SENSibility: The GEO 5 Report (and why I noticed)

Vancouver, July 17, 2012. On June 6 of this year, the United Nations Environment Program released its GEO 5 Report. This report, the fifth in an ongoing series, is the synthesis of years of work in the scientific community on a broad range of environmental and human development issues. Arguably, it is the most comprehensive report produced on the state of the world and humanity, surpassing both the Assessment Reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Human Development Reports of the United Nations Development Program. The GEO 5 report also provides policy advice, emphasizing practical measures that could be adopted by governments to meet the “Global Environmental Goals” that must be met if a sustainable balance between humanity and the ecology is to be attained.

And the publication of the report has passed virtually unnoticed.

This has led me to ponder why. Perhaps publishing the report on the anniversary of D-Day was unfortunate (or prophetic). Maybe the mainstream media had used up it’s ever-diminishing reporting minutes on international affairs for other stories, hopefully worthy ones like Syria and not the Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes divorce (before you scoff, the latter story did make an appearance on the BBC World News homepage). Maybe the report is just too long at an immodest 550 pages. Or perhaps everyone is just tired of these enormous reports warning us of impending disaster. We may have moved beyond Al Gore’s warning that denial was turning to despair, and are now plunging into total indifference. After pondering, these all seem like very good reasons the report made something less than a splash.

And this is a great shame, for the GEO 5 report is actually an unnaturally optimistic report for its genre. It stresses the advances that have been made on many issues, pointing out where international cooperation has made a real difference for the better. Yes, the report is full of bad news, but the overall message is that progress is achievable. A roadmap to a better world does exist, in the GEO 5 and other similar reports.

That is the message that needs to get noticed. I have noticed. And I am changing my lectures.

Thank you GEO 5. And thank you for the short(er) summary pieces available on the GEO 5 website at:

Allen Sens is a Political Science professor at UBC.

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