The Great Transition
Are we on course for the greatest socio-economic and cultural revolution in human history? Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International, explores a future in which Global Goal 15 (Life on land) is being realised.
You’ll remember how desperate the situation seemed to many of us back in 2015.
The atmosphere and ocean were warming at unprecedented rates and global wildlife populations had been halved in just 40 years. Wasteful, unsustainable production and consumption of food and energy was driving deforestation, overfishing and water scarcity. Our development model was fundamentally flawed: growing economies seemed predicated on destroying the planet. It is extraordinary how today this would seem pure madness.
In the end, it was the stark undeniability of our planetary crisis that incited millions of people to mobilise, and world leaders to set aside differences and commit to ambitious goals.
As the world came together to set a truly integrated agenda for sustainable development, 2030 became the timeline for the greatest socio-economic and cultural revolution in human history. Since then, we have witnessed new behaviours and a completely new paradigm in the way we relate to our home, planet Earth, and to ourselves.
This cultural shift was matched with human ingenuity. Technology has been a major ally of the ‘Great Transition,’ from clean energy, to zero water waste and green supply chains. We live in an increasingly ‘mosaic’ landscape, but good planning allows for cities and productive activities to co-exist with nature. One-third of the Earth’s surface, including all the world’s key biodiversity areas, are protected to ensure their integrity for future generations. This means many species once on the brink of extinction are exiting the ‘red list’.
Today, it would be inconceivable to overlook the role biodiversity plays in sustaining rich and productive ecosystems that in turn deliver great services to us, for our prosperity, well-being and happiness.
In so many ways, the world today is unrecognisable from when I was a boy of 12, volunteering for WWF. Then the irresponsible acceleration of unsustainable and unequal consumption seemed unstoppable. Driven by a deep empathy for all life on Earth and sense of environmental justice, I believed I could save the world. As it turned out, no individual can save the world, but people, together, have demonstrated they can.
Today, I can look at the contagious smile of a child and the magnetic eyes of a tiger with a deep sense of accomplishment and hope. I do not miss the scepticism or cynicism of years past! Now we know that human and planetary well-being is not an either/or equation. We have defeated extreme poverty and restored forests, cleaned up rivers and replenished the ocean. We finally, fundamentally understand our dependence on the natural world.
Dear 2030, may we never again lose sight of this simple truth.