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United Nations Sustainable Development Goals provide framework beyond 'being green.'

Sustainable development is at the center of every major world power’s goals when it comes to evolving in a way that lessens our impacts on the planet while also ensuring that individuals' needs are met. The United Nations have been exploring means for sustainable development for over 30 years since the first ‘Earth Summit’ occurred in Rio de Janeiro in June of 1992. Fast forward to 2015 and the UN General Assembly began the negotiation process for the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with the UN’s new sustainable development goals at the heart of the agenda. These goals were made to ensure the countries, states, and other government entities could develop in a way that prioritizes equitable development for people and the planet. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has five core areas. These are People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, and Partnership. These five areas are further defined by the 17 sustainable development goals. In an excerpt from the 2030 Agenda, the parties of the UN say:


In these Goals and targets, we are setting out a supremely ambitious and transformational vision. We envisage a world free of poverty, hunger, disease and want, where all life can thrive. We envisage a world free of fear and violence. A world with universal literacy. A world with equitable and universal access to quality education at all levels, to health care and social protection, where physical, mental and social well-being are assured. A world where we reaffirm our commitments regarding the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation and where there is improved hygiene; and where food is sufficient, safe, affordable and nutritious. A world where human habitats are safe, resilient and sustainable and where there is universal access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy.”


These goals were developed with a variety of use cases in mind. The first of these is to help guide developing countries as they create infrastructure, transition away from agrarian lifestyles and towards professional lifeways. The goals contain many ‘common sense’ objectives such as ensuring access to clean water and nutritious foods. They also ensure access to health and wellness care, access to quality education, and sex and gender equality. However, the goals also highlight other areas of focus for sustainable development. These include affordable and clean energy, decent work and economic growth, a circular consumption economy where less is wasted and materials are repeatedly reused. It also focuses on creating industries and infrastructure that are resilient to the changing weather and climate patterns of the region they are located in. Goals also touch on the urgency of our changing planet by requiring climate action and the preservation, protection, restoration and sustainable use of aquatic- and land-based ecosystems. Finally, the goals address creating a more peaceful and just world by promoting peaceful and inclusive societies and equal and fair access to justice. Finally, the goals are all based around partnerships between different governmental entities which facilitate knowledge sharing around sustainable development; where countries from hot humid environments in South America can partner with and learn from hot humid environments in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Or countries of the Global South can partner with countries in the Global North to learn about emerging technologies for decarbonization and the transition from fossil fuels to renewables.

These goals are also applicable to the work that the city of Morris and Morris Model engages in. The goals can be applied to governments of all sizes and provide a framework that ensures that communities of all sizes can develop and sustain themselves in a way that serves people and the planet. In Morris we think about how we can improve our infrastructure to be more resilient to extreme weather. We also consider how our residents access clean water, nutritious food, and seek to close gaps to ensure that people in our community don’t go hungry. And as a predominantly industrial and agriculture focused community, we explore methods for lessening the carbon emission from agricultural activity and find ways to utilize our working lands as a place that can store carbon rather than emit it.


My position with the City of Morris is funded through a grant from the ENRTF. To learn more, head to https://www.legacy.mn.gov/environment-natural-resources-trust-fund




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