Extinction and the SDGs

On September 25th, 2015, the UN released a new set of goals – the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs – designed to pick up where the Millennium Development Goals left off , and to move substantially beyond them in scope. The SDGs entail 17 linked (but not always synergistic) goals intended to tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems – from climate change to food insecurity to inequality. Along with other members of the Balsillie School‘s 2030+ research group recently organised a public event exploring the SDGs through the lenses of food, health, climate and extinction. The video below is my contribution to this talk.

I should mention that I have serious reservations about goal-setting agendas such as the SDGs. Amongst other things, such approaches tend to treat complex goals as discrete units, ignoring the profound relationality that characterises them; to homogenise the goals in terms of primacy and weight; and to treat the interactions between issues and threats in linear terms. Moreover, they work in a universalistic and reductionist framework that relies on  implicit but powerful Western secular norms about what ‘humanity’ is and what its ‘wellbeing’ might entail. The 2030+ group will be working in the future to think about radically different modes of governance and the pursuit of global goods that might better suit the nature of the issues at hand and of a diverse, multi-species planet.  That said, the issues addressed by the SDGs are crucial ones, and they raise important debates about the nature and scope of global norms. Drawing on the SDGs, my objective in this talk is to explore how the global extinction crisis might affect just about every other goal to which humans might aspire.

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