Redefining Sustainable Development

As the effects of climate change become increasingly apparent, so does the need for a new approach to sustainable development, in which economic and social policies are designed with regard for their environmental impact. This new framework must guide global leaders' efforts to identify Sustainable Development Goals.

MELBOURNE – Albert Einstein once said that if he had just one hour to find a solution on which his life depended, he would spend the first 55 minutes defining the problem. Once he knew the right question to ask, he could solve the problem in less than five minutes.

Today, humanity faces such a life-threatening problem: How are we to provide adequate nutrition and a decent quality of life to a global population that is set to surpass nine billion by 2050, without irreparably damaging our planetary life-support system? To find a solution, we must start by clarifying the problem.

Humans have fundamentally altered Earth’s ecosystems. By interfering with the carbon, nitrogen, water, and phosphorus cycles, human activity changes the atmosphere, oceans, waterways, forests, and ice sheets, and diminishes biodiversity. Indeed, the effects of human behavior on the planet’s ecosystems have become so significant in the last few centuries that many scientists now believe that the planet has entered a new geological epoch, dubbed the Anthropocene.

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