Astronauts, Horses and Sustainable Development

Text by Ranjula Bali Swain, Visiting Professor at Misum specialized in sustainable development, sustainable energy, sustainable innovation, microfinance and development economics. Ranjula reports back from The High Level Political Forum (HLPF) 2018 for Sustainable Development that took place in July 2018 at United Nations in New York.

Follow Ranjula on Twitter: @ranjbali

Inspiration comes from the unlikeliest sources!

When Ron J. Garan, former NASA Astronaut and Chairman of Constellation –  began speaking at the UN SDG Partnership Exchange, I was unprepared for his powerful presentation. Outer space, astronauts and Sustainable Development seemed unconnected!

moon

Garan began his presentation with one of the most recognized and influential photograph – Earthrise. The photograph of the Earth and parts of the Moon’s surface taken from lunar orbit by astronaut Bill Anders in 1968, during the Apollo 8 mission. It  revolutionized how we see ourselves and our world. Garan said, that when one sees our planet from outer space, one realizes that we are all in it together. We are one people, travelling on the same planet, towards one shared future!

Before 1968 our vision of the world was that of  a 2-dimensional flat land, divided into nation states, competing for resources and power. Land was in-exhaustible, resources unlimited and ability to grow insatiable. This artificial image of a divided, flat world constructed by us is the wrong reference guidepost for our future! Our true guidepost is Earthrise – we are inhabitants of one planet bounded within its limited resources!

map

This particular session on the 2018 annual global Partnership Exchange,  was co-organized by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA), United Nations Office for Partnerships (UNOP) and the United Nations Global Compact. It had an eclectic mix of speakers.

Ms. Cora Weiss President, Hague Appeal for Peace opened the session emphasizing that without peace, no development was possible. Her 2020 vision on the 75thanniversary of United Nations was WWW or World Without War.

Dan Thomas, UN Global Compact discussed how they are translating the SDGs for the private sector under the banner make Global goals local business. UN Global Compact is the UN initiative on driving business action on the 2030 Agenda. It is a call to companies to align strategies and operations with universal principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption, and take actions that advance societal goals. They are currently mobilizing a global movement of companies along with civil society, government and other stakeholders through their network of 10 000 companies in 160 countries, with 70 local networks around the world.

Quoting Mahatma Gandhi, Peter Thomson, Special Envoy for the Ocean said that ‘The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed’. He emphasized the need to start producing and consuming in a sustainable way, by narrowing our appetites to what we need to live a life filled with joy.

The session was full of inspirational speeches by several senior UN officials who emphasized their commitment towards SDGs: Ms. Marie Chatardova, President, ECOSOC; Message of the UN Secretary General was delivered by Ms. Alison Smale, UN Under-Secretary-General for Global Communication; and Mr Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, High Representative for the UNAOC;  Robert Skinner, Executive Director, UNOP.

horse.png

The old Japanese Zen paragon as described by Garan, best captured the essence of what was said: There is man standing by the side of a road when he sees a horse galloping towards him. He shouts to the rider of the horse, “ Where are you headed?”. The rider shouts back, “ I don’t know, ask the horse”.

It is time that as a civilization we question where this ‘horse’ of the global economy should be heading!

Written by Ranjula Bali Swain, Visiting Professor at Misum specialized in sustainable development, sustainable energy, sustainable innovation, microfinance and development economics. Ranjula reports back from The High Level Political Forum (HLPF) 2018 for Sustainable Development that took place in July 2018 at United Nations in New York.

 

 

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