THE WORLD IN 21ST CENTURY: A SEA OF CHALLENGES AND A MOUNTAIN OF OPPORTUNITIES by Dr Inam Danish Khan

INTRODUCTION

Humanity has witnessed a time-warp of agony, defeat, and despair as much as hope, triumph and glory. The 200,000 year journey from pre-historic era to Millennium era may seem esoteric; nevertheless it stands on agricultural, health and industrial revolutions made sustainable with energy exploitation, infrastructure development and risk management. An edifice of knowledge based scientific, societal and environmental biosphere has enabled the world to flourish; although in an ensemble of challenges and opportunities. A multilateral inclusive ideology addressing human, food, water, health, energy, socioeconomic and environmental insecurity can provide solutions to the present-day challenges unfurling multipronged opportunities and consequentially impeccable solutions.

HUMAN DEVELOPMENT: CONFLICTS, WARS AND THE SOCIETY

Warfare and conflicts arising from territorial, political, anthropological and ideological differences; attain mammoth proportions questioning human existence. The proliferation of armed forces, terrorist groups and advanced weapon systems including nuclear warheads outshine defensive stance and technologies such as radars, surveillance systems, missile and aircraft intercepts. Notwithstanding ever increasing defence budgets, the world still has no answers to weapons of mass destruction. Despite peace efforts by United Nations, the War-on-Terror involving Iraq, Afghanistan and other regions; civil wars in Syria, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia and other regions; Arab spring; Israel-Palestine conflict; War in North-West Pakistan; terrorism sponsored unrest in Yemen, Nigeria, India, Pakistan and other regions; and Iraqi-Syrian insurgency are colossal problems.

The aftermath is enormous and viscerally profound; not only on the economies, society, industry and environment; but also on the psyche of the victimized populace. Restoring world order and universal peace requires engagement of world leaders and politico-social scientists. Demilitarization, denuclearization, peace parks and peace accords are conducive approaches. Political and ideological cross-border interventions at grass-root level targeted at communities and leaders, towards tolerance and peaceful co-existence are mandated. A transparent system should exist to deliver justice to perpetrators and victims; be it individuals, organizations or nations. Socioeconomic factors such as economic deprivation, crime, corruption, poverty, sanitation, oppression, human rights violations and marginalization need to be addressed. Social revival embracing egalitarianism, economic sturdiness, employment generation, inclusive growth strategies, social democratization and women empowerment are potential approaches to comprehensive human development.

 

THE ESSENTIALS OF LIFE: FOOD SECURITY AND WATER SECURITY

Food and water security remain at a premium in developing countries and underprivileged communities affecting over one billion people. Universal food availability has been challenged time and again by geographic diversity, floods, famines, fires and inadequate policies including land use, irrigation infrastructure, agricultural marketing and food distribution. Presently, 842 million people suffer from chronic hunger. The total usable freshwater is less than 1% of all freshwater, according to UN water organization. It is predicted that by 2025, two-third world population will be under water-stress.

Food and water insecurity can lead to economic instability, food riots and wars. With the concept of total warfare and agro-bio-terrorism looming large, nations need to ensure food surplus and water security; reducing reliance on food imports and energy-intensive water desalination. Opportunities exist at improving soil conditions; artificial irrigation; crop quality through biofortification, transgenesis and stem-cell research; fertilizers and pesticides; food preservation; urban farming; water availability through resource management and aquifer replenishment; automation through robotics; and policies on ‘blue peace’. Minimization of waste-food and wastewater; recycling and reuse may be conducible for sustainable food production, water usage and distribution networks catering to both humans and livestock.  

 

THE ROAD TO POSITIVE HEALTH: HEALTH SECURITY

The extermination of civilizations by plague, cholera, influenza, smallpox, measles and malaria since antiquity has left an indelible mark on mankind. Advances in vaccination, diagnostics and treatment modalities has eradicated diseases, reduced suffering and ensured positive health; nevertheless infectious and lifestyle diseases question world health security even today. Tuberculosis, malaria, influenza and dengue remain serious public health problems. Emerging mutants such as Influenza, Ebola and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome virus; and antimicrobial resistance form a lethal duo challenging the safety of HIV-AIDS population, life-saving surgeries and transplant programs. Advances in microbiology and sub-disciplines have been abused to create stealth bio-warfare agents, which can be multifariously deployed against all forms of life.

Multisectoral opportunities exist at boosting public health infrastructure, infection control, bio-containment, nano-biosensors, high throughput technologies and health warning systems; necessitating international collaborative resource allocation for health surveillance and research.

 

THE BACKBONE OF TECHNOLOGY: ENERGY SECURITY

Fossil energy has been the backbone of agricultural and industrial revolutions as well as transportation. Energy has also facilitated nations to ensure food and water security for masses. Limited fossil fuel reserves and adverse environmental impact emphasizes upon sustainable energy pillared on energy efficiency and renewables. The hitherto promising nuclear power raises concerns on nuclear security. Resource optimization, reducing carbon footprint, energy storage and wireless power need a boost along with commercialization of third generation renewables which demand research intensive efforts.

 

SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT: ENVIRONMENT SECURITY

Environmental security has been jeopardized heavily by natural and man-made disasters, human overpopulation and consequent industrialization. Natural calamities such as floods, earthquakes, cyclones, tsunamis and droughts amongst others have shattered life, food, health and energy security worldwide. Human overpopulation has resulted in large scale exploitation of the environment for cropland, livestock, forest resources, carbon sequestration, habitation, transportation and commerce. Global warming and subsequent habitat destruction portends human civilization and culture in island nations; destruction and extinction of endangered species; infectious disease outbreaks and emergence of new diseases.

International cooperation at integrated disaster management with warning and safety systems, enhanced population resilience and augmented mitigation capabilities is required. A technology driven ideology needs to be counterbalanced by emphasizing environmental protection and remediation, preservation of biodiversity, soft engineering, waste management, population stabilization and carbon neutrality leading to green growth and sustainable development.

 

INTERDISCIPLINARY EDUCATION AND RESEARCH: OPPORTUNITIES AD INFINITUM

Education and ensuing research has increasingly contributed to sustainable peace and development. Specialized education in medicine and health sciences is important to create health skilled citizens who can ensure good health practices in their communities. Invigorative education in STEM fields and Information and Communications Technology with advanced computing, operations research and statistical capability is rapidly revitalizing existing disciplines. Advancements in aerospace, robotics, meteorology and geoinformatics have enabled mapping of natural resources, energy reserves, aquifers and prediction of natural disasters. Nanotechnology enabled nano-devices, drug delivery systems, tissue engineering, lab-on-a-chip, neuro-electronic interfaces and nano-robotics are potentially promising. Nevertheless, innovative technology confronts the risks of information insecurity, accidents and man-made disasters such as bio-terrorism, nano-weaponization, genetic pollution, nano-pollution and artificial intelligence.

Undeciphered opportunities exist in reforming tertiary education and research to enable application of theoretical concepts. Primary education should emphasize on cross-cultural integration, camaraderie and non-judgemental ideology; sustainable development and ethics; compassion, brotherhood and charity; character building and decision making etc. While greed and consumerisim need to be curbed; constructive individualism wherein an incessant self-reformation driven self-revolution can create a responsible civilization.

 

INNOVATIVE POLICY AND DECISIONS: ETHICAL, LEGAL AND SOCIAL ISSUES

Developing countries, which contain more than half of the world population, are currently facing issues of crime, corruption, poverty, unemployment, brain-drain, internal security, human rights violations, overbearing debts, overpopulation and environmental pollution. Developed countries are not immune and face some of these problems too, in addition there may exist polarization of ideologies.

Nations, states and governments need a society-oriented mental mobilization to encourage and support subsidiaries, communities and individuals through international collaborative industrial development, research-management and public-private-partnership modelled social development initiatives. Mass media and electorate participation should be encouraged. Transparency at government resource allocation can balance skewed resource distribution towards politically oriented motives. Efforts towards revenue generation to get rid of debt cycle and achieve self-sufficiency should be fostered. The United Nations, World Bank, and developed countries supported philanthropic aid initiatives have revitalized infrastructure and human resource in developing countries. Resource intensive human resource development needs a comprehensive boost through creation of opportunities and rewards. Good governance, concept-development and capacity-building are indispensable to overall progress.

 

CONCLUSION

History is replete with insurmountable multidimensional challenges for which individual, technological and social innovation have enkindled myriad opportunities. Insecurities towards warfare, hunger, poverty, health and environment are interwoven in time, space and person. Ideology needs to be vested through optimistic stimuli, as no challenge is overbearing and no opportunity miniscule. The efforts may seem Herculean and the horizons yet unexplored; nevertheless intellectual intrepidity, resolute conviction and impetuous action can turn the tide towards universal peace, progress and prosperity.

Dr Inam Danish Khan

Instructor, PFCF

titan_afmc@yahoo.com

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Tags: #betterfuturecontest

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Comment by Dr Inam Danish Khan on January 8, 2015 at 2:38pm
thank you Valentine olushola oyedipe. our ideas vibrate on the same frequency.
Comment by Valentine Olushola Oyedipe on January 8, 2015 at 12:42pm

Thanks Inan for the illumination into the myriad social problems facing mankind today.And more importantly as you have noted that history replete itself with insourmountable multidimensional challenges for which individual and social innovations have enkindled myriad opportunities.I quite concur with you on this to some extent on the premise that the supposed insurmountable challenges are in most cases surmountable only if humanity would look inward (challenges have life span). That is why it is imperative on those who can grasp the philosophy behind the chaos theory and the principle of cybernetics among others and explore the seat of intelligence of humankind- the minds/hearts of men.And one of the enkindled opportunities in this regard, is the use of cyberspace/cyberpower, wherein, humanty's conscience and ultimately actions/deeds would be built on sound ethical practices and judgements and ofcourse be consolidated upon. At the same time, serve as complement to all the afore-mentioned efforts in your article made by states, nations, societies the world over in order to stem the tide of these social ills.

Comment by Dr Inam Danish Khan on January 6, 2015 at 11:09am

Thank you LeBlanc.

Comment by Al LeBlanc on January 5, 2015 at 11:43am

Inam: Most comprehensive dissertation; Thanks for creating and sharing ! Agree with your major points and Conclusion.  To me "optimistic stimuli" is for each Individual to realize "enough insanity already humanity" I have the PersonalCyberPower and indeed the Responsibilty to Make a Difference In The World I Inhabit ! All the Institutions in the World does not equal an  "usall bottom up cyberworld awakening"  Enough Insanity Already Humanity - "I'm Mad As Hell and I'm Not Going to Take This Anymore ("The Network" Movie/Peter Finch).  Al

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