Campus & Community

Provost’s conference highlights intersection of sustainability and social justice

Julian Agyeman, professor of urban and environmental policy and planning at Tufts University, opened his keynote address at the April 25 DU Provost’s Conference with a challenge to attendees: “I want you to think about the often forgotten or implicit part of sustainability — its social justice aspect,” he said. “We’ve failed at both environmental quality and human equality because we haven’t integrated the two.”

Agyeman defined his concept of “just sustainability” as “the need to ensure a better quality of life for all, now and into the future, in a just and equitable manner while living within the limits of supporting ecosystems.”

The 2016 Provost Conference theme, “Just Sustainabilities: Cultivating Access, Equity, and Community,” brought together DU faculty alongside city and regional partners to discuss how DU can serve as an anchor institution for the Denver metro region in pursuing social, environment and fiscal equity in Colorado. The event challenged the University to tackle community issues by leveraging interdisciplinary collaborations among faculty, students and staff.

Agyeman offered several suggestions for incorporating sustainable environmental practices that promote social well-being. He also talked about specific programs and coalitions that have been successful in both areas. He outlined the concept of urban agriculture and shared the story of George and Julia Bowling, who began growing African vegetables on their Maryland farm to supply the needs of the 140,000 African immigrants living in the Washington area.

Agyeman continued by highlighting several areas in which just sustainability can be incorporated, from employing urban-planning techniques that account for intercultural cities to acknowledging that spatial justice complements social justice.

“A reinvention and revival of sharing in our cities could enhance equity, rebuild community and dramatically cut resource use,” Agyeman said.


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