Environmental connections to public health >>
EWG Tackling Global Challenges, One Step at a Time
Eradicate poverty. End hunger. Reduce inequality. Stop climate change.
Such huge, idealistic goals may seem impossible. Undaunted, nongovernmental organizations around the world are working tirelessly toward solutions, one small step at a time. Can NGOs like EWG make a real difference?
In its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the United Nations put forth 17 sustainable development goals, including those listed above. The agenda, which I have studied in my global health courses at Duke University, breaks down those overarching goals into feasible targets. This summer, as an intern at the Environmental Working Group, I saw firsthand how EWG’s team of dedicated professional activists have been doing their part for 25 years.
Through research reports, consumer guides and lobbying efforts, EWG educates and empowers consumers to make safer and more informed decisions about the products they buy and the companies they support. In response to consumer pressure, more and more companies are moving toward sustainability and transparency, despite inadequate or nonexistent federal or state laws. EWG's work also aligns with a number of action items on the UN agenda, such as speaking up to the government and spreading public awareness through social media.
Of the UN's goals, these best match up with EWG's work:
- End hunger, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.
- Ensure healthy lives, promote well-being for people of all ages, and reduce pollution and contamination.
- Ensure access to safe and affordable water, and achieve adequate sanitation and hygiene.
- Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns, efficient use of natural resources, and management of chemicals and waste.
"We don't consult the UN's list of international goals before deciding what to work on," said Ken Cook, EWG's co-founder and president. "But much of the progress toward those goals comes out of nonprofits like ours.”
Activist and author Paul Hawken calls the growing role of nongovernmental organizations an immune response to the political corruption, economic disease and ecological degradation of our time. This response is needed now more than ever: This year President Trump has proposed to cut foreign aid by almost a third, pulled out of the Paris accord on climate change and appointed a fervent opponent of the Environmental Protection Agency to head the agency, which he has sued 14 times.
By leveraging our unique capabilities, civil society organizations can serve as a robust force toward achieving ambitious global goals. This progress will not require partisan affiliations or political capital, but rather a strong commitment and openness to reimagine our relationships with the environment and to each other.
It's a huge challenge. But like other NGOs, EWG will continue to work toward solutions. Learn how you can contribute by checking out our EWG consumer guides and the United Nation’s Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the World for simple changes you can adopt to make a difference.