Sustainable development is a crucial concept for the whole world. The current world population is 7.9bn. It is getting crowded!
The numbers have soared. We are up ten times since the start of the industrial revolution. Billions more people are likely to be added to the world’s population in the 21st century. Our world is getting complicated divided between great wealth and still crippling poverty facing unprecedented environmental challenges. Our goal should be to make our society prosperous, fair, and environmentally sustainable so that our numbers and our economy don’t overrun the physical planet itself.
We need to embrace complexity because our world is complicated with an interconnected set of relations of a world economy that now spans all parts of the world. Such relations connect all people, all businesses, trade, finance, ideas, advertising, production systems, and the physical earth. Humanity is changing the climate, changing what species survive on the planet, changing the chemistry of the ocean, changing the safety of air, and changing the access, and availability of fresh water. It will be the challenge of our generation, which is both an unprecedented and fascinating situation.
For instance, the piece of technology the Maglev in Shangai carries people at speeds of more than 400 kilometers per hour to and from the city and the airport. It is a kind of model of what sustainability can mean. This rail based on electricity is powered by clean electricity, which is safe for the environment. On the other hand, a city like Dhaka is crowded beyond belief. I have personally experienced a kind of transportation here we can hardly find anywhere else in the world. We witness an incredible rise in the global population. Bangladesh currently has 164 million people, which is more than four times the 37 million people in Bangladesh in the middle of the last century in 1950. One can imagine how the infrastructure has been completely overrun.
Transport systems, water systems, sanitation systems, and the rest are facing unbelievable stress with this kind of population increase. This is also part of the reality of our planet. Therefore, it is vital how our economic, social, environmental, and government systems interact. We should have a holistic vision of what a good society should be.
However, we can’t just focus on economics. If a nation is rich on average, but very few people hold all the wealth and most people are poor, it would not be a good society. Social inclusion is a pivotal aspect of a good society. Economic wellbeing should be shared equally among men, women, and among regions of a nation. There should not be just one pocket of prosperity in a sea of poverty.
A good society should also be a good steward of the natural environment. Environmental sustainability certainly seems right if we care about the well-being of our children and future generations. Besides, a lot of unhappiness is created if government services are not fair and where there is massive discrimination. People feel happier and better when they can trust their government.
Therefore, a good society is not just a wealthy society. A good society is one, which is prosperous and inclusive, environmentally sustainable, and well governed. Decent governance with rule of law, transparency, and accountability is the need of the hour.
Bhutan’s GNH philosophy can be the guiding light!
The writer is Subash Sharma from Gangtosa, Norbugang, in Samtse.