Recently, the United Nations has made a huge step forward towards sustainable development by adopting a formal list of “Sustainable Development Goals,” or SDGs, a list that aims to address the problems and shortcomings in our current global development. The SDGs build on one of the UN’s slightly older list of goals, the Millennium Development Goals, and they provide a great opportunity for all of us. As students in the world of sustainable development, we should all be doing our best to learn about these new goals and do our part.
This is not lost on EWB-BU’s advisor, Professor Zaman. Shortly before the SDG’s were officially adopted, Zaman came out with a Huffington Post article advocating for the engagement of students in the conversation. Zaman states that in his classroom, students know next to nothing about the SDGs, what they are, and what they mean for sustainable development and us as a world. This, he says, must change. Students need to know about and be involved in the SDGs for many reasons.
The first of these reasons is that if we get involved early in our lives, there is a greater chance that we will be able to properly participate in the conversation when we are the adults making the decisions - in Zaman’s words, “it is about investment in our future.” Secondly, we are a far more globally connected generation than those that came before us. Since the internet and technological advances have made us so connected to other parts of the world, involving us will open the door to making the SDGs a far more global discussion, which will be a huge opportunity for progress. Third, he believes that discussion of the SDGs “will bring much needed intellectual diversity to the development sector.” Students are often cut off from global conversations, especially ones about science, technology, and engineering, so adding our voices will definitely change the tone of the conversation. Lastly, Zaman believes that the SDGs require innovative, adaptive, and excited minds to take on the challenge. He says, “To maximize our chances of success, we need to capitalize on the passion and energy of the most innovative group of people amongst us: our students.”
Zaman’s article is incredibly refreshing. Usually, when professionals note lack of student involvement in global issues, it is with an accusatory tone, blaming the “laziness” or “self-involvement” of the millennials. However, Zaman brings up outside reasons for the lack of student involvement, noting “local crises occupying the minds of our students, or the declining role of the UN in discussions on campus.” Additionally, it is clear that he truly believes in our generation. He wants us to take part in the discussion because he knows we can be helpful, because we are smart and innovative and connected.
And of course, he is absolutely right. But these are exactly the reasons that we need to push to be involved. There are other factors keeping us out of global discussions, and even without them, students are often not listened to as much as they should be. So it is our job to learn as much about these new developments as we can, and to discuss them among ourselves and with professionals. We have the capability to make an impact, and our voices are needed. Now it falls to us to make them heard.
Zaman’s article can be read here.