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Today is a historic day, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Global Goals for sustainable development just a few hours ago. These goals are sort of a sequel to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which has been surprisingly successful in making the world a better place: extreme poverty has been cut in half, hunger too, more children go to school, less women and babies die in childbirth, and people live longer. Praise God! John Green, educated Youtuber and a Christian, explains briefly the achievements of the MDGs in this video:
The Global Goals step things up a bit though; the new ambition is to totally eliminate extreme poverty by 2030 and also make sure that nobody goes hungry. Other goals (there are 17 of them) include global gender equality with no more discrimination against women anywhere, reduced economic inequality, reasonable consumption, action against climate change and environmental pollution, etc.
Should Christians support the Global Goals? Duh, obviously. Helping the poor and caring for God’s creation is extremely Biblical, isn’t it? Well, some brothers and sisters do object against the goals in general and the first one about ending poverty in particular. The general critique against goals like this is that we should not imagine ourselves being able to turn this world into a paradise, since all men are sinful (Rom 3:23) and the Kingdom of God is not of this world (Jn 18:34). The particular critique against the idea of ending poverty is that Jesus actually said:
The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. (Mark 14:7)
We shouldn’t just talk about how to fight poverty, but also how to fight inequality.
In September, world leaders will gather in New York to agree upon new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that will succeed the old Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Several of the MDG:s were actually fulfilled, such as halving the proportion of poor people worldwide and increasing global health and literacy.
Now, the goals are even more ambitious, striving to eradicate poverty, hunger and illiteracy completely, along with environmental goals such as preserving ecosystems and combating climate change. A key to all this, I think, is goal number 10: to decrease inequality between and within countries.
People aren’t poor because there is a lack of resources in the world, but because they are unevenly distributed. 20% of the world’s population consume 80% of the world’s resources. And the mass consumption of the rich hurts the environment: if everyone lived like the average Swede, we would need three planets. If they lived like the average American, we would need five. In fact, World Overshoot Day, when we have consumed what the earth produces in a year, is today, August 13! This means that during the rest of 2015, we spend, consume and trash resources that we do not replace, and this date has been pushed further back almost every year in the calendar.