I was attending the Sustainable Development Summit that was held in New York just last week between September 25-27. My Professor friend had organized my participation as his assistant. He was very busy in helping the Indian delegation and lobbying with other Member States regarding Terrorism (Well, how can you separate sustainability today from terrorism? Our Honorable Union Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj knows)
Of course Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was the principal agenda, but the other agenda included climate change. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had convened a special “High-Level Event on Entry into Force of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change” on 21 September as a follow up to the Paris Agreement on climate change.
The high-level event of the Summit provided an opportunity to countries to publicly commit to joining the Paris Agreement before the end of 2016. On the advice of the Professor, the Indian Government ratified and made commitment. The hope was, we as Nations United, accelerate the growth of clean energy and help achieve the SDGs to strengthen international stability and security, save lives and improve human well-being.
The event also included “Third International Conference on Financing for Development”. UN Secretary General appealed for more involvement of the private sector in the “business of sustainability” to help achieve the Future We Want.
When the Summit ended on September 27, I suggested Professor that we go out to some nice restaurant for dinner. I was sick of eating at the 10th floor food café every day, standing in long queues for the food that was “diplomatic” (i.e. without spice) and subsidized in both price as well as quality.
Professor was however desperate for a good coffee. “Let us do a coffee at Pennylane first” He said.
Pennylane is perhaps one of the best coffee shops in New York just a couple of minutes walk from the UN building. The Coffee beans they use are stumptown and of very high quality. Apart from the great variety of coffees, the interesting part of Pennylane is the chalk board outside – where people write “quotes of the day”. The quote of that day was “It’s the Future We Don’t Want. Have a Great Coffee Today!” I thought the writer must be one of the frustrated delegates attending the UN Summit.
The Chalk Board outside Pennylane Coffee
We asked for the latte or “flat white” where milk is perfectly steamed to the right temperature (with latte art to top it off). We ordered bitter cookies to go along. We couldn’t get chairs near the window (to get some sunlight) and so started looking for a table under the large lamp shades. All tables were occupied but we found one table where one Old Man was sitting with a long beard and a cap.
Table under Large Lamp Shades
“Can we join?” Professor asked. The Old Man nodded.
Professor lighted his cigar. He started updating me on the global politics of sustainability. The hidden agenda and of course India’s interest. “I really don’t know what’s in our future” he said at the end rather solemnly. “All talk my friend”. I could sense a deep frustration in Professors voice.
“But I am taking up the task of modelling of the world and India with sophisticated tools and databases now – Modelling could be an answer to shape our future” He said this with some conviction.
The Professor went to the loo.
The Old Man on the table was listening.
I looked at him again. Soon I realized that the Old Man looked like Michel de Nostredame (aka Nostradamus) who was a 16th-century French philosopher. Nostredame had predicted many tragic events throughout history, including the Assassinations of the Kennedy brothers, the rise of Hitler, the defeat of Napoleon, and also the unfortunate 9/11 terrorist acts. Nostradamus studied astrology and various “occult” sciences and used those to predict the future. We don’t have many seers these days who can really predict the future.
In his writings, Nostradamus mentioned unusual weather patterns and natural cataclysms / disasters that will intensify further than they already have. He described the events as where ‘Water shall be seen to rise as the ground is seen to fall underneath’. Today, we are already seeing snow in the springtime in many parts of the world. Year 2015 also saw the most frigid temperatures ever.
I couldn’t resist asking a stupid question “Are you by any chance Mr. Nostradamus?”
The Old Man smiled “Yes, that’s me!”
“Oh” I did not know what to say to something so impossible. I must be hallucinating.
“Well, I come here occasionally – I love the coffee here and the conversations on the Tables – especially the UN type” The Old Man said.
We started talking. I asked him about his predictions for 2016.
He said that many explosions will occur around the Middle East area and planes will be falling from the sky. The Middle East has already seen drastic changes and civil unrest for the past 4 years. The Arab region has intensified civil wars in over 10 countries, including in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Somalia, Libya and Syria. Petrol and Oil in the Gulf States in the Middle East will be on fire.
Before coming to Pennylane Coffee, Nostradamus had visited Baba Vanga. Baba was from Bulgaria, blind and died in 1996. Baba had predicted that global warming would become a mainstream issue back in the 1950’s. She had said “cold regions will become warm … and volcanoes will awaken”.
“All this will come true” said the Old Man (or Nostradamus?) while getting up. “So, there is no point my friend to discuss the SDGs. The future is different and rather bleak and something you cannot control”. I could see the confidence on his face when he made these statements. “He could well be right and so Baba Vanga” I said to myself.
The Old Man walked outside quietly.
Professor just returned from the loo and before I could tell him about my encounter with Nostradamus, he opened his laptop. “Oh, I must show you something that will simply amaze you. I have with me now a World Model that provides a scientific window to our future. This model has been developed by the Millennium Institute. Its earlier model called Threshold 21 is now Integrated Sustainable Development Goals. I have downloaded Version 1.2 of this model called as Integrated Sustainable Development Goals planning model (iSDG). The iSDG is a comprehensive simulation tool that generates country-specific development scenarios to show the implications of policy on a country’s progress towards the SDGs. It covers all the 17 Goals, and facilitates a better understanding of the interconnections of the goals and targets, in order to develop synergetic strategies to achieve them. The model’s structure can also be expanded to support the analysis of other country-specific development issues beyond the SDGs” He sounded so excited.
But after talking to Nostradamus, I was not impressed and in fact was quite skeptical and even dismal.
“I have another proposition Professor” I said this while sipping the last bit of Latte.
“Why not we establish a school of Environmental Astrology in India. That may be better than the iSDG you have. This school may provide more reliable predictions on future we dont want”
Professor stared at me. He saw me serious. He ordered for another round of Latte.
For more information and to download the beta version of iSDG, visit www.isdgs.org. Have fun
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