Three-day conference sharply focused on issues of sustainability
We can no longer use the NIMBY (not in my backyard) argument when it comes to advancing future projects. We’ve arrived at a hinge moment when solving our biggest problems—from environmental to social—means we need to start saying YIMBY, yes to some things: from solar panels and wind turbines to battery production and lithium extraction to universal basic income and food security. These are challenges for sure, but left unaddressed, the consequences could spell disaster, as discussed during a three-day conference sponsored by Chaminade University’s CIFAL Center of Honolulu.
On the final day of the People, Planet and Prosperity for a Sustainable Future symposium, Dr. Gail Grabowsky addressed the United Nations Institute for Training and Research’s (UNITAR) Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and its corresponding 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), which cover a vast range of subjects that impact all of us.
“I’ve been steeped in environmental studies for more than 25 years,” said Grabowsky, Chaminade’s Dean of the School of Natural Sciences & Mathematics and Executive Director of CIFAL Honolulu during her keynote address to attendees. “And a year and a half into establishing CIFAL Honolulu, we’ve brought sustainability into people’s consciousness. And we’ve sponsored more than 50 events.”
The CIFAL Global Network is composed of 32 International Training Centers for Authorities and Leaders, all coordinated by UNITAR’s Social Development Program. The strategic locations of the 32 centers, which can be found across Asia, Oceania, Africa, Europe, the Americas and the Caribbean, ensure a global outreach. Each CIFAL—a French acronym for Centre International de Formation des Autorités/Acteurs Locaux (International Training Centers for Local Authorities and Local Actors)—outpost provides innovative training and serves as a hub for the exchange of knowledge among government officials, the private sector and civil society.
In his keynote address, Hawaii Gov. Josh Green pledged to generate billions of dollars from philanthropy and outside investment to make Hawaii the first state to become fully reliant on clean energy. It’s a familiar stance that Green has taken since he introduced a slew of major climate policy initiatives earlier this year, including a recommitment to the U.S. Climate Alliance and the establishment of a Climate Advisory Panel.
“We have so many people in this room, find a project that will help Hawaii, help us with health care, help us with the environment,” Green told attendees. “I will bring in investors from across the globe because they are interested in Hawaii, but we will still need to do the job. Be ready. It should be a dynamic few years.”
The presentations indeed reflected this dynamicism, featuring such diverse topics as “Teaching the Importance of the Ocean to Fight Climate Change,” “The First Statewide Initiative to Connect All Public Universities to Advance PK-12 Climate Literacy, Justice and Action,” “Innovation and Sustainability: The Negative Impact of the Protectionist Leadership Style” and “Food Insecurity.”
“Being part of the UN, we bring awareness to sustainable issues, and train people to get involved and to act on sustainability,” Grabowsky said. “We support economic sustainability in the context of still maintaining an aesthetic environment.”
As the only CIFAL Center in the Pacific, the Chaminade campus is part of a region that includes China, Korea, the Philippines and Australia. The CIFAL Network focuses on topics within four thematic axes: Urban Governance and Planning, Economic Development, Social Inclusion and Environmental Sustainability. Each center is locally managed by a host institution, with UNITAR providing academic content, technical support and quality assurance measures for their training activities. This allows each CIFAL to prioritize action in specific thematic axes, depending on local needs and priorities.
“The basic lesson of the Sustainable Development Goals is that human hopes, human aspirations, human fears are all interconnected,” said United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and executive director for UNITAR, Nikhil Seth, during last November’s “XIX Steering Committee Meeting of The CIFAL Global Network at Chaminade. “You can’t separate them and follow them in discreet ways. The SDGs are like an umbrella of issues and almost everything you can possibly think of are probably covered in the 17 SDGs.”
And that includes Grabowsky’s pet project, “Pono Popoki Project: Malama Management of Free-Roaming Felines.” “Cats can be good for people’s mental health, which is Goal 3 of the SDGs,” said Grabowsky, pointing to a colorful chart that depicts all the SDGs. “And it also teaches our students biology and wildlife conservation.”