In his speech at the 2007 Annual Club of Rome conference R. Rato, managing director of IMF, listed three main problems facing us today: 1) financial instability, 2) climate change and 3) demographic transition. None of these problems will be solved by continuing business as usual. Actually, they will be augmented since they are the result of our current behaviour. the contemporary world is a mixture of successes (e.g. improvements in health and considerable increase in life expectancy, The Montreal treaty on the ozone layer, increasing democracy, and of course science — our most successful endeavour) and failures (e.g. over-use of non-renewable resources, increased ecological footprint, no progress on non-proliferation, increasing inequalities and political instabilities, climate warming, pollution). Rapid changes and globalisation1 are making the contemporary world very different from what it was barely a century ago. Tomorrow is always too late.
1. Demographic transition
Barely 20 years ago the world was confronted with a population explosion. Now we witness a more complex phenomenon: while in some countries population is exponentially increasing resulting in an age distribution where the majority are younger than 25, in most of the developed countries the fertility rate has dropped to about 1.5 (considerably lower than the replacement level of 2.1) and the life expectancy has increased resulting in the number of persons older than 60 becoming greater than the number of those under 25.