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Are we living ‘sustainably’ ?

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Tim Clarke spoke at the Breakfast Talk at The Royal Hotel, Dockray on Saturday 1st December 2018. Tim has followed international sustainability issues professionally for 25 years.

My presentation traced the history of international attempts to address sustainability issues starting from the notion of our ‘precious planet’. It moved from the warning cries of the Club of Room’s Limits to Growth in 1972, to the Stockholm Conference the same year, the Brandt North South report in 1980, and the Gro Bruntland ‘Our Common Future’ document in 1987, where sustainability was defined for the first time:

"Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."


It then moved to the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992 where I and many others signed up to an Earth Pledge:

“Recognizing that people’s actions toward nature and each other are the source of growing damage to the environmental resources needed to meet human needs and ensure survival and development, I PLEDGE to act to the best of my ability to help make the Earth a secure and hospitable home for present and future generations.”


Several acronyms emerged at that time, such as ‘Think Globally, Act Locally’.

20 years on in the Rio + 20 Summit, nothing much seems to have changed and a new Club of Rome report: Plundering the planet appeared the following year in 2013. The international community had failed.

Increasing interest in climate change and inequalities across the globe led to the Paris Agreement in 2015 and the definition of 17 Sustainable  Development Goals (SDGs) in September of the same year, approved unanimously by all the UN’s 193 nations.



Today, every state has signed up to achieving the SDGs by 2030, but for most countries there is a long, long way to go. The most recent UN document that plots progress – the SDG Dashboard report published in July 2018 - ranks the UK 14th in terms of achieving the Goals with the Scandinavian countries Sweden, Denmark and Finland a long way ahead.  For most African countries, reaching the SDGs seems to be Mission Impossible.

The presentation was followed by a discussion about how individuals can make a difference by, for example, reducing water consumption, only having one car per family, using renewable energy sources, changing their personal eating preferences away from meat. But it was agreed this was a very long haul, and needs political leadership and changes in our education system across the board.  

We all expect someone else’s lights to go out before ours.

More about Tim: Tim Clarke has for three decades worked in a wide variety of positions for European Institutions, at EU Ambassador level for eight of those years. He has developed a passion for a range of Issues: good governance and democracy-building; community-led development; the fight against injustice and inequality and the dignity of the most vulnerable; women’s, girls’ and children’s rights; environmental conservation; mitigation of the impact of climate change; for food security; for conflict prevention and mitigation; culture and inter-cultural dialogue; and for eco-innovation and eco-development. He currently pursues pro bono work on these issues since his ‘retirement’.

The Breakfast Talk, at The Royal Hotel, Dockray, takes place on the first Saturday of each month starting at 8am. A small donation to the nominated charity of the speaker is welcome. The Royal provides a breakfast bite. Future topics for the Breakfast Talk can be found on the Events and Calendar sections of this website. All welcome.

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