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Moving Towards Sustainable Development

By: Uniqua Williams - January 10, 2020
United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Reflecting on four years of study of the water, energy, food nexus, made possible through the efforts of the Texas A&M Water-Energy-Food Nexus Initiative, researchers in the Texas A&M Energy Institute and at the American University of Beirut are now looking to the future of the Nexus through the lens of sustainable development.

The quest for an in-depth understanding of the interlinkages of the Nexus elements: water, energy, and food, has brought along human health as a natural addition to this line of inquiry. However, the investigation is not complete without looking deeper into the ability to develop and utilize fully sustainable practices. Going beyond this, the global consciousness must be aware of the implications and ramifications of an unsustainable world.

As research continues at Texas A&M University on the Nexus and its impacts, future work will center on the dissemination of research, data, and insight gathered from its various projects and developments, such as the San Antonio Case Studies. The result will be an increased awareness of the necessity of finding solutions to the Nexus grand challenges and the importance of properly utilizing the limited resources available to us.

Such efforts will include the invitation to research and educational institutions, governing bodies, and other national and international leaders to join together for sustainable development. Collectively, these groups will promote and enable the discovery of the best solutions and implementation methods to reach the sustainable development goals in their specific areas.

Further, lessons learned will be extracted from localized regions and will facilitate the implementation of the discovered solutions in these respective areas. Specific approaches to the implementation of the sustainable development goals in specific regions, initiated by various institutions and researchers, will be combined under a larger umbrella to tackle worldwide challenges.

“To effectively implement these solutions, we need to have a large network working together globally to reinforce that nexus awareness,” said Mary Schweitzer, administrator of the Food-Energy-Water Nexus at Texas A&M University’s Energy Institute. “The future depends on being able to address these issues, both individually and collectively as a society that includes all its stakeholders: civil society, business, governance, finance, and natural resource systems.”

Additionally, the Water-Energy-Food-Health Nexus Renewable Resources (WEFRAH) Initiative at the American University of Beirut (AUB) and the Texas A&M Energy Institute have recently joined the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN). The SDSN’s goal is to bring together leaders who possess the same desire for sustainable development to find and employ viable solutions.

The A&M Initiative also established a water colloquium consisting of groups who are involved in similar activities and share the same goals of the SDSN: to share data, research, and discuss effective information dissemination methods to those who need it, like government decision-makers and educators.

Communicating with governing bodies on a larger scale allows for the initiative to focus more on transcending its research towards educational and outreach activities. Spreading awareness, not only to leaders relevant to the nexus developmental goals but also to the general public, is an essential objective of the initiative moving forward.

“Now that we have this improved understanding, how do we inform people that they need to start recycling their trash bags instead of getting a new plastic bag each time they go to the supermarket?” said Schweitzer.

One growing concept in the United States is the development of a circular economy as an effort to minimize resource utilization. A circular economy develops a regenerative system that keeps resources in continuous use, thereby avoiding exploiting new supplies. A circular economy is not only a system that improves the environment through the promotion of recycling natural resources, but it also has many economic benefits. Through a circular economy, economic sustainability can also be achieved.

A circular economy is a viable solution for sustainable development because it focuses on the improvement of several, if not all functions of society. With the optimization of these resources through a circular economy approach, future efforts at Texas A&M can potentially tackle more sustainable development goals.

“One focus of the sustainable development goals as we move to the future is the need to become more efficient in our consumption and production patterns to achieve a sustainable, equitable future,” said Schweitzer.

The sustainable development goals can only be achieved through the cooperation of national and international scientists, researchers, governance, educators, and informed, concerned citizens. Through these partnerships, not only can solutions be found and implemented, but these collaborations can increase the spread awareness internationally.