Redirecting the World Community toward Sustainable Growth

University of Miami engineer joins diverse group of experts to make recommendations towards the creation of ecologically and socially fair development

Coral Gables (May 24, 2010) — The degradation of ecosystems and the decline of biodiversity around the globe have been hastened by society’s use of natural resources. However, strategic partnerships that bridge science and policy can reposition the world community toward sustainable growth, according to a multidisciplinary international group of scientists that gathered at the Oxford Round Table on The Copenhagen Protocol: Problems and Possibilities, earlier this year.

The scientists called for global political leadership to commit to a redefinition of economic growth in light of market imperfections, social inequities, quality of life and sustainability of resources. At the basis of this call is the concept of ecological justice and rights of dignity for all people of the earth without regard to culture, gender, ethnicity or region. The participants composed the following statement encompassing their philosophy:
The earth processes are changing in numerous ways; many of these are detrimental to humanity and other species. Worldwide, human society has accelerated the use of natural resources, bringing about massive changes in the productive base of land, air and water resources. A consequence of this has been reduced biological diversity because of habitat loss, land use change and the spread of invasive species. Degradation of ecosystems has been accentuated by introduction into the environment of massive quantities of inorganic and organic materials that degrade the integrity of ecosystems. The climate change will exacerbate the degradation of ecosystems that are necessary to support a still-expanding human population.

The event, which took place in Lincoln College at the University of Oxford, Oxford, U.K., on March 22 through March 26, included multiple perspectives from a diversity of biological, chemical, physical, ecological, educational, legal, engineering, social science, public health, forestry, geology, architecture and economic perspective from eight countries, according to Dr. James D. Englehardt, professor in the University of Miami College of Engineering and a participant at the Round Table.

“This opportunity to meet and learn from colleagues from diverse fields and cultural perspectives always triggers new ideas, generates new questions and creates the possibility for future collaborations among cross disciplines,” Englehardt says.

The participants put together specific recommendations on a number of strategies including the following:

• Strategies that seek to synthesize the best indigenous and historical knowledge and practices from traditional cultures with the latest technical improvements based on democratic decisions. The intent is to take the best from each regional and culturally appropriate sector to maximize the benefit of all and to minimize detrimental impacts on the earth and humans.

• That energy, manufacturing and waste cycles should, as much as possible, conform to closed loops with the primary goal of minimizing waste and preventing pollution. This should include minimizing the energy, pollution and waste costs incurred by current inefficient transportation systems.

• Rally science and technology experts to advocate that government leaders enact stronger and more cohesive climate change policy and strategy.

• Support a mix of local, regional and global action that involves the active and democratic involvement of all stakeholders and shifts the balance toward data-driven scientific knowledge and public participation away from special interest manipulation.

• Youth today are growing up more environmentally conscious; institutions should foster and fund stronger curricula of educational institutions that reflect and advance this interest as they inherit the earth.

The Round Table Panel convened to discuss the Copenhagen Protocol included experts from Australia, Canada, Japan, South Africa, Sweden, U.K., U.S.A. and Zimbabwe. The Oxford Round Table organization went on to affirm that the discovery of new concepts and invention of new technologies should be directed toward a richer quality of life for all by minimizing environmental impacts and moving society toward long-term sustainability with a reorientation of societal priorities.

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University of Miami’s mission is to educate and nurture students, to create knowledge, and to provide service to our community and beyond. Committed to excellence and proud of our diversity of our University family, we strive to develop future leaders of our nation and the world.