The Institute of Management and Innovation held their 4th annual Sustainability Leaders Series last Thursday in the Innovation Complex. Graduate-level Master of Science in Sustainability Management students put up posters summarizing their summer internships with companies and NGOs focusing on sustainability. The star of the event was the keynote speaker, the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario who talked to the students about the importance of advancing people’s awareness about sustainability.

Professor Stephen Scharper, the Acting Director of IMI praised the students’ research experience about development of pragmatic, and innovative ideas for future development.

“Second year IMI students completed a four-month summer internship, covering a variety of topics in the sustainability universe,” said Professor Scharper. “There are students working in health and equity, alternative energy, and students working with the Metro Convention Centre who worked on sustainability. One of the key ideas behind today’s event is to showcase the research and possibilities that our students are exploring.”

Averyl D’Souza interned with the City of Brampton for creating environment-friendly initiatives to make Brampton “healthier, sustainable, resilient and more liveable.”

“Brampton was having a litter problem, and I spent the summer coming up with a little campaign, called ‘Don’t be Trashy,’ said D’Souza. “Our purpose is to tell people that their actions have consequences, even if they don’t realize them in the present. When you throw garbage out of the window of your car, and it ends up in, suppose, Lake Ontario. The fish then ingest pieces of that trash, which eventually ends up in your palette. So it’s a cyclic process, and people need to be more careful.”

During the formal program, UTM Principal Ulrich Krull welcomed the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell to the UTM Campus.

Principal Krull praised the Master of Science in Sustainability Management for its efforts towards educating youth about green energy. He also applauded the students and faculty members’ hard work.

“Sustainability is not only something that the (UTM) professors teach, it is something they live, it is something that they breathe. And it is something that they convey to the students,”  Principal Krull said in his opening speech.

Bringing home the point of energy and environmental sustainability on campus, Principal Krull mentioned how UTM buildings are designed with the prospect of sustainability. The Health and Science building has an underground cistern for collecting rainwater which reduces the water consumption of the building by 65% compared to a “conventional building.”

The Instructional Building (IB) is fitted with a cutting-edge geothermal facility, that is the largest geothermal system heating-cooling system in Canada. The building is also powered by solar panels.

Having served as the Under-Secretary General at the United Nationals Environment Programme in Nairobi, Kenya, the Dowdeswell spoke about sustainability from her own experience.

“People are at the heart of sustainability,” said the Honourable Dowdeswell in her opening remarks. “Sustainability means knowing whether we are meeting the real needs of people, whether we even know what those are. And whether or not the improvements in science and technology are going to be effectively used in our society if we don’t get our act together in terms of things like governance, partnership, and how we make decisions by talking to ordinary citizens,” stated Dowdswell.

“It’s all about connecting the dots between the goals of inclusive economic prosperity, environment, certainly, and also social and cultural cohesion.”

Dowdeswell encouraged students to inspire and educate people to move beyond the rhetoric of sustainability into the actual creation of communities that are resilient. Calling storytelling “one of the most powerful tool,” she also focused on the importance of giving people the platform to voice their concerns about their community, to tell their stories and share their problems which will help create plans that specifically tackle those issues.

“Putting sustainability at the heart of the education system ensures a positive future,” Dowdeswell. “Education designed to give people the knowledge, skills and background that enables them to actually practice and promote sustainability is essential to create a cultural shift. We need people to understand why such changes are necessary, and then to advocate and work for those changes.”

Commenting on the current political, and economic climate, Dowdeswell spoke of the progress people have made, but warned that everyone is still quite vulnerable. “There is very dark side to social media, certain cultural identities are being threatened, the complexity of our lives is increasing, as is the temptation to give into cynicism. Even our democracy seems in disarray. Now is not the time to give up on our vision of global wellness and peace.”