Sustainable Development (SD) contains two words that are often only used to glamourize the empty speech. People do not understand them, they do not like them, and they find them to be a noble mischief, because they have become accustomed to the pot calling the kettle black situations. I could now name hundreds of examples, like diesel engines with programmed chips or new continents that originated from our waste in the oceans but it would be just a waste of time since this is the daily reality of our lives, part of our existence.
When the United Nations Organization adopted the SD Declaration in Rio de Janeiro 25 years ago, it seemed that humanity realized its responsibility for our planet and all the living creatures we live with. We could have been happy to see the European Union wanting to lead this fight, which, like the national governments of its Member States, has declared SD as its horizontal priority. There have been a number of laws and regulations adopted, often disadvantaging European businesses and their products, but there has been a hope that everything is going on in the name of the future of our children and our civilization. The crucial question, however, is what has actually been done?
By sustainable development, we have named the way in which we should act to preserve the current biodiversity and bring our planet to our children in the state it is. But how do we actually behave? Do we analyse it? Do we collect the knowledge somewhere? Is our planet in a state it was when there was a conference held in Rome? Not at all! The Earth has changed fundamentally over the past 25 years. But these changes are neither for the benefit of our children nor for the benefit of our civilization, and they are drastic and are running dramatically quickly. We repeat the mistakes of previous civilizations that have disappeared precisely because their environment has been devastated. In contrast, however, our civilization is not only a local estate, but thanks to globalization, it has dominated the entire planet. Everywhere, even in the most remote places, it is reflected by its negative influence. It has come so far that natural supplies, rainforests, farmlands, ecosystems, coral reefs, entire animal populations and animal species are disappearing by dramatically rising pace. Since the conference in Rio, new continents have emerged, which are big as France, Germany and Spain together, formed by waste which concentrates sea currents in the oceans. In addition, each year, 12 million tons of plastic material ends in these waters. Scientists estimate that there will be more plastic than fish in a while and that the fish will be essentially plastic. We are coming close to an era when our waste gets onto our tables as food.
This is definitely not how it was supposed to be, and so we have to admit that we have wasted those 25 years. The naive idea that the tremendous technical progress that we have achieved will primarily contribute to the growth of educational level which will subsequently affect the events on our planet, got lost hopelessly in the consumer network. Billions of money, invested in marketing and advertising, defeated the problematically funded education system and the result is that our actions are still affected by the worst human qualities – greed and egoism. The mental development of people is still lagging behind the technical progress; we live the life that has been inflicted by various corporations. The old Roman quotation “Panem et circenses” is still valid. The result is that our consumption is growing at a dizzying pace and accompanied by a disgraceful waste. 182 kilograms of food per inhabitant per year ends in the waste only in Slovakia!
We create a huge ecological debt that our generation will not stop to grow. We leave it on the shoulders of our children, and all we can do for them is to prepare them for this most important role of our civilization. First we have to tell them the truth, admit that we have not mastered our subsistence, and then contribute to bringing up better and smarter people than we are – people, for whom not the accumulation of tangible goods, but the protection of life (and not only human life), will be the main criterion for their decision-making.
This is the meaning of the new initiative – Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development. It is a hope that we will still be able to make up for it, and I hope that in the next 25 years the next generation will not even say that we have missed that chance too. At the national conference on environmental education, training and enlightenment, one of my professors said: “It is not at all certain whether we can still talk about sustainable development, or we have to change that we have to make a sustainable retreat.” It is really a cunning and sad reality of ours today. That is all we have to believe is that we will start from the right end this time and education will become a priority. It is not possible to implement a SD without general support, without changing people’s attitudes. Perhaps there are enough statesmen who will understand and lead the nations so as to bring our civilization out of the blind aisle. That is the destiny of statesmen who, unlike politicians, can say something what people do not want to hear.
Well, it is still to be hoped that there will be more and more people starting from themselves and looking for the answer to the question of how to live life so that it is sustainable. Although it is clear that life cannot be permanent, but the way of being is. That’s why I am ending with this text and I am going to continue to cut the film about the dragons of Komodo – a story which is more about the people who inhabit the picturesque island and have left these living fossils to survive to this day.