Madame Gro Harlem Brundtland and Jim MacNeil, key leaders in the Brundtland Commission, held public hearings in cities and slums around the world to create Our Common Future in 1987. In doing so, they broke through ideological barriers and found a way to reach consensus.
As the Pioneers imagine our future in twenty years, they paint a picture clouded by urgent, intense, challenges brought about by an era of human destruction. Some fear that we may face a series of shocks, either economic or ecological, before we wake up. One thing is clear, we must be more responsible and work together to restore the foundation of the planet.
While many sustainability veterans express frustration with our progress on the sustainable development agenda, they remain hopeful about the road ahead. Pioneers are optimistic about the ability of science and technology to empower courageous citizens. Others look to the “problem-solving” next generation—to take us forward.
Sustainability optimists speak of an era of convergence – a coming together of new technologies and new business models to create a 21st century economy. Collaboration and a shared vision will open the door to these new opportunities.
The first ripples of change often begin with civil society. Over time NGOs have used their speed, activism and collaborative approaches to influence actors within the UN process, as well as private sector players.
The onus falls on government to give us the systems, incentives and regulatory frameworks to enable sustainable development. We hope to see a sense of shared vision and objectives by governments at Rio+20, but historically, governments have shown a lack of courage.
Since the 1992 UN Summit, the philosophies of business, NGOs and governments have evolved – often at the expense of sustainable development goals. What has been constant is the desire to motivate people to act.
Pioneers John Elkington, Bjorn Stigson and David Suzuki fear that things may get worse before they get better on climate change issues. Only when our daily lives are disrupted and we have realized the connection between our actions and their consequences, will we finally unite on the issue.
What does it take to be an effective leader in the 21st century? According to John Elkington, Mark Moody Stuart, Rajendra Pachauri and others, leadership on the sustainability agenda will require the vision to make decisions with the next 50 or 100 years in mind, and to identify and support emerging innovators and changemakers.
Our economic model is believed by many to be broken. Pioneers Jonathan Porritt, Achim Steiner, Bjorn Stigson and others emphasize the need to challenge the orthodoxies of our current model, envisioning a transition from an economically-driven framework to one that acknowledges ecological infrastructure as the foundation.