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From around the world, the voices are unanimous. Too many people are exploiting dwindling resources and all this exacerbated by the growing gap between rich and poor. The result: a planet which is starting to burst at the seams. Samantha Smith leads WWF’s Global Climate and Energy Initiative.
“We are looking at a planet with nine billion people on it by 2050. And if we are going to be ready for that and if we are going to provide prosperity to all the people who need it, then we are going to have to start acting now. We cannot continue to act as if we live on a planet with unlimited resources. We don’t. We have to start looking at the solutions.”
The world’s population which has reached seven billion is growing at about 80 million a year. And yet, the world’s 1.3 billion poorest people need to consumer more to escape extreme poverty. Alexander Likhotal, President of Geneva-based Green Cross International, explores the dilemma.
“Every day, more than 200,000 people will be joining our dinner table, tonight that were not here yesterday. And most of them will have empty plates. They will be thirsty and they will be frustrated.”
It’s the complexities of today’s challenges which preoccupy Likhotal because the International Green Cross tackles the combined challenges of security, poverty and environmental degradation.
“We cannot achieve security and peace if we will not dig out of poverty the billions of people who live on less than one or two dollars a day and we cannot not dig them out of poverty if we don’t have peace and security in the world. So it’s all interconnected and that is why we are not dealing any more with strictly environmental issues, with strictly economic issues or political issues.”
Ghassem Asrar, Director of the World Climate Research Programme in Geneva, says it is time to act rather than react.
“When we talk about the combination of huge issues like water, environment and food, if we wait until our backs are against the wall, I believe that would be too late and the price will be too immense if not unaffordable.
The calls for action continue to grow louder. But with the haggling over a negotiating text here in Rio, it’s already clear to many observers that there won’t be a visionary outcome.