The global leaders, finally On 5th October 2016, endorsed the Paris Agreement to tackle climate change. The Paris Agreement builds upon the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and — for the first time — brings all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects, with enhanced support to assist developing countries to do so. The world was excited thereafter until the United States of America, under President Donald Trump’s administration, decided to pull out itself from the Paris agreement earlier this year.

Yet another example, in the autumn of 2016, the world’s governments came together to agree to 17 ambitious sustainable development goals, which promised to overcome a vast array of problems — from poverty and hunger to health and gender equality — by 2030. But if history is a guide and a similar path is followed, these goals may be overly ambitious. An earlier set of Millennium Development Goals included one on education and stated that by 2015 all boys and girls should complete a full course of primary education.

Yet fifteen years after 164 countries agreed to work towards education for all, just one-third achieved the six goals set.

As all previous targets failed, another Jumla (unrealistic slogan in Hindi) has been proposed by the UN, international governmental and not governmental organizations again, called 90–90–90 — AN AMBITIOUS TREATMENT TARGET TO HELP END THE AIDS EPIDEMIC (where the major funders, US government’s funding pledge/commitment has declined sharply) which says: By 2020, 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status. By 2020, 90% of all people diagnosed with HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy. By 2020, 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.

Climate change, poverty, hunger, water-shortages, lack of education, lack of health-care, gender inequity, human rights violations, war, refugee, migration etc. all appear to be problems but they are actually not the problem in itself, rather they are the results caused by the root problem known as ‘fear’. Fear makes people with resources and power controlling, violent and stupid. Fear is caused by insecurity, greed, hatred and delusion. All these three greatest human vices are caused by ‘ignorance’.

All these, setting targets after targets, have no meaning until we tackle the root cause of the problem. Otherwise these targets just add another bullet point to the CV of such particular leaders and give them reason to celebrate during the launch of such targets. Why is America pulling out of the Paris agreement? It’s because of fear that they are losing jobs and economy — and the Trump administration is fueled by greed and an indifference to the impact of oil, gas and fracking upon our shared planet.

Why does China want to champion the Paris agreement? In part, because they want to replace the American domination in the world stage and become the major dominant player. It is the fear of losing domination over others and fear of being dominated by others that pushes countries to increase their defense spending incrementally every year but they are not ready to allocate similar amounts of what all the countries would spend on their defense (it is actually offence!) to tackle the food, water, shelter and health problems of the world.

And again, these are only the problems where we are thinking about humans and human interests only. But humans cannot survive and ignore the eco-system, environment, other species, trees and plants, rivers, mountains, valleys, forests, lakes, deserts, sea and air. Can we really think about them as independent of/from our needs and greed? Have we seriously looked at how much forest the world has lost over the past 100 years, how much bio-diversity the world has lost and the consequences of that? How much population of other animals, birds, fish and other living beings have declined and shrunk to extinction over the last 100 years? So many that some scientists refer to this as the Sixth Great Extinction event. Yet the human population is exploding disproportionately. I am not sure about the almighty God, but I must say ‘thank God I am gay’ for not contributing to this unsustainably exploding human population problem.

As a dominant species and being that can think/imagine, when do we learn to think/imagine in ways free from fear? When do we learn to think how to overcome our fear and think about not controlling others but empowering them to be free, think about not hating others but learn/teach how to embrace each other, think about not only ‘me’ but everybody and everything matters as we all together become of the universe, not just human but everything, I mean everything. When do we start treating our very world, our only home, with the respect and love that is essential if our species is to survive?

All the development approach and setting ambitious targets have failed to recognize important human trait that is ‘imagination’. We always “imagine” a world that is selfish and horrible until we can outgrow our ‘fear’. A sustainable development is definitely not about Higher GDP growth which can be easily achieved by exploiting the poor and natural resources, using all kind of policies, techniques and technologies. A sustainable development must also not be about just human needs in a solely human-centric way, it is about the entire world and every living and non-living being-centric.

All these values are diluted and contaminated by corporate approaches and companies who just want to make money. Even many religious institutions, who traditionally are expected in such roles of teaching and establishing such noble values of care, are busy, many for a long time, in spreading hate and inciting violence and supporting greed and ecological catastrophe.

Before setting up further targets and development goals, may we, as the UN and world leaders and every human being, develop a universal program that empowers us to overcome our “fear’ as a particular individual, as a particular society, as a particular nationality, as a particular ethnicity, race, religion or geography and as a human which is as perceived, accurately or not, as “superior” beings than the rest. A global program that teaches ‘love and let love, live and let live’. Because both fear and love are universal. How many schools, communities across the world really teach how to overcome ‘fear’ and how to ‘love and let love’ unconditionally?

We often do not acknowledge that “I too have to die, sooner or later”, so why become greedy and obsessed to amass wealth beyond our needs? Why not meditate and self-reflect so we can deal with existential fear. Many people don’t realize that they are actually crazy after money and power (to control others) yet none of that spares us from the death that awaits each one of us.

That fear/insecurity propels flawed systems to persist (the parasitic-Capitalism) or otherwise serving the 0.1% of the entire human population. Think about the whole environment, other species and fellow humans before you attempt to make even a single $.

The development crisis we face today are human caused and we, the humans, must be the solutions.

Sunil Pant