The Common Agenda
THE NEED AND OPPORTUNITY OF THE CURRENT CRISIS
Today, at an unprecedented pace, we in the United States are advancing the depletion and extinction of myriad species with which we share the planet. Through our occupation and destruction of habitats, our disposal of wastes, our contributions to climate change, and our global dissemination of toxics and invasive species, we threaten the diversity and integrity of our ecosystems.
In many parts of the world, failure to maintain and restore the health of ecosystems over the next generation not only threatens biodiversity but promises to deprive hundreds of millions of people of clean air, water, and healthy soil that are essential to human survival. In more industrialized countries such as the United States, loss of greenspace, environmental contaminants, and unhealthy individual behaviors accompany steep rises in rates of chronic diseases or conditions. These include diabetes, obesity, heart disease, many cancers, and asthma.
Decisions by individuals contribute to environmental and human health problems, but higher level societal choices made by our governments, businesses and communities also play a critical role: choices about our sources and uses of energy; our food production systems; our transportation and building infrastructure; the chemicals in the products we buy; the kind of health care we deliver and pay for; the health and environmental policies we enact or fail to enact; the resources we devote to education; how we resolve problems with other nations.
long-term well-being for people and the planet
We have created these crises, and they are unfolding at a speed and level of intensity that has not been seen before. Yet, across the globe and in the United States, there are remarkable initiatives that do not deplete and destroy, but rather enhance health, protect the environment, and build prosperity. These are sustainable and just approaches to natural resource protection, production and consumption of materials, and reversing dangerous strife between peoples. They have succeeded because they take into account the interconnections between the health of people, ecosystems, and economies as well as the importance of just and equitable distribution of benefits and burdens. They demonstrate human ingenuity and commitment to long-term well-being for people and the planet, and they are fueling an emergence of a sense of responsibility as well as hope and opportunity.
However, these successful sustainability initiatives remain small in scale and disjointed. The world urgently needs thought and action to promote sustainability on a grand scale. It is this imperative that inspired our Common Agenda for Health and Environment: a statement of commitment to six ambitious cross-cutting Generational Goals—goals to be achieved within one generation—that will leave our children a healthy world full of hope and possibility.
Setting Generational Goals begins