One of the first jobs given to me by the Vice-Chancellor when he appointed me Coordinator of Kampus Sejahtera was to prepare a Sustainable Development Report for USM - in 2 weeks, half-jokingly I think!! I said no way, very seriously. That was more than a month ago.
In discussing the preparation of this report with a team of very passionate staff at Korporat (or BPLK), we agreed that the Report should strive to be inclusive. There are probably many individual efforts which are in line with the sustainable development agenda which we don't know about. We want to tell these stories of how members of the USM community are making a difference. We want to appreciate your work to save Mother Earth. We also want to identify promising activities or projects which we can pursue together.
What is sustainable development? Our letter to the Deans and other Heads of Department inviting inputs have triggered this very basic question. Yes, the experts have not fully agreed on how to define and to measure it. But we know one thing. The way we are using our Earth's resources is alarming. In fact, the more educated we are, the more we consume (because we have higher income and therefore more purchasing power). We take for granted that the Earth will keep on producing everything we need without limit. The bad news is that our current lifestyle (yes Malaysians included) is not sustainable. What it means is that we are consuming more resources that the earth has available (non-renewal) or is able to (re)generate (renewable). We need to allow nature to breath and regenerate whether it is the forest or the sea.
So, in a nutshell, don't consume so much that we threaten the quality of life of future generations. There is an interesting concept called the ecological footprint which tells us whether we are consuming more than the ecological capacity of the earth. Malaysia is not doing too well but the United States of America is Bigfoot with the highest consumption in the world. For more information visit www.rprogress.org/f or www.footprintnetwork.org. The World's biocapacity has been shrinking from about 3.5 global hectares per person in the early 1960s to about 1.8 now. Malaysia's footprint is 3.0 global hectares which is over the World biocapacity - so we are borrowing from our future generations. USA is 9.5 while Bangladesh is only 0.6.
What about sustainable development on campus? Much work is being carried out by universities around the World to make our campuses sustainable. Here's a list of indicators created by the University Leaders for Sustainable Future www.ulsf.org. The indicators are grouped into 7 major categories. For instance, under curriculum one indicator is whether the courses have sustainability content; in research do they include sustainability-related topics or issues; in operations do we have energy efficient practices; do we recognise faculty for their contributions to sustainable development; are students exposed to sustainability issues; and do we have formal written statements to reflect commitment to sustainable development. Where do you fit in?
What can you contribute to the Sustainable Development Report? We want hear from you. We hoped to be surprised. You find the connection to sustainable development and tell us about what you are doing.