Sustainability – Now More Than Ever

In consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic, sustainability could fade into the background—or become an even more important factor for success.

Sustainability presents major challenges to the economy and society at large. How can we ensure a livable world for both people and nature? Artist Manolo Paz prompts us to reflect on this question with his stacked blocks of colorful fishing nets. The installation entitled The Seas of the World was exhibited on Fefiñáns Square in the town of Cambados on the west coast of Spain. CREDIT: Xurxo Lobato/Getty Images

“These are extraordinary times. And we face an extraordinary challenge.” This is how John F. Kennedy started his special message to Congress in May of 1961, in which he announced the goal of sending a human being to the moon before the end of the decade. The idea seemed impossible at first, yet it touched off a contest that achieved the seemingly impossible just eight years later, and demonstrated that humanity is quite able to take giant leaps. 

Professor Johan Rockström, a Swedish expert on resilience and director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research—which addresses crucial scientific and social questions in the fields of global change, climate impact, and sustainable development—sees analogies between 1961 and the present. “The goal we are announcing now consists of substantially reducing global emissions by the end of the decade,” he says. Although no nation has truly set off to achieve a “moon landing” in terms of sustainability, the Covid-19 pandemic has presented the world with something like an ultimatum. “I would call it a type of constructive pressure that sends the important message that we’re not as stuck in the status quo as we so often think.”

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