Production and consumption: The elephant in the room

By K. D. Sawatzky Posted: May 3, 2019 9:00 a.m.

Roger Petry and Jocelyn Crivea at the Luther College cafeteria, which has implemented sustainable food waste management systems.
Roger Petry and Jocelyn Crivea at the Luther College cafeteria, which has implemented sustainable food waste management systems. Photo: U of R Photography

The University of Regina and Luther College have been chosen by the International Association of Universities (IAU) to lead one of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) over the next 12 years.

A 600-member global organization, the IAU promotes collaboration between universities. In 2018, it developed its “Cluster on Higher Education and Research for Sustainable Development” in support of Agenda 2030, the UN’s 17 goals for global development (2015-2030).

In May 2018, the IAU approached the University of Regina to lead the twelfth goal, “Responsible/Sustainable Consumption and Production.”

“SDG 12 is at the heart of all the SDGs,” says Roger Petry, philosophy professor at Luther College and cluster co-leader of SDG 12. He is also co-coordinator of the Regional Centre of Expertise (RCE) Saskatchewan, a UN University-initiated education organization promoting regional sustainability.

“The elephant in the room is human production and consumption systems,” he says. “If you want to deal with poverty, health or climate change, look to how we produce and consume.”

Petry and his co-leader Jocelyn Crivea, manager of the Institute for Energy, Environment and Sustainable Communities, will “cluster” with six other schools to work on this goal: Universiti Sains Malaysia, University of Kelaniya (Sri Lanka), Moi University (Kenya), University of Vechta (Germany), El Bosque University (Colombia), and Pontifical Catholic University of Peru. The University of Saskatchewan is an informal partner.

“Being the only university in North America chosen to lead a cluster is a feather in our cap,” Petry says.

He adds that it also makes sense because Saskatchewan faces challenges when it comes to sustainable consumption and production, whether it’s primary production of resources, such as oil and gas, or people’s energy-intensive lifestyles due to weather extremes.

“We’re kind of a pressure cooker for sustainability issues,” he says, arguing there isn’t a better place for this type of initiative.

The University of Regina brings several sustainable on-campus projects to the table, such as its highly efficient print-optimization program, strides in food waste management, and greywater reclamation.

Crivea, who is also a grad student in public administration, is the co-chair of a two-day conference hosted in May by the University where the SDG 12 cluster schools will meet in person for the first time. She says she is interested in knowledge mobilization between scientists and politicians, which will be discussed at the conference.

“Decision making is a collaborative process,” Crivea says. “We will explore how scientists and social scientists can inform decision making and help policy-makers better understand their options and develop good policies that make our communities better for everyone.”

The SDG 12 cluster will meet several times a year, both virtually and in person, to decide what to work on collectively until the SDG goals expire in 2030.