Problems plaguing the future: How one network is actively looking for solutions

Goals: End poverty and hunger, address climate change and inequality, and create peace, justice and a strong institution

Aerial view of a thriving neighborhood. (Photo by Dhyamis Kleber from Pexels.)

When we think about the world and problems people encounter every day, a few of the biggest hurdles might be poverty and hunger, climate change and inequality, to name a few.

But how do we go about making changes to things like this? None of them are any small feat.

When you come to our website, you’re looking to inform yourself on things happening locally and nationally. There are often instances in which we highlight issues happening in our communities -- ones that are plaguing residents or causing further issues, and need a solution.

What we’re doing now is taking that a step farther, so that we are not just highlighting issues, but finding ways to hopefully bring solutions to the table.

Through Solutionaries, a digital initiative, we are taking on big ideas to get to the heart of the problems and build toward solutions.

So, back to the initial concern: When we think about the future for our children, nieces and nephews, or anyone who we care about, what will their future look like where these worldwide issues are concerned, and how can we find solutions to ensure the world is a better place for all of us?

How the Sustainable Development Solutions Network is working to make a difference

Enter the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), a nonprofit created by the United Nations to advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), a collection of interlinked global goals that are designed to be a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.”

“Sustainable development is about how we might think about economic, social and environmental progress, and how we might make sure that all of those things are covered as we build a future that’s better for ourselves,” said Alainna Lynch, a senior research manager at SDSN. “Specifically at SDSN, we look at the sustainable development goal, which is a series of 17 goals that were developed with 193 countries -- U.S. being one of them -- to try and figure out how we might build a sustainable future, and so each of these goals covers an element of sustainability.”

Some of the goals include ending poverty and hunger, properly addressing climate change and inequality, and creating peace, justice and a strong institution.

Lynch said the goals cover nearly every aspect of humans flourishing.

“The idea is that, if we think about all of these things simultaneously, when we’re building a project to develop clean water, then we also think about how that impacts gender, inequality, also about how that impacts climate change,” Lynch said. “If we think about them all at the same time, then we have the opportunity to build a future that might be sustainable for all of us -- a future where everyone can thrive, several generations looking forward.”

Overall, in the top 20 countries, 19 of them are always Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. Nearly 40 countries have joined the OECD, with which they have signed up to work together to build better policies for better lives. The OECD aims to “shape policies that foster prosperity, equality, opportunity and well-being for all.”

The top three countries that excel, consistently, are the Nordic countries, according to Lynch.

“They tend to do better because they’re high-income countries, so they have more resources to address and provide for the needs of the people in those countries,” she said. “They also have policies that work to provide service to cover basic needs such as health, housing and infrastructure, and those are really the backbone of the Sustainable Development Goals, so that really contributes to their higher score.”

Sustainable Development Goals. (Created by Jeremy Allen.)

Housing is major part of goal No. 11, which is sustainable cities and communities, and that also plays a major role in other SDGs.

“In the U.S., nearly half of households are rent burdened, so half of the people watching this are probably directly impacted by the affordable housing crisis that we’re facing in the U.S.,” Lynch said. “This has implications across all sorts of areas, so it has implications for students going to school. It has implications for women, particularly, because women with children are often the first to be evicted. It has implications for climate change, because how are we building new homes, and with what materials?”

She said all of the above are intrinsically connected, adding that one of the major drivers of increasing hunger rates is that the money allocated for food is being reallocated for housing instead.

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Lynch argued that, if we, as a whole, were able to address affordable housing, we would also be addressing hunger.

“I think it’s baked in directly to what we measure in terms of rent burden (and) homelessness, but it’s also in all sorts of other issues within the SDG.”

What can we do to help achieve sustainable living?

In thinking about how we can approach the problem, perhaps it’s smart to first figure out the context of the issue and how we got here.

“If we think about the foundation of a house -- the blueprint -- what we’re all building upon, the United States was built upon displacing people from their land so they could build homes for other people,” Lynch said. “So the foundation of the U.S., the displacement and genocide of indigenous peoples, created the conditions where some people had homes and some people didn’t. Unless we’re willing to think about that, talk about it and really, deeply address how the roots of that show up in all other things that we’re doing, it’s going to be difficult for us to make changes.”

She was quick to add, however, that there are many people and groups who are trying to address the issue. For example:

  • A land trust in California, where people pay a tax or a small portion of their income every month to help create land that’s communal.
  • Tenant co-ops, where tenants work together to think about how they might use collective power to have more reasonable rent.
  • Worker co-ops, where employees merge their efforts to think about how they might raise their own wages and make a livable wage, so they can afford to work and to live.

Lynch said for the future to be a sustainable world for ourselves and our loved ones, we have to work together and start practicing change.

“If I could ask everybody in the world to do something, it would be to join a group. It really doesn’t matter if it’s your hockey team or a sewing circle or the homeroom group -- it really doesn’t matter, but what we really need to do is practice being together and working on solutions together. I would just suggest that, whatever that means for you, find a group you can be part of and start showing up.”

Solutionaries is more than just news. We’re highlighting the solutionaries taking on big ideas to get to the heart of the problems and build toward solutions. Find out what you can do to help. Follow us on YouTube and Facebook.

About the Authors:

Dawn Jorgenson, Graham Media Group Branded Content Managing Editor, began working with the group in April 2013. She graduated from Texas State University with a degree in electronic media.