Strategies for a stronger planet
What defines sustainability and resilience? And what policies can help humanity achieve these goals?
From May 29 to June 2, 17 senior master’s and PhD students gathered to explore issues surrounding sustainable futures through the Concordia University Interdisciplinary Summer Institute (CUISI).
The intensive week-long, three-credit course was led by eight guest lecturers from Concordia and other universities across North America.
Audra Mitchell, a CIGI chair in Global Governance and Ethics at the Balsillie School of International Affairs, was delighted to lead a session on bioplurality.
“Concordia has a wonderful reputation for doing boundary-pushing, progressive and interesting work in this area,” says Mitchell, who is also an associate professor at Wilfrid Laurier University.
An expert in disciplines that span global ethics, philosophy and anthropology, Mitchell has become increasingly interested in plural Indigenous knowledge systems.
She challenged students in her seminar to find ways to change the conventions of biodiversity to better reflect Indigenous and other non-Western knowledges.
“In many Indigenous traditions, animals go away because a protocol has been broken. In Western science, though, extinction is seen as an unpleasant, unintended consequence of good human action.”
Climate change and energy use
Jonathan Tomkin, associate director of the School of Earth, Society and Environment at the University of Illinois, was another CUISI guest lecturer. His portion of the course discussed energy futures.
“The climate is changing but we're not sure how large the change will be over the rest of this century,” Tomkin says.
“It significantly depends on choices we make about energy use and on how sensitive the climate system is to carbon dioxide.”
For his seminar, he gave students a scenario planning exercise in order to stress the role of measurement and quantification in making good energy choices.
Time to improve our communities
Sarah Burch is a Canada Research Chair in Sustainability Governance and Innovation in the Department of Geography and Environmental Management at the University of Waterloo. She led a session on governing sustainability.
Burch sensed the topic was new for most students but was impressed with the level of engagement in the classroom.
“They were very vocal, respectful and interested in having a complex conversation about sustainability, which is heartening.”
She hopes CUISI continues to motivate students to envision a positive tomorrow that is free from fear and inaction.
“There’s a lot of potential for participants to bring really creative solutions to the table and for them to produce a much more inclusive vision of the future.”
Schmitt, an associate professor with the Centre for Engineering in Society delivered a portion of the course dealing with modelling sustainable systems.
“My focus has always been on the connections between people, their environment, science and policy,” she said.
“When students are given the opportunity to make connections and collaborate across disciplines, they can develop innovative solutions to our toughest problems.”
Learn more about sustainability initiatives at Concordia.
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