FHSU Professor Addresses UN Sustainability Initiatives and their application to campus

STORY BY DANIEL SAENZ

To celebrate the 70th anniversary of the United Nations Charter coming into place, the American Democracy Project organized a speech by Greg Weisenborn, an Associate Professor of Operations Management here at Fort Hays State University. In particular, his speech aimed to talk about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) from the United Nations and how many goals relate to local sustainability projects here in Hays.

So what is sustainable development? Sustainable development is the economic development that can be accomplished without straining the natural resources on which our livelihoods depend. Dr. Weisenborn began by outlining how important this is in the world that we currently inhabit.

“When discussing this at the highest level, this is not new,” said Weisenborn. “It is a long time coming as far as the development and the different initiatives at the UN to try to think about societal issues, governmental issues, and clean environment issues that make this small planet exist and be maintainable and sustainable and exist for a very long time. Or, we could just give up and fly to another planet”

He then delved into the finer details behind sustainable development goals. In total, there are seventeen sustainable development goals. Some of the more prominent ones include clean water and sanitation, economic growth, and quality education. All of these goals tie into sustainable development across the globe. A good example of this is the issue of peace, which is also one of their goals. For sustainable development to even be possible in a given country, city, or town, there has to be a state of relative peace. However, there is a great deal of resources being invested in a complete lack of peace.

For example, war-torn areas such as Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen are too preoccupied with investing in their conflicts to even think about sustainable development. This is one of the many challenges that sustainable development faces at the global level.

However, the main focus for the remainder of Weisenborn’s speech focused on the local challenges Hays faces in regards to sustainable development.

“The fact of the matter here on campus is that sustainability is hard,” Weisenborn said. “When you are talking about higher education, there are conflicts between faculty and administration on a number of issues which makes it harder to gain partnership opportunities as well as opportunities for cross-discipline research or cross-discipline student opportunities.”

There are also political barriers in western Kansas as well.

“In western Kansas, there is an abundance of potential for wind energy in little dearth of water,” he Weisenborn said. “The fact that we are not investing more in water issues and taxing ourselves on these costs shows that we need a long-term plan for Kansas.”

Because this issue is rather complex, the speech ended up listing the various barriers rather than giving concrete solutions. However, the point was made that the long-term benefits of sustainable development were worth the investment.

Kaytee Wiseley, one of the main organizers of the event, reiterated the importance of sustainability.

“Sustainability is important since we need to properly use the resources that we have and they do not just come out of thin air,” Wiseley said. “We need to leave the world better than we found it. I think it is important that we look closely at our carbon footprint on campus and implement a recycling system among other initiatives to help students realize it’s something they are responsible for.”

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