Dr Graham Long
Universities, globally, have a unique place in accelerating implementation of the SDGs, even as they face uneven contexts and challenges. They can play a key role in engaging youth as a force for change, and in helping to generate the knowledge, analysis and expertise needed to understand and implement the SDGs as a universal and interlinked agenda. Some recent resources and initiatives have been launched to guide universities in these areas – notably the Sustainable Development Solutions Network’s (SDSN) Guide for Universities, and the SDG Accord, an initiative to encourage universities and academics (and institutions of further education too) to publicly commit to the SDGs. Universities are talking about SDGs, too – from the Higher Education Sustainability Initiative (HESI) event on the final day of the 2017 High Level Political Forum, to my own university’s conference on this two weeks ago.
Much has been said about universities and the SDGs, but there is little research around what role academics see for themselves. To address this gap here, I draw on the preliminary findings of research I recently conducted with the help of Ana Flamind, Louise Luxton, and Dani Morgan at Newcastle University. We contacted 400 academics in developing countries to ask them about the SDGs in the context of their countries’ Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) this summer, receiving 87 responses. In this blog I want to highlight three key messages around SDGs and academics, linking the findings from this specific research to the wider picture around the role of universities.
Dr Angela Sherry & Brett Cherry
Bacteria that like to munch ammonia in wastewater. Removing ammonia is a major challenge for the wastewater industry. Credit: Russell Davenport/BE:WISE
If the world is to truly reach Target 3 of Goal 6 for Clean Water and Sanitation by 2030, improving water quality globally, it requires novel innovative ways for treating wastewater that may not be readily available or accessible in the developing or developed world. Many of these solutions for treating wastewater will likely come from cities as well as rural areas depending on the context.
Cities provide test beds for treating wastewater, demonstrating new methods outside of the lab using actual municipal sources of wastewater. Wastewater creates new opportunities for sustainable development. It is a resource for generating energy through anaerobic digestion or even directly from microbes in wastewater.
Newcastle University’s Biological Engineering: Wastewater Innovation at Scale (BE:WISE) research facility aims to help speed up credible wastewater treatment innovation by allowing scientifically rigorous experimentation with microbes at realistic scales. Microbes are key to creating sustainable pathways for clean water and sanitation.
Dr Alison Vipond & Brett Cherry
“To successfully implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we must swiftly move from commitments to action. To do that, we need strong, inclusive and integrated partnerships at all levels”. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon
Partnerships are vital to making the UN Sustainable Development Goals a reality for everyone across the world. This requires developed and developing nations working together on all 17 Goals, spanning environmental, social, and economic dimensions of sustainable development. The Goals are universal applying to all countries, including the UK, which has provided leadership in helping to make the Goals an agreed global vision of what the future of our world should look like.
Newcastle University’s Institute for Sustainability recently joined the UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development, (UKSSD): a network of businesses, civil society and academic organisations who are working to advance sustainable development in the UK. UKSSD’s mission is to help transform the UK into a sustainable society, by generating new partnerships, innovative solutions and providing thought leadership to achieve the Goals. The UKSSD second annual conference on 1st March 2017, focussed on the question of how we translate the ambition of the Goals into transformative action in the UK. Dr Graham Long provided an insightful introduction to how the UK is faring on the Goals – there is still a long way to go.
Professor James (Jai) Syvitski & Brett Cherry
On this planet humans are radically changing the land, air and water. In many cases this is unavoidable. All species have some degree of impact on the environment in which they live, but in the case of humans it is magnitudes greater. We are now the force driving environmental systems which has led to a new geological epoch — the Anthropocene.
During the preceding geological period (the Holocene) the planet’s climate was getting cooler but since human intervention it’s heating up at a faster rate than we have ever experienced before. We are releasing enough greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere that it is intensifying the hydrological cycle, leading to more rainfall in some areas, and making others dryer. But it’s not only the climate we’re changing. Humans are moving around more sediment (silt, sand, gravel etc) than all the rivers, ice sheets and desert winds in the world combined. We are a geological force to be reckoned with. Continue reading
Anne Liddon, Science Communications Manager and Carmen Hubbard, Lecturer, Centre for Rural Economy, School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, have written a thought-provoking post on how to make Christmas more sustainable.
Dr Jennifer Hazelton, a Research Coordinator for the Institute for Sustainability at Newcastle University, travelled to Lobitos, a small town in Northern Peru, in March 2014 for five weeks to help develop the town’s infrastructure. In the final post of a four-post series, Jennifer tells us about her trip.