Youth call for sustainability action

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04 May 2016

Ara students will get the chance to learn from a UN expert in sustainability Ara students will get the chance to learn from a UN expert in sustainability.

A team of Ara students with the unique opportunity to meet with a visiting UN sustainability specialist on 5 May will explore ways to implement sustainability in the tertiary sector.

Students from across the institute will discuss their ideas and priorities with John Thwaites, Chair of the Monash Sustainability Institute, Executive Committee member of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and former deputy premier of Victoria, Australia.

During his tour of New Zealand, Thwaites will visit universities in Auckland, Wellington, Otago and Canterbury, as well as Ara, Unitec and Otago Polytechnic, to meet with leaders and give public lectures.

Ara has taken a youth-centered approach. While Thwaites will be updated on the Ara sustainability initiatives and will discuss the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), the programme is then handed over to students for an hour long session to workshop ideas.

With the SDG as a framework, there is plenty of material to cover. The UNSDSN's vision for 2030 is a population of 8.5 billion sustainably supported, with more than 60% living in cities, and a de-carbonised industry. The vision is detailed through 17 goals which are grouped under the categories of Economic Opportunity, Social Fairness, Good Governance and Peace and Environmental Sustainability. 

Thwaites' visit to Ara has been coordinated by the institute's Sustainability Manager Shaun Bowler. "Ara has been embedding sustainable practice into its teaching and learning, working toward ensuring that our graduates are connected to best practice sustainability in their field. Our executive and our student team are keen to discuss with John how this aligns with the UNSDSN and sustainable development goals. Sustainability needs to align with the thinking of both groups; management will implement strategies and students will feed in their expectations. So this is a really exciting opportunity to progress the conversation.

 "The challenges our young people will face are huge. They are rightly concerned about growing inequality, climate change, loss of biodiversity and access to health and education for all. They understand that business as usual is no longer an option, and the urgent need for global transformation to meet these challenges.

"We want to give our students the opportunity to be included in the debate and to be part of the solution."