By Ayyan Zubair
The 2015 Social Good Summit began on Sunday, September 27th. Its purpose: to promote grassroots activism to discuss solutions to the world’s greatest problems. This year’s Social Good Summit is of particular importance, as it convenes just a couple of days after the signing of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by world leaders. The SDGs are a momentous document that will indeed shape the course of the next 15 years and beyond. In the words of acclaimed writer and producer Richard Curtis, the SDGs are “more important than Kim Kardashian’s bottom.”
So, what exactly are the SDGs comprised of?
The Sustainable Development Goals, also known as the Global Goals, follow the Millennium Development Goals—set at the turn of the century and expiring this year—as the prime vessel for driving social change and eradicating some of the world’s most enduring problems. The 17 goals tackle issues ranging from eliminating poverty to stimulating economic growth in the most underdeveloped regions. With the plethora of goals, it becomes a matter of practicality for each and every global citizen to adopt at least one issue to advocate for and strive to achieve the goals set by the SDGs.
And while undoubtedly each one of the 17 goals is important, each individual will have that one goal that resonates the most with them. Goal 13, which implores global citizens to “take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts,” appeals most to me.
I have seen firsthand—as I am sure anyone reading this blog has as well—the detrimental effects of pollution not only on the environment, but on the economies of nations as well. Climate change can be seen as the precursor to all other problems, as its repercussions are felt far and wide.
In my parents’ native country of Pakistan, pollution is a major issue unfortunately afforded only minor coverage. A study of pollution in Pakistan, or in any country for that matter, reveals a grim reality: it does not affect everyone equally. The poorest citizens disproportionally face the worst of the effects of climate change. Outdoor air pollution causes over 80,000 hospital admissions in Pakistan alone, per a World Bank report. It is an unfortunate reality that most, if not all, of the aforementioned patients are from poor backgrounds. In a country where medical bills are astronomically high, these individuals will have trouble paying for their care. Often times, they are forced to resort to taking out loans to pay off their debts to the hospitals. It is from this deplorable cycle of taking out loans to pay back loans that the lower class is trapped in a chain of poverty; they simply cannot escape. They will experience an extremely low quality of life: forced to live in slums worse than those in Slumdog Millionaire, unable to provide basic necessities for their families, and experiencing high cases of premature mortality and morbidity. Their children are relegated to the worst schooling—the public schooling from the government—if they are able to go to school at all. Many, especially girls, are not even able to get a basic education.
And thus, one finds that climate change is at the heart of poverty, hunger, and restricted economic mobility. A commitment to a cleaner, more sustainable environment not only improves the quality of air; it improves the quality of life as well. We must hold our world leaders accountable, and use our voice as the civil society to promote a cleaner, healthier world for the generations of the future.