Years of delicate negotiations on sustainable development culminated in the rapturous adoption of the world’s new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the UN General Assembly last week. Politicians, activists and even the Pope were quick to applaud the breadth and depth of this exhaustive pantheon of 17 goals and 169 targets. But following the summit it has been revealed that the list of goals and accompanying targets is so long and drawn-out that merely printing the full list once over will require a sizeable chunk of Amazon rainforest to be converted to paper. Speaking to journalists while heaving a pallet loaded with office paper towards an overheating printer unit, one UN bureaucrat said that while the final SDG document is approximately the same length as the Koran, the Bible and the Torah put together, it contains more commandments and moral guidance than all three combined.
In light of this discovery, the UN is expected to issue a formal warning that if all interested parties were to print hard copies of the SDGs, the resulting paper demand would immediately put in danger the goal relating to ending deforestation. On the plus side, it has been estimated that the multitude of UN-funded consultant contracts likely to flow in the aftermath of SDG adoption could be so numerous as to provide a noticeable boost to both the employment and “reducing poverty” goals. After all, the UN, governments and just about everybody will be trying to figure out exactly what all these goals and targets mean, what should be done about them and whether they will make a real difference.