This week I have been in Lisbon! And no, not only to get a nice break in this beautiful city, but also to attend the "European Ecological Federation" annual meeting. I have to say it was a very interesting, thought sparking and productive meeting. The theme chosen, "Embedding Ecology into Sustainable Development Goals" was not only very timely but was also followed very well throughout, with all plenaries, symposia and parallel sessions falling back on the theme somehow. And I'd like to mention that I was so impressed that also everything related to the conference, from the delegates bag, the food and the waste management, fell back into this sustainability theme.
But you may wonder: What are these sustainable development goals??
The UN sustainable development goals (SDGs) are part of the 2030 agenda, aiming to address and find solutions to the global issues that we face. These came to lif after the end of the "Millenium development goals", (MDGs) which while at first glance seem relatively similar, are based more on a "rich country" idea of what development means.
There are 17 SDGs (double the number of MDGs, which were only 8) and are all unified by 5 principles:
1) People at the centre, and none left behind
2) Every issue is interconnected
3) Goals are universal, meaning all countries are equal
4) Dealing with the complexity of the topic means finding integrated solutions
5) Results will only be achieved through partnerships
Now, I personally think that principle 2) is very important and it is something that as ecologists we should keep in mind. This came out in the debate too, as we often seem to select the SDG that most fits our topics (for me for example it would be SDG 14 - Life below water, and I could maybe include SDG12 - sustainable consumption and production, and SDG 8 - Decent work and economic growth) but we should consider them all in unity. So my new challenge is to see how with some of my work I might be able to incorporate some solutions that might be useful in a way or another to all, and look at my research from the greater perspective.
I also think that another challenge faced by ecologists is that of 'all countries are equal'. At the moment, all countries are not equal in terms of funding, and, in fact, when you look at where most of the studies in my field come from is no surprise that countries like North America, Australia, and some nothern European ( UK, the Netherlands, Germany..) come right at the top with the most number of publications. At the same time, some of the most impacted countries by climatic changes are also some with the least funding available... so I believe this is something we should definitely address.
Last but NOT least. The issue of partnership. Both at the debate and through the conference it was stressed that this is the time to cooperate and not compete. Science should move from competition for funding to cooperation to achieve greater funding to do bigger projects that might be more relevant (read this older post where I discussed already this as some of the issues Academia faces before it can be considered a truly sustainable field) .
What do you think about sustainable development goals? Do you feel informed as a citizen? Would you like more debate on them? Are you a scientist? Do you need better guidelines on how to follow them? Let me know in the comments below!
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