Focussing on the UN Sustainable Development Conference – Rio+20, which starts tomorrow in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, I came across an interesting interactive way to quickly assess if the world is doing better or worse than it did 20 years ago.

The interactive presentation is in The Guardian web page and allows you to come up with your own conclusion and register your verdict on whether things got better or worse for the planet in the past 20 years. To do that you will need to assess the graphs showing data on important issues such as population, life expectancy, child mortality, ecological footprint, poverty, hunger, food production, GDP, social change, life satisfaction, battle deaths and biodiversity.

The interactive presentation was produced by Kiln, a website created by a journalist and a web developer/mathematician to help present knowledge and ideas in a clear and interactive way.

Participants of the 1992 Rio de Janeiro Earth summit signed an ‘Earth Pledge’ where they pledged to help make the Earth a secure and hospitable home for present and future generations. The eight UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that were created since that meeting are listed in a previous Handpicked blog, published in September 2010, which showed that the goals have made a positive contribution to development and that although "several goals are on track, unfortunately more look like they are not going to be met". A progress report entitled ‘The Millennium Development Goals Report 2010' was published by the UN in 2010. The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, said the report shows how much progress has been made and that the goals are achievable when nationally owned development strategies, policies and programmes are supported by international development partners. He pointed out that at the same time, it is clear that improvements in the lives of the poor have been unacceptably slow, and some hard-won gains are being eroded by the climate, food and economic crises.

The main theme of the 2012 conference, Rio+20, is the building of a green economy, which will reduce poverty and stop the destruction of the environment. Rio+20 hopes to start a process so that by 2015 the international community can agree on a set of global sustainable development goals, with targets for consumption and production, a mechanism for periodic reports and follow ups, and specific actions for key areas such as water, food and energy.

In regard to water, the MDGs pledged to halve the proportion of the population without access to safe drinking water between 1990 and 2015. Although the MDG update report showed that the goal for water has already been met, Kyle Onda and colleagues, from the Water Institute, University of North Carolina, USA, estimated that 1.8 billion people (approximately 28% of the global population) still used unsafe water in 2010.

As it has become customary during the months leading to these high level UN meetings, there is a lot of media publicity and high expectations for positive results. Putting it simply, I think everyone expects the creation of a set of measures in Rio+20 that, at the same time, will end poverty and protect the earth from any more GHGs emissions.

Speaking at an interview for UN News, the Conference's Secretary-General, Sha Zukang, said that world leaders need to renew their political commitments for sustainable development and adopt an ambitious and yet practical outcome that equals the magnitude of today’s challenges. It cannot be another talk shop.

Sadly, we all know the most likely outcome will be the conference spokesperson explaining that a lot of issues remain unresolved and that they will be settled at next year's conference. If only leaders realised all they need to do to help end poverty and pollution of the earth is targeted interventions with adequate funding and political commitment. The world possesses the resources and knowledge to ensure the MDGs are met.

Link to the interactive presentation.

My search of the CABI Environmental Impact internet resource using the term MDG gave 76  records from CAB Abstracts.


Onda, K.; LoBuglio, J.; Bartram, J. (2012). Global access to safe water: accounting for water quality and the resulting impact on MDG progress. Molecular Diversity Preservation International (MDPI), Basel, Switzerland. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2012, 9, 3, pp 880-894, 28 ref.


  1. Georgia Stapleton on 31st October 2012 at 10:17 am

    Great job you people are doing with this website.

  2. C# Development on 24th December 2012 at 11:53 am

    Thanks for the nice blog. It was very useful for me. Keep sharing such ideas in the future as well. This was actually what I was looking for, and I am glad to came here! Thanks for sharing the such information with us.

  3. Gaurav Bhasin on 7th February 2020 at 7:26 am

    Thanks for sharing such a useful information. I think the world is worse when it was 20 years ago

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