When the end of another year is nearing, we tend to take various New Year resolutions, some are realistic while some are wishful thinking. Why not take some resolutions that would bring some positive changes in our lifestyle and also address the Sustainable Development Goals.
On 1 January 2016, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development — adopted by world leaders in September 2015 at a historic UN Summit — officially came into force. Over the next fifteen years, with these new Goals that universally apply to all, countries will mobilise efforts to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change, while ensuring that no one is left behind.
Now, it’s not just the development organisations and practitioners, who are responsible for achieving these goals. We, the VSO National Alumni Association, want to spread the message to the mass that each and every individual can contribute in addressing and achieving these goals from their personal level; just by bringing some positive changes in their lifestyle. Each of these resolutions indirectly addresses one of the targets under each goal. This new year, let’s take an SDG resolution because we care about ourselves and our community.
While 836 million people are leaving in extreme poverty around the world, some of us spend extravagantly on unnecessary items; things that we want to possess, but not really need. By deciding to give more instead, be it monetary donations, people who are in a vulnerable situation might get access to economic resources and other forms of essential properties.
In today’s world, we already produce enough food waste to feed 3 billion human beings. The UN estimates that in just 20 years, the earth’s population will need at least 50 per cent more food, 45 percent more energy and 30 per cent more water. Consumers have the power to change the entire system. And it would take just one simple personal step: stop wasting food.
According to World Health Statistics of 2008, the status report of the road traffic injuries indicated that it may become the fifth leading cause of death by 2030, overtaking complications of diabetes and HIV/AIDS. The fatalities on the road have emerged as a major public health concern because of the deaths, disabilities and hospitalisations that have raised socio-economic concerns across the world. This goal’s one of the targets is to halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents by 2020.
While this goal focuses more in improving the quality of education and making sure more people are literate, we can address this from a personal level through improving our own knowledge. Everything we read fills our head with new bits of information, and we never know when it might come in handy. It could even aid in our career, as those who are well-read, well-spoken, and knowledgeable on a variety of topics tend to get promotions more quickly (and more often) than those with smaller vocabularies and lack of awareness of literature, scientific breakthroughs, and global events. This also addresses the target of ensuring all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity by 2030.
Around the world, women spend two to ten times more time on unpaid care work than men, which also is a missing link in analysing gender gap. One of the many targets under this goal is to recognise and value unpaid care of domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and, above all, the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate. From our personal level, this simple act can definitely help in achieving the target.
By 2030, this goal targets to increase water-use efficiency across all sectors halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally. In an average home, showers are typically the third largest water use after toilets and clothes washers. More than 80 percent of wastewater resulting from human activities is discharged into rivers or sea without any pollution removal. This one behavioural change from personal level can contribute to the target.
About 2.6 billion people in the developing world are facing difficulties in accessing electricity full time. Many more suffer from supply that is of poor quality. On the contrary, much of the world has become completely reliant on electricity. Unfortunately, many people overuse or waste electricity, resulting in negative impacts both on the environment and the pocketbook. Saving energy through simple measures, such as turning off lights in unused rooms or when there is daylight can provide us and the environment with a wide range of benefits.
One of the many targets of this goal is to take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking. A lot of time, it’s the vulnerable and naïve people who fall victim to it. Now think of a situation where our domestic help is receiving a good working environment and a good pay. This dissuades them from being lured into human trafficking for a good pay and also allows them to continue to work and educate their kids for a better future in some cases.
Least developed countries have immense potential for industrialisation in food and beverages (agro-industry), and textiles and garments, with good prospects for sustained employment generation and higher productivity and this goal’s one of the targets is to create that space. By purchasing products locally, consumers are supporting local businesses. Often smaller local businesses suffer when larger, big-box stores enter an area. In some cases, these businesses are forced to go out of business if they are unable to compete with these larger stores. As a result, this takes money away from the local community, causes more vacancies in buildings, and reduces available options for consumers.
Of course, there is more complicated and direct way to address this goal, but from a personal level, we can contribute to it as well. Just when we are overwhelmed with stuff cluttered in our household, little do we realise that there is more life to our stuff, and it is just as likely that someone else needs it more than we do. We have got old textbooks, calculator, cellphone, warm clothes, and other stuff that might be considered as essential items for others that would help them excel in life.
Littering the environment has a negative impact on our planet and damages areas where we live, work, and play. Some of these sources directly relate to what we do. If we become a little conscious and wait until we get a trash bin to dump our waste, we can contribute in providing universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces (which also happens to be one of the targets).
We use over 3 trillion plastic bags every year worldwide and only 1% are recycled. Chemicals that those plastic bags contain enter the soil and our drinking water, which can be very harmful to all animals including humans. To address the target of having an environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes throughout their life cycle and minimise their adverse impacts on human health and the environment by 2020, this tiny act can be the first step.
The open burning of e-waste releases toxic metals, such as lead, into the environment, creating air, soil, and water pollution. This adds to the already flourishing curse of Global Warming which is really dangerous for every soul on this planet.
As much as 40 per cent of the world oceans are heavily affected by human activities, including pollution, depleted fisheries, and loss of coastal habitats. To prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution by 2025, joint effort needs to be made from all level.
World meat production has quadrupled in the last 50 years. The livestock population now outnumbers people more than three to one. Studies have long shown that vegetables require less land and energy to produce. Reducing the land area used for agricultural purposes is a major way of contributing to biodiversity conservation.
Corruption, bribery, theft and tax evasion cost some US $1.26 trillion for developing countries per year; this amount of money could be used to lift those who are living on less than $1.25 a day above $1.25 for at least six years. This goal’s one of the main targets is to substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms.
Global partnership from an individual level is not quite possible, but partnership at any level begins with knowledge sharing. 30 percent of the world’s youth are digital natives, active online for at least five years, but more four billion people do not use the Internet, and 90 percent of them are from the developing world. We should consider ourselves lucky for having the access and while doing so, we can know more about Sustainable Development Goals and share our knowledge with others.
What could be YOUR SDG Resolution?