Is the imminent climate catastrophe driving humanity to extinction? How do we effectively reduce global greenhouse emissions and counter the cost-of-living crisis that is triggering hardship and poverty for billions? Humanity seems paralyzed – why?
With the Human development index in reverse: Why are we ignoring a world at breaking point?
September 14, 2022
Headlines may scream for urgent action, but implementing change is hard. Who should do what? How should they do it? What can I do? Sometimes it seems that humanity is trapped in a whirlpool of real problems and possible solutions, fueled by the uncertain world we live in. It is unsettling lives everywhere.
Global development has stalled. Until 2020, the global Human Development Index (HDI) – a measure of a nation’s health, education, and average income – had risen every year since 1991 when UNDP began calculating it globally. It fell for the first time in 2020. And it fell again in 2021. And it fell almost everywhere: 90 percent of countries saw a decline in one or other year, wiping out five years of progress.
Development today, with its new dimensions of uncertainty, is the focus of UNDP’s Human Development Report 2022. The report examines the ways in which crises are piling up to unsettle life, and interacting with our changing planet, increasing polarization and societal transformation. These are all moving at unprecedented speed and scale and interacting with each other in ways we cannot ignore. We are navigating uncharted waters.
An obvious example is humanity’s impact on planetary processes, from melting glaciers, extended droughts, wildfires, floods, to dwindling wildlife, biodiversity, and habitat loss. For the first time in history, manufactured materials, such as concrete and asphalt, outweigh the Earth’s biomass. Microplastics are everywhere: in country-sized garbage patches in the ocean, remote islands, in protected forests and distant mountaintops, in people’s lungs and blood. This is threatening humanity’s very survival.
Yet we have solutions to turn the situation around. But insecurity, mistrust and polarization stand in our way to rise to these challenges. And our societies are divided. Trust in one another is at its lowest recorded level, coming in at just 30 percent. This erosion of trust in democratic processes for meaningly participation pushes people to extreme positions, with those feeling very insecure twice as likely to support extremist views, which makes it even harder for a society to take collective action.
For the first time we can see a future in which our children may be worse off than we are. But this can be reversed. The human forces destroying our world must be reoriented to save our world. Our success will depend upon humanity’s ability to take decisive action, and to prioritize policies and actions that invest, insure, and innovate.
We are not starting from zero. There is already progress to cheer from the dramatic increase in wind and solar energy and global energy transition Papua New Guinea is yet to take advantage of. With serious investment in renewable and decentralized energy, Papua New Guinea could usher in its independence on imported refined fossil fuels. As investments ramps up, people also need to feel safe and benefit from development gains made. Papua New Guinea’s revenues from extractives need to be wisely and effectively invested in its human capital through improved education, health, and other basic services.
It is, however, innovation that will be at the epicenter of us conquering the unknowable challenges ahead. Papua New Guinea needs to start closing the digital divide and enable its citizens to participate in the digital economy, take advantage of artificial intelligence, distance learning, tele-medicine, and other digital transformations. The current excessively high cost of internet and low speed risk that the country is falling further behind of those technologies and innovations that have the potential to drive its transformation.
Humanity’s only certainty is that our future is uncertain. To thrive together, we must throw out the old rulebook and recognize the world has changed. We trialed a new playbook during the pandemic but need to push ahead now ‘Building Forward Better’, rather than reverting to previous approaches that have brought the global climate and humanity to the brink.
UNDP Papua New Guinea is driving initiatives that inspire innovation, that support vulnerable and underserved communities, and support them steer through this uncertainty. The recently launched Bougainville Innovation Hubs, are aimed at sustaining peace through economic empowerment. The innovation hubs provide a platform where entrepreneurs, women, and youth, can improve their financial literacy and look to resource themselves with the necessary knowledge and skills towards participating as entrepreneurs in a digital and technologically focused future.
UNDP actively supports Papua New Guinea in lowering its greenhouse gas emissions, embrace a transformation to a green and sustainable economy, and supports communities adapt and build resilience to climate change and disasters. Through sustainable management of protected areas, UNDP supports the nation in conserving the environment and protecting biodiversity, with a National Biodiversity and Climate Fund at the backbone of these efforts.
It is time to usher in a new era and reshape our future. We must recognize that the world has changed and thrive in the face of it.
To download a copy of the Human Development Report, follow the link here: https://hdr.undp.org/content/human-development-report-2021-22).
It is, however, innovation that will be at the epicenter of us conquering the unknowable challenges ahead. Papua New Guinea needs to start closing the digital divide and enable its citizens to participate in the digital economy, take advantage of artificial intelligence, distance learning, tele-medicine, and other digital transformations.Dirk Wagener