Ruth Mitchell

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Business comment: Building a sustainable city

Welcoming the launch of the 1Plan, Professor Paul Younger explains Newcastle University’s role in driving forward the sustainability agenda for the city.

“Science in the City” - What does that phrase conjure up in your mind? Probably nothing as glamorous as the escapades of Sarah Jessica Parker and friends in the similarly-named Hollywood blockbuster. Maybe some white-coated specialists working behind closed doors? Well, for sure, we have plenty of them in Newcastle: at the Centre for Life, in the Medical School and in many science and engineering laboratories on the main Newcastle University campus.

But where’s the science in the streets, shops and houses? Well, science is there too, contributing ever-more to the way we live our lives and, crucially, to the ways in which our lifestyles interfere with the natural “life-support systems” of our marvellous but embattled planet. Whenever we apply scientific thinking to minimising our impact on the rest of the world, we’re practising the science of sustainability and Newcastle has a lot to shout about in relation to that. Last year the influential organisation “Forum for the Future” ranked Newcastle as the most sustainable of the UK’s twenty largest cities. It’s easy to spot some of the long-standing features of our city which contributed to this accolade: the Metro system, the great open spaces of the Town Moor and Jesmond Dene, not to mention the team of internationally-renowned scientists at Newcastle University who are driving forward the science and technology of the future. But if we are to retain our status as a sustainable city we’re going to need lots more science.

Rising to this challenge, Newcastle University is working with One North East, Newcastle City Council and Gateshead Council on the development of the 1Plan to help ensure our communities remain at the forefront of the pursuit of sustainability. It is also a lead partner in the Newcastle Science City Initiative, which aims to ensure the city is best placed to benefit both socially and economically from the scientific research being undertaken right here in Newcastle.

To marshal our efforts, the University has established the Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability. Drawing on world-leading engineering expertise in the fields of urban infrastructure, agriculture, transport, energy, marine technology and clean industrial production, we are committed to accelerating numerous changes for the better in the City and wider region: changes in the way we travel to and through the Toon; improvements in the way we handle water and waste; novel approaches to construction and to re-fitting our fine old buildings for the future; increasing efficiency in the use of existing and new forms of energy, at work and at home; and a smarter approach to sourcing our food while minimising our impacts on the surrounding countryside and marine life.

Sustainability can be summarised in four words: “Enough, for all, forever”. Of course we all need enough food, water, heating, electricity and so on. But so do all our fellow human beings – whilst not forgetting the needs of our planet’s precious ecosystems. So sustainability’s also a matter of justice, and if we are going to ensure fair shares of all these things forever, throughout our city and beyond, then we need to get far more efficient in the way we use natural resources. That’s the essential role of “Science in the City” and the challenge for the Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability.

Professor Paul Younger is Director of the Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Ruth Mitchell .

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