Intuition and the Creation of a Better World
Taking a New Road
Mats Segnestam is Head of the Environment Policy Division of the Swedish International Development Co-operation Agency
(SIDA). This article was first published in the journal People & the Planet, Volume 8, Number 4, 1999 and we are grateful to the editors of the journal for permission to publish it here. For further information on People & the Planet visit their website.
The most important, vital change that needs to occur during the coming years is the realization by a large majority of the people of the world that present development, in the north and in the south, is environmentally unsustainable, and therefore also economically and socially unsustainable, and that a continuation of this state of affairs is simply not an option.
This implies that people must understand — develop an instinct for — what environmentally sustainable development is, in a local, regional, and global context.
In order to achieve this we must clarify, make apparent, demonstrate, make known, make understood, make felt, as many as possible of the linkages between environment on the one hand, and economy, conflict, unwanted migration of people, health and other social aspects, on the other. We must create and establish an intuitive understanding that, for example: water is a finite and fragile resource, biodiversity is the basis for life for all people, economic growth is not an end in itself and can be negative if wrongly based… The list is long.
Therefore, children must quickly get access to knowledge in these areas, environmental economists must get massive support (not only in financial terms), leadership in politics, in governments, in business, and in the civil society needs to be encouraged and challenged much more than hitherto.
We must provide clear signals and must therefore also develop the environmental and sustainable development indicators we all need at different levels.
My hope and desire is that all this will happen and that development organisations, SIDA as well as others, understand the magnitude of their task and only support the good forces in the world's march along the new, changed route. My commitment for the next millennium — as long as I am there — is to contribute to the necessary processes of change as much as I can.