Of Sustainability, Expo2020 & Us

Jun 02, 2021 The Explorers Lab category Student Blog total reading time 6 Minutes

“We don’t inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children” – Native American Proverb

Defining sustainability at its finest

Sustainability is the art of meeting ours and others needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs to create a sustainable future. The constituent elements of sustainability are those concerning social, economic and environmental. Social sustainability emphasises all human needs and properly functional societies for many years to come. Economic sustainability is the ability to sustain a certain level of financial success for a long time. Meanwhile, our topic for the most will focus on environmental sustainability, which can be understood as

“The rates of renewable resource harvest, pollution creation, and non-renewable resource depletion that can be continued indefinitely.” – Herman Daly (1990)

Daly’s explanation of environmental sustainability is crucial to teaching the world the true meaning of sustaining. The world’s standard definition of it being a “sustainable development”, meaning sustainable economic growth, is oxymoronic and highly misleading as sustainability goals cannot be reached with only economic growth, which often makes the issue of sustainability and its goodness overlooked.

Coming into existence

According to historical reports, sustainability development as an idea came into existence and recognition in 1987. It was a concept that warned of the harmful environmental outcomes of economic growth and globalisation to provide plausible and feasible solutions for the issues of the rising 21st century’s industrial revolution and population growth within major cities. The notion of sustainable development formed the UN Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Sustainable development was the solution to the problems of environmental debasement as discussed by the Brundtland Commission in the 1987 report Our Common Future.

In 2016, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development were embraced by world leaders in September 2015 at a historic UN Summit. This Agenda is a plan of action for people, the planet and prosperity. It also seeks to strengthen universal peace in more considerable freedom. Therefore, approaches to creating and preserving a sustainable future are reachable.

Taking it to the next level

Of the many countries taking a step forward into a new world of opportunities through the scaffolding themes of sustainability, is the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Over the decades, the UAE has made numerous approaches towards shaping the UAE into a civilisation with visions of a better and sustainable future driven by innovation, research, science, and advanced technology. One initiative that has been reached is Expo 2020, which hopes to welcome the world soon. Essentially, Expo 2020 promotes preserving the planet. It also promotes sustainability, mobility (physical mobility for individuals, access and distribution of goods and services and virtual connectivity), and opportunity (reflecting the necessity of financial capital as a resource to support growth, and partnerships as a primary motive of financial worth as a resource to support growth, and partnerships as a direct incentive of innovation and employment. It is a celebration of the UAE’s Vision 2021. By far, eight products across the expo 2020 site have received CEEQUAL certification, with each one achieving the top ‘Excellent rating. All the certificates have far exceeded the highest threshold, highlighting how Expo 2020 has incorporated sustainable design principles across its buildings, infrastructure and landscaping. The eight CEEQUAL ‘Excellent’ awards span Expo’s Public Realm, Al Wasl Plaza, parks, shading and other infrastructure across the 4.38 sq. km site.

The phenomenal infrastructure

One of the most prominent sustainable architectures is the Terra, ‘The Sustainability Pavilion, designed by UK-based Grimshaw Architects, to meet the highest available accreditation for sustainable architecture as achieved by LEED Platinum certification. The Expo 2020 hopes to inspire the world to combat climate change by exploring humanity’s relationship with nature, their obsession with consumerism, and how they can change everyday choices to become greener and lessen carbon footprint and environmental impact. The 4,912 solar panels on Terra: 130-metre-wide canopy and 18 Energy Trees help generate 4GWh of alternative energy per year, numerically enough electricity to charge more than 900,000 mobile phones. Terra also features innovative irrigation techniques, including a greywater recycling system, which reduces water use in the landscape by 75%.

Planting the seeds for a sustainable future

With stepping into a new world comes the need for future generations to prepare themselves to take up the reins themselves and become sustainability leaders. A sustainability leader is someone supportive of inspiration and action towards a better world. At The Explorers Lab, they offer a selection of programmes encircling sustainability themes by providing insights and acknowledgement of sustainability applied to and within a community or society. You also get to learn about how other organisations and companies have decided on becoming greener and of the many efforts made to reduce the consequences of climate change and global warming through making a sustainable environment and introducing a more mindful way of living.

The Global Citizenship programme @Singapore equips students with essential 21st-century competencies and a genuine sense of civic-mindedness and global responsibility. Their core mission is to foster global citizens who will make positive contributions to the community around them and come up with great innovations for the world. This program cultivates the necessary skills needed for a sustainable leader, like excellent communication, professionalism, confidence and critical thinking. It also develops ones’ awareness about global and local issues and learns about the UN Sustainable Development Goals and acquires the mind set to contribute to the worldwide society as global citizens.

Similarly, the Virtual Community Service @ East Africa has a more agricultural approach towards making positive contributions to the community, adding emphasis on social sustainability. World Unite is an organisation that provides Intercultural Exchange and Global Learning opportunities. The Virtual Social Service @Tanzania introduces students to social issues that require them to provide solutions to improve the livelihood of low-income members of society, once again adding focus to social sustainability. Meanwhile, the Virtual Business Internships @Tanzania focuses on conducting market research to come up with unique business ideas under the Tanzanian business environment effectively done whilst maintaining economic and environmental sustainability.

The Global Citizenship Challenge @ University of Toronto programme is an excellent opportunity for students to engage and secure the skill of researching and understanding situations from multiple angles. They will identify and critically analyse interests and bias in media reporting. They are conducting online research and evaluating sources for reliability, relevance and validity. This programme is the kind that will have student’s walking out confident and ready to take on the lead to become sustainability leaders with strategies for success.

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