UN DAY STATE OF THE PLANET REPORT 2022
How bad is it?
Executive Summary To Come
Password (for all): UN Day
“There is no information more relevant to young people’s future well-being than the Key Indicators contained in this UN Day State of the Planet Report.”
David R Woollcombe, Founder, Peace Child International, UN Day, 24.10.2022
30-years ago, Peace Child International produced its first Children’s State of the Planet Report – ahead of the UN’s Rio Earth Summit. Now, as our young members ask us: “How bad is it?” and “Is it getting worse or better?” – we feel it is time to create a public-facing event every year on UN Day to distil the oceans of data gathered by the UN and think-tanks around the world into a short, accessible format by which young people – and the rest of us – can carry out our own Planetary Health Check every year to answer those two questions.
The central image of an “Earth Situation Room” buried somewhere deep in the bowels of the UN Headquarters is something that we feel should be mandated by the UN’s upcoming Summit of the Future as part of the outreach generated by the proposed UN Youth Office. Young people have a right to know the State of the Planet their elders are passing on to them – and this programme gives them the benchmark. There are a myriad of data sources both inside and outside the UN. We have drawn from both – using existing gold Standard global indicators where possible: Earth Overshoot Day, the Living Planet Index, the Doomsday Clock, Our World in Data, Worldometer etc. Most of these draw on UN-gathered data: what we try to do is to enable young people to present this data themselves – and then dive deeper into it through this website to understand its importance and relevance to their future lives. For no matter how brilliant your qualifications or your CV, in a world blighted by climate change, biodiversity loss or nuclear war, your life choices will be severely limited!
This first programme – and it’s short-form versions – are created by UK Youth for UK Audiences. But the data is relevant to every member of the human family, no matter which UN Member State you live in, what faith, culture or values you live by or what language you speak. It is our intention to inspire and persuade young people in every UN Member State to make their own version of this programme in their own language, interviewing their own experts, backing them up with stories of their own solutions and innovations. For nothing else unites us quite so powerfully as the threat of imminent extinction. That threat is not immediate, still less inevitable. But never in human history has it been so self-evidently possible.
This generation HAS to take Action if their children and grand-children are to have more than the husk of a dying planet to live on. As the Persian mystic, Abu Hamid, tells us: “Knowledge without Action is futile. Action without Knowledge is folly.” So this programme is an invitation and a roadmap to Action: but Knowledge must come first:
· We have to know our targets.
· We have to know the benchmarks from which we’re starting.
· We have to know much Natural Capital / fuel we have left - and –
· We have to have accurate science to measure if we going fast enough in the right direction;
That is what this programme will attempt to tell you annually on UN Day. PLEASE feel free to make your own version of it for your nation, community, school or just yourself or your family. If you wish to try, write to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Last Generation?
In the Commentary, Shope says: “I don’t know about you – but I don’t want our generation to be the one that watches the slow decay and death of life on this planet.” That line was actually said by a young person at a Peace Child conference in Estonia in August 2021. It’s not a fanciful idea: in May 2009, ABC News produced a 2-hour news programme hosted by Bob Woodruff called: Earth 2100. It asserted that, according to cutting edge scientific research, our civilization could crumble, leaving only traces of modern human existence behind. It argued that, unless we make drastic changes now, it could happen. The "perfect storm" of growing population, dwindling resources and climate change could converge over the next century to cause life as we know to come to an end. See the trailer at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pcZuSDq2SE - or watch the whole programme at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1XmiLNYyl48. There are many other dystopian novels and films about the world coming to an end including the 2021 film DYSTOPIA. In the 21st Century, these are no longer the fictional imaginings of wacky novelists: as Earth 2100 and many other well-researched scientific and UN reports – confidently predict, they are no longer fiction: they are real.
Earth Overshoot Day
Earth Overshoot Day is an initiative of the Global Footprint Network, an international research organization founded by Mathis Wackernagel that enables us to “Measure what you treasure: in 2022, humans use the ecological resources of 1.75 Earths and Earth Overshoot Day moved to July 28. The Global Footprint Network calculates Earth Overshoot Days for almost every UN Member State: the variations are striking. See at: https://www.overshootday.org/newsroom/country-overshoot-days/. Their’s are the only metrics that compare the resource demand of individuals, governments, and businesses against Earth's capacity for biological regeneration. The date of Earth Overshoot Day is calculated with National Footprint and Biocapacity Accounts data, available for free at data.footprintnetwork.org.
Though their data is depressing, they claim NOT to be doom and gloom merchants. Rather they seek to be realists and promote the POWER OF POSSIBILITY to demonstrate hundreds of solutions that are available to us, should we just be wise enough to implement all of them at scale. As they put it: “We are entering a ‘storm’ of climate change and biological resource constraints. The earlier companies, cities, and countries plan ahead and prepare themselves for the predictable future, the better their chance of thriving. There is immense power of possibility in the many existing solutions that are ready to be deployed at scale. This resource platform highlights many ways we can improve our resource security in five key areas: healthy planet, cities, energy, food, and population. These solutions are part of the Earth Overshoot Day #MoveTheDate Campaign.
The Keeling Curve
The Keeling Curve is a graph of the longest uninterrupted record of atmospheric CO2 levels on Earth. The data comes from the work of Charles Keeling of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, who managed sampling efforts at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, between 1958 and 1964. The world now looks to the Keeling curve as the main reference for global atmospheric CO2 levels. It has gone from a warning to a record-keeping tool that we will be able to look at with pride when we will have cut emissions enough to slow or even stop the curve’s upward slope.
The Doomsday Clock
Founded in 1945 by Albert Einstein and University of Chicago scientists who helped develop the first atomic weapons in the Manhattan Project, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists created the Doomsday Clock two years later, using the image of apocalypse (midnight) and the contemporary idiom of nuclear explosion (countdown to zero) to convey threats to humanity and the planet. The Doomsday Clock is set every year by the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board in consultation with its Board of Sponsors, which includes 11 Nobel laureates. The Bulletin Scientists have issued an update as a result of the Russian invasion of the Ukraine. The Clock has become a universally recognized indicator of the world’s vulnerability to catastrophe from nuclear weapons, climate change, and disruptive technologies in other domains.
For this programme, Professor Alyn Ware, Coordinator of PNND (Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferaton and Disarmament) and the World Future Council Peace & Disarmament Program gave a detailed explanation of the Doomsday Clock which you can see HERE;
Planetary Boundaries and Tipping Points
Planetary Boundaries indicate the limits within which the human race can continue to thrive for future generations. Tipping Points are the times and places where crossing them brings about irreversible environmental change and damage as shown in the 9-part TV series made in Australia in 2014. But, as Professor Tim Lenton, leader of the Global Tipping Points coalition explains, “Just as Tipping Points explain the greatest threats we face, the same logic may also provide the solutions. We have identified a variety of Positive Tipping Points in human societies that can propel rapid decarbonization. The concept of Positive Tipping Points could unlock the stalemate and shift the perception that there’s nothing we can do about Climate Change.”
Examples of Positive Tipping Points exist in the power generation field where, in the UK, power generation from coal has dropped to almost nothing within the last five years. Human activity is putting unprecedented pressure on the natural world but Positive Tipping Points can be found to regenerate ecosystems. And, in the field of transport, electric vehicles (EVs) are self-evidently better for the environment than petrol or diesel cars. There are many Positive Tipping Points that can accelerate electric vehicle revolution.
Pavan Sukhdev is a sustainability thought leader and an influential voice for change amongst business leaders, policy makers and international institutions. A physicist by training and a career banker by profession, Pavan is driven by two long-standing and inter-connected passions: making visible the invisible economics of nature, and redefining corporate performance.
While he was a Managing Director at Deutsche Bank, Pavan took time out to lead two landmark UN reports: TEEB (‘The Economics of Ecosystems & Biodiversity’, 2010) and UNEP’s ‘Towards a Green Economy’, 2011. He now heads GIST Impact - a group at the intersection of sustainability, technology and big data which measures and advises on corporate and investment portfolio externalities and impacts. He has served on the Boards of Conservation International, Stockholm Resilience Centre and the Global Reporting Initiative, and as President and Board Chair of WWF-International.
Pavan's pioneering work on corporate sustainability metrics, the invisible economics of nature, and economic transition to an inclusive green economy has been recognised through several awards, including the Tyler Prize (2020); Blue Planet Prize (2016); KfW-Bernhard-Grzimek Prize (2015) and the Gothenburg Award for Sustainable Development (2013).
Articles by Pavan
An Externality is an impact or a product of a thing or a service that is not directly costed into the price a customer pays, or the price the producer charges for that thing or service. For example, if you use a car, its exhaust fumes are an externality that are paid neither by you, the driver, or the oil company, or the car-maker. Pavan’s point – and it is one that we all have to recognise and budget for – is that we must start costing in those externalities. If your car pollutes – you, the oil company and the car-maker need to pay for its impacts – on the climate, biodiversity and the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
Investment companies are beginning to look at how to do such costing. See: https://www.investopedia.com/terms/e/externality.asp
Richard is Senior Fellow of Post Carbon Institute, and is regarded as one of the world’s most important and respected advocates for a shift away from our current reliance on fossil fuels. He is the author of fourteen books, including:
Power: Limits and Prospects for Human Survival (New Society, 2021) power.postcarbon.org
Our Renewable Future: Laying the Path for One Hundred Percent Clean Energy, co-authored with David Fridley (Island Press, 2016) ourrenewablefuture.org
Snake Oil: How Fracking’s False Promise of Plenty Imperils Our Future (Post Carbon Institute, 2013;
His monthly MuseLetter has been in publication since 1992 and has been included in Utne Magazine’s annual list of Best Alternative Newsletters. He has delivered hundreds of lectures on energy and climate issues to audiences on six continents, and appeared in many film and television documentaries, including Leonardo DiCaprio’s 11th Hour. He is a recipient of the Atlas Award for climate heroes (2012), the M. King Hubbert Award for Excellence in Energy Education (2006) and was appointed in 2012 to the King of Bhutan’s International Expert Working Group for the New Development Paradigm initiative. He wrote and narrated Post Carbon Institute’s animated video 300 Years of Fossil Fuels in 300 Seconds (winner of a YouTube Award), which has been viewed by nearly two million people and translated into multiple languages.
EU Green Deal
The European Green Deal, approved in 2020, is designed to make Europe the first climate neutral continent the world. It is a set of policy initiatives by the European Commission with the overarching aim of making the European Union (EU) climate neutral in 2050 and to reduce the EU's greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 to at least 55% compared with 1990 levels. The plan is to review each existing law on its climate merits, and also introduce new legislation on the circular economy, building renovation, biodiversity, farming and innovation.
The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, stated that the European Green Deal would be Europe's "man on the moon moment". Von der Leyen appointed Frans Timmermans as Executive Vice President of the European Commission for the European Green Deal. On 15 January 2020, the European Parliament voted to support the deal as well, with requests for higher ambition. Watch the EU’s Historic Climate Action Video.
The European initiative has many eye-catching initiatives:
The European Climate Pact is a movement of people united around a common cause, each taking steps in their own worlds to build a more sustainable Europe. Launched by the European Commission, the Pact is part of the European Green Deal and is helping EU member nations and citizens to meet their goal of becoming climate-neutral by 2050. Everyone has a place in the Pact. You can get involved whether you are just starting out on your climate action journey or already working to make a difference in your world. You can take part as an individual or as an organisation – for example, a city, a school, a community or an association.
The European Green Deal Border Adjustment Mechanism(CBAM) is perhaps the most important component of the Green Deal as it is designed to ensure that every nation that wants to sell its goods in the European Market place (which is most of them!) – have to internalize the cost of the carbon emitted by the manufacture of that product so that its price is comparable to the same goods produced in Europe which, under the terms of the Green Deal, have to pay those costs. The CBAM is essentially a measure to ensure that imported goods pay a price for their carbon emissions that is comparable to the price paid by EU domestic producers under the EU’s Emission Trading System (EU ETS). Initially, the CBAM will apply to cement, fertilisers, iron and steel, aluminium, and electricity, but the scope could quickly be widened. The CBAM is expected to enter into force in 2023 in a transitional form, and to fully apply from 2026, at which point importers will be obliged to purchase CBAM certificates that pay for the embedded emissions in their imported goods.
The New European Bauhaus Initiative seeks to connect the European Green Deal to our daily lives and living spaces. It calls on all Europeans to imagine and build together a sustainable and inclusive future that is beautiful for our eyes, minds, and souls. Like the original Bauhaus Movement, it is a bridge between the world of science and technology, art and culture, leveraging our green and digital challenges to transform our lives for the better. It is an invitation to address complex societal problems together by creating bridges between different backgrounds, cutting across disciplines and building on participation at all levels. The New European Bauhaus inspires a movement to facilitate \and steer the transformation of our societies along three inseparable values:
sustainability, from climate goals, to circularity, zero pollution, and biodiversity
aesthetics, quality of experience and style, beyond functionality
inclusion, from valuing diversity, to securing accessibility and affordability
European Climate Pact
The case that Laurence refers to is worth looking at: KLM hit with greenwashing lawsuit over its ‘Fly Responsibly’ ads. The case was brought in 2022 by Client Earth. It is yet to be resolved – but it has sent shivers down the airline and tourist industry. Legal action also ruled that Shell must cut its CO2 emissions by 45% compared to 2019 levels. “It is the first time a company has been legally obliged to align its policies with the Paris climate accords,” says Friends of the Earth which brought the lawsuit to court in the Netherlands in a precedent-setting judgement.
But perhaps the biggest and best known organisation taking governments to court to combat climate change is: OUR CHILDREN’S TRUST – supporting youth to secure their legal right to a safe climate. Their most famous case, currently, is Juliana vs. the US Government – which is now the subject of a major Netflix documentary. It started in 2015 when 21 youth, and organizational plaintiff Earth Guardians, filed a constitutional climate lawsuit against the U.S. government. Their complaint asserts that the government's actions cause climate change and thus violate the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property, as well as fail to protect essential public trust resources. Judge Josephine Stanton, offering a dissenting opinion in favour of the youth plaintiffs, said: “It is as if an asteroid were barreling toward Earth and the government decided to shut down our only defenses. By seeking to quash this lawsuit, the government bluntly insists that it has the absolute power to destroy the nation.” The youth are waiting on a ruling of their Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint and the Motion to Intervene filed by 18 states, led by Alabama. Lawsuits are not for the faint-hearted, and Juliana vs. the USA shows how long they usually. Do we have the time?
Take 'em to Court!
0AD to 2100AD - data drawn from Our World in Data graphs - 1800AD to 2100AD
Reflecting the controversial nature of the Population question that Ann Finlayson refers to in the programme, the UN Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) has re-branded itself as: “…the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency. Our mission is to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person's potential is fulfilled.”
UNFPA released its World Population Prospects on July 11th 2022 – on World Population Day. You’ll find the UN Data is a bit dense and inaccessible: you will find it easier to read Our World in Data’s summary of its 5 x major findings:
The world population will pass 8 billion at the end of 2022
The UN estimates COVID-19 caused around 15 million excess deaths in 2020 and 2021
The global population is projected to peak at around 10.4 billion in 2086
The global fertility rate has continued to decline to 2.3 births per woman
Next year India is expected to take over from China as the world’s most populous country
The Web of Life
Lauren tells us in the commentary: “Maybe Population is an area that reminds us that we are part of nature and that nature will find a way to deal with us as it has dealt with other problems down the years.” This idea introduces Kim Polman and Reboot the Future’s brilliant Imaginal Cells concept. But the idea comes from the famous speech attributed to Chief Seattle which became something of an iconic statement for environmentalists in the 1960s and ‘70s. It is well worth reading in full, but the lines everyone remember say:
“Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand within it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself. Teach your children what we have taught our children, that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth, befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves. This we know. The earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth.”
Reboot the Future is a small foundation with a big ambition to create a more compassionate and sustainable world. Their work is guided by the time-honoured “Golden Rule” which they have adapted to state:
“Treat others and the planet as you’d wish to be treated”
They are also guided by the story of imaginal cells: single cell organisms in the caterpillar that connect to create larger networks, eventually becoming the butterfly.
Watch whole Imaginal Cells movie at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akRy3vEZqWE
Reboot the Future
1820AD to 2100AD - data drawn from Our World in Data graphs - 0AD to 2100AD
What we learn from these charts is that on average every single region of the world is richer than ever before in its history and that prosperity is a very recent achievement. And it doesn’t require a world class mathematician to calculate that the combination of rocketing population and economic growth means that we are consuming 75% more stuff than the Earth is able to regenerate. (See Earth Overshoot and the Natural Capital Section.)
Economic growth has been driven by fossil fuels – coal, oil and natural gas – which, as we say in the film, the UN calculates that we have to reduce to by 50% by 2030, Zero by 2050.
The UN reports are a bit indigestible so we suggest you read Bill McKibben’s iconic article, The Terrifying New Math of Climate Change, which appeared in Rolling Stone in July 2012. Also – read summaries of the IPCC reports – and this fearsome article of how the oil companies are fighting back. Like the big tobacco companies of the last century, and the slave owners of the 19th Century, these guys are NOT going to put themselves out of business without being paid a heck of a lot to do so. But Damien Harrington in the Guardian reveals that “global oil and regional gas markets are a profiteer’s paradise, making $3bn every day for the past 50 years. That’s $1tr a year, on average, from the pockets of you and me…” Worse, using the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Five fossil fuel companies are suing governments for more than $18bn for taking climate action that could harm their company profits. So, though science tells us that 80% of known fossil fuel reserves are going to have to stay in the ground if we are to have a prayer of a chance of staying below 1.5 degrees of global warming, the $5trn. a year Fossil Fuel industry is fighting back with law suits in secret courts. And it is still investing billions in trying to find and exploit even more reserves! As governments and pension funds rely on them for much of their income, this generation has a MASSIVE Economic fight on its hands to change their course!
Sustainable Economic Growth
For how we’re going to win that fight, read, Paul Hawken’s Regeneration – ending the climate crisis in one generation. Get connected to https://regeneration.org: the project that grew out of this landmark book. And read pretty much anything by George Monbiot, Britain’s most vocal environmentalist and change agent – but particularly read his new book, Regenesis – feeding the world without devouring the planet. It lays out a brilliant new economy for food. Then go back to the Global Footprint Network’s POWER OF POSSIBILITY which demonstrates the myriad solutions that are available to us should we be wise enough to try them.
We didn’t have time to interview everyone we wanted for the programme and not everyone we wanted to interview was available. But we were very lucky to interview the sustainable business guru, Andrew Winston, author of another great book, Net Positive, which Andrew wrote with Paul Polman, former CEO of Unilever – one of the world’s largest companies. Sub-titled: “How courageous companies thrive by giving more than they take,” the pair of them explode fifty years of corporate dogma, revealing how you can profit by fixing the world’s problems instead of creating them. Drawing on key lessons from the experience of Unilever and other pioneering companies, they argue, that all companies must become “net positive”—giving more to the world than they take. So sign up and Join the Net Positive Movement and check out the Recycled Plastic Block company Andrew talks about in the movie: ByFusion
The World Bank leads on economic and human development the world over, so we were pleased to interview Mattias Lundberg, who is a long-term friend and World Bank leader on youth employment issues. Mattias had a big part in creating the Bank’s World Development Report on “Development and the next generation.“ His point that: “If we are lucky, we’ll get fusion energy…“ is controversial as many don’t believe that fusion will ever happen. But – self-evidently – if clean fusion energy can replace dirty fossil fuel energy, the human family would be in a much better place. The jury is still out on this – so read this Introduction to the Cold Fusion Debate and get your head around what’s happening at ITER: The World’s biggest Fusion Reactor experiment. Also – dig deeper into TOKAMAK – the British Fusion Market company that Mattias talks about. Also read up about the Silicon Valley mega start up: the Helion / Polaris Fusion project. Finally – read the Bloomberg Fusion Business Analysis for a last word.
In itself, economics is not an existential threat to life on this planet. But you can see from the above, that it is our relentless drive for economic growth on a finite planet that is causing a big slice of the generational challenge we face.
The Methane Pledge
With over 100 countries on board, representing nearly 50% of global methane emissions and over two thirds of Global GDP, the world is well on its way to achieving the goal of the Global Methane Pledge coalition – and preventing more than 8 gigatons of carbon dioxide reaching the atmosphere by 2030. Nations who join the Pledge agree2020 to take actions to reduce global methane emissions at least 30% from2020 levels by 2030 which could eliminate over 0.2 degrees of global warming by 2050. As Geoffrey Lean says in the movie, this is the only way that they can keep the COP promise to keep warming to under 1.5 degrees and give the world time to reduce its carbon emissions. Check whether your government has signed up.
The Living Planet Index (LPI) is a measure of the state of global biological diversity based on population trends of vertebrate species from around the world. In the same way that a stock market tracks the value of a set of shares, the Living Planet Database (LPD) currently holds time-series data for over 27,000 populations of more than 4,300 mammal, bird, fish, reptile and amphibian species from around the world. These are gathered from a variety of sources using a method developed by the Zoological Society of London(ZSL) and WWF. These species population trends are aggregated to produce indices of the state of biodiversity and assess changes in species trends at a national or regional level, providing an insight into how conservation intervention can promote species recoveries. The LPI has been adopted by the UN Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) as an indicator of progress towards it goal of taking “effective and urgent action to halt the loss of biodiversity.” Watch the Movie introduction.
The chart shows that the world average has more than halved from 1.45 hectares per person in 1961 to 0.63 hectares in 2018 – meaning that, although the amount of farmed land has actually increased, the amount of land to feed each person has declined. And already “Agricultural sprawl” at 40% of the planet’s surface is FAR GREATER than Urban Sprawl(1%). And of that 40%, only about 6% is cereal crops eaten by humans: the rest is used for raising livestock and feedstuffs fed to livestock.
We need to change our entire thinking about how we feed ourselves – because everything about our current system is wrong: far from the bucolic fantasy of rural life with cows grazing in pristine meadows, Old Macdonald’s happy farm, and the gathering of Harvest Home – that’s over! The reality is factory farming, with millions of animals brutally murdered every day, soils depleted, biodiversity decimated and vast quantities of pollutants running off into our rivers and oceans.
Though Regenerative Agriculture of the kind pioneered by Alan Savoury provides some of the answers, and our local farmers’ initiative, Groundswell, the real revolution will come from Precise Fermentation of meat-tasting proteins. In his book, Regenesis, George Monbiot calculates that this approach to food production will use 1/27,000 of the land required for livestock farming – and thus save the planet. Read his article on how “Lab-grown food will soon destroy farming – and save the planet.”
The chart shows that the amount of renewable Fresh Water per person has gone down from 13,406 cubic metres per person per year in 1962 to 5,658 cubic metres in 2018. But that figure disguises some massive national variations: Brazil, for example, still has 27,000 cubic metres per person, where Egypt has just over 10. It is often said that, though the battles of the past were fought over land, the battles of the future will be fought over access to fresh water.
1. Reduce Water Consumption: If the people of Egypt can survive on 10 cubic meters a year, the rest of us can learn to live with much less. So reducing water use – in manufacturing processes, in farming and in our homes is the first, and most important, solution to promote.
2. Desalinisation: The process of taking salt out of seawater and making it fresh and drinkable – or usable for irrigation and/or manufacturing. The biggest Desalinisation plant in the world is Saudi Arabia’s $750million Rabigh 3 Reverse Osmosis (RO) plant, which can produce 600,000 m3/day of desalinated water, fulfilling the water demands for almost one million households in the Makkah Al Mukarramah and Jeddah regions. DEEP (the Desalination Economic Evaluation Program) can be used to compare and evaluate the performance and cost comparitors of various seawater desalination and co-generation options including Reverse Osmosis (RO), Multi-Effect Distillation (MED), Multi-Stage Flash (MSF), and hybrid options. It includes formulation of different alternatives such as different turbines configurations, backup heat, intermediate loop, water transport costs and carbon tax and a fully-fledged discounted cash flow analysis.
3. A Global Water Grid: this rather fanciful idea came up in a Peace Child show: some kids felt it was an initiative that needed to happen in their lifetimes along with a Global Energy Grid: one would wire the world; the other would pipe it! And now – there is an organization set up to try to actually make it happen: the International Water Grid. This project offers a patented Low Air Pressure (LAP) Flow technology using under-ocean plastic pipes and bladders to transport excess river water to desert regions of the world for agriculture and forestry. It will harvest up to 5% of river flows and the melt-water from glaciers to green 2,000,000 km² of desert on 5 continents. Watch their Video Introduction!
Wild Fish Stocks
We first got interested in this issue watching the Netflix Documentary: SEASPIRACY. It is a great introduction to how badly we are treating our oceans, coral reefs and wild fish stocks. It’s not very complimentary about fish-farming either as fish-farms pollute and exploit coastal areas ( - though aquaculture has allowed a big rise in fish production in the last fifty years – see below.) The film concludes that precise fermentation of vegan proteins that taste like fish are the way to protect our oceans, restore our coral reefs and fish stocks. But – of course – that would put the current fishing industry, which employs tens of thousands and provides livelihoods for millions in coastal areas, out of business. To start your Action journey to turn these indicators around, check out the Seaspiracy Website and sign the film-maker’s Petition.
Aquaculture is the practice of fish and seafood farming – as different from wild catch fishing as farming is from hunting wild animals. What’s striking about this chart is that global wild fish catch has remained relatively constant at around 90 to 95 million tonnes per year since the 1990s. Fish farming on the other hand has grown 50-fold from 1960 until 2015 to over 100 million per year.
Global production of fish and seafood has quadrupled over the past 50 years as world population more than doubled and people now eat almost twice as much seafood as half a century ago. Globally, the share of fish stocks which are overexploited – meaning we catch them faster than they can reproduce to sustain population levels – has more than doubled since the 1980s. Current levels of wild fish catch are thus totally unsustainable.
Coral reefs occur in more than 100 countries and territories and though they cover only 0.2% of the seafloor, they support at least 25% of marine species and underpin the safety, coastal protection, well-being, food and economic security of hundreds of millions of people.
However, coral reefs are among the most vulnerable ecosystems on the planet. Though global data and charts are hard to come by, scientists seem to agree that up to 90% of the world’s coral reefs and almost all wild fish stocks will disappear by 2050.
The world has set up several initiatives to prevent this happening:
UNEP’s Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN) Report documents the loss of about 14% of the world’s coral since 2009.
The International Coral Reef Initiative was set up in 1994 to encourage collaboration and deliver Plans of Action to protect Coral Reefs. Its objectives are to:
Encourage the adoption of best practice in sustainable management of coral reefs
and associated ecosystems
Raise awareness at all levels on the plight of coral reefs around the world.
ICRI adopted a ‘Call to Action’ and a ‘Framework for Action’ as its foundational documents. Both documents set the four cornerstones of ICRI: Integrated Management; Science; Capacity Building and Review. It meets annually and updates both documents to take account of new trends and information.
Coralive is dedicated to protecting and restoring coral reefs and coastal ecosystems around the world. In each of our projects, we collaborate with local stake-holders from grassroots organisations to the private sector and governmental bodies. In collaboration, we can achieve lasting results and empower the next generation to invest in a sustainable future.
Watch the UNEP and other videos;
The Living Planet Index
OXFAM has spent many years bringing home to us the consequences of inequality – not just through their iconic London Bus image. Read this:
“Inequality is not an abstract issue. It has devastating, real-world consequences. It does not only create immense suffering: it contributes to the death of 1 person every 4 seconds. Poor people die because they cannot get vaccines in time. They have died of other illnesses because they could not afford private care. They have died of hunger because they could not afford to buy food. Women have died due to gender-based violence. And while they died, the richest people in the world got richer than ever and many large companies made unprecedented profits.”
And, as our champagne glass and Cakestand images show – the problem has gotten much worse in recent years. This generations’ challenge is to make it a Beer Glass;
The more authoritative, if denser, analysis of the situation, comes in the World Inequality Report 2022 prepared by the World Inequality Lab and used by the IMF and others. It confirms the extreme disparities of wealth and income we outline in the movie, giving up-to-date figures:
As their chart shows, the poorest half of the global population owns just €2,900 in wealth, while the top 10% owns roughly €550,000 = 190 times as much. Income inequalities are not much better: the richest 10% snap up 52 percent of all income. The poorest half get just 8.5%.
This year’s report looks at two new measures: ecological and gender inequality. The first is reported through carbon dioxide emissions by income category. This is not just a matter of rich versus poor nations; there are large disparities within all countries between the most well-off and the rest. Gender inequality is examined through a breakdown of labour incomes and shows that, over the past 30 years, women’s share of income has only slightly improved.
The Chart shows that, in the last 5 years, “Technology has made the world more unequal. Smart unequal societies survive by convincing their elites to hand over some of their earnings to the rest of the country, producing a sense of shared prosperity and national solidarity that transcends class resentments (eg: Sweden). Over time, enough inequality over enough time, causes the cherished idiocies of the ruling elites to collapse.”
It is over 100 years since Alice Paul and Crystal Eastman drafted the Equal Rights Amendment and a version of it has been presented in the US Congress every year since. The version presented in 1972 was passed, but it has still only been ratified by 38 US States. The Gender pay gap has narrowed, but the Equity issues left to tackle are getting thornier:
Women and men do different jobs. For example, 90 per cent of engineers are male, while 83 per cent of primary-school teachers are female. The Office for National Statistics estimates that this is responsible for 36 per cent of the current gender pay gap.
Jobs done by women are undervalued Jobs with a higher percentage of women tend to be lower paid, and if, over time, the proportion of women increases average pay goes down further.
Men hold more of the most senior roles. Gender pay gap reporting showed 30 per cent of women are in the lowest paid quartile with 20 per cent in the highest paid, while for men these numbers are reversed.
Women pay a 'motherhood penalty'. Research in Denmark and the US has shown that while earnings for men and women keep pace until the birth of their first child for most women the pay gap generated at that point is never recovered.
In 1987, the UN launched a report called Our Common Future which defined the concept of ‘Sustainable Development’ as:
Development that meets the needs of today’s generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
This was followed up six years later by the historic Rio Earth Summit or “World Conference on Sustainable Development” to give its full title. The Environment-saving movement has been gathering momentum ever since but not nearly fast enough: it very quickly became apparent that current generations wanted to satisfy every need they could afford to and a big majority didn’t really care if that affected the ability of future generations to meet their needs. The result is that, by any objective analysis, we have massively compromised the ability of future generations to meet their needs. So – for several years, governments and think tanks have been casting about to develop legal ways to protect the rights of future generations. Hungary experimented with a Commissioner for Future Generations; the World Future Council set up a department to promote the idea; and the government of Wales, when it gained its semi-independence from the United Kingdom, set up a brilliant Commission for Future Generations – whose Commissioner, Sophie Howe, we talk to in the movie.
The Well-being of Future Generations Act(2015) requires public bodies in Wales to think about the long-term impact of their decisions. It gives Wales the ambition, permission and legal obligation to improve our social, cultural, environmental and economic well-being for current and future generations. The Act has three goals:
1. To Highlight and Act on the challenges facing Future Generations;
2. To support public bodies to use the Well-being Act;
3. To create a movement for Change
The Commission can point at many successes:
A Future Generations Report - assessing progress in all 44 public bodies in Wales covered by the Act;
A 5-point plan to influence the Government’s first Supplementary Budget, securing an increase in funding for the climate/nature emergency and active travel in the budget.
Created a £7 million Government Freelancers Pledge Fund to support freelancers working in the cultural and creative sectors in Wales hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Put Universal Basic Income on the new government’s agenda.
Advised on the implementation of the new Curriculum for Wales 2022, so that it now aligns to the principles.
Secured a radically new approach for mobility moving Wales away from private car use and instead create more space for cycling and walking + better trains and bus services to connect people with employment, health and leisure.
Created a Future Generations Leadership Academy - reverse mentoring of government officials by youth;
Inspired by that interview, PCI is now focused on developing a legally-binding Declaration for Future Generations to be agreed at the UN’s Summit of the Future.
Now in his twenties, Alec Loorz has already built a career as a world-famous climate activist. See his profile film. When he was 12 years old he saw Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and decided he would do everything to stop global warming within his lifetime. He founded the organization Kids vs Global Warming, gave presentations worldwide and organized protest marches with 50,000 young people in 45 countries. At 16 he spearheaded a lawsuit suing US federal and state governments to secure climate recovery plans to restore the balance of Earth's climate systems. The extract we use in the film is from his TED talk in Santa Barbara. Watch the whole thing here.
The opening lines of the UN Charter, believed to have been written by the South African Field Marshal, Jan Christian Smuts, state boldly the main goals of the United Nations:
WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS DETERMINED to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom… HAVE RESOLVED TO COMBINE OUR EFFORTS TO ACCOMPLISH THESE AIMS, and, through representatives assembled in the city of San Francisco, do hereby establish an international organization to be known as the United Nations.
The UN started well with Eleanor Roosevelt chairing a committee which produced the Universal Declaration of Human Rights signed into law on December 10th 1948 – though sadly the representatives of Russia, China and 8 other states abstained. Its legendary Secretary General, Dag Hammarskjold, helped broker the ceasefire that ended the Korean War but, since then, its power and influence have been diminished: it wasn’t able to end the madness of the American/Vietnam war, or the many wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and now in the Ukraine so 77 years on from Jan Smuts stirring words, we need to take a sober assessment of what kind of UN we need in the 21st Century to deliver on those entirely laudable aspirations. But – the number of wars, and deaths in wars, have shown an overall decline – at least until recently:
No. of Deaths in Wars
The chart shows 4 x marked peaks in war deaths since the UN was formed in 1945: the Korean War (early 1950s), the Vietnam War (around 1970), the Iran-Iraq and Afghanistan wars (1980s) and the recent increase in battle deaths in the Middle East. UN Peace-Keepers have done their best but there’s only so much they can do before they start taking sides in a battle.
No. of Wars
The chart only goes up to 2020 so doesn’t take in the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
No. of Nuclear Bombs
Ever since the first nuclear weapon was dropped on the city of Hiroshima, Japan on August 6th 1945, the world has been talking about getting rid of them. All of them. For ever. The bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed between 150,000 and 200,000 people. The Hiroshima bomb had a yield of 15 kilotons. A modern hydrogen bomb has a yield of 10,000 kilotons – and there are still 13,850 of them in the world, many on hair-trigger launch readiness. If there was an all-out nuclear war, millions would be killed in the first few nuclear exchanges. Whole cities would be wiped out. But the real danger to humanity starts as the dust clouds begin to spread around the world – carrying with them the threat of a “Nuclear Winter.” Carl Sagan first drew attention to this consequence of nuclear warfare back in the 1980s. Jonathan Schell described it in detail in his book, The Fate of the Earth. It was immortalised in the TV Film “The Day After” – watched by over 100 million people in North American when it aired in 1983. The dust clouds cause freezing summers which leads to ‘nuclear famines’ as food supplies dry up. The famines kill far more people than the original explosions – as the Winter could last for up to 25 years.
All agree: the presence of nuclear weapons is a threat to the very existence of life on earth. We must eliminate them. The question is: “HOW?” And that is the question that successive governments have failed to answer. Which is why we encourage you to host a Citizens’ Assembly on the subject as, if governments cannot solve the problem of how to eliminate nuclear weapons, we the peoples must. None of us can afford to sit idly by when a computer error, or a terrorist, or a delusional government leader – can unleash nuclear weapons that would lead, inevitably, to an almost total elimination of life on earth.
Check out the history of how human beings both developed huge arsenals of nuclear weapons – and subsequently tried to reduce them and, in the process, see if you want to do a Model Citizens’ Assembly to discuss what YOU think should be done?
So a massive reduction engineered by Reagan, Gorbachev, Bush, Clinton and Yeltsin, followed by increasing disengagement and, after 2017, gradual increases.
UN Agenda for Peace
It is poignant to read again the words that UN Secretary-General Boutros-Boutros Ghali used to introduce the UN”s original Agenda for Peace in 1992: “In these past months a conviction has grown, among nations large and small, that an opportunity has been regained to achieve the great objectives of the Charter - a United Nations capable of maintaining international peace and security, of securing justice and human rights and of promoting, in the words of the Charter, "social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom." The Agenda focused on “…problems that the Security Council specifically requested: preventive diplomacy, peacemaking and peace-keeping,” to which Boutros-Boutros Ghali added what he called: “a closely related concept: post-conflict peace-building.”
He went on to praise “…the manifest desire of the member states to work together…” His optimism was, sadly, misplaced: though in the 1990s, there was an opportunity to bring the Cold War combatants into post-conflict, peace-building alliances with Russia’s requests to join both NATO and the European Union, both requests were rebuffed. Russia was given the consolation prize of being invited to join the G-7 creating the G-8. The rapprochement didn’t last long as Putin’s speech in Munich in 2007 showed clearly the hurt that Russia felt at its exclusion from the major security and trade bodies. That hurt was captured vividly in a documentary Peter Pomerantsev made for the BBC about “How Russia Sees Us,” in which Putin asked Russian friends to “imagine a turd in the corner of a prison cell: that’s how the West views Russia…” The hurt increased and became evident in Russian military action in Georgia in 2008, in Crimea and Western Ukraine in 2014 and the 24th February 2022 full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine. That invasion broke all the Security Assurances it agreed with Ukraine on 5th December 1995 in the so-called Budapest Memorandum, countersigned by the UK and USA. Some of Putin’s hurt may be justified by NATO obviously breaking its promise “not to move the Eastern Border of NATO one millimetre closer to Moscow,” but deeper reasons can be found in Steve Rosenberg’s insightful documentary The Empire Strikes Back – about how Russia sees itself. It sees its empire as the natural successor to the empires of Rome and Byzantium: the word “Tsar” finds its root in the word “Caesar.”
The UN was never designed to unite Empires or Spheres of Influence, so it should come as no surprise that, in the 2nd March 2022 ES11/1 UN vote on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, 40 UN Member Governments refused to condemn it even though it was a shocking betrayal of the central principles of the UN Charter.
New Agenda for Peace
The first Agenda for Peace sadly didn’t work – so the United Nations is now going for a second version. It will form part of the Pact for the Future proposed to be agreed by a Summit of the Future to be held in September 2024. (See attached website). A New Agenda for Peace was the FIRST component of the Pact mentioned by the Secretary-General in his August 4th 2022 speech to the General Assembly. Other components are being developed by groups of nations co-chaired by Member States from the Global North and Global South. The New Agenda for Peace has no such co-chairs suggesting that the Secretary General will, himself, be drawing up the Agenda with Secretariat staff. Though it was good that it got top billing in his speech, that positioning was rather undermined by the fact that the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons review, which was happening that same day at the UN, resulted in total failure to re-start the Nuclear Disarmament process which has been stalled for a number of years.
The Stimson Center has come up with a thought-piece on the Agenda in Rethinking Global Cooperation (See Page 37). And the Crisis Group has also identified some key priorities. However, none of these come close to the level of aspiration needed to create a UN capable of delivering the “effective multi-lateralism” that would restrain the autocratic, imperial ambitions of the current leadership of China, Russia and Saudi Arabia. For that, the world needs a more courageous adherence by all UN member states to the Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Democracy. Abi Riley’s proposal in our film is not a bad start:
Strengthen the UN and make it completely Democratic:
Create an E-democracy Peoples Platform through mobile phone technology;
Hold Global Referenda to generate consensus on how to deal with the biggest threats to our future;
Create a Parliamentary Assembly at the UN;
Give the International Court of Justice power to deploy UN Peace-Keeping Forces to enforce its rulings.
Peace Child International urges ALL young people to get involved in the Summit of the Future: because it is YOUR future that is under threat by this new appetite for all-out war which seems to be gripping several nations at the moment. It is young people who will be used as cannon-fodder in these wars – young people whose lives will be blighted by the consequences. We no longer live in the time of Rome or Byzantium; even the time of US desire for “Full Spectrum Dominance” is long past. We live in a time where HARMONY has to be our lodestar: harmony in ourselves; harmony with our neighbours and harmony between ourselves and the natural world. The United Nations must become the shining symbol of that Harmony by building robust systems of global governance that can guarantee to save this, and all succeeding, generations from the scourge of war.
Nominated four times for the Nobel Peace Prize for her extraordinary work on the front lines of the international women’s and peace movements, Cora Weiss’ work spans generations and geographic areas including her leadership in the anti-Vietnam war movement, abolition of nuclear weapons, and anti-apartheid in South Africa.
Working alongside other women’s civil society organizations and UNIFEM, Cora Weiss participated in drafting UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security. She continues to actively support and monitor its implementation. She has always been active in women’s peace issues, hosting the first women’s radio program in New York City in the 1970s, attending women’s disarmament summits in the former Soviet Union, and organizing Peace Tents, on behalf of the International Peace Bureau, in the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 and the third Women’s Forum in Nairobi in 1985, and participating in many other landmark global events on women’s rights, gender equality and peace and security.
Cora Weiss serves as the President of The Hague Appeal for Peace and has supported the United Nations from the 1950s onwards. She is the UN Representative of the International Peace Bureau which she also served as president in 2000 to 2006. Weiss is currently an Honorary Patron on the Committee on Teaching About the United Nations.