Why we will miss the Millennium Development Goals

I’ve just finished reading the Millennium Development Goals Report for 2008. Basically it says that we aren’t going to make it, and that millions – billions – of people can look forward to hunger, ignorance and disease. Add to that the growing environmental and resources crises, you can add war to that too.

What has this to do with the topic of this blog, the environment? If we aren’t willing to help people in dire need now – even when we have expressly promised to help them and claimed (at the 2000 Millennium Summit) that they would ‘spare no effort’ to do so – how realistic is it to expect us to expend any significant effort on an environmental crisis whose really disastrous effects are mostly several decades away? Not great, I would say. Yet environmental action is at least as urgent as support for developing countries – many of the effects we can expect in future decades are the results of causes that are happening now. But of course we will do too little for far too long.

Why is this? I do not believe that it is because we are stupid or that the environmental case has not really been made. I have no idea how well individual members – or whole departments – of the government understand the problem. The fact that, say, the Foreign Office has ‘promote a low carbon, high growth, global economy’ as one of its four top-level policy goals, and the absence of many details about either climate or the environment generally in the FCO site as a whole strongly suggests that they have not really taken on board how great the change needed really is.

But as the sub-title of this blog – ‘About the environment, peak everything and capitalism’ – suggests, I suspect that it has a lot to do with the fact that the real problem – with understanding what the problem is, let alone solving it – resides at a far deeper level than navigating a particularly set of rapids. The fact is, we are probably on the wrong river, and the rapids ahead look like growing to Niagara-sized waterfalls.

More of RJ Robinson at http://richardjrobinson.blogspot.com/

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