New trick to beat the tyranny of distance

No 11 Ranking World Impact Ratings SDG 11, Sustainable Cities and Communities - case study.

There may be a no-show or two when the New Zealand Sustainable Development Goals Summit is held in September.

But although someone’s seat might be empty, they will still be there - in a real-time sense, at least.

The event, to be held at the University, is looking to have at least one keynote speaker address the summit by video-conference, instead of making a return international journey by plane

That’s in keeping with the organisers’ ethos of maintaining a low carbon footprint, says Professor Gillian Lewis, Associate Dean - Sustainability - in the Faculty of Science.

The two-day event will look to practice what it preaches in other areas too. The menu for the event will be wholly plant-based. There’ll be no printed material either; it will be electronic instead.

“The summit is going to be one in which we look forward and recognise the critical areas we need to work on, “Professor Lewis says.

Subtitled ‘Accelerated Action, Together’, the summit is being co-ordinated in conjunction with the Auckland University of Technology, with convenors Dr Lesley Stone from the University and Professor Thomas Neitzert from AUT. It will recognise a number of stakeholder in its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): government (local and central), universities, business, non-governmental organisations, community groups, youth and Maori.

The timing couldn’t be better, says Professor Lewis.” It falls in the same year that New Zealand is reporting on its SDGSs, and that document is currently being put together, with the expectation that it goes to the United Nations in July.”

The University has already established a healthy track record in terms of contributing to the understanding of what makes a sustainable city. Dr Stone and her colleagues are currently researching trees on campus to understand their carbon uptake. They are also looking at land the University owns outside the city, to see its value as a carbon sink.
And as the forthcoming summit demonstrates, work is also being done on academic footprints in academic travel.

“We need to get the information together to understand where we sit, and consider whether there are alternative ways of participating without flying all over the world,” Professor Lewis says.

The tyranny of distance means the current method of international travel involves copious air miles. “But we’d like to say ‘if you don’t choose to physically attend, here’s an [alternative] way of making a presentation’.”

Professor Lewis says she feels most fortunate to be working in the science faculty. “Its commitment to SDGs has a very high profile.”