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This must be decade of Kiwi sustainability in action

Opinion article written by Ian Spellerberg*, republished from

The 2020s must be the decade of sustainability in action.

From sustainability awareness through to acceptance and now there is to be action. 

In the last decade, there has been more news and discussion than ever before about how humans are causing climate change and how we have been greedily exploiting nature and the environment as a sink for pollutants and as source of materials to fuel affluenza​ and gross consumerism. 

Before the last decade, from the 1970s onwards there was a growing awareness of the unsustainable and inequitable use of nature and the environment.

In that time there have been milestone publications such as the 1987 Our Common Future report introducing a definition of "sustainable development". The WWF has produced several Living Planet Reports, all of which described the ever increasing degradation of nature and the environment. 

Globally, there has been much discussion leading to innovative solutions. Also, the United Nations has led the world in observances, some being just one day, some a week, some for a single year and some lasting a decade. Many are relevant to the climate emergency and the sustainability crisis.

For example 2017 was the year of Sustainable Tourism. The decade of 2005-2014 was the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development. The decade of 2011-2020 is the UN Decade on Biological Diversity.

In parallel with all those observances, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been meeting and reporting at regular intervals.

Recent reports claim that there is alarming evidence that important tipping points, leading to irreversible changes in major ecosystems and the planetary climate systems, may already been reached and passed. 

In this, the last year of the first decade of the 21st Century, "The Power of Youth" has emerged, according to Time magazine.

History will look back on these events and see them as a transition from acceptance to the need for urgent action.

Regretfully some world political leaders have revealed their shallow thinking by mocking environmental leaders such as Greta Thunberg. Notice, however, that those political leaders don't have intelligent arguments to counter the calls for urgent action to address the climate emergency.

There has been more agreement about climate change and sustainability in this past decade than ever before. 

There are solutions and practical ways to address the climate emergency and the sustainability crisis. In a recent State of the Environment address delivered by HRH Prince Charles at Lincoln University, he stated that "In every sector of the economy, there is an answer now to move into genuine sustainability".

In the spirit of UN observances, the first decade of the 21st century could well be remembered and indeed celebrated as the year of sustainability enlightenment.

The next decade (the 2020s) must be the decade of action. 

That looks increasingly likely to be true as a result of The Power of Youth.


Article has been republished from, click here to view the article:

Ian Spellerberg is Emeritus Professor of Nature Conservation at Lincoln University. His latest book What is Sustainability? – Our Impact on Planet Earth and the Natural Forces Shaping Our Future has just been released by Berkshire Publishing. 


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