Indeed, it doesn’t come with surprise that the world GDP ‘Gross Domestic Product’ has been accelerating since the great civilization of Ancient Egypt. In general, the world economic systems evolved in milleniums and generations on their own with weak and poor global coupling to the social and environmental pillars of sustainability. This has developed systematically on the expense of the health and wealth of planet Earth. Some very few exceptions do exist.
It would have been more beneficial if such developments involved parallel measures for better preservation and protection of life quality on Earth. Some of the gains in world GDP, at least in the past centuries, could have been used for mitigating the social and environmental conditions. Some few countries were successful to freely do so on their own especially those that were not, directly or indirectly involved in long-term conflicts and wars. It is therefore unfortunate that political structures and policies have generally supported, or being forced to support, the past negative trends. With some exceptions the global education systems, including higher education, have in practical terms either followed or served linear economies. This also involved poor attention and tuning of the underlying global machinery of R&D. Current education systems are becoming more and more isolated from the reality of our planet as we have it today and as it seems to be in the future. We know what the problems are, and where they are likely to be most severe, but we still don’t have enough tools to prepare future generations to act accordingly. We continue to replicate copies that empower linear economies with little effective spaces for creative, stimulative and innovative sustainable solutions.
Promotion and implementation of “circular economy” though the potential for beneficial socio-economic-environment outcome are facing major difficulties around the world. These difficulties bring with them cluster of wicked obstacles for generations to come what regards achieving the UN-SDGs. They also applies to the weak mitigation of climate and environment change policies which indeed impose severe constraints on natural resources, biodiversity and life quality in general. It is very clear from COVID-19 that we are still facing severe problems that clearly undermine our existence in particular the young generations what regards building sustainable and resilient economic systems. To cope with COVID-19 many countries were forced again to borrow from future economic resources that belong to the next generations. We will continue to do so for solving any emerging crises and new threats as we are still EITHER consuming OR deteriorating our common capital of natural resources.
The UN-SDGs are no more than a compilation of the shortcomings that resulted from the global economic systems whether on the right or left of the political spectra. Both capitalism and socialism, including the collapsed communism 1989, and anything in between or still on the extremes of both sides, failed to cope with what we are facing today. What we have today everywhere didn’t emerge from thin air or develop overnight. Indeed, it resulted from blind conflicts within and between political structures on the right and the left that contributed in the aggravation of the climate and environment threats that we are facing today.
As an example is the outdated definition of poverty (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poverty) that is still used in global economic and education systems “Poverty, is the state of not having enough material possessions or income or for a person’s basic needs”. How do we define basic needs in ICT ‘Information Communication Technology’, AI ‘Artificial Intelligence’ and ML ‘Machine Learning’ era? How do we define poverty in the era of the Anthropocene with continuous degradation of the life quality on earth? Or even from the UN-SDGs perspective, i.e. to have inclusive social, economic and environment elements that holds on all levels from individual, to community and up to society levels? The definition of absolute poverty is also outdated as it lacks the means to meet the basic needs of life quality other than the necessary personal needs, such as food, clothing and shelter. Isn’t clean air, clean water, clean environment, access to the internet, quality education, equal opportunity, gender, ……… etc. are basic necessities?
Will we continue to repeat previous mistakes? What do you suggest?