I move to have the sanctity of the Oscar Awards ceremony placed within the Millennium Development Goals.


Well, maybe not. It’s just that… is it me, or is this Oscar (will it happen will it not?) thing everywhere in the news these days? There’s such media saturation that it brought to mind the following thought I had the other day.

Say I was an alien coming down to Earth, and I wanted to help, you know, fix things. I want to do this because it’s a “highly advanced being with super powers and super technology” sort of thing. Depending on where I land and who I would have contact with first, I can imagine that one scenario is for an informed Earthling to say:

“Well, if you want to help, then I guess the UN Millennium Development Goals are as good a place as any to start as any.”

And then, perhaps said Earthling would make some phone calls, and pretty soon, I (as said Alien) would be hanging out with the likes of Ban Ki-moon, Jeffrey Sachs, and maybe even that Bono guy.

In case, you’re not sure what I’m talking about, the Millennium Development Goals are a list that put all other lists to shame. They are an agreement in principle where all countries of the UN have decided to work on major challenges of the world. In order, the list of targets is:

Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than $1 a day

Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger

Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling

Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015

Reduce by two-thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate

Reduce by three-quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio

Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS

Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases

Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs and reverse the loss of environmental resources

Halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation

Develop further an open, rule-based, predictable, nondiscriminatory trading and financial system (includes a commitment to good governance, development, and poverty reduction; both nationally and internationally)

Address the special needs of the Least Developed Countries (includes tariff- and quota-free access for Least Developed Countries’ exports, enhanced program of debt relief for heavily indebted poor countries [HIPCs] and cancellation of official bilateral debt, and more generous official development assistance for countries committed to poverty reduction)

Address the special needs of landlocked developing countries and small island developing states (through the Program of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States and 22nd General Assembly provisions)

Deal comprehensively with the debt problems of developing countries through national and international measures in order to make debt sustainable in the long term

You’ll note that these are pretty big items and you’ll also probably note that this list has been kicking around for 18 years already, and that judgement day comes in 2015 (only 7 years away). Unfortunately, the reality is that most people who think about such things, agree that the goals will not be met afterall (in many cases – not even close), so perhaps it’s a good thing that a friendly alien is here to help.

Still, the more likely scenario for that alien (coming in to graciously help), is that rather than being diverted by a well meaning and well informed earthling, will instead catch the media (no the TV, newspapers, radio, etc). From this, I would suspect that the alien will come away thinking that the most pressing pressing challenge of our time, is the prospect of the Oscars being cancelled. That’s a shame really, since from that perspective maybe having a Millennium Development Goal of:

Ensuring that the Oscar Awards Show is never cancelled.

is not so absurd afterall…

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David (@ng_dave) is Faculty at the Michael Smith Labs. His writing has appeared in places such as McSweeney's, The Walrus, and boingboing.net. He plans on using Terry as another place to highlight the mostly science-y links he appreciates. In fact, if you liked this one, you might also like his main site generally - this can be found at popperfont.net.