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Aspen Junior Fellows Annual Conference - Reconciling the environment and development

Rome, 08/11/2019 - 09/11/2019, Conference for the Aspen Junior Fellows

The 2019 annual Aspen Junior Fellows conference was dedicated to the choices that must be made to reconcile environment and development, and the importance of the time factor. As the perception of climate change spreads, the emergence of the “Greta phenomenon” and demonstrations by young people around the world demanding attention, are proof of the individual and collective ethical questions that have come to the surface and of the increasing intergenerational friction. Some doubts remain on the conclusions of some scientific analyses and related responses.

The drive for sustainable development calls for a carbon-neutral circular economy as well as consideration of the quality of prosperity and its distribution.  More than an epoch of change, the current changes could be said to be epoch-making ones marked by complexity, non-linear processes and accelerated events. These latter reduce the collective memory to increasingly narrow timeframes that prompt politicians to sensationalize in order to ensure short-term consensus, and make it impossible to formulate strategies that are comprehensive, well-defined in terms of resources and goals and capable of utilizing the solutions that the new technologies could offer.

Sustainability carries both threats and opportunities for business. The main challenge lies in rethinking the formula by which society profits only through consumerism, oblivious to the fact that a planet with limited resources cannot afford unlimited consumption, as pointed out by the “The Limits to Growth” report commissioned by the Club of Rome in 1972. Europe is in the avant-garde, especially in the reduction of carbon emissions; nevertheless, it must be understood that the European economy has minimal weight at a global level where The United States, China, India and South Africa are leaving a much more significant ecological footprint. Opportune would be to hold an “energy Yalta” for the purpose of outlining an international holistic solution that engages both governments and business.

Although addressing the challenge of climate change at international level is critical, every citizen and every family can be a leader within their own domain and a vehicle for a vigilance that fosters eco-compatible lifestyles. In areas such as nutrition and agriculture, this means avoiding food waste and preserving bio-cultural diversities, such as the Mediterranean diet.