Unsustainable Development as a Threat to Stability and Peace

Erkki Tuomioja at Loviisa Peace Forum 2019. Photo by Timo Virtala.

Loviisa Peace Forum Aug 3rd 2019
By Erkki Tuomioja

It is an open question whether we still have the time to put into effect a managed global transition to sustainable development, even if started the task immediately.

Unsustainable development as a threat to peace and stability is not new. Even the Pentagon has acknowledged this, although it is mostly concerned about the 80 American military bases around the world that are threatened by floods, draught, bushfires, rising sea-levels etc as a result of climate change.

Climate changes and unsustainable development are also worsening living conditions in many parts of the world forcing people on the move to find better conditions, which many in Europe and the US perceive as the biggest threat to our security.

In history competition for natural resources has been the cause of many conflicts, though future conflicts may be more about access to fresh water than access to oil, the use of which we have to and can forego if we want to achieve sustainable development.

Power politics and the use of military force no longer can bring any lasting benefits to anyone. But this notwithstanding we still have to deal with leaders, generals and politicians who do not understand this. This affects negatively our ability to focus on the most import thing, which is stopping unsustainable development, which we can only do in broad multilateral rules-based international cooperation.

We have to do this with all means and at all levels. Our choices as consumers do play an important role in this, but without binding international agreements and their strict implementation this is not enough to save the world.

And we cannot rely on technological fixes to do the job.

Finally we cannot address the challenge of unsustainability without also addressing the issue of population growth. In a world where the 20 % of people living in the developed world consume 80 % of its natural resources this is a challenge for all of us. We cannot take it for granted that a child born in Finland can consume ten times more natural resources than a child in Africa.

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