20 June 2017
Since the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) together with 169 more specific targets were agreed upon by the international community in 2015, there have been concerns about priority setting for how to reach the best overall outcomes.
In a new article published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, IIASA World Population Program Director Wolfgang Lutz argues that a successful global transition to sustainability will require an urgent emphasis on two core priorities that underlie and facilitate the achievement of all other goals: sola schola et sanitate – only education and health. With sola schola et sanitate, Lutz draws on Martin Luther’s sola principles – only scripture, only faith, and only grace – which describe the essence of the Reformation which started exactly five hundred years ago.
Research has shown that basic education and basic health are essential prerequisites for ending poverty and hunger, for improving institutions and social participation, for voluntary fertility declines and ending world population growth, for changing behavior and adoption of new and clean technologies, and for enhancing adaptive capacity to ineluctable climate change.
For many years, Lutz has analyzed populations by age, sex, and educational attainment at IIASA, and has come to the conclusion that the cognitive empowerment, abstract thinking and longer time horizons associated education is the essential ingredient to enable human development and a sustainable future. In a recent paper, Lutz and colleagues from IIASA and the Asian Demographic Research Institute in Shanghai also show that there are effects from the SDGs on future population growth. Advances in female education and reproductive health can contribute greatly to reducing population growth in Africa, thus making it more possible to achieve all of the SDGs.
Lutz argues that wellbeing will increasingly be based on health, continued mental stimulation, and consumption of cultural products, rather than fossil fuels and materials. Technological innovation will continue to make a difference, and continued education will not only enhance innovative capacity but also the awareness and willingness of populations to turn towards more environmental friendly behavior. All SDGs require changes in human behavior one way or another which need to happen in the human brains. Hence, hence a priority focus needs to be put on brain power, the zero-emissions energy for sustainable development.
Since January 2017 Lutz is appointed member of the UN “Group of 15 Independent Scientists,” charged with monitoring the implementation of the SDGs and drafting the quadrennial Global Sustainable Development Report 2019.
Lutz W (2017). Global Sustainable Development priorities 500 y after Luther: Sola schola et sanitate. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences xx (xx): xx-xx. DOI:10.1073/pnas.1702609114
Last edited: 20 June 2017
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