5 Selfish Reasons For Sustainable Development

Girls play in the schoolyard at Santo Niño Elementary School in the town of Tanauan, Philippines. Photo: UNICEF/Giacomo Pirozzi
Girls play in the schoolyard at Santo Niño Elementary School in the town of Tanauan, Philippines. Photo: UNICEF/Giacomo Pirozzi

I’m presently in Sydney doing some journalism training with Reuters on the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals, to be adopted at a meeting in New York in September. This got me thinking about possible articles I can write about sustainable development, and how I can make it relevant to an Australian audience.

Living in a developed country, such aspirations can seem to be mostly for the benefit of others; poor people in developing countries, that have little impact on us here.

Of course, there are many altruistic reasons to care. We should aim high for equity and gender equality and try our best to reduce hunger and conflict, for the simple reason that these things are unfair and all humans should have opportunities to live safe, healthy and happy lives.

Here’s five selfish reasons to care as well:

  1. Chocolate shortages
    Demand for cocoa, the key ingredient in chocolate, may outstrip supply by 2020.
    90 per cent of the world’s cocoa is grown by small-scale family farmers who use out-dated farming methods and do not earn enough money from the crops to buy fertilisers or replace ageing trees. The average age of a cocoa farmer in West Africa is 51 as youth move to the cities to find better work.
  2. Regional conflict and disease can make international travel less safe
    Peaceful countries with fair governments, good legal and health institutions, stable economies and gender equality make better places to visit. Think MH17, Ebola and Malaria.
  3. Reduced coffee quality
    A warming climate will reduce the area of land suitable for growing coffee beans. Warmer climates also ripen the fruit at a faster rate, leading to reduced flavour. The more we can mitigate global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions now, the better off our coffee will be in the future.
  4. War, violence and persecution increase the number of people seeking asylum
    One in every 122 humans on the planet is now a refugee, internally displaced or seeking asylum, according to the UNHCR. This is the highest level ever recorded with 59.5 million people living exiled from their homes at the end of 2014.
  5. Less and worse-tasting wine
    The world’s best wines are grown in regions that have a Mediterranean climate such as California, France, Spain and parts of Australia. These regions are also experiencing lower levels of rainfall and more drought than in the past, and such conditions will continue to worsen in the future due to climate change.
Map of the world's Mediterranean climates.
The world’s five mediterranean climates occur between 30°-45° latitude on the western leading edge of continents. Source: http://gimcw.org/climate/map-world.cfm
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