As my fellow reporter Nikolaj Fisher described in his recent post 10+10+10+10 = Rio+20 – a short history, over the last two decades we have seen the world enter a realm of conversations, all aimed at bringing us the future we want. This of course was a large accomplishment – the world was so very different twenty years ago. Regardless of the world’s political complications, we have seen a rise of monumental events begin to bring about a new movement and way of thinking, creating a paradigm shift.
In 1992 we saw the UN Conference on Environment and Development. In this conference, AGENDA 21, seen as the blueprint for a sustainable planet, was brought to light. We also saw the creation of various Sustainable Development organizations like the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, Forest Principles, and Women for the Environment, to name a few.
The Agenda 21 blueprint led to the creation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) in 2000, which is a stepping-stone in attempting to quantify global quality of life. Although success proves difficult to measure, the MDGs did help to improve the world’s understanding of the overall status of the planet. It also gave the Western world an understanding that not everyone on the planet has a television, running water, food to eat every day and a moderate healthcare system.
Since 2000, the world has experienced several watershed moments driving sustainable development thinking. In 2005, the world saw Hurricane Katrina and its devastating effects on urban centers, prompting a global emphasis on environmental security. Another impactful development was when the former Vice President of the United States, Al Gore, presented his film An Inconvenient Truth, which connected the mass media to climate change on a wide scale. In 2007, the food and financial crisis shocked the world as the cost of rice increased nearly 120 percent overnight. The price increase was devastating to low-income families, who could no longer afford this food stable. The inflation was connected to climate and globalized markets, demonstrating the need to bring about global, sustainable solutions to mend these issues. And, in 2011, Civil Society organizations brought together a charter on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the Bonn Conference highlighting 17 SDGs to bring to Rio+20.
But what exactly are these SDGs, and how do they vary from the MDGs?
Table Created By Arjun Bhargava
While MDGs focused on bringing basic elements to daily life for the world’s poor, the SDGs focus on issues on a much larger scale. For example, the issue now is not how can we feed a family of five in a rural village in country X. Now the issues include: how are we going to be able to feed nine billion people by 2050? What will our cities and urban cities look like? How can we recycle our water and provide energy for all? What are our new focus areas and are they to be deliberated by the private sector, public or a partnership of both?
Now in 2012, the Internet and mobile technology have completely revolutionized the way people receive and share information throughout much of the world. Our world is vastly different than in 1992. What will be the effects of technology during and post Rio+20? Already, there is a massive Twitter campaign where people can vote for the “future we want” (#futurewewant). Attendees of Rio+20 have instant access to their communities back home. News spreads quickly, and social media allows people from half-a-world-away to have a voice. What will be the future of sustainable development? It seems it is up to us to decide.