Sustainable Growth is a Human Right

This post focuses on a 2013 United Nations  report on population trends to 2050. Our planet will be home to 9.3 billion people by then, which raises various ecological, humanitarian and sustainable planning issues. The UN argues that sustainable growth is a matter of human rights.

The United Nation’s Development Policy & Analysis Division is currently hosting an online event to discuss sustainable development challenges. The event is on now on Facebook and for another hour (link below). Experts are answering the public’s questions on the UN’s latest report based on their World Economic and Social Survey. The report finds that by 2050, there will be over 9.3 billion people on Earth. The majority of us (6.5 billion) will be living in cities, and one third of the world’s population will be living in urban slums, with poor access to clean water, living with major sanitation problems, unreliable electricity, disease, and lack of education. By this time, the world will also need to produce 70% more food than we do today. Carbon emissions will exceed the safety mark (450 parts per million of carbon dioxide).

The biggest urban growth will occur in developing regions, who will continue to experience an economic boom, while environmental and social problems will be exacerbated. The UN proposes that the international community needs to work with private industry to support green energy solutions around the world. In particular, by providing the developing world with innovation to adopt green technologies.

Sustainable planning is an interdisciplinary field. Cultural and generational understandings of ecological risks can inhibit or bolster support for green technologies at the local, national and international levels. The UN argues that the issues with highest risk and highest immediate returns concern land use, public urban transport, family planning and multi-purpose water reservoirs. The UN positions growth as a human rights matter.

Join in on the chat now.

You can read my summary of the UN’s initiatives and how applied sociology can assist interdisciplinary efforts. I’ve pulled some diagrams from the UN’s report and reposted here for you all to have a look.  

Read the entire UN Report:

2 thoughts on “Sustainable Growth is a Human Right

  1. It’s not so much the number, per se, Michael Verona. The United Nations believes that the world’s population will eventually plateau at around 9 billion ( This is based on changing fertility trends in many nations, where more people are having less babies. This is because of women’s wider accessibly to education (here’s a nice accessible overview by TED

    The issue is more that our current infrastructure, food supply, sanitation system, electricity, water and other resources can’t keep up with the growth up to that point. 

    Currently, different countries have different geographical spread, but the UN report shows that the majority of people will end up living in cities by 2050. That’s going to cause a catastrophe by putting too much strain on urban areas. They predict there’ll be more shanty towns in major cities all around the world. Poverty will be more widespread and further entrenched. The majority of people will not have enough energy to cook food and other health problems will follow.

    The UN report advocates building sustainable urban planning today to prepare for the future. It’s hard to convince Governments and populations to plan ahead given that present-day resources are contested. It means moving away from privatisation of land and public goods, and investing more on collective urban planning, green technologies, and public health.

    The heart of the issue is education and getting collective agreement on civic action. People think population growth (having more babies) is an individual choice and so it should be managed as an individual burden. It hasn’t always been this way and nor should it be.


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