This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Sustainable Development Goals Seem Out of Control

The United Nations' Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were targeted to 2015, and this year they are being replaced by a new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Let's set aside the question of whether there is really such a thing as sustainable development (I discuss this in Chapter 11 of my text). Do the goals make any sense? They are scheduled to be finalized in September of this year. This week's Economist notes, however, that at the moment there are 17 overarching goals and 169 targets, compared with only 8 MDGs. 
The MDGs were mainly about the poor; their successors are supposed to go far beyond that, with goals proposed for urbanisation, infrastructure, standards of governance, income inequality and climate change. The MDGs, says Homi Kharas of the Brookings Institution, who helped draft an early version of the SDGs, were about reducing poverty; the new goals are about creating peaceful and inclusive societies.
And how did the world do with the 8 MDGs in terms of targets for 2015? The Economist also summarizes the record there. Only 6 of the 8 are readily measurable and the world hit 3 of the 6 targets. Here's the tally:

1. Reduce extreme poverty (living on less than $1.25 per day) by half compared to 1990. This was achieved, although the record is a bit sketchy if you take inflation into account and look at the fraction living on less than $2 per day.
2. Increase gender equality in eduction compared to 1990--yes, that was accomplished.
3. Halve the proportion of population without improved drinking water compared to 1990--yes, that was accomplished, although we still have a lot of people without such access.
4. Reduce child mortality by two-thirds compared to 1990--Not quite, but progress was made.
5. Reduce maternal mortality by three-quarters compared to 1990--Not quite, progress was made.
6. Universal primary education--not quite, but we're getting closer.
7. Ensure environmental sustainability--not yet!
8. Develop a global partnership for development--not yet!!

It remains disheartening that there is so little emphasis on slowing population growth beyond its current levels. If we cannot achieve our goals with 7 billion people, how can we possibly achieve even more ambitious goals with 9 or 10 billion? Come on, folks, let's get real!

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