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Sustainability Central

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Professor Graham Pyke from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) co-founded a new environmental initiative, Sustainability Central, with Professor Paul Ehrlich from Stanford University and explains its importance. Sustainability Central was established on the basis of four components. The first was to provide sustainability leaders with the background experience and training they need in order to be better leaders. These are people who are already in positions where they make decisions that significantly affect the environment in general and sustainability in particular. To this end there is a Masters level program in Sustainability Leadership being developed at UTS.

The second component aims to turn sustainability leaders into sustainability champions, using their positions to make a profound difference, Paul Ehrlich (left) being an obvious model. This will be kicked off by a two-day workshop around September next year with Paul Ehrlich being the star of the show. The third component is to advocate and promote the science of sustainability, in particular refuting claims that climate science is “junk science”.

The final component of Sustainability Central is promote the messages about sustainability to the masses, making sure that people are not misinformed or under informed. People will also be encouraged to take actions like voting for sustainability or selecting share portfolios and superannuation funds that match up with sustainability. At present, most of the members of Sustainability Central are from an environmental science background.

However, the group is increasingly recruiting people from a range of backgrounds including media, communications and economics as it expands its membership. Begun as a blog, Sustainability Central now is a website (sustainabilitycentral.net) which includes the blog. Officially launched last November, the website is managed by Basil Saab who has a Master’s degree in journalism. He has linked Sustainability Central to Facebook and Twitter and other social media with a potential audience of 4-6 billion people.

Professor Pyke is optimistic about making a difference, just as Al Gore is in an article in the next edition of Rolling Stone magazine. Professor Pyke’s understanding in sustainability arose near the Colorado Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in the USA where he met Paul Ehrlich in 1972. The laboratory was close to a river sandwiched between quite high mountains.

When the snow melted in early summer a huge torrent of water was released, a haven for kayakers. Professor Pyke knew that downstream was a waterfall with a 30 metre drop and had heard stories that people actually kayaked down that stepped waterfall. One day, while doing research in the area, he had a chance encounter with three kayakers who emerged from the direction of the waterfall and he took the opportunity to ask if they had kayaked down the waterfall.

One of them replied that no, they hadn’t, as they believed in sustainable kayaking, which he explained was kayaking today in a way that meant that they would (survive to) be able to continue to kayak in the future. That was when the penny dropped about sustainability as Professor Pyke then understood it to mean “doing what we do today, in ways such that we, our children, grandchildren and so on, will be able to keep doing these things into the future".

So it is rather appropriate that Professor Pyke is engaged in developing a postgraduate program in sustainability.

Professor Graham Pyke was interviewed by Ruby Vincent for A Question of Balance. Summary text is by Victor Barry, July 2014.


Images are from the Sustainability Central website.
They depict the co founders of Sustainability Central, Paul Ehrlich (image 1) together with Graham Pyke (left, image 3) at their Ethics In Sustainability Public Lecture held at the University of Technology, Sydney on 15 October 2013.

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