For two days, scientists from around the world gathered at Columbia University to examine the relationship between the human condition and the condition of the Earth. Focusing on four essential determinants of human well-being-energy, food, health and water - these leading experts assessed how science and technology can best be mobilized to achieve sustainable development. The development challenge is to enable the poor to meet their basic needs for energy, food, health, and water, recognizing that these needs are also human rights under international law and long-standing international commitments of both the rich and poor nations. The Millennium Development Goals, agreed by all of the world's governments, are critically important poverty reduction targets to be met by the year 2015. The sustainability challenge is to achieve development while protecting the world's ecosystems, ensuring that economic activity does not undermine the biodiversity, climate and other natural processes on which our security, well-being, and life itself, depend. These scientists have identified areas for priority action as well as new research initiatives.
The recommendations that follow are based on consensus achieved among a broad cross section of these experts, and are meant to help policy makers and the public understand the scientific underpinnings in several critical areas of sustainable development. In addressing these issues, the conference participants recognized the stark contrasts of the challenges facing the rich and poor. In the poorest countries, where an estimated 800 million people are chronically hungry and where extreme poverty leads to some 20,000 avoidable deaths per day, meeting basic human needs has first priority. Providing safe energy for cooking, clean water for drinking and sanitation, sufficient food for basic nourishment, and systems for disease control and prevention
Contact: Mary Tobin
The Earth Institute at Columbia University