The 7 Grand Challenges going forward


The COVID-19 pandemic that we are amid today has clearly differentiated between human beings and nature. The highlighted fact is the gross misreading of nature by the self-proclaimed supreme species on this planet. The whole world was most worried about a nuclear war than a pandemic, that still cannot be blamed on nature unequivocally. It does remain human-made at the core of it.

During this massive crisis with unprecedented worldwide restrictions and lock-downs, one tends to get philosophical at the very least. Introspection and assimilation become our most natural reactions and we are forced to confront the critical global challenges which planet earth is facing today. While the panorama seems very pessimistic, things are very much in our hands. The job of this generation and the next is to take humanity through the coming periods of insecurity, turmoil and finally opportunity and possibility. The 7 challenges that I would like to touch upon are as follows:

Conquering Disease:

It’s easy to feel pessimistic about not just the health but the lives of millions of people around the globe as we stand today. Apart from the pandemic which is a here and now problem, the world faces growing antibiotic resistance, the dramatic rise in metabolic diseases and problems associated with aging. But there are diseases that mankind has eradicated or are on the brink of eradication. Smallpox, measles and polio are just 3 of the 7. There are results to show that similar declarations will be made about a few more diseases in the coming years.

Managing Climate Change:

The Earth’s average land temperature has gone higher in the past decade. The main reason is human activity and global greenhouse emissions. The human race is already in the midst of the negatives of climate change and these include more intense droughts, storms and changing rain patterns. The historic agreement reached in Paris in 2015 outlines a global commitment to limit global temperatures. Abiding by this agreement, every country implemented its own climate action plan. Wealthier nations committed economic and technical support to the countries that needed help in reducing greenhouse emissions and adapting to climate change. The world came together for a great cause and united like never before.

Reducing the gap between Intelligence and Empathy:

A significant problem of world leaders today – whether they are leaders of a country, a state or a community, is being able to achieve the right balance between skill and wisdom. Science and technology are developing with intensity and pace, but insight and good sense are not. Nature today has in a way warned us about this imbalance and urged us to reflect about how we want to shape our futures. Contrary to what we propagate, human beings have always focussed on the ‘now’ issues – issues that are immediate and urgent. We tend to deploy the best brains in the world for what is urgent without reflecting on what is important and will have long lasting consequences on our world at large.

Ensuring Population Control:

Where rapid population growth far outpaces economic development, countries will have a difficult time investing in the human capital needed to secure the well-being of its citizens and stimulate economic growth. This problem gets further accentuated for the poor or least developed countries each of which face double or triple populations by 2050. This means that between now and 2050, every day will see thousands of people enter the labour force looking for employment that will help them escape poverty and have an incremental life beyond what their parents could provide. Population, poverty and education are highly interlinked to each other and what nations do to one of these variables will impact the other two to a great extent.

Reversing Poverty:

While the rich nations get richer, millions of people live wretched lives, brutally truncated by hunger and ill health. Population trends and related dynamics can have an enormous effect on prospects for poverty reduction and sustainable growth. Poverty is influenced by and influences – population growth, age structure and rural-urban distribution. All this has a critical impact on a country’s development potential and influences the ability to raise living standards of the poor. Further health and related investments are essential for an economy’s holistic growth, individual security, reducing mortality and morbidity.

Optimizing Globalism:

Globalism emerged as a dominant set of ideologies in the late 20th century. Modern globalism has been linked to the idea of economic and political integration of countries and economies. While there are many arguments against the concept of globalism, the proponents of globalism believe in ‘global citizenship’; that is, the problems of humanity can be resolved through democratic globalisation. It believes that people matter, no matter where they live. Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s quest for ’global coronavirus cooperation’ is the latest and the most profound example in this respect.

Creating Sustainable Lifestyles:

The push for economic growth in recent decades has led to increase in wealth for a large number of people around the world. But despite huge gains in global economic output, there is enough evidence that there is extreme disparity within and amongst nations. All the people on the planet cannot be affluent. The effort, socially, politically and economically has to be to create family units that have a certain standard of living that is high quality and yet does not put a strain on the environment.

Historically evolution has been in nature’s hand. Yes, our species has intervened. But we need to be cautious and responsible about how we use our scientific and technical know-how for this intervention. A massive transition is needed. And the responsibility rests with our generation to create an agenda for the transition generation to take this crusade through and work as one with nature.

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