Thursday, 25 September 2014

Online Courses on Sustainable Development

I came across the following free online courses on Sustainable Development, and found them worth sharing:
  1. Introduction to Sustainable Development
  2. The Age of Sustainable Development
They tell you about the world, and the management and mismanagement of scarce resources, and how the productivity-drive led by management specialists is taking its toll on planetary boundaries. They stress upon the need to promote endogenous economic growth to enable countries to take off on their own. They also accentuate upon the need for social inclusion so that economic well-being is widely shared to generate a broad-based prosperous, fair, and sustainable social order.

A few centuries ago, the world was equal in poverty. World output was nearly zero till it experienced a sharp surge around 1750 when the Industrial Revolution created economic life. Great inventions like the steam engine made it possible to harness massive amounts of energy economically and efficiently. Gradually, the base of the economy shifted from agriculture to manufacturing and services industry.

However, economic development was not uniform across the world. Parts of the world were left behind to face absolute, abject poverty. Today, 1 to 2 billion people out of the 7.2 billion people on earth are struggling to meet basic needs. People do not have access to basic amenities like modern power, roads, health services, education, safe drinking water, and sanitation. As a result of huge variations in income levels around the world, there is unrest and instability in some countries that triggers protests, violence, and terrorism.

Moreover, with the overwhelming effects of economic development, we are trespassing planetary boundaries and changing basic earth processes so much that the planet behaves differently now. As we affect the world and the balance of nature, we are becoming a threat to ourselves. We affect the water cycle, nitrogen cycle, ocean chemistry, and air composition. We cause climatic changes and environmental disasters like unprecedented rains, floods, hurricanes, typhoons, droughts, force fires, and heat waves. As a consequence, there is massive loss of life and property. We need to respect planetary boundaries, and find new ways to produce and use energy so that we can enjoy the benefits of the modern economy without threatening life and the natural environment.

To protect the planet and achieve sustainable development, we need to develop sustainable energies and technologies.  There is an urgent need to improve food security, and find ways to enhance sustainability. In addition, as people migrate from rural to urban areas, there is a need to combat the stress generated by overpopulation in urban regions. There is a need to develop smart cities with smart architecture and smart transportation systems to cater for the increasing rural-to-urban migration. Moreover, there is a need to develop smart recycling processes, and ways to combat congestion and pollution. Efforts need to be made to move to low-cost and efficient energy sources like solar energy and wind power.

In this global economy, production is affected as supply chains across the world are disrupted by natural disasters and unprecedented environmental crisis. Moreover, environmental disasters can trigger unrest and instability in other parts of the world. Such adverse effects are felt by rich and poor alike. In this interconnected world with integrated global production systems, it is in our collective interest to find ways to unlock economic growth in low income countries as security and prosperity of every country is intertwined with the rest of the world.

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