of natural resources, also in the energy, agriculture, farming, tourism and other sectors.
– Security, many African countries are becoming more aware about the improvement of national integrity and internal security and safety of population specially that Africa has a complex diversity of ethnic groups. Remarkable developments in safety in Africa took place and still the focus of the African countries.
– Biggest market in the world, the needs of Africa will make it one of the biggest market in the 21st century. There is diversification and expansion the economy and trade both internally and with the rest of the world including Europe and Asia. This will generate tectonic changes in international trade, business, transport and mobility in labor and services.
– Global investments. Based on data through 2017, France is the largest investor in Africa, although its stock of investment has remained largely unchanged since 2013, followed by the Netherlands, the United States, the United Kingdom and China. Geographically Europe and Asia can be linked through North Africa and the GCC countries.
– UN-SDGs the world has created a global agenda for promoting and implementing sustainability which Africa will benefit considerably from it. UN-SDGs and involved targets for developments are key issues that are shaping policies and strategies to cope with poverty, hunger, gender, inequalities, education quality, health, water and sanitation, energy, strong institutions, life quality, biodiversity, ……. etc.
Though many journeys and expeditions were done to discover the secrets of the Nile, very few of them, if any at all, touched upon the diversity of life, traditions and cultures of the Nile people. The Nile people have deep rooted love and worship for the Nile and its waters for thousand of years. The Nile and its waters meant, still mean and will continue to do so for generations. The life of the Nile people is as complex as evolution and history of the Nile itself. In this context, the socio-economic performance of the people of the Nile is very central and crucial for finding sustainable and peaceful ways to share such magnificent gift of nature. These indeed, are parts of wicked conflicts of how to put such enormous diversity in political agreements for lasting harmony in the Nile Basin as a whole. This is also the case of the rest of Africa as rivers and their catchments are basic landscape units of existential importance for the livelihood of the African population. However, vast regions of Africa don’t enjoy surface water resource or rain and other alternatives are imperative such as groundwater, desalination and water reuse. In most cases we need to think in 3D-solutions that couple surface water with groundwater and also to understand the long-term consequences of water production, use and consumption on the landscape level on longterm and large-scale levels. This can be simple to say if such resources were infinite, however water scarcity in Africa is the highest in the world yet major threats are emerging due to climate change, growing population, increasing diversification in economy, acceleration of urbanisation and industrial activities with all consequences of growing waste and pollution. The search for how such transboundary solutions of the water resources to be shared is a major political issue. All of this come in the time of today’s very rapid and fast growing ’diversification’ of the socio-economic-environment conditions needed for the ongoing transformation to sustainable societies.
Joanna Lumley’s journey, in search for the very source of the Nile, by being the longest river in the world, comes with very interesting introduction on the cultural diversity of the life and livelihood of the population in the Nile Basin. Among the amazing issues is the longstanding socio-economic diversity that shaped the life in the Nile Basin for thousands of years ranging from e.g. evolution of tourism; preparation for marriage; social gathering and social therapy ‘Soffi’; beauty treatment ‘Dukhan دخان’ (form of SPA) of body, skin and smell; sports in rural areas; local food and drinks; coutry-side work and services. Traveling, for example, comes with major challenges because of the unique landscape in the African canyons, river-catchment and forests. Respect and appreciation of cultures is the secret of not only social success but more importantly to bring about harmony and resilience in the complex social mosaic that requires modern understanding of ‘what, how and why’ issues in modern sustainability.
Just to give few examples is how to live and travel in one of Africa’s largest canyons of the Blue Nile, 250 miles long. Also, how to manage the 60 rivers that drain rainwater to Lake Tana in Ethiopia. The country with 4/5 of the african mountains and Africa’s oldest cultures that is most diverse with great influences from ancient Egypt and Arabia.
One of the great future challenge of the 21st century is how to deal with the growing scarcity of Africa’s white gold ‘water’ (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_scarcity_in_Africa As of 2006). One third of all African nations suffers from clean water scarcity and Sub-Saharan Africa has the largest number of water-stressed countries of any other place on the planet. It is estimated that by 2030 that 75 million to 250 million people in Africa will be living in areas of high water stress, which will likely displace anywhere between 24 million and 700 million people as conditions become increasingly unlivable.
Sustain-Earth.Com will work on mobilizing Human Resources in Africa for empowering the youth and students for scaling up Science, Technology and Innovation ‘STI’ to promote the UN-SDGs. We are delighted to have Professor Amidu Olalekan Mustapha from University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Nigeria to work on these issues.
Furthermore, the necessary instruments and tools will be developed and implemented for active engagement of the higher education, universities and research institutions in Africa to couple ‘STI’ to society, population and market needs. University graduates, early-stage researchers and professionals (according to scientific and technical merits) through dedicated mentoring programmes will act as catalysts in creating the necessary multi-layered links with relevant stakeholders in all sectors and on all levels. The diverse, rich and wide-range of higher education and research programmes in Africa will provide the necessary Human Resources ‘HR’. This will involve raising the public awareness among the involved stakeholders. A data-base will be created to define, collect and compile the expertise, professional and the targeted stakeholders.
The involvement of high-level interactions with sectors and organisations as was the case in previous trans-disciplinary and trans-sectorial activities, e.g. IRPA-Nairobi Conference in 2010 (http://www.iur-uir.org/en/archives/conferences/id-44-afrirpa2010-third-african-irpa-regional-congress) will be assessed. This will be part of building on previous experiences and successes of already existing networking infra-structures. However, this will still require major challenges but suitable grounds will be found for what and how to do. According to Professor Amidu Mustapha there are a number of existing initiatives and platforms that we can link up with, e.g. both in Nigeria and Kenya. The members of the existing groups may also have other goals in addition, but we can benefit mutually in the common areas of environmental sustainability and knowledge development especially among youths.
A starting point will also involve reshaping and tuning two previously given courses at Uppsala university in 2018 and 2019 (http://teknat.uu.se/digitalAssets/395/c_395062-l_3-k_sustainability-in-science-and-technology.pdf; http://www.teknat.uu.se/digitalAssets/395/c_395062-l_1-k_sustainability-in-science-and-technology-2019.pdf). In these two course water, energy and natural resources nexus were detailed in order to explore what, why and how these drivers can be coupled to socio-economic-environment aspects that are necessary to help the ongoing transformation to sustainable societies. Over twenty professors and professionals were involved in conducting these courses, however there are still enormous needs to develop and extend these courses to meet the realities in many developing countries specially in Africa. This is also while considering the practical approaches that would be required in the implementation process. Particularly what regards the existing and emerging needs (UN-SDGs) in Africa for practical and appropriate policies and strategies.
Professor Ameenah Gurib-Fakim is Biodiversity scientist, Entrepreneur, Author and the 6th President Republic of Mauritius. She has joined the Editorial Board of Sustain-Earth.Com.
It is a great honor to have Professor Ameenah Gurib-Fakim on the Editorial Board of Sustain-Earth.Com. She has been the Managing Director of the Centre International de Développement Pharmaceutique (CIDP) Research and Innovation, also Professor of Organic Chemistry with an endowed chair at the University of Mauritius. She has served as Dean of the Faculty of Science and Pro Vice Chancellor (2004- 2010). She also worked at the Mauritius Research Council as Manager for Research (1995-1997). She was elected and served as Chairperson of the International Council for Scientific Union – Regional Office for Africa.
As a Founding Member of the Pan African Association of African Medicinal Plants, she co-authored the first ever African Herbal Pharmacopoeia, authored and co-edited 30 books, several book chapters and scientific articles in the field of biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. She has lectured extensively across the world; is a Member of the Editorial Boards of major journals, has served on Technical and national committees in various capacities. Elected Fellow of several academies and societies, Ms Gurib-Fakim received several international prizes including the 2007 l’Oreal-UNESCO Prize for Women in Science, the African Union Commission Award for Women in Science, 2009.
The 6th President and the First Female President of the Republic of Mauritius and served in that capacity during June 2015-March 2018. She was elevated to the Order of GCSK by the Government of Mauritius, and received the Legion d’Honneur from the Government of France in 2016. In 2017, she received both the lifelong achievement award of the United States Pharmacopoeia-CePat Award and the American Botanical Council Norman Farnsworth Excellence in Botanical Research Award. In 2018, she received the Order of St George at the Semperopernball, Dresden, Germany. In June 2016, she was in the Forbes List for the 100 ‘Most Powerful women in the world’ and 1st among the Top 100 Women in Africa Forbes List 2017, 2019. She is honoured as one of Foreign Policy’s 2015 Global Thinkers.
More about Professor Ameenah Gurib-Fakim can be found in Wikipedia (https://sv.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ameenah_Gurib); Forbes (https://www.forbes.com/profile/ameenah-gurib-fakim/); Council of Women World Leaders (http://www.councilwomenworldleaders.org/ameenah-gurib-fakim.html); Linkedin (https://mu.linkedin.com/in/aguribfakim).
Scaling up science and technology to promote and implement the UN-SDGs is crucial for achieving sustainability in Africa and bringing prosperity to future generation. In this context coupling science and technology and integrating them in the socio-economic-environment pillars of society is imperative. We invite you here to see the progress, challenges and opportunities for cross-sector innovations toward gender parity, among others, in leadership in Africa and globally. https://youtu.be/sx8d_Xkt4xY
Sustain-Earth.Com is tuning its activities towards building sustainable communities in Africa. Instruments and tools will be gradually imbedded and integrated to facilitate more effective cross-boundary collaboration both vertically and horizontally, e.g. through ‘top-bottom’ and ‘bottom-top’ interactions for interactive and coherent participation of all stakeholders in different sectors and on all levels. This is needed to promote and implement the UN-SDGs as they give guideline of what is needed to achieve prosperity. Three main drivers are essential in this respect Water, Energy and Natural Resources. However, ‘What, Why and How’ to produce, use and consume ‘Water, Energy and Natural Resources’ for Sustainable Development need responsible and resilient managent in all sectors individually and collectively. Scaling-up ‘Science, Technology and Innovation’ and their effective, integrated and coherent coupling to society, population and market needs is imperative in this context.
Africa’s population is the youngest in the world and is growing very fast. Yet future challenges to cope with the degradation in climate, environment and biodiversity are diverse, complex and multi-layered. In this context, AGRICULTUREfor example, needs Water, Energy and Natural Resources to promote and accelerate food security, make Africa a net exporter of food and to add value to its agricultural products and for regional integration. To achieve this the agricultural sector needs: to increase its production and productivity; improve the functioning of national and regional agricultural markets; foster investment and entrepreneurship in agrifood value chains; foster access to food and improved nutrition; and also to improve management of the water, energy natural resources.
More about these issues in the following report (2013africanagricultures.pdf).
While ‘WE THE PEOPLE’ in singular terms are composed of unique individuals from all walks of life, we still seek and need common solutions in spite of the fact that the modern political party systems are product of socio-economic conflicts of the last few centuries (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Left%E2%80%93right_political_spectrum). Globalisation, by being affected by internetisation, is strongly shaping and reshaping democracies around the world. More and more intensive and complex engagement of world population, i.e. individuals of “WE THE PEOPLE”, is taking place. So, the number of solutions to achieve peace, security and prosperity are becoming endless especially if sustainability, with its ‘socio-economic-environment’ pillars, is to be seriously and actively taken in consideration. However, from the Science and Technology viewpoint a problem is a solution that is not yet found’ (https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/288957; https://www.itseducation.asia/article/finding-possible-solutions; https://www.lifehack.org/articles/productivity/look-for-the-solution-within-the-problem.html; https://www.aicpa-cima.com/news/the-problem-is-the-solution.html). We are desperately seeking new solutions and this remains to be the main concern shaping this century though the problems, barriers and challenges in our modern societies are becoming multilayered in nature, complexity and even diversity. It is not straightforward to tune individuals and their political structures to the same goals, i.e. to redefine what is meant by ‘WE THE PEOPLE’ in global context. It is a spatio-temporal dynamic process coherent with an ever ongoing progress in the development of human evolution on planet Earth.
This said, the COVID-19 crisis by being part of a complex health system on planet Earth demonstrates clearly the paradox in how to define ‘WE THE PEOPLE’ from viewpoint of individuals and communities, i.e. in ‘bottom-top’ models on the one-hand; and in political structures and governmental institutions, i.e. in ‘top-bottom’ models on the other-hand. Considering the global geographical data of COVID-19 and the associated antibody tests by today (https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/) we may conclude that the so-called herd immunity, population immunity, or social immunity hasn’t been achieved yet as the time elapsed since the breakdown of the novel coronavirus ‘COVID-19 pandemic’ is yet very short. Herd immunity (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herd_immunity) is a form of indirect protection from infectious diseases that occurs when a large percentage of a population become immune to an infection. Generally, it can be achieved through previous infections thus providing a protection for individuals not yet immune. As COVID-19 is resulting from a new virus it will take longtime to achieve herd immunity and unless we keep doing at least what we are doing now we could face severe consequences. According to WHO, we are currently taking huge and yet unknown risks by reopening our economies. The spread of COVID-19 is refuelling itself and accelerating in the same way as it started back in China by the end of 2019 (https://www.cnbc.com/2020/06/19/who-says-coronavirus-enters-new-and-dangerous-phase-as-daily-cases-hits-record.html). Herd immunity can be also achieved through vaccination which in the case of COVID-19 is not yet available and may take up to several years for worldwide public use. However, there is some light at horizon as we have new reasonable explanations about the contradictions in global infection and death rates around the world. We have delayed effects in the global immunity that resulted from BCG vaccination which has been introduced and still being used in the developing countries. This is apparent from the strong correlation of reduced infection and mortality rates of COVID-19 in the developing countries. Excluding the countries with low-income levels that have few number of cases of COVID-19 per million inhabitants, i.e. 0.32± 0.09, because of risks for biases from improper reporting. The middle high and high-income countries with current universal BCG policy (55 countries) the same value of COVID-19 is 59.54± 23.29 (mean±s.e.m) cases per million inhabitants, to be compared with middle high and high income countries that never had a universal BCG policy (5 countries) with about 4 times the number of cases per million inhabitants, with 264.90± 134.88. This difference between countries is significant (p=0.0064, Wilcoxon rank sum test), suggesting that broad BCG vaccination along with other measures could slow the spread of COVID-19 (https://www.dw.com/en/can-a-tuberculosis-vaccine-help-combat-covid-19/a-53388220). The epidemiological evidence, from this German-study, indicates that differences in morbidity and mortality produced by COVID-19 across countries might be partially explained by a country’s BCG vaccination policy. Italy, for example, with very high COVID-19 mortality never implemented universal BCG vaccination. Japan with low COVID-19 mortality rate despite not implementing the most strict forms of social isolation have been implementing BCG vaccination since 1947. Iran that is heavily hit by COVID-19, started its universal BCG vaccination policy only in 1984 thus leaving anybody over 36 years old unprotected. China despite having a universal BCG policy since the 1950’s, its tuberculosis prevention and treatment agencies were disbanded and weakened during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). This, according to this German study, could have created (https://www.dw.com/en/can-a-tuberculosis-vaccine-help-combat-covid-19/a-53388220) a pool of potential hosts that affected by and spread COVID-19. However, the situation in China, assuming COVID-19 data from China are correct, now seems to have improved relatively fast. So the present global COVID-19 data suggest that BCG vaccination seem to significantly reduce mortality associated with COVID-19. The earlier that a country established a BCG vaccination policy, the stronger the reduction in number of deaths per million inhabitants, consistent with the idea that protecting the elderly population might be crucial in reducing mortality. Similar studies have been performed around the world, researchers from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Australia (MCRI) organized a trial to investigate whether the tuberculosis (TB) vaccine known as the bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) might offer protection against COVID-19 (https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/covid-19-could-tb-vaccine-offer-protection). Earlier work has shown that it might reduce the risk of some respiratory infections that are entirely unrelated to TB (https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)31025-4/fulltext). In this publication it is indicated that in addition to the specific effect against tuberculosis, the BCG vaccine has beneficial nonspecific (off-target) effects on the immune system that protect against a wide range of other infections and are used routinely to e.g. treat bladder cancer. This led to the suggestion that vaccination with BCG might have a role in protecting health-care workers and other vulnerable individuals against severe coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Also in a study carried out in France and The Netherland (https://www.france24.com/en/20200403-could-tb-vaccine-protect-medics-from-covid-19) it is stated that though BCG vaccine does not directly protect against the coronavirus, it can provide a boost to the immune system which may lead to improved protection and a milder infection. So, the race to develop COVID-19 vaccines has well and truly begun, but amid this research excitement another, rarely talked about vaccine is suddenly getting a lot of attention (https://www.gavi.org/vaccineswork/can-bcg-vaccine-protect-against-covid-19). During its long existence, an array of evidence has emerged suggesting that BCG vaccine may also offer beneficial off-target effects, providing some protection against not just some forms of TB but other diseases as well as it appears to help boost the immune system.
So, putting COVID-19 in a global historical perspective what regards the evolution of pandemics and diseases that threatened humanity reveals and uncover many important and strategic issues (https://www.converse.edu/story/reflections-on-current-past-pandemics/; https://www.historyassociates.com/the-covid-19-pandemic-in-historical-perspective/; https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/spanish-flu-pandemic-and-mental-health-historical-perspective). Until around 1970, historical research about pandemics had been virtually non-existent. Some novels and popular histories appeared over the decades, but it was Alfred Crosby’s 1976 book Epidemic and Peace, 1918 (reissued in 1989 under the title America’s Forgotten Pandemic: The Influenza of 1918) that paved the way for international research about the subject. One of the book’s major achievements was to draw attention to the fact that the pandemic quickly disappeared as a topic of public conversation soon after it was over, ignored by periodicals and textbooks for decades. To many historians, this collective silence is as much a part of the pandemic’s story as the course of the disease itself. The first outbreak of global diseases occurred from 1347 to 1351, killed up to 50% of the Europe’s population (https://www.converse.edu/story/reflections-on-current-past-pandemics/). King Edward III of England ordered English ports to be closed before the plague reached England late in the summer of 1348. The best advice, that remains to be true until today, anyone could offer was to flee, in essence a form of social distancing. As in this case distancing all the population of England by closing its borders. A more recent pandemic, the influenza of 1918-1919 also has even more lessons for us to learn (https://www.historyassociates.com/the-covid-19-pandemic-in-historical-perspective/). The 1918 influenza pandemic occurred in a world devoid of viral vaccines, relatively minimal medical knowledge, medical infrastructure, and limited global communications. Most important, a century ago, medical professionals didn’t categorize the flu as a viral infection and there were no efficient, precise ways of diagnosing and documenting the influenza. There were neither a World Health Organization for global coordination of health issues nor scientific know-how to allow for isolation of viruses and the generation of quick effective antiviral tests. The origin of the 1918-1919 disease is still undetermined, it seemed to simultaneously appear in the USA, Europe, and Asia. Usually, influenza affects the young and the elderly, described as a ‘U’. The outbreak of 1918-1919 described as a ‘W’ shape as young, elderly and many in the twenties and thirties were affected too. Over 500 million people were infected worldwide, i.e. one-third of world’s population at that time. Between 50 and 100 million people died worldwide and 675,000 people in the USA. The period 1918-1919 overlapped with WW-I, so in addition to the huge lack of understanding of infectious diseases and medical responses, specially to civilians, the WW-I itself put more constraints on medical reserves and full implementation of social distancing both in Europe and the USA. Both Europe USA and other countries were placing most of their attention and support to the war. In the USA for example, as the flu found a foothold, Philadelphia’s health commissioner ignored warnings from medical experts and proceeded with a planned parade to support the war effort. While St. Louis issued warnings almost immediately when the first cases appeared and its health commissioner promptly banned public gatherings exceeding twenty people, closed schools, theaters, churches, and other places for several weeks. The death rate in St. Louis amounted to less than half, per capita, of that in Philadelphia. Flattening the Curve by social distancing was already used in 1918 though other cities around the world still went business-as-usual in running civil and public sevices, and businesses promoting the war.
The BCG vaccine (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/BCG_vaccine) first became available in 1921 and it appears on the World Health Organization (WHO) List of Essential Medicines. More than 100 million babies globally receive the BCG vaccination each year. Aside from TB, the BCG vaccine also protects against other conditions that involve mycobacterium (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mycobacterium) including leprosy. Scientists produce the vaccine using live Mycobacterium bovis (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mycobacterium_bovis) taken from bovines, which they have attenuated to reduce their virility. Although no studies, to date, have investigated the BCG vaccine’s influence over SARS-CoV-2, the scientists hope that the story might be similar. If the BCG vaccine can bolster and strengthen the immune system, it might reduce the infection rates of SARS-CoV-2 or lessen the severity of COVID-19 (http://theconversation.com/could-bcg-a-100-year-old-vaccine-for-tuberculosis-protect-against-coronavirus-138006). This is actually an important finding of the careful studies and examination of the global spatio-temporal data of COVID-19. So, without the collaboration of world health institutions, collation, coordination and compilation it would have been impossible to arrive to such achievement which is an essential conclusion for the advancement in science and technology. This is a reminder of the strategic importance of Goal 17 of the UN-SDGs “Goal 17 seeks to strengthen global partnership to support and achieve the ambitious targets of the 2030 Agenda to bring together national governments, the international community, civil society, the private sector and other actors”. Again the Goal 17 itself can’t be achieved without promoting and implementing a web of many other underlying infra-structures that are very-well defined in the UN-SDGs. Such underlying infra-structures allow stronger coupling of the citizens and communities to their multi-layered governmental and institutional bodies and organizations on all levels and scales. It is a matter of improving and strengthening vertical and horizontal communications in ‘botton-top models’. ‘Top-bottom models’ are not as effective and efficient in the developing and less-favored countries, it can be also the case in some developed countries. This is how to arrive to the proper operational definition of “WE THE PEOPLE”, i.e. empowering the citizens to enhance their performance in the very basic three pillars of sustainability: social, economic and environmental. A global transformational process where the responsibility is shifted more and more towards citizens to achieve knowledge-based democracy of engaged and well-informed citizens.
“Globalisation” (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dimensions_of_globalization) means different things to different people, and the same applies to “Democracy” (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy). Globalisation has benefits, challenges e.g. risks and contradictions (https://www.chathamhouse.org/london-conference-2015/background-papers/overcoming-risks-and-contradictions-globalization; https://velocityglobal.com/blog/globalization-benefits-and-challenges/; https://www.newyorkfed.org/newsevents/speeches/2017/dud170511) with tectonic transformation and challenges associated with it. It has Pros And Cons for the poor and the rich countries in terms of access of small businesses, multi-nationals and working people to free markets. Not all barriers in globalisation, that hider the promotion and implementation of the UN-SDGs, can be eliminated overnight and risks still remain for social injustice, abuse of human rights, unfair working conditions, mismanagement of natural resources, and ecological damage, violation of intellectual properties, spread of infections and diseases, human trafficking and degradation of social welfare in general (https://www.forbes.com/sites/mikecollins/2015/05/06/the-pros-and-cons-of-globalization/amp/). We have also to take in consideration the existing illiteracy, corruption and misconduct in developing countries. Also, the remains of destructive impacts in the socio-economic fabrics that resulted from centuries of colonisation and slave-handel.
Both democracy and globalisation are dynamic in evolution and depends on political structures around the world. The shift from agricultural and rural societies to industrial and urban ones has forced new challenges that resulted in economic development but also economic competition. Advances in science and technological were major drivers that resulted in screwed shifts and systematic changes with trends in more and more differentiated, polarised and degenerated globalisation and democracies (https://ged-project.de/globalization/what-are-the-drivers-behind-economic-globalization/) in favour of trade and economic structures as defined and driven by growth and linear economies. Growth and linear economies, as consequences of screwed globalisation and democracies, are in flavour of developed countries that have easy and prompt access to science and technology on all aspects (https://ourworldindata.org/is-globalization-an-engine-of-economic-development; https://www.salon.com/2014/08/02/how_the_middle_class_got_screwed_college_costs_globalization_and_our_new_insecurity_economy/). Currently, globalisation is not an accurate descriptor of the 21st century as there has been tectonic and huge internet-driven transformational changes sweeping in all public and private sectors, trade and businesses. Yet, the international economic landscape is not tuned to incorporate within it the UN-SDGs. It is unfortunate that the UN-SDGs are degraded and reduced to only one goal, i.e. Goal 13: The Climate Action. Though Climate Action is important in itself, the same can be said for all goals as evident from COVID-19. The term internetisation is believed to be a replacement for the concept of globalisation as time and geography are irrelevant (https://www.google.se/amp/s/theconversation.com/amp/internetization-a-new-word-for-our-global-economy-88013). Internetisation is the contemporary face of globalization as it includes all modern tools of electronic globalisation and embraces the digital connectivity and empowerment of the internet and the World Wide Web. Globalisation of knowledge, including science and technology, and the associated impacts on industrialisation and economy, has benefitted, almost entirely the developed countries, through the considerable brain-drain from the developing countries either actively or passively. In passive terms, all researchers around the world are forced to publish in international journals that either controlled by the science and technology policies serving mainly growth and linear economies or fit in the science and technology strategies defined by the developed countries.
The gradual and systematic shift from ‘globalisation’ to ‘internetisation’ has also negative and positive impacts as is the case for globalisation. IOT, ICT and social media are still controlled by free market economy, i.e. linear and growth economy. This evolution has affected the way individuals define ‘WE THE PEOPLE’, i.e. from viewpoint of the citizen which is not coherent with how the political structures define it. We are not any longer living in isolated bubbles. Here are some literature that explain how countries, citizens and businesses around the world are becoming more interconnected, as various drivers such as technology, transportation/travel, social media, and global finance make it easier for goods, services, ideas, innovation and people to move freely across traditional and classic borders and boundaries (https://courses.lumenlearning.com/marketing-spring2016/chapter/reading-globalization-benefits-and-challenges/). These changes underline the ongoing transformation from ‘slow globalisation’ to more and more ‘fast globalisation’, i.e. ‘internetisation’. In any case, the major impacts on businesses that provide an abundance of worldwide benefits comes with major challenges for individuals, stakeholders and governments (https://www.google.se/amp/s/www.globalization-partners.com/blog/benefits-and-challenges-of-globalization/amp/; https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/spero.htm). As globalisation or ‘internetisation’ can open and create new markets and technological advances with potential to empower and enrich everyone, so far it has created global unsustainable ‘socio-economic-environment’ inequalities. So, more and more political challenges have emerged that urge us, our governments, institutions and multilateral policy-makers to overcome the associated risks and contradictions. As companies, and stakeholders alike, start to grow and expand they face new difficulties to navigate and reach their global expansion goals and overcome competition barriers, decentralisation of industires, protectionism and cultural differences around the world. However, it is time to end the profit-at-all-costs mentality, because if we don’t build an economic future within a sustainable framework in which we are respectful of our planetary boundaries, and the need to change our energy, use of natural resources and technology systems, then we will not have a living planet for human beings. It is also, very important for countries to recognize there are essential services that need to be provided in terms of healthcare, education, good governance and a social safety that cannot be compromised on. The volume of needs that we have today made it clear that global cooperation is imperative and abundantly clear.
The rise of ’Black Lives Matter’, ‘I Can’t Breath’ (https://youtu.be/7Hj__JaNBI4), ‘Anti-Slave’ and ‘Anti-Racism’ demonstrations (https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/07/world/global-floyd-protests-weekend-intl/index.html; https://www.marketwatch.com/story/george-floyd-demonstrations-across-europe-grow-larger-and-louder-2020-06-07) around the world uncovered various socio-economic realities and disparities. These represent future challenges that are imperative for promoting and achieving sustainable societies. As by today, it is not straightforward, even in higher education and developed economies, to realise and grasp the involved dimensions associated with the inconvenient truth about how minorities, including blacks, immigrants and less favoured groups (https://socialsci.libretexts.org/Bookshelves/Sociology/Book%3A_Minority_Studies_(Dunn)/02%3A_Dominant_and_Minority_Groups/2.01%3A_Dominant_and_Minority_Groups) may still feel or experience disparities in modern societies including Europe e.g. UK (https:www.timeshighereducation.com/blog/why-my-professor-still-not-black); Sweden (https://liu.se/en/article/svart-i-sverige). The stories that, to some extent, still remain to be part of our social heritage are rooted in many underlying historical and cultural events about racism, as documented and explained in Science. The sociocultural and socio-economic stratification of historical roots are still causing and promoting socio-economic barriers and hinders for inclusive integration and assimilation. Remedies and mitigations are well described in the Paris agreement of 2016 which was signed by the international community, i.e. the UN-SDGs compromising 17 goals for the prosperity and well-being on planet Earth (https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/envision2030.html). Michael E. Ruane, a graduate of Harvard University and reporter at the Philadelphia Bulletin and Washington Post writes “Such thought exists today with pernicious assumptions about the current nature of black life and black people, still featuring age-old racist references to blacks as animals. It persists despite the advent of modern DNA science, which has shown race to be fundamentally a social construct. Humans, as it turns out, share about 99.9 percent of their DNA with each other, and outward physical characteristics such as hair texture and skin color, about which racists have long obsessed, occupy just a tiny portion of the human genome” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/a-brief-history-of-the-enduring-phony-science-that-perpetuates-white-supremacy/2019/04/29/20e6aef0-5aeb-11e9-a00e-050dc7b82693_story.html). Until early 20th century the thoughts of Louis Agassiz, the famous Swiss American scientist and Harvard professor, who was studying what was called polygenism, and the New York lawyer and racial theorist named Madison Grant pointed that “blacks were often situated along the evolutionary ladder midway between a classical ideal and the orangutan”. Grant, whose father, a Union army doctor, had earned the Medal of Honor in the Civil War, believed in a rigid racial hierarchy, with “nordics” at the top and blacks and others at the bottom. It was not until 1936, when the African American sprinter Jesse Owens smashed the ideas of Hitler and Madison when he won four gold medals at the Berlin Olympics. But Owens’s own track coach belittled the success of black runners: “It was not long ago that his ability to sprint and jump was a life-and-death matter to him in the jungle.”
The historian Ibram X. Kendi says “What black inferiority meant has changed in every generation . . . but ultimately Americans have been making the same case and even when “Americans have discarded old racist ideas, new racist ideas have constantly been produced for their renewed consumption” and some day the time will come “when Americans will realize that the only thing wrong with black people is that they think there is something wrong with black people.” Ibram X. Kendi, Ph.D. in African American Studies in 2010, Temple University, USA and a leading scholar of race and discriminatory policy in America.
The growing blind fear for the collapse of modern ’economic’ democracies because of the major failure of integration policies in the US and Europe, caused serious political conflicts in Europe and call for military domination in the US against protesters (https://www.democracynow.org/2020/6/2/trump_insurrection_act_military_against_protests; https://www.dn.se/ledare/peter-wolodarski-det-ar-sa-har-demokratier-dor/). Also, the shortsighted economic growth in Europe, that doesn’t promote the UN-SDGs (except what regards one goal, i.e. Climate Action), has triggered major refugee crises in 2015 and 2016 consisted primarily of a sharp rise in the number of people coming to Europe to claim asylum. Arrivals have now dropped, and governments have cracked down on the movement of undocumented migrants within the EU; many thousands are stuck in reception centres or camps in e.g. southern Europe, while others try to make new lives in the places they have settled (http://www.theguardian.com/news/audio/2018/jun/25/five-myths-about-the-refugee-crisis-podcast). Interestingly, the refugee crisis itself resulted from series of wars, e.g. Gulf war in 1991 (https://www.thebalance.com/cost-of-iraq-war-timeline-economic-impact-3306301; https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Refugees_of_Iraq) based on false beliefs about weapons of mass destruction and triggered a spiral of political conflicts and instabilities caused by sanctions against Iraq, violence during and after the American-led invasion and occupation. It is also well-known and well-documented how Africas colonial history has affected its socio-economic developments (https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2015/07/how-africas-colonial-history-affects-its-development/; https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000065575) and still remains to be a major underlying obstacle for building sustainable labour market specially for the Africas young population.
Socio-economic disparities existing in the labour market promote toxic cultures in workplaces on micro and macro scales. They are plagued by fighting, drama and unhappy employees to the point that productivity and the well-being of the people in the office is affected. There are seven major signs of toxic culture to look out for in your workplace (https://inside.6q.io/toxic-work-culture/). On the large-scale and long-term these trigger enormous damage not only for work places but for communities and the society as a whole. They can be hidden for long-time and can show up at anytime with different consequences and impacts (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/08/business/media/refinery-29-christene-barberich.html; https://www.google.se/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/media/2020/jun/09/editors-resign-us-publications-accusations-racist-toxic-culture). The victims of a toxic work culture are often the employees in particular those belonging to minority group such as immigrants and out-sourced workers specially to foreign (offshoring or nearshoring) businesses (https://yaro.blog/2641/is-outsourcing-exploitation/).
When and how we will be able to integrate the seventeen UN-SDGs in all sector activities around the world remains to be imperative. Unfortunately most of the focus still put on one Goal, i.e. Climate Action, which indeed is far from being enough to achieve prosperity, security and safety on planet earth.
To start with ‘racism and discrimination’ do exist in many forms and ways but with the growing global socio-economic-environment awareness the impacts and consequences of ‘racism and discrimination’ can’t be denied anymore. ‘Enough is enough’ and the whole world is now protesting after the legitimate cry of George Floyd “I Can’t Breath” that resulted in his cruel death. Finally racism and discrimination that has been taking place systematically and by institutional organisations even in democratic societies is being filmed (https://www.google.se/amp/s/www.the-sun.com/news/924037/girl-who-recorded-george-floyd-killing-therapy-online-trolls/amp/). The echo of George Floyd is a symbolic reminder of how we humans still fail to give space for each other to exist. This is done through how we brought up to think and to act ‘Me, my and mine’ as by today in year 2020 the survival of some on the Earth with seven billion people, among other living species, is still ruling above all and everything. It has now culminated in a phrase ‘I Can’t Breath’ that millions and millions (if not billions) of people wish to say but they were always, and still, ordered to listen. This mindset is a long-standing historical heritage that was gradually and systematically allowed to grow and expand globally. From generation to generation, it has established itself as a global culture to dominate our life-style on planet Earth. It is not only about discrimination and racism but it is about a cancer (with no medicine) or a virus (with no vaccine) that has resulted in destroying all forms of life on planet Earth including humans themselves.
Modern democracies started to feel the pain of racism and discrimination as expressed by those suffering from it “I Can’t Breath”. This has been crystal clear through endless negotiations in the UN committees to bring peace and prosperity to our world. The cure, that the world agreed on, is being defined in a holistic document of 17 goals; the UN-SDGs of 2016 (https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/envision2030.html) which is a roadmap for achieving sustainable development for all. Indeed it is a collective global approach for counteracting all forms of historical racism and discrimination by building on the principle of “leaving no one behind”. Among these goals is erasing poverty and hunger that are very dominant in the black communities specially in Africa (https://www.stockholmresilience.org/research/research-news/2017-10-25-pollution-and-poverty-a-deadly-mix.html) also through providing people with quality education, health, clean water, sanitation, energy, equal opportunities and decent jobs. Global partnerships are needed to achieve these goals by peaceful means. The wicked problems of racism and discrimination though neither be solved overnight nor be left for centuries without solutions. We can’t keep running away from them by todays business-as-usual policies, strategies and politics. ‘Enough is enough’ and the world can’t go on turning their backs and leaving behind future generations on a planet that is full of ‘viruses’ of different forms. It is an imperative and urgent need to tune our collective efforts to save the planet from a total annihilation. Better late than never.
Health is a key issue for the sustainable socio-economic-environment transformation of any society. That is clear and evident now to all, and everyone, of us specially in the time of COVID-19 pandemic. However, moving the whole African continent and putting it on a sustainable roads of secure and safe public health it neither trivial nor can be achieved overnight. Africa is very much different and has several obstacles that hinder direct transfer and import of technology from the developed world. But challenges and opportunities are enormous. Not all innovations are likely to survive in the longterm and large-scale because of several reasons that are either treated or will be treated in sustain-earth.com. Future innovations have be based on solid and deep rooted sustainability pillars. Examples on such innovations are given at (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/aug/26/africa-innovations-transform-continent) and will be commented on, elsewhere, at sustain-earth.com. We need to screen all the existing innovations to evaluate and assess them against the new criteria of sustainability.
The African demography (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Africa) has special features what regards population distribution, growth, health, diseases, health care systems, transportation, urban/rural mobility, economy, …. ect all of which have to be taken in consideration to bring about successful transformation to sustainable communities. In the current state of development, innovative ICT-medical tools provide appropriate solutions to offer public health services as ICT/IOT has capabilities to couple P-2-P and M-2-P communications by short-cuts without the need of unnecessary transport specially in critical situations and for people in isolated locations. One such ICT-based solutions is Cardiopad that enables Remote Heart Diagnosis through digital tablets (https://youtu.be/NFIOuy3J-IQ). This has been developed by Arthur Zang, a Cameroonian engineer. When such new innovations find its way in the market they open a chain of other applications and services that can together build integrated and coherent infra-structures to scale-up solutions for whole communities. Let us congratulate Arthur Zang, his team and Cameroon for their innovation.