Making Global Development Sustainable

  • 24 March 2014

The world has witnessed rapid and significant progress in recent centuries. During this period, lives have been completely transformed, comprehensive infrastructure has been delivered, and quick and convenient means of transportation have been created for people around the world. The means of communication and information exchange among communities have also changed the pace of life on the planet, and have increased the rate of urbanization.

However, this process of evolution has not yet acquired the status of sustainability, and the world is still vulnerable to potential threats going forward. In its recent report, the United Nations has warned of a double crisis in water and electricity in the coming decades. Earlier this month, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned of a possible global food crisis in the coming decades.

The water, electricity and food crises around the world are arising due to an imbalance in global demand and supply for vital resources, which are foundations of development. Steady population growth, especially in emerging and developing countries, is increasing demand while supply remains very limited. Besides the imbalance, there is also poor management of vital resources, which leads to waste of a quarter to a third of global food consumption, and about two-thirds of water in traditional agriculture. There is high level of waste in the household use of water and electricity alike.

As a result, around 842 million people around the world now live in hunger; a quarter of the world’s children under the age of five suffer from weak growth because of malnutrition; about 800 million of the world’s population suffer from acute shortage of safe and sustainable water; and roughly one billion have no access to electricity. As much as 20 percent of groundwater in the world has dried up. These are alarming indicators as far as the future of global development is concerned.

This could lead to even greater threat in the future given the potential of growth in world’s population of nearly seven billion people now to about nine billion by the middle of this century. This will increase global consumption of electricity by 55 percent and the number of people suffering from water scarcity will reach over 1.8 billion, one billion more than the current number. The world then would need 60 percent more food compared to now.

These numbers suggest possibilities of crises in the future as the world is yet to guarantee safe and sufficient supply of vital resources and is yet to reach optimal management of food and water. Imbalance exists among different countries and regions in terms of distribution of these resources and their management methods. While poor countries suffer from a severe shortage, rich countries have high rates of waste, especially of food. Such data should prompt the world to enhance cooperation and find innovative alternatives for its development problems, before they turn into intractable crises.