I want to sympathise with the person who defaced the exhibition on the Sustainable Development Goals I set up at the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment of the TU Delft.
I want to tell them, you are right! Neoliberalism is one of the biggest problems humanity faces today, because it is utterly and completely unsustainable, both from an environmental and from a social point of view. It is morally indefensible.
But I also want to tell this person: you are missing the point of the Sustainable Development Goals. The key in is the world “sustainable”. Maybe this person thinks “sustainability” is one of those fancy concepts that comes into fashion then fades away. It is not. Sustainability is a field of studies that involves radical proposals to make our world fairer and more inclusive. In a way, it is the contrary of neoliberalism. If you don’t believe me, please try to read the book: “Understanding the Social Dimension of Sustainability” by Dillard, Dujon and King.
Back to the SDGs. Maybe they are flawed. But this is the best thing we could agree on so far, and they are working! Extreme poverty is being eradicated, societies are progressing, people are getting vaccines. There is a VERY LONG way to go, but we are much better off than, say, 30 years ago. The SDGs are good guidelines and frameworks for action. If you don’t understand my optimism, please look at this lecture: https://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_shows_the_best_stats_you_ve_ever_seen
Contrary to our perception, the world has actually improved in the last 30 years.
Of course, our emphasis on economic growth is not sustainable, but some economic growth in places that don’t have any is necessary. The great challenges are INCLUSION and EQUITY.
What gave me heart was to see a group of Dutch children visiting our faculty, all holding little models they had produced, and discussing the SDGs! they were really interested and wanted to know more about it!