Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay
In considering what are the most important global priorities, I have created the following categories and used data and information from several sources :
Global Poverty – Generally rated as our highest priority
Disease – including Mental Health
Other Species / Environment
This is a work in progress so please do add comments and more info below.
The elimination of extreme poverty remains probably the most important focus. It is estimated that achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals 2030 would produce returns of more than 15 times for every dollar spent, benefitting people, planet and prosperity. Methods to alleviate poverty at its source often empowers the poorest to improve many other aspects of their lives. Top suggestions include :
Reduce trade restrictions (full Doha)
Achieving more free trade (e.g. the Doha round) would make each person in the developing world $1,000 richer per year by 2030, lifting 160m people out of extreme poverty at a cost of $20bn per year
Improve gender equality in ownership, business and politics
Ensuring women can own and inherit property, perform basic business needs like signing a contract and be represented in parliament will empower women
Boost agricultural yield growth by 40%
Investing an extra $2.5bn per year in agricultural R&D to boost yields will reduce food prices for poor people, mean 80m fewer people go hungry and provide benefits worth $84bn per year.
DISEASE – including Mental Health
Diseases are severely debilitating and often a leading cause of poverty and suffering. It is not only third world countries that suffer from these issues. In 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults 18 years and older were overweight. Over 650 million were obese. Heart disease remains the leading cause of death and mental health probably affects us all.
Lower chronic child malnutrition by 40%
Providing nutritional supplements, deworming, and improving the balance of diet for 0-2 year olds will cost $11bn and prevent 68m children from being malnourished every year
Halve malaria infection
Distributing long lasting insecticide treated bed-nets and delaying resistance to the malaria drug artemisinin will cost $0.6bn, prevent 100m cases of malaria and save 440,000 lives per year
Reduce tuberculosis deaths by 90%
Massively scaling up detection and treatment of tuberculosis will cost $8bn and save up to an additional 1.3m lives per year
Cut early death from chronic disease by 1/3
Raising the price of tobacco, administering aspirin and preventative therapy for heart disease, reducing salt intake and providing low cost blood pressure medicine will cost $9bn and save 5m lives per year
Avoid 1.1 million HIV infections through circumcision
Circumcising 90% of HIV-negative men in the 5 worst affected countries will cost $35m annually and avert 1.1m infections by 2030 with the preventive benefit increasing over time
Reduce newborn mortality by 70%
Protecting expecting mothers from disease, having skilled medical staff support their deliveries, and ensuring high quality postnatal care will cost $14bn and prevent 2m newborn deaths per year
Increase immunization to reduce child deaths by 25%
Expanding immunization coverage to include protection from forms of influenza, pneumonia and diarrheal disease will cost $1bn and save 1m children per year
Make family planning available to everyone
Allowing women to decide if, when, and how often they become pregnant will cost $3.6bn per year, cut maternal deaths by 150,000, while providing a demographic dividend
Eliminate violence against women and girls
Right now, every year 305 million women are domestically abused, costing the world $4.4 trillion in damages
Invest in Unbiased Disease Research
Heart Disease and Cancer are the top two killers. Mental Health probably affects us all. Cost effective treatments need funding for proper evaluation, especially where these show promise to be more effective than their more costly alternatives.
OTHER SPECIES / ENVIRONMENT
Destruction of our environment is proceeding at unprecedented rates. There is a need for a greater respect for nature, its diversity and other species. Destroying the ecological balance will not prove beneficial for humanity. Some areas of focus are :
Phase out fossil fuel subsidies
Removing fossil fuel subsidies will cost less than $37bn per year, lower carbon emissions and free up $548bn in government revenue to spend on for example, health, infrastructure and education
Halve coral reef loss
Protecting marine habitats will cost $3bn per year but will prevent the loss of 3m hectares of coral reef, providing natural fishing hatcheries and boosting tourism
Tax pollution damage from energy
Air pollution is the world’s biggest environmental killer, causing more than 7m annual deaths. Taxes proportional to the damage from air pollution and CO2 will reduce environmental impacts efficiently
Cut indoor air pollution by 20%
Providing more clean cookstoves will cost $11bn and prevent 1.3m deaths per year from indoor air pollution
Ensuring our rainforests are maintained, our seas are not polluted and over-fished, that other species including animals, fish, invertebrates and insects are well protected also reuire much research, attention and funding.
Generally these are relatively well-funded or overfunded. Potential asteroids that could create a global catastrophe are already tracked. This is an important category to ensure is properly covered as if ignored, even working on the other ways to improve our world will prove pointless, if it’s not going to be here in a few years.
Biosecurity appears to be the most important focus in this category and the most likely to create an existential risk.
Artificial Intelligence , whilst having the potential to be catastrophic and definitely requiring more research, appears to have been well identified and popular. It is likely to receive the attention it deserves.
Climate Change has become very politically popular and whilst important for many reasons, is perhaps being over-funded to the detriment of other important causes.
The risk of Nuclear War also requires attention. Though ensuring existing agreements are renewed and kept to, should be sufficient to alleviate this risk.
Oscar Wilde said “There is no sin, except stupidity”. The Buddhists phrase this a bit more kindly in saying that our main affliction is one of ignorance. Investment in education appears to create a domino effect. Some areas to consider are :
Increase girls’ education by two years
Ensuring girls receive more education will increase their future wages, improve their health, reduce their risk of violence and start a virtuous cycle for the next generations
Achieve universal primary education in sub-Saharan Africa
At a cost of $9bn per year, this target will ensure 30m more kids per year attend primary school
Triple preschool in sub-Saharan Africa
Pre-school instils within children a lifelong desire to learn. Ensuring pre-school coverage rises from 18% to 59% will cost up to $6bn and will give that experience to at least 30m more children per year
Spending on which causes should be prioritised, what are the current effective solutions, and researching new solutions, often provides returns many times more than other investments, though of course should not be our only focus.
Welcome comments, feedback and more info and what should be our planet’s key priorities.