Are You Ready? – SusDev

“ (…) And let us see if we, in our own time, can move the world to a just and lasting peace.”
John F Kennedy

White curtains drape to the floor accompanied by a captain’s globe, a low three legged round table, a huge detail patterned carpet and a designer red sofa. It sets the intellectual mood and surrounds Jeffrey D. Sachs. His chair must be small for it has been hidden behind him all through the course, even with his occasional shifting. Despite the size of the mystery seat he looks comfortable, marked by his body language and the pace at which he imparts his undisputable knowledge of the field of his teaching. Both pace and tone he controls to emphasise theemotions of excitement, critique, cautionand sincerity. Now, at the very end, he seems genuine as he concludes an inspiring series of lectures[1] with the words that the American President spoke to the General Assembly of the United Nations back in 1963. His honesty shows that he trusts in humanity’s ability to deal appropriately with the problems that we will have to face.

It is a long list of struggles that we have to face and achieving any of these by itself (for example to eradicate extreme poverty or to remain within planetary boundaries) would be a major accomplishment and a milestone in humanities history. The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UNSDSN) has created 10 development goals (the SDGs[2]) to be discussed by the United Nations to guide us through the realisation of crafting the Future We Want.

Okay Jiddu, world leaders are on it. But we are just us. What can you and I do?

Three of the pillars of sustainable development are Economic Development, Social Inclusion and Environmental Sustainability. Their success is dependent on the fourth, Good Governance.

The face of governance varies worldwide, like cultures do and the individuals within cultures. But underlining good governance are principles. The principles should be adopted by governments, businesses and any type of organization. In fact, the principles should be taken to heart by each one of us, as we are all inhabitants of this small planet confront the risks together.

  1. Accountability. All types of organization are accountable, whether it to court, citizens or markets. But we must hold them accountable to the achievements of sustainable development, as otherwise they will find loopholes and arguments that avoid court of law and seriously threaten our world. To do so we must also hold ourselves accountable equally.
    What you and I do? Assess our own impact on sustainable development. I.e. fossil fuel uses, material consumption, waste, transport, equality, education and health. Draw up an action plan and take action!
  2. Transparency. We can only monitor the governments and businesses if they are transparent. Secrecy in the form of tax and secrecy heavens that allow political and business leaders to hide money, proceeds and their behaviour. We must require them to be open and transparent.
    What you and I do? And so we must be open and transparent too. We must not hide money from taxation if we expect a transparent government; we must not try to ‘steal from’ or ‘lie to’ companies if we wish them to be transparent. We can make decision others don’t agree with, sure, but be brave and share your honest motives!
  3. Participation. We need all organisations to participate in order to achieve sustainable development because non-participation will unbalance and derail our global trajectory.
    What you and I do? Is it not a deep gut feeling that shouts: “I want to participate!”
  4. Polluter pays principle. I think this is part of accountability, but it is of such importance today that it needs to be stressed. Future costs that are a result of pollution today need to be included in today’s pricing.
    What you and I do? How often do we think: ‘I always wanted to buy that, and now it is so cheap. Yay!’ Next time stop, and think ‘Why is it so cheap?’ Swap to renewable energy now, buy an electric car, etcetera. If you do not invest in greener technologies today you will pay for it in the future, whether it is through taxation or increasing (food) prices.
  5. Commitment to sustainable development. Commitments are strongest when spoken in front of others. Governments will have to commit in the UN General Assembly. Businesses can strengthen their commitments through public announcements.
    What you and I do? Tweet, facebook or simply tell your friends and family that from hence on forth you commit to sustainable development.

The technology is sufficient (and always improving) to make a big impact on our way to Sustainable Development. Possible road maps to a brighter future are designed by the UNSDSN. It is us that need to accelerate.

I believe human behavioural sciences can now make a big impact and I am looking to promote sustainable development through clever, creative and fun-to-make media (i.e. videos). If you are interested to work together on the promotion, production or science, or if you have anything else to share please contact!

Jiddu Alexander
Auroville, India, 01/05/14

[1] The Age of Sustainable Development at
[2] An Action Agenda for Sustainable Development, UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network

The ten proposed sustainable development goals.

1. End extreme poverty in all its forms (incl. hunger, child stunting, malnutrition, basic infrastructure).
2. Achieve development within planetary boundaries. Have convergence from economies, but have it environmentally sustainable.
3. Ensure effective learning for all youth.
4. Achieve gender equality, social inclusion and human rights for all.
5. Achieve health and well-being at all ages.
6. Increase agricultural practices and increase rural productivity.
7. Empower inclusive, productive and resilient cities.
8. Curb human induced climate change and promote sustainable energy.
9. Secure eco system services and biodiversity, and ensure good management of water and other natural resources.
10. Transform governance for sustainable development

Twitter: #susdev

Jiddu Alexander’s The Age of Sustainable Development Series
Brief History of Economic Development
Why give aid? Or not (Uganda gay laws example)

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