How do we get 9.7 billion people to live well and within the boundaries of the planet 30 years from now? Considering that we are at 7.8 billion people now and are already struggling on many fronts, this question should trigger some anxiety.
The current level of consumption in developed economies is made possible through the intensive use of domestic resources, plus the ongoing flow of resources from developing economies. Assuming that this level of consumption should be made available to all people on earth is an obvious impossibility, even more so with the two billion additional inhabitants forecasted by mid-century.
The transition to a sustainable world by 2050 is a task that demands bigger and more ambitious transformational thinking than we have ever exhibited before. Transforming systems globally at the scale and speed required (exponential progress) to realise sustainable development calls for unprecedented levels of action and coordination across all industries and sectors of society. John Elkington and other prominent sustainability experts concluded that “achieving exponential progress requires a scale of collective effort rarely seen outside wartime conditions”.
As one’s knowledge of sustainability grows, the realisation of how much there is still to know may be overwhelming. It is relatively straightforward to develop vertical expertise on specific issues. What is way more challenging is to create a helicopter view. As I got my teeth into some of these verticals, I began to realise that no matter where you pull the blanket towards, some parts of the body are likely to be left uncovered.