UN Report: The Future Could be Swell... But We're Blowing It

african schoolchildren

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Time for another round of good news, bad news. First, the good: According to a weighty new UN report (it's 6,300 pages long and includes submissions from 2,500 experts) uncovered by The Independent, the world stands poised to enter a new era of peace, prosperity and empowerment. Increased democratization, economic and technological advances and medical breakthroughs have the potential to bring millions out of poverty and make the world "work far better than it does today".

Now for the bad: Despite these promising developments, we are still more likely than not to screw it all up through sheer violence, inequality and environmental degradation. Worse, governments are not even properly equipped to take advantage of these advances or to prevent many of the looming crises.

amazon river

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Just another doom and gloom report?
As Geoffrey Lean and Jonathan Owen put it, the "2008 State of the Future" report can hardly be accused of being your typical fear mongering tract. It starts off listing a number of humanity's most momentous accomplishments, portraying a bright future in which "the internet, international trade, language translation and jet planes are giving birth to an interdependent humanity that can create and implement global strategies to improve [its] prospects".

Some encouraging findings
Improvements in recent decades have helped slash poverty levels worldwide (except, unfortunately, in Africa) -- enough that poverty will have been cut by more than half by 2015. Life expectancy and literacy rates continue to rise while the number of conflicts and infant mortalities continue to drop. The internet is effusively praised as having already become the single "most powerful force for globalization, democratization, economic growth and education in history".

Current and future challenges to a new world order
While sounding an optimistic tone, the report doesn't mince its words in describing many of the problems currently plaguing the system:

"half the world is vulnerable to social instability and violence due to rising food and energy prices, failing states, falling water tables, climate change, decreasing water-food-energy supply per person, desertification and increasing migrations due to political, environmental and economic conditions . . . With nearly three billion people making $2 or less per day, long-term global social conflict seems inevitable without more serious food policies, useful scientific breakthroughs and dietary changes".

Ending on an optimistic note?
It concludes by castigating world governments as being "inefficient, slow and ill-informed" and reiterates a common refrain for more international cooperation and, most important, a "global strategy". Without this, it says, neither climate change nor international organized crime, among others, will ever be resolved.

For a more complete list of the report's recommendations and findings, see the full Independent story.

Via ::The Independent: We've seen the future ... and we may not be doomed (news website)

What the future will bring
::Future Of Water In The US West: A Bleak Projection Of Climate Consequence
::Gas Stations of the Future: Waste Land?
::Hybrid Airplane-Car for Commuters of the Future?