One of the learnings from the recent Conference on Sustainable Development held in Rio de Janeiro last month is that the responsibility for the health of earth and its peoples has shifted from governments to civil society and businesses. The Rio+20 negotiated document had the full participation and robust engagement of civil society, and although not what everyone had hoped for, it is filled with signposts for the road ahead, placeholders and spaces that can be filled out later as we continue to work together for the future we want. Creating a new model for measuring a country’s standard of living that includes social and environmental factors in addition to financial is one idea whose time has come.

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United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that the momentum for change is irreversible, and that humanity is hungry for vision and leadership. One approach for thinking about the future we want is to consider social and planetary boundaries as they affect each other. There is a social floor, a level beneath which we cannot go in providing for societal needs if people are to flourish. There is also an environmental ceiling above which we cannot go in using earth’s resources if we wish the earth to survive. The concept of a safe and just space between social and planetary boundaries has been illustrated by Kate Raworth, an Oxfam senior researcher, using an interesting doughnut image. For more details, watch her video:



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