Creative Commons

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Investing in Africa's Agriculture is Key to Global Stability

Tonight, hundreds of millions of African families will go hungry. Similarly, hundreds of millions of children will suffer irreversible cognitive impairment owing malnutrition. The fulcrum of Africa’s food and nutrition security crisis is the dividend from nearly three decades of woeful under-investment in agriculture.

In 2003 African governments, through the Maputo declaration, committed to increase public investments in agriculture to 10% of GDP and adopt governance and policy reforms necessary to accelerate agricultural productivity.

In July 2009, G8 Summit in L’Aquila, Italy and the World Food Summit in Rome, the world rallied to scale up food security by scaling up investment in agriculture, especially in Africa. At the G8 Summit in May 2012, led by US president Barack Obama, the G8, African governments and private sector partners launched the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. Building on the global momentums from L’Aquila and the World Food Summit, the New Alliance seeks to accelerate the flow of private capital to African agriculture, take to scale new technologies and innovations that can increase sustainable agricultural productivity as a catalyst for long-term economic growth.

In the four months since its announcement, six African countries – Ethiopia, Ghana, Tanzania Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire and Mozambique – have joined the New Alliance. The New Alliance has generated strong global interest, leading to engagement with a growing list of countries and companies inspired to increase responsible investment in Africa’s agriculture.

Last week the head of USAID Rajiv Shah announced that 21 private sector companies, a majority of them African companies, committed to invest an additional $500 million in African agriculture. This builds on the more than 45 local and international private sector companies that originally pledged to invest $3 billion toward partner country-defined food security goals, as countries pledged to create environments that are more conducive to private sector investment.

Here is why Africa’s agriculture matters and why we must sustain global commitments to investment flows.

Investing in Africa's agriculture is critical to achieving returns on public investment in education and health. Investing in Africa’s agriculture is a critical down payment for Africa’s sustained economic growth. Hunger is inextricably linked with poverty and economic stagnation in Africa. Malnutrition has reached epidemic proportions in many African countries, often leading to stunting. According to UNICEF, 40% of Africa’s children under 5 years are malnourished. Malnutrition and infectious diseases exist in a malevolent synergy. Malnutrition impairs immunological capacity to fight against diseases.

Health experts have recognized the link between early malnutrition and inadequate infant feeding and the risk of non-communicable diseases such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Malnutrition exacerbates disease burden, increases health care costs and most balefully, impaired cognitive development can significantly reduce earning potential, leading to intergenerational poverty. The millions of dollars spent in free education will have minimal returns when a majority of African children are too hungry and stressed to learn.

According to the OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2012, food production needs to increase by 60% over the next 40 years to meet the rising global demand for food. Of the 83.2 million hectares of land earmarked for agricultural investment worldwide, 56.2 million hectares are in Africa. Investing in Africa's food security is therefore fundamental to the stability global food systems.

According to a recent report by McKinsey Global Institute, Africa’s labour force will reach 404 million and 48% of Africans will have secondary and tertiary education by 2020. In my view, investing in Africa's agriculture has the greatest potential to transform Africa into a vibrant middle-income industrial region. Think about the hundreds of millions of African farmers who use the hand hoe and the oxen plough. Imagine how innovations in design and manufacture of appropriate agricultural machinery could transform agriculture, create millions of new well-paying skilled jobs and catalyze Africa’s industrial growth.

Worldwide, agriculture is a dominant force behind many environmental threats, including greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity loss and degradation of land and freshwater sources. Weak financial flows to promote intensification encourage creation of new land through destruction of critical ecosystems such as wetlands, forests and grasslands. Moreover, destruction of these ecosystems is associated with changes in disease ecology, hence undermining public investments in population health. Responsible investment in Africa’s agriculture is therefore critical to achieving the broad aims of environmental sustainability, especially securing for future generations, the vital ecosystem services.

Investing in Africa's agriculture is vital to long-term regional and global stability. The discontent of hundreds of millions of hungry, unemployed and poor African youth would make the Arab spring look like a picnic. Unrest at such a scale would have enduring catastrophic effects on national, regional and global sustainability. Investing in Africa's food security is therefore inextricably bound with inclusive national economic growth and global prosperity and sustainability.

Investing in Africa’s agriculture is critical to advancing prosperity and securing global sustainability. We know what needs to be done and we have what it takes. Lets get it done.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Revitalizing Africa's Agriculture

Over two decades ago, world leaders committed to reduce by half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger by 2015. Very little progress has been made, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

Despite impressive GDP growth rates as well as laudable improvements in life expectancy and school enrollment, Sub-Saharan Africa remains the world's most food insecure region. According to the first Africa Human Development report published in May 2012, more than 15 million are at risk of hunger in the Sahel and an equal number remain vulnerable in the Horn of Africa.

Although famines grab international attention and often move global humanitarian action, chronic malnutrition and episodic hunger are depriving African children of their future, undermining human development and stagnating the newfound economic growth.

Chronic hunger in sub-Saharan Africa is caused and sustained by a perfect storm of climate variability, food price spikes, soil fertility decline, collapse of vital public investments in inputs for smallholder farmers civil conflict, and exacerbated by the poor’s vulnerability.

Typically, experts believe that throwing quality seeds, fertilizers, extension support and access to markets at African farmers would boost productivity and eradicate hunger. Lessons from the Millennium Village Projects of the Earth Institute at Columbia University demonstrate that while inputs, extension services, research and market as are vital, they are insufficient to surmount vulnerability and eradicate hunger at the household or community level.

Later this week, African heads of state, ministers, farmers, private agribusiness firms, financial institutions, NGOs, civil society economists and scientists will converge in Arusha Tanzania at the African Green Revolution Forum. The purpose of this forum is to explore how to increase investments and catalyze innovation for sustainable agricultural growth and food security.

The Arusha forum must be different. It must not prescribe more of the old and failed narrow prescriptions. The forum must focus on securing investments and promoting social innovations that build the foundation for sustainable food production while enhancing the stability of national, regional and global food systems. In line with the Maputo Declaration of 2003, African governments committed to increase allocations to agriculture to 10% within five years. Nearly 10 years later, Kenya’s budgetary allocation to agriculture is less than 5.5% of the national budget.

The Arusha forum must encourage governments to recognize that building a food-secure future will only be achieved through socio-economic inclusion. Achieving food security in sub-Saharan Africa will remain out of reach so long as the rural poor, and especially women, who play a major role in food production, do not have sufficient control over productive resources and assets, especially land. Bridging the gender divide is vital. Studies have shown that when women get access to the same inputs as men, agricultural yields can rise by more than 20%.

Africa must end decades of marginalization of its youth. Governments must initiate policies and institutions that encourage the youth to engage in agriculture not merely as laborers but entrepreneurs who are more likely to adopt new technology and innovation, which is vital to modernization of Africa’s agriculture.

Africa’s agricultural policies have neglected nutrition. Biofortification of crops –making crops more nutritious through genetic modification and conventional breeding – together with well-regulated commercial fortification, could increase the nutritional value and variety of food.

There is need for a new approach to Africa’s agriculture, which invests in a monitoring framework to track changes in vital ecosystem services upon which agriculture depends. Like elsewhere, Africa’s agricultural expansion has had tremendous impacts on habitats, soil condition, biodiversity, water resources and carbon storage. Revitalization of Africa’s agriculture must deliver more food and societal welfare. Moreover, Africa’s agricultural transformation must deliver sustainable pathways for agricultural intensification, which increase productivity while reducing biodiversity and habitat loss, reducing unsustainable water withdrawals and eliminating water pollution from agricultural chemicals.

Novel production technologies and practices must also increase overall resilience of the agricultural system. It has be shown that although technological advanced production systems can deliver high productivity, they are vulnerable to perturbations such as disease, price fluctuations and climatic variability.

The socioeconomic and environmental trade-offs associated with increasing agricultural production are poorly understood. Moreover, the methods for evaluating such trade-offs are poorly developed. It is important to develop indicators and decision support tools to optimize management decisions to achieve high productivity while enhancing environmental sustainability.

With the appropriate legal framework, including environmental regulation large-scale land acquisitions could bring much needed investment to Africa’s under-resources agriculture. Foreign direct investment could increase liquidity in rural areas, build up rural infrastructure and modernize agriculture. Through increased use of inputs and investments in efficient irrigation, carefully designed large scale agriculture can build skills and improve productivity as well open new markets for local smallholder farmers.

Sub-Saharan Africa cannot sustain its much-heralded economic growth unless it eliminates the hunger, which currently afflicts nearly 25% of the population. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Kenya’s Oil: Curse or Boon

President Mwai Kibaki could not contain his excitement on March 26th 2012 when he announced the oil find in Kenya’s northwestern Turkana region. By this announcement, Kenya became the latest country to join the petroleum bonanza, after discoveries in Ghana, Democratic Republic of Congo Uganda, Tanzania, and Mozambique.

According to John Ghazvinian, author of Untapped: The Scramble for Africa's Oil, Africa is the most promising place on earth for new oil. Africa’s oil is of high quality and hence relatively inexpensive to refine.

Today, resource-exporting African countries are in the throes of booms that are reminiscent of 1970s. Many of these countries have been impoverished and economically stagnant for decades and resource booms present opportunities for growth. Receipts from natural resources should provide an essential source of financing for development, dwarfing aid flows. However, Africa’s resource boom presents a veritable conundrum: will these resources be a boon that stimulates wealth and prosperity, or a political and economic curse, which undermines governance and stymie inclusive economic growth?

The last global commodity boom of the 1970s failed to deliver transformational development for Africa. In a majority of Africa’s resource-rich countries, exploitation of natural resources is invariably linked to corruption, economic stagnation, social inequality, weak public services and widespread poverty. This apparent paradox is commonly referred to as the Resource Curse. Moreover, a casual glance at the stagnation in resource-rich African countries and the rapid growth in resource-poor East Asian seems consistent with the notion of a resource curse. 

In 2010, Treasury officials admitted before a parliamentary committee that the government was losing a third of the national budget to corruption. The greatest worry about Kenya’s oil is that it might further blight an already corrupted political and business elite. There is a real danger that Kenya’s oil could be a curse.

Here are some classical resource curse examples we could learn from. 

Angola is considered the archetypal case of the resource curse. Angola has immense mineral wealth. Besides being the largest oil producer in Africa, it is the world’s fourth largest source of diamonds. The proceeds of this vast wealth financed two and half decades of civil war, just two years after independence.

Angola’s poverty rate is estimated at 68%. Angola also ranks among the lowest in the world on other social indicators. According to a UNDP report of 2007, its combined school enrollment ratio was 25.6% and life expectancy was about 42 years. Reason for the curse: corruption is rife; millions of dollars in concessionaires’ bonuses are stashed abroad and much of the revenue is sequestered in a secret “parallel budget” with no public accountability.

For years, Konkola Copper Mines operated under a government contract of fixed royalty payment of 0.6% for the exploitation of Zambia’s copper reserves. In 2006/07, the Zambian government received only US$6.1million, while Konkola Copper Mines obtained more than US$301million in profits. In that same period, Zambia had the one of the poorest human development ratings, with 68% of the population surviving on less than US$1 a day and a life expectancy of 37 years.

50 years of oil production has not produced growth and prosperity in Nigeria.  The country relies on oil revenues for more than 80% of its national budget, yet the government is unable to determine the amount of oil extracted in the country. 50% of Nigerians live on less than US$1 a day. Its annual per capita income of US$1,400 is less than that of Senegal, which exports mainly fish and nuts.  Armed, hooded rebels operating under the name of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), have intensified attacks on oil platforms and pumping stations.

The business and political elite are the purveyors of the resource curse. I offer suggestions to curtail their hegemony and hopefully ensure equitable economic growth from Kenya’s oil resource revenues.

1.     The government must sign up to Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) and institute transparency in the entire supply chain of the extractive industry, from specification of the rights for sale to negotiating resource extraction contracts to extraction rights, including duration and tax regime;
2.     Active engagement of civil society organizations to ensure government accountability with respect to contracts, scrutiny of revenue that accrues to the national budget, revenue allocation in spending budget and monitoring the behavior of private sector during exploration, and extraction of resources;
3.     Public disclosure of spending, including equity criteria, of revenue accrued from extractive industries within national and county budgets, including priorities for public investment and saving, reducing the risk of discretionary spending on populist projects;
4.     Leveraging multiple linkages through training and skill building for local communities, enterprise development of small and medium enterprises to provide inputs for extraction and allied operations and domestic processing to integrate the extractive industry products into the national economic structure.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The US Economy: Why Obama and Romney Just Don't Get It

 Jeffery Sachs is an outstanding economists and public intellectuals.  I have also had the privilege to work with Prof. Sachs. He is in my view the only economist who without any ideological bias has grappled with the problem of the floundering US economy. He has applied the best tools of analysis and  advanced the most compelling evidence for why the solutions proposed by Obama or the right are wrongheaded and myopic. He has consistently argued that the problems facing the US economy are structural and have been years in the making and no Keynesian stimulus spending or GOP tax cuts or gutting of welfare programs will create jobs or make America competitive  again.

It is ridiculous that anyone would take the Ryan plan seriously. It is inconceivable that the tepid government spending proposed by Obama could get the US out of this long stagnation. Some economists have suggested tat it would take 30 years, with the current ideological motivated solutions, to bring down US unemployment to  6%.

For those who would like an unbiased incisive analysis of the US economy, this article by Jeff Sachs is a must read.

This article was published in the Huffington Post under the title " Economic Policy Beyond Gimmicks"

"It's hard to imagine a less satisfactory jobs report at this stage of President Obama's term. The economy is dead in the water. Obama has no plan but to wait for the upturn. Mitt Romney's plan to cut taxes would be disastrously worse, plunging us into a deep financial and social crisis.
It's long past time to face basic facts. America's economic problems are structural and will not be solved by more tax cuts, quantitative easing, or short-term stimulus. Neither party offers real solutions, though the Republicans' policies would drive us much faster to ruin.
The big mistake of Obama and his economic team from the start was to treat the downturn as a temporary recession, albeit a very big one. A temporary recession requires a temporary fix. A structural crisis requires long-term strategies. Here we are in 2012 without any long-term strategies except to wait out the crisis.
Real solutions require fresh strategies to break free of vested interests in energy, healthcare, education, and infrastructure. In other words, in today's political environment, real solutions won't happen any time soon. We are stuck.
All of this was reasonably clear at the start of the Obama Administration. In 2009 I argued against Washington's reliance on short-term Keynesian stimulus:
[T]he stimulus tools of standard macroeconomics are spent. Interest rates are near zero but debt-ridden, unemployed, and frightened households can no longer pick up the pace. Keynesians urge even greater budget deficits, though the $1.4 trillion hole in fiscal year 2009 must give pause. The federal budget gap is now so large that the deficit has itself become a major source of anxiety and uncertainty. Another tax cut would be more likely to frighten than stimulate the economy. Anybody who adds across budget columns will realize that the federal budget is at the breaking point, and needs higher rather than lower tax revenues. The Federal Government collects a mere 18 percent of GNP in revenues, which are fully swallowed up by spending on health and retirement, the military, and interest payments on the debt. The rest of government, including infrastructure, science, education, climate, energy, poverty reduction, and public administration, is financed by borrowing, with China the largest creditor.
The situation is worse today. The tax system has been so gutted by a series of "temporary" tax cuts, agreed by the White House and Congress, that revenues for fiscal year 2012 are below 16 percent of GDP, the lowest rate in forty years.
In the meantime, the job market is stuck. Today's unemployed and under-employed workers do not have the skills that businesses are seeking. Broadly speaking, those with a bachelor's degree are faring much better than those without. Employment for those with a bachelor's degree and above has increased by 1.75 million jobs during the past year (August 2011 to August 2012), while it has declined by 330 thousand jobs for those with at most a high-school diploma. Even many new college grads are having trouble finding work, since their college education did not give them marketable skills and since we have few school-to-work job training programs (as in countries like Germany where youth unemployment is at very low levels).
None of this is going to change any time soon. The lack of federal budget revenues means that there is no funding for education, job skills, training, apprenticeships, and public investments in infrastructure. Yes, President Obama repeatedly calls for all of these good things, but the Administration has no plans to fund them. Obama's plan to raise taxes on the top income earners is good policy but very small, resulting in less than one percent of GDP in revenues. The scary truth is that Obama's budget plans call for a continuing cut of civilian government programs relative to GDP through 2021. If Romney is elected, taxes will be gutted further, so that spending cuts will be far deeper, enough to cripple the economy and create massive social unrest.
A true recovery should be investment led rather than consumption led. We need long-term investments in human capital (skills) and in key infrastructure such as low-carbon energy systems, smart grids for cities, cutting-edge information and management systems for low-cost integrated healthcare delivery, and inter-city fast rail. These investments are inevitably a mix of private investments and public investments, with the mix differing according to the sector in question.
As I pointed out in 2009, the tools to promote such investment-led growth are not the Keynesian tools of short-run stimulus:
Macroeconomists trained in the past thirty years believe that demand increases depend mainly on interest rates and deficit or tax levels. Yet increased spending on renewable or nuclear power plants, a robust power grid, carbon-capture and sequestration, wastewater treatment facilities, fast inter-city rail, higher education, urban co-generation of electricity and heat, green buildings, and countless other new sustainable technologies, will depend on establishing a policy framework that harmonizes regulations, land use, public financing, and private investment. Large-scale stimulus, in other words, requires the nitty-gritty of public-private planning, technology assessments, demonstration projects, and complex project financing.
We have wasted the past four years trying to revive the economy by turning macroeconomic dials without paying attention to the real economy. We have no serious strategies. Our energy strategy has become "Frack, Baby, Frack." We are going nowhere in advanced transport, renewable energy, or breakthroughs in lowering health care costs.
The question for America is how we are going to break free of this low-level trap. First, we will need a government that is not subservient to the status-quo corporate interests blocking innovation in key sectors such as health, transport, and energy. Second, we need a government that can strategize, not just improvise. Third, we need to end the nonsensical bluster against government. Our specialist scientific agencies are still doing amazing things right before our eyes this year: exploring Mars and unlocking the complex mysteries of the human genome. We could be doing a lot more to solve our social and economic problems and to re-establish our prosperity if we put our confidence back into science, technology, advanced training, and public-private partnerships".

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Africa’s Land Grab a Catastrophe in the Making

A new report by Oxfam, a leading international relief agency, warns that climate change will increase the frequency of large spikes in global food prices, leading to more hungry people around the world.

Besides climate change, rapid population growth, higher per capita incomes, rapid urbanization, changing diets in developing countries and rising demand for biofuel feedstocks, are exerting unprecedented pressure on the global food system.

The worlds poorest, a majority of who live in sub Saharan Africa, are especially vulnerable to raising food prices because they spend up to 75% of their income on food. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the price surges of 2007/2008 resulted in an 8% increase in the number of malnourished people in African.

According to the OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2012, food production needs to increase by 60% over the next 40 years to meet the rising global demand for food. To meet the soaring global demand additional food will need to come from a combination of increased productivity and expansion of farmland.

Globally, the scope for expanding farmland is limited. But with 60% of the world’s unused arable land, Africa’s land is a hot commodity. Foreign investors are scrambling for Africa’s farmland. The pace of purchase or lease of Africa’s is so furious that is now referred to as a  “land grab”.

Of the 83.2 million hectares of land earmarked for agricultural investment worldwide, 56.2 million hectares are in Africa. The land grab was in part fueled by the food and financial crisis of 2008, as corporations and investment funds began to focus on the profitability of agricultural commodities.

For Wall Street-based private equity firms, the motive is profits. For countries scrambling for Africa’s farmland – Saudi Arabia, India and China, the real value is water. Saudi Arabia does not lack land for food production. What’s missing in the Kingdom is water. Indian companies are doing the same because aquifers across the sub-continent have been depleted by decades of unsustainable irrigation. Africa’s land grabs could be the biggest virtual water export in history.

The huge land deals in Africa involve large-scale, commercial agriculture, which will require large quantities of water and mineral fertilizers. Nearly all of the foreign land deals are located in Africa’s major river basins; the Congo, the Niger, and the Nile Collectively, three of the main countries in the Nile basin – Ethiopia, Sudan and South Sudan – have already leased about 8.5 million hectares. Uganda has leased a total of 868,000 hectares to investors from China, Egypt, Singapore and India.

The Kenya government has granted Tana River Authority (TARDA) tenure rights to 40,000 hectares of the fragile Tana Delta. TARDA, in a joint venture with Mumias Sugar Company seeks to establish sugarcane plantations on the fragile delta. A second company, Mat International is in the process of acquiring 30,000 hectares of land in the Tana Delta. Bedford Biofuels, a Canadian company could secure a 45-year lease on 65,000 hectares in Tana River District, which includes access to water resources, to produce biofuels. In Lake Victoria, Dominion Farms was granted a lease on 7,000 hectares in the hydrologically vital and ecologically fragile Yala Swamp.

These land grabs could hurt smallholder farmers and could undermine national food security objectives. In Kenya’s Yala swamp, where Dominion Farms have a 25-year lease, local communities have lost access to water and pasture for their livestock. According to residents of the Tana Delta allocation of land to TARDA displaced them to a sub-optimal land, with poor access to water and suitable land for agriculture.
The wave of land grabbing is nothing short of an ecological and economic disaster in the making. There is simply not enough water in Africa’s rivers and water tables to irrigate all the newly acquired land. The ecological and social costs of foreign led commercial agriculture are socialized while the benefits are privatized by big industry.

Africa must learn from Asia. Pakistan flooded its way into the Green Revolution. The mighty Indus River irrigates 90% of the country’s crops. Today the Indus River hardly flows all the way into the Arabian Sea. Hundreds of thousands of hectares of farmland are no longer usable due to waterlogging or salinization. Similarly, India drilled and pumped its way into the Green Revolution. Today India’s annual abstraction of ground water for irrigation is 250 cubic kilometers per, about 100 cubic kilometers more than can be recharged by rainfall.

Transformation of Africa’s agriculture must be predicated on sustainable use of natural capital, especially water. Improving productivity and efficiency of hundreds of millions of Africa’s hardworking smallholder farmers must be central to this transformation. Investments in industrial scale agriculture must balanced by equitable flow of benefits to smallholder farmers, reducing their alienation and encouraging their participation through access to technology, credit, inputs and markets.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The World Needs a Sustainability Revolution

Our home, planet earth, is on an uneven keel and our dominion over nature is untenable. If we cannot see ourselves as part of nature, embrace planetary stewardship as new cultural paradigm and spawn a sustainability revolution, the survival of our civilization will be in doubt.

Our civilization is on an unsustainable path, on a collision course with the earth’s ecological system. We are on a collision course with the earth for two reasons: first, the scientific and technological revolution has vastly amplified our power to manipulate and abuse the world around us; second, free market capitalist economics is supremely successful at valuing manufactured goods and labour but ignores the services of nature – freshwater, clean air, forests, wetlands and pollinators, just to name a few; and third, our relationship with the world is frightfully altered. We see the earth as separate from human civilization and feel unaccountable to posterity for consequences of our present action. 

As the scale ingenuity and power of our technology continues to increase apace, we are awakening to the limits of growth. In 2009, a group of prominent earth scientist advanced the planetary boundaries hypothesis, postulating that there are hard global biophysical limits to human development, including freshwater, land use change, climate change and biodiversity.

Here in Kenya we are pushing hard against biophysical boundaries, courting catastrophic consequences for the economy and human wellbeing. Consider the denudation of the Mau forest, overgrazing in arid and semi-arid rangelands, excessive sediment loading in the Winam Gulf of Lake Victoria, the poisoning of the air in our cities and the destruction of the floodplain ecosystem of Tana River Delta.

The industrial revolution gave humans such an immense and transformative power over nature.­ We are in essence, a natural force like a hurricane, a plague or a tsunami. This era is now widely known as the Anthropocene, a term popularized by Nobel Laureate Paul Crutzen.

According to Donald Worster, a leading environmental historian, capitalism meant indoctrinating everyone to treat the earth as well as each other with unsparing, energetic self-assertiveness. People must think constantly about profit and growth. As wants and the quest for growth and profit expanded, the relationship between humans and of nature was reduced to raw instrumentalism.

Thanks to the traditional paradigm of Western science, much of our conception of the socio-economic and environmental problems we face is largely trapped in a paradigm of simple linear causality. We organize our knowledge of complex and often linked socio-economic and environmental issues in narrow reductionist ways. In our thrill with the parts, we lose the holistic perspective of the dynamic and complex consequences of our seemingly discrete and private actions.

There is consensus among citizens, economists, and scientists and increasingly among politicians that global ecological constraints or scarcities related to our current use of the earth’s use and associated emissions, undermine human wellbeing, forestall economic growth and despoil nature

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment report released in 2005 concluded that human activity is undermining the resilience and biological capacity of the world’s ecosystems.
Wise stewardship of the earth’s resources will require a deep and fundamental shift in how we think about our relationship with nature. We need a revolution in the profound sense of the industrial and agricultural revolutions, which got us here in the first place. How we relate to planetary resources needs a revolution that puts us on a path of sustainability.

Like the industrial and agricultural revolutions, a sustainability revolution will take several generations to bloom. In my view, a global paradigm shift is already underway. Successive United Nations conferences and summits, from Stockholm 1972, to Rio 1992, to Johannesburg 2002, and Rio+20 we have made progress, albeit slow, toward understanding that human wellbeing is inextricably bound to individual responsibility, national policy and global governance, which promote wise stewardship of the earth’s resources.

More than at any period in our tenancy of the planet, we now understand that the planet our forbears bequeathed to us is our responsibility. We must now collectively ask an inconvenient question: Are our personal habits, national policies and global institutions accelerating planetary collapse or enhancing sustainability?

We must not see the Anthropocene as a crisis, but as the beginning of a new geological epoch, which can be harnessed for sustainability. For instance, a globalized social media has revolutionized how we connect and collaborate, vastly expanding our capacity mobilize shared narratives and global conscience.

A sustainability revolution could re-frame our relationship with nature, re-calibrate our personal choices and national policies and re-configure our institutions global governance and collective action. A sustainability revolution could subvert the dominant acquisitive logic of industrial capitalism – personal profit and infinite growth in global GDP through exploitation of the natural world.

A sustainability revolution would dethrone human hubris, subvert planetary collapse and enthrone planetary stewardship.


Free sudoku by SudokuPuzz