Goals of the Decade

What is Sustainability and what are SDGs?

Sustainability means living a kind of lifestyle in the present that does not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It means not exploiting natural resources for your own benefits to the point that theycannot recover, with no concern for the survival of your children and grandchildren.

A simple way to check sustainability is to ask yourself, “Can I keep on doing this?” Plastic was only used in the early 1900s, but due to its adaptability it quickly became a dominant material in packaging, construction and everyday life. The complexity of sorting, cleaning and recycling means most of it ends up as landfill and pollution. It is estimated by Ocean Conservancy that almost 9 million tones of plastic enters the oceans each year, and by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish by weight in the oceans. So plastic, and the way we use most forms of it now, is definitely not a sustainable way forward.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals, were adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by the year 2030.

The signatories promised: “to protect the planet from degradation, including through sustainable consumption and production, sustainably managing its natural resources and taking urgent action on climate change, so that it can support the needs of the present and future generations.”

The SDGs are a set of objectives and guidelines for the global community to follow in order to address urgent environmental, political and economic challenges facing our world. They replaced the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which began in 2000 to tackle poverty, health, hunger and education as well as other development issues.

Covering 17 different goals (see chart), each with several sub-targets—169 to be precise—the SDGs are all integrated and each one affects the outcome of the other, in the same way that the three pillars of sustainability–economic, environmental and social—are interconnected and interdependent. Only when all three are addressed together can there be sustainability. That is often the error of many organizations when tackling any of the issues.

What’s more, the result has to be measured by a series of 230 formidable indicators, which means that each country has to have a sophisticated system of data collection in order to analyse results.

Achieving these targets is no easy task. It requires extensive research, unity among policymakers, efficient implementation of those policies and the full cooperation of all sectors: government, the private sector and the general public.

The present polarized political climate, not only in Thailand but around the world, is not conducive to the collaborative and dedicated efforts required to further the progress of the SDGs in order to achieve the targets by 2030. The Covid-19 pandemic has created even more challenges, increasing poverty, threatening food security and creating healthcare and education disruptions worldwide.

Inthe present circumstances it seems that the private sector and individuals have to take the lead, to do what they can to achieve sustainability and take the future into their own hands.

Dr. Sandro Calvani, senior adviser on strategic planning at the Mae Fah Luang Foundation, who is also a UN veteran and a formerdirector of the ASEAN Center of Excellence on UN Millennium Development Goals at the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), has emphasized the local aspect of sustainable development saying, “The most globally important sustainable projects undertaken in the world today are conceived and executed by local actors at the local level. The reason is simple: a single, particular ‘place’ is the only scale at which the interface between people and natural systems is immediate and accessible.” He continues, “What we need most is ambition, commitment and action and we need it now.”

The Apr-Jun issue of The Futurist talks to people who have been doing just that.