World Population Day 2022: A New Sustainable Development Growth (SDG) Paradigm for the Future

A more developmental model incorporating SDG objectives for a flexible sustainable future must be adopted and put into practice for the future development.

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There is nothing wrong to repeat that modern civilisation has grown extensively, beyond our control and will continue to grow rapidly for coming 3-4 decades: The world's population today is 1,860 times that of 12,000 years ago - approximately 4 million which is less than half of London's population, one-fifth of Beijing's population and nearly one-eighth of Delhi's population. This sudden spike in population growth since 1850 has posed a variety of developmental challenges that can be attributed primarily to the Malthusian sect that predicted the failure of food and natural resource systems with population growth. The Malthusian sect, however, has been various challenged from their own perspective.

On the one hand, the overpopulation is posed as a developmental challenge that lends credence not only to the Malthusian theory above, but also to the diminishing capacity of the system to meet everyday human needs for a dignified life, there are economies with skewed populations (i.e. high elderly population proportions, e.g. Japan, South Korea, the United States (US, etc.) which are challenged by the growing number of elderly populations (> 65 years of age). These high dependency ratios – the ratio of the number of dependents aged 0 to 14 and over 65 to the population aged 15 to 64 – Again challenges the ability of any country to meet the needs of its dependent population and concerns about its future growth due to a reduction in future prospective labor class. Such sub-replacement levels of fertility (resulting in each new generation being less populated than the previous) is a major concern that looms large for many parts of the Global North, particularly the European Union (EU) and the US.

World Population Day 2022 When talking about a resilient future, one needs to understand the various dimensions of human existence.

As World Population Day 2022 showcases about a resilient and robust future, one needs to understand the various dimensions of human existence. Understand this from the outset that population is not just a number, but the associated economy, society, its relationship with the wider natural ecosystem, life of dignity, feelings and aspirations, cultural ethos, etc. It's a combination, of all these kinds of parameters that form this human system and its close connection with other entities for his/her survival.

The history of human civilisation is scorched and has marked by many up and down throughout existence, (natural disasters, diseases, wars, etc.). The fact that the human system (the most intelligent and rhobust) has survived and evolved is a clear reflection of its tremendous buoyant nature and ability to adapt to such shocks and ever-changing environmental conditions. However, the current threats to the human system are largely unmatched and extraordinary. This is because most of the current threats or imminence are more intuitive than what was prevalent in the past, taking into account the climate change, human war or the COVID-19 epidemic, this is true.

The greatest challenge to the present human system arises not only from the size of the population, but from the ambitions and aspirations raised by modern civilization. The forces of global warming and climate change stem from human development ambitions. Therefore, contrary to populist thinking that climate change is an environmental problem, climate change should be understood as a developmental problem stemming from the human obsession with unfettered growth. Through feedback loops emerging from the complex dynamics of environment-development interactions, climate change affects various components of human development. In short, the problem of global warming and climate change arose from human myopic growth ambitions without considering the “costs of growth” which ultimately had adverse and negative impact on long-term development ambitions.

Contrary to populist thinking that climate change is an environmental problem, climate change should be understood as a developmental problem stemming from humans' obsession with unbridled growth.

On the other hand, growing population has also put tremendous pressure on the basic natural resources – the basic forms of capital that provides food, water and livelihoods. Interference with natural hydrological regimes to harness unused irrigation and hydropower potential has violated the integrity of surface water flows, fragmented river systems, destroyed the natural ecosystems that depend on them, and consequently hindered the ecosystem's ability to provide ecosystem services. (i.e. goods and services freely provided to the human community by natural ecosystems). Increased population with diverse demands is therefore detrimental to the sustainability of ecosystems, affecting their long-term ability to sustain human systems. It is increasingly acknowledged in China, South Asia, Western America and Latin America.

A New Development Paradigm for Sustainable Future 

In other words, the commercial way of looking at development from a minimalist and myopic paradigm, which has so far confined itself to rising GDP figures, is not sustainable for the human system: the current model of "brown" growth already has its own. Is in self-destruction mode because pressure can be felt. There is no doubt that it is time to redefine human priorities. The question is, how can we ensure the progress of the human system without compromising the integrity of the natural ecosystem? In this context, a more holistic and integrated development model needs to be developed. A model has already been adopted within the framework of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which includes the four forces of capital, namely, physical, social, human and natural.

Rightly so, Mohan Munasinghe's new “Sustanomics Framework” for reconciling sustainable development and climate change is echoed in the SDGs which also emphasises the three normative issues of development equity, efficiency and sustainability. New development paradigm rests on three pillars:
  1. Increasing human capital through the provision of better health and education for all;
  2. Increasing physical capital without compromising the integrity and sustainability of natural ecosystems across time and space; and lastly;
  3. Creating normative pathways for distributive justice through reduced wealth, income and social inequality.

The way in which physical capital (infrastructure) creation has been considered so far has been largely unsustainable because it has resulted in large-scale changes in land use or interference with hydrological flows.

So what should be the modus operandi? At the outset, this guarantees a more sustainable and targeted or universal transfer mechanism, not only through government agencies but also through participation of private enterprises. On the other hand, the future of “green” physical infrastructure should be taken seriously. This is the sector that has already been projected as the next generation of job creation. However, the method by which the creation of physical capital (infrastructure) has been considered so far has not been largely sustainable as it has resulted in major changes in land use or interfering with hydrological currents. Again, there is a general consciousness and belief in many parts of the world that only “energy transition” from fossil fuels to renewable sources will help the “green transition” process. There can be nothing beyond the truth! Unbridled land-use change for infrastructure projects not only destroys ecosystems and their local level human systems, but also releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, increasing the effects of climate change and counteracting the positive effects of energy transition.

Therefore, the new development paradigm requires the preparation of ex-ante cost-benefit analysis of projects through strategic assessments involving social, economic, environmental, cultural and other types of impacts. There should be profit-loss analysis and evaluation of ecosystem services, including regulation services such as carbon sinks and sequestration, excess carbon emissions, disease control, food provision, biological control and other social costs (e.g. rehabilitation costs, loss of human-days, loss of livelihoods, etc.). Plugged into a holistic benefit-cost matrix. Abandoning business as usual and adopting such a new development paradigm can help envision a resilient future for human populations. Embracing this new paradigm and ushering in a resilient future should be the pledge of and for humanity on World Population Day 2022.

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