On Sept. 25, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted new sustainable development goals (SDGs) during its Summit on Sustainable Development. The SDGs were adopted by 193 countries and were the culmination of three years of negotiations. They take a holistic approach to sustainable development, setting economic, social and environmental targets that tackle poverty, inequality and climate change. The 17 SDGs are composed of 169 more specific, measurable targets, and will be in place through 2030. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) preceded the SDGs and expire at the end of this year.
It is only fitting that a day for setting ambitious and visionary goals should be marked with an address by Pope Francis during his visit to America. Francis has not held back his opinions on the state of environmental stewardship and his desire for drastic improvement. Building on his encyclical letter, Laudato Si', Francis spoke of a "right of the environment" and stated that "any harm done to the environment, therefore is harm done to humanity." He continued his call for an end to the "selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity" and the growing "culture of waste."
Francis also spoke of the need to ensure access to "essential material and spiritual goods: housing, dignified and properly remunerated employment, adequate food and drinking water; religious freedom and, more generally, spiritual freedom and education." Reoccurring themes of the SDGs are inequality and the social and economic exclusion that Francis often raises. Many of the SDGs strive to raise the baseline to ease the suffering of the most vulnerable and shrink the gap between the haves and the have-nots. For example, Goal 1 is to end extreme poverty by 2030. Francis strongly endorsed the goal of ending poverty, as well as ensuring quality education for all. Francis believes that the right to education is a necessary prerequisite to ending poverty and healing our environment.