Climate Change, Environment, Youth

The Future I Want for My Great Grandchildren

Achieving global sustainability: The Elders in conversation with young global leaders

PAI Atlas Fellow, Esther Agbarakwe meets with the Elders in Oslo. Photo Credit: Jeff Moore | The Elders

Nelson Mandela once said that, ‘‘It always seems impossible until it’s done.” The world has been discussing sustainable development way before I was born. Now we have a chance to set our feet on the ground, to unite our voice, and take things more seriously. No more “business as usual” – not with 7 billion people on earth and many still living in poverty.

Last week, I traveled to Oslo, Norway to join a team of amazing global leaders who have dedicated their time to making the world a safer and sustainable place to live. I was invited as one of four “Youngers” to meet with The Elders, an independent group of global leaders who work together for peace and human rights. Our job is to call on the heads of government, and all individuals, to begin urgent dialogue on sustainable development.

At a panel titled Achieving Global Sustainability – The Elders in Conversation with Young Global Leaders, I joined Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Chair of The Elders; Gro Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway and member of the UN Secretary-General’s Global Sustainability Panel and Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The Elders reaffirmed the need to strongly consider the social dimension of sustainable development: poverty, food security, and women’s access to voluntary family planning. Women’s’ and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights is about equality, and women play an important role in development. Gro Bruntdland asked: “What about a world run by women?”

Then it was time for the “Youngers” to present their vision for “The Future We Want.” For me, when I think about the kind of world I want for my great, great grandchildren, my heart is heavy. I reflect on what is happening around us, how women suffer so much to take care of their children, how many women badly want to space their children, how they want the right to determine how and when to have children without losing their lives in the process.

We have overly exaggerated the promise of our children’s future. We tell them they “are the future” without explaining in concrete terms what that means. We don’t provide the ecological, social and financial order and discipline that will result in a better world.

What does the future that I want look like? I want a world where girls have to right to school first before marriage. A world with equality for women and girls, where young people are consulted and truly involved in governance process at local, national and global levels.

This is what I want from the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) next month in Rio. This is the vision that I asked the Elders to extend to heads of country delegations during Rio+20.

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4 Responses to “The Future I Want for My Great Grandchildren”

  1. Steven Earl Salmony

    With regard to the need to humanely and swiftly shrink the colossal size of the human population on Earth, please note that declining TFRs cannot be the primary driver of rapid population decline because the growth of absolute global human population numbers could be a function of food supply. Declining TFRs in certain places, perhaps many places on the surface of the Earth, must not blind us to the observable fact that absolute population numbers of the humans species are continuing to grow fast worldwide. Not to see, or if seen not to acknowledge and accept the biophysical reality that TFRs are indeed declining incrementally and simultaneously with the skyrocketing increase of absolute global human population numbers could be a critical failure of human perception, scientific thought and empirical verification….an abject error derived from defective judgment and deficient knowledge, with profound implications for future of life as we know it in our planetary home.

  2. Steven Earl Salmony

    “If we agree to “think globally” about climate destabillization and at least one of its consensually validated principal agencies, it becomes evident that riveting attention on more and more seemingly perpetual GROWTH could be a grave mistake because we are denying how economic and population growth in the communities in which we live cannot continue as it has until now. Each village’s resources are being dissipated, each town’s environment degraded and every city’s fitness as place for our children to inhabit is being threatened. To proclaim something like, ‘the meat of any community plan for the future is, of course, growth’ fails to acknowledge that many villages, towns and cities are already ‘built out’, and also ‘filled in’ with people and pollutants. If the quality of life we enjoy now is to be maintained for the children, then limits on economic and population growth will have to be set. By so doing, we choose to “act locally” and sustainably.

    More economic and population growth are soon to become no longer sustainable in many too many places on the surface of Earth because biological constraints and physical limitations are immutably imposed upon ever increasing human consumption, production and population activities of people in many communities where most of us reside. Inasmuch as the Earth is finite with frangible environs, there comes a point at which GROWTH is unsustainable. There is much work to done locally. But that effort cannot reasonably begin without sensibly limiting economic and population growth.

    Problems worldwide that are derived from conspicuous overconsumption and rapacious plundering of limited resources, rampant overproduction of unnecessary stuff, and rapid human overpopulation of the Earth can be solved by human thought, judgment and action. After all, the things we have done can be undone. Think of it as ‘the great unwinding of human folly’. Like deconstructing the Tower of Babel. Any species that gives itself the moniker, Homo sapiens sapiens, can do that much, can it not?

    “We face a wide-open opportunity to break with the old ways of doing the town’s business…..” That is a true statement. But the necessary “break with the old ways” of continous economic and population growth is not what is occurring. There is a call for a break with the old ways, but the required changes in behavior are not what is being proposed as we plan for the future. What is being proposed and continues to occur is more of the same, old business-as-usual overconsumption, overproduction and overpopulation activities, the very activities that appear to be growing unsustainbly. More business-as-usual could soon become patently unsustainable, both locally and globally. A finite planet with the size, composition and environs of the Earth and a community with the boundaries, limited resources and wondrous climate of villages, towns and cities where we live may not be able to sustain much longer the economic and population growth that is occurring on our watch. Perhaps necessary changes away from UNSUSTAINABLE GROWTH and toward sustainable lifestyles and right-sized corporate enterprises are in the offing.

    Think globally while there is still time and act locally before it is too late for human action to make any difference in the clear and presently dangerous course of unfolding human-induced ecological events, both in our planetary home and in our villages, towns and cities. If we choose to review the perspective of a ‘marketwatcher’ who can see what is actually before our eyes, perhaps all of us can get a little more reality-oriented to the world we inhabit and a less deceived by an attractive, flawed ideology that is highly touted and widely shared but evidently illusory and patently unsustainable.

    This situation is no longer deniable. During my lifetime, many have understood the Global Predicament we are facing now, but only a few ‘voices in the wilderness’ were willing to speak out loudly and clearly about what everyone can see. It is not a pretty sight. The human community has precipitated a planetary emergency that only humankind is capable of undoing. The present ‘Unsustainable Path’ has to be abandoned in favor of a “road less travelled by”. It is late; there is no time left to waste. Perhaps now we will gather our remarkably abundant, distinctly human resources and respond ably to the daunting, human-induced, global challenges before us, the ones that threaten life as we know it and the integrity of Earth as a fit place for human habitation. Many voices, many more voices are needed for making necessary changes.

  3. Oshaniwa Toyin

    Your work and contribution to a sustainability , mostly to Africa Continent is highly appreciated.

    Your action is a catalyst to build the self confidence of Africa child.

    Thanks for making Nigeria Proud.

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