oil plantations

Land cleared for palm oil plantations in Tasmania. Mattias Klum

The United Nations’ new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are about to replace the previous Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), are getting a lot of hate these days.The real problem is that the SDGs are profoundly contradictory, to the point of being self-defeating.

On the one hand, the preamble affirms that “planet Earth and its ecosystems are our home” and underscores the necessity of achieving “harmony with nature.” It establishes a commitment to hold global warming below a 2° Celsius increase, and calls for “sustainable patterns of production and consumption.” The goals include the restoration of water-related ecosystems, a halt to the loss of biodiversity, and an end to overfishing, deforestation, and desertification.

Yet despite this growing realization, the core of the SDG program for development and poverty reduction relies precisely on the old model of industrial growth — ever-increasing levels of extraction, production, and consumption.

This is the mortal flaw at the heart of the SDGs. How can they be calling for both less and more at the same time?

Continue reading here.