What challenges do we face with incorporating sustainability into society as a whole?
Protect the environment. Go green. Reduce, reuse, recycle; consume less. Save the animals! Eat less meat, go vegan!
These, and many other mantras, are all too familiar to many of us these days; we are bombarded left, right, and centre with ads, brands, websites, and well-spoken educators who continually (and for good reason) spread the same message: we must, collectively, as a civilization, work towards building a sustainable future to ensure the health and vitality of this planet for many generations to come.
While this message is more urgent than ever (2018 Ranks as the 4th Hottest Year on Record), it is a goal that is much easier said than done.
When we talk about safeguarding society against the adverse effects of climate change, we aren’t just talking about Vancouver, or even Canada, for that matter. True, each country has a distinct part to play, but this is an issue that affects the world as a whole. It, therefore, stands to reason that any solutions, no matter how big or small, must be an international undertaking. Meaning, while one country is working on reducing emissions, rehabilitating damaged ecosystems, and rebuilding their infrastructure to incorporate more sustainable energy sources if they are the only ones doing that, then the overall impact is rather discouraging.
Not only that, but many countries will often look to more powerful nations for guidance, and what one country does often influences others. A perfect (and not unexpected) example is of the US withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, the effects of which are still being discussed and felt as they unfold.
This highlights the real challenge in initiating and sustaining global change with regards to climate: it requires the long-view, one which extends many generations into the future, and requires just as long for the impacts to be quantified. This has slowed down work with regards to combating climate change, as many policymakers cannot see beyond the end of their term and therefore desire policies that will work in the short-term. On the flip-side, work already started by a predecessor may be overturned by a new-comer, as our neighbours down south have so quickly demonstrated.
However, while combating climate change is challenging, it is not impossible, not by any means.
In 2015, the UN released The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in which 17 goals were outlined that provide a blueprint for ensuring health and prosperity now and into the future. This agenda is the predecessor to Agenda 21, adopted at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, and features more robust additions that provide a more clear-cut definition of what a sustainable future means.
This is where change begins, but this is also where the inherent challenge lies; all of these goals require world-wide participation, and in order for them to be fully realized, all parties must participate. Unequivocally and indefinitely, these are societal changes that cross cultures, political boundaries, and time, and those are the most daunting challenges of all. It is not that we do not have the capacity, technology, or know-how to realize these goals, but the fore-sight it will take to carry these changes into the coming decades.
Now, 4 years on, what has been accomplished, and what is being done with regards to these goals? Stay tuned for Part Two, where we discuss how Canada, and the world, are fairing with meeting all 17 of these goals!