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Improving human well-being on a resource-limited planet – can we do it?

As the demands of the global – and rapidly growing – middle-class spiral upwards, the challenges to our planet of climate change and ocean degradation dominate.  

But we also face the challenges of maintaining sustainable food, mineral, freshwater and energy supplies at an economically affordable cost.

These 21st century challenges are qualitatively different from those we overcame so successfully in the 20th century, when well-being – health, life expectancy and quality of life – took a leap forward for many humans, especially in the so-called developed countries.  

What we need now is a renaissance in our thinking, a re-evaluation, so that we place human well-being alongside ecosystem and resource management, in order to plan an equitable and sustainable future for all, including those who have been excluded from betterment until now.  

The challenges demand innovation, seizing new opportunities for science and technology to work alongside the humanities and social sciences.  

Policymakers, the private sector, and the public sector will all have to embrace the changes. Coordination and collaboration offer the only prospect of success.  

There are exemplar nations beginning to develop the way forward, but national and global governance require investment and strengthening.  Time is not on our side.

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