sustainable development


Penda proposes Toronto Tree Tower built from cross-laminated timber modules

Plants and trees sprout from the modular units that make up this timber-framed high-rise, proposed by architecture firm Penda for Toronto. Penda, which has offices in China and Austria, collaborated with Canadian company Tmber for the Toronto Tree Tower project. They propose an 18-storey residential block that would stand 62 metres tall, with a modular structure made from cross-laminated timber (CLT).

Wood would also clad the building’s staggered walls, and trees would grow from the homes’ generous balconies. “Our cities are a assembly of steel, concrete and glass,” said Penda partner Chris Precht. “If you walk through the city and suddenly see a tower made of wood and plants, it will create an interesting contrast. The warm, natural appearance of wood and the plants growing on its facade bring the building to life and that could be a model for environmental friendly developments and sustainable extensions of our urban landscape,” he added.


As part of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development an enormous outdoor installation of fish was constructed using discarded plastic bottles on Botafogo beach in Brazil.

I really like this approach of producing a ‘video abstract’ as a hook into an academic paper- the above image is from the animation to accompany the paper in Science: ‘Biodiversity redistribution under climate change: Impacts on ecosystems and human well-being’ by Gretta Pecl et al.

The paper, itself, is really interesting- and the visual abstract, which is inherently social media friendly, is a great way of disseminating, engaging and opening access to academic research in a social media age.  


So, let us start with the basics. What is the 2030 Agenda? What exactly is it that is going on right now?

The United Nations Sustainable Development Summit is happening in New York right now, and it will be happening for the next three days. It’s a meeting between world leaders where the aim is to all agree on the formulation of the 2030 Agenda and its 17 sustainable development goals and their 196 sub-targets. The meeting will take the whole weekend, but already the Agenda has been adopted, and we now have a world Agenda for the next 15 years. The Agenda will, to put it simply, dictate the approach of the UN in their work, both how they work internally and how they work with their member states and other partners. It will also have a huge impact on how countries tackle the different challenges that they are facing in everything from environmental sustainability, to education, poverty elevation and gender equality, just to mention a few.

Worth noting is that the negotiating part of the 2030 Agenda (where member states argues about if they should use this word instead of that, and other things that surprisingly will have much bigger implications than one might think) is more or less done. The draft of the goals has been negotiated and worked on since 2012 and he Rio+20 conference, and will most likely be adopted in their entirety at this stage.

The 2030 Agenda is “a plan for people, planet and prosperity that also seeks to strengthen universal peace in larger freedom”. It is at its core an integrated set of goals and targets that illustrates the interconnectedness of the “three pillars of sustainable development” (social, environmental and economic). All goals are in the formulation of their targets connected to multiple other goals, and together they create a web of targets and goals, where one cannot pull one strand without taking into consideration how it connects to other aspects of sustainable development. This creates a complicated set of goals, and the world is definitely facing a challenge in its work towards the realization of the 2030 Agenda. However, it is also our only chance to ensure that we protect not only our selves, but also the planet we live on, and that we ensure that the needs of the present is met while also ensuring that the possibility of future generations to meet their needs is safeguarded. Our actions these coming 15 years will be crucial for how life on our planet will look in the future, and there are many exciting, if challenging, things ahead of us.

It is International Week of the Deaf this year it’s all about Full Inclusion with Sign Language! 

([image text; purple background header, white font INTERNATIONAL WEEK OF THE DEAF 2017, 18 to 24 September. [orange font] 
THEME: [purple font] [black font] FULL INCLUSION WITH SIGN LANGUAGE! International Week of The Deaf 2017 takes place under the theme ‘Full Inclusion with Sign Language!!’. It is in tandem with the 3rd International Conference of the World Federation of the Deaf and believes that full social inclusion of deaf people is possible when sign language is recognised and used widely within the society. International Week of the Deaf 2017 stresses the importance of sign language. Without the actual recognition, facilitation and promotion of it, the rights outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the recently adopted 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals cannot be fully achieved.
[orange font] CAMPAIGN
[purple font] KEY MESSAGES [green background box, white font] BIRTH RIGHT - [grey background box, black font] Draws upon the principle of basic human rights in relation to language acquisition at birth. When acquired fast, it enables deaf children to have full communication with people, improving their cognitive and social skills. Deaf children need access to sign language from birth.

[orange background box, white font] DEAF IDENTITY - [grey box, black font] Identifies deaf people as belonging to a cultural and linguistic community, who use sign language as a mother tongue or natural language to communicate.

[yellow background box, white font] ACCESSIBILITY - [grey background box, black font] stresses that deaf people need access to public information and services via sign language interpreting, subtitling and/or close-captioning. A key factor to accessibility for public services such as health care, employment, social activities or any other government services is provision of and access to sign language. 

[purple background box, white font] EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES - [grey background box, black font] Sign language competency for communication and provision of interpreters mean that deaf people can do almost any job. It is important for deaf people to equally aspire securing jobs that reflect their interest and competency. The main barriers to employment arise from accessible work environments rather than an inability to hear.

[green background box, white font] LIFELONG LEARNING - [grey background box, black font] Access to education, vocational learning, and ongoing progessional training and development is key to gaining and retaining a job and earning a wage that allows independent living.

[orange background box, white font] EQUAL PARTICIPATION - [grey background box, black font] Deaf people need to have equal access to participation in the personal, public and political area as everybody else. More importantly, it is necessary to ensure that deaf people have the opportunity to take up leadership roles, so that deaf people themselves can appropriately advocate for their rights and be involved in all decision-making processes concerning their lives. This is a reflection of the slogan 'Nothing About Us without Us’.

[yellow background box, white font] BILINGUAL EDUCATION - [grey background box, black font] Urges stakeholders to accept the need for bilingual education for a deaf child and to understand how quality bilingual education should be provided in a sign language environment. Bilingual education is a social-cultural approach of using sign language of instruction in all subjects with a parallel strong emphasis on teaching, reading and writing of the language used in the country or society.

[purple background box, white font] EQUAL LANGUAGE - [grey background box, black font] Recognises sign language as a valid, linguistic means of conveying thoughts, ideas and emotions. It is a fully operating language with its own syntax, morphology and structure. It fulfils all features serve to define the notion of a language. This has been confirmed in many systematic linguistic research on sign language since the late 1970s.

In the middle of all the text boxes there is a logo of two hands touching with the words 'FULL INCLUSION WITH SIGN LANGUAGE’ and at the bottom of the page, the logo for World Federation of the Deaf, International Week of the Deaf, and a barcode with the word 'donate’ underneath.])

Thank you @elixiire for providing the image description

Words On Water

Let’s talk a little bit about water quality.As someone who’s travelled a lot I’ve had the liberty of trying tap water in many countries. I’ll never forget the first time I took a sip of tap water from the East coast of Florida. I won’t lie, I spit it back out. It tasted like I’d imagine purified swamp water would and to this day I can’t believe that it’s safe to drink. Another interesting experience was all the way back in the suburbs of Kuala Lumpur where my family and I were strictly advised not to touch the local tap water as our bodies were “not ready for it”. Similarly, the Balkans in Europe proved an eclectic blend of “Don’t drink the water!” and “There’s no better water!” depending on location and, most importantly, altitude. 

What I’m trying to say is maybe you were, like me, blessed to have grown up in a place with safe, accessible drinking water but that doesn’t mean the entire world shares this commodity. Water is essential for life and our health can suffer or benefit from it depending on its quality. We should never take our access to resources for granted as it’s not universal and I see it as our duty to promote environmental health, science, and sustainability so that one day we may achieve an equitable distribution of resources. 



study, study, study, study, study. As i’m reaching the halfway mark on my first semester, the workload is really beginning to escalate. This week and next both have significant deadlines on top of seemingly endless readings, review pages, tutorial preparation and lecture notes. I knew that the incredible level of independent study was a factor of my course, and I am finding it both quite liberating and exceedingly stressful. I feel like I spend more time in the library than anywhere else (can you guess where I am right now?). I can’t complain - what I am learning are things that I have been passionate and interested in my whole life! 

top tip as of late: choose to study what you love. please, i can’t imagine putting this much effort and love into my work if i studied something other than sustainable development and anthropology. why commit 4+ years to mastering a subject if it isn’t something you love or are even interested in? just a thought.


Wangari Maathai was a Kenyan environmental activist who founded the Green Belt Movement, which focused on planting trees and women’s rights; her organization paid a small stipend to women to plant seedlings throughout the country. She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004, with the committee citing her contribution to “sustainable development, democracy and peace.”

Norway overtakes Denmark to be crowned world's 'happiest country'

Norway has unseated Denmark as happiest country in the world. The Scandinavian nation beat the three-time winner of the title, having previously been ranked fourth.

Denmark dropped to second place as Norway was named the winner for the first time since the United Nations launched the global initiative in 2012.

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The World Happiness Report 2017 ranked countries on six criteria measuring happiness: GDP per capita, life expectancy, freedom, generosity, social support and an absence of corruption in government or the business sector.

“Happy countries are the ones that have a healthy balance of prosperity, as conventionally measured, and social capital, meaning a high degree of trust in a society, low inequality and confidence in government,"Jeffrey Sachs, the director of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) that published the report, told Reuters.

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"What works in the Nordic countries is a sense of community and understanding in the common good,” Meik Wiking, chief executive of the Happiness Institute in Copenhagen, said.

Iceland, Switzerland and Finland were also ranked in the top five. The US was 14th on the list, while the UK came in 19th place. Sachs said the US had dropped one place due to rising inequality, distrust and corruption. He said that President Trump’s economic measures were “all aimed at increasing inequality – tax cuts at the top, throwing people off the healthcare rolls, cutting Meals on Wheels in order to raise military spending. I think everything that has been proposed goes in the wrong direction.”

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Syria, Yemen, Tanzania and Burundi are the least happy of the 155 countries listed in the fifth annual report by the SDSN.

The aim of the report is to provide governments with a tool to improve overall well-being in their country. “I want governments to measure this, discuss it, analyse it and understand when they have been off on the wrong direction,” Sachs said.

World Happiness Report 2017 rankings:

1. Norway
2. Denmark
3. Iceland
4. Switzerland
5. Finland
6. Netherlands
7. Canada
8. New Zealand
9. Australia
10. Sweden
11. Israel
12. Costa Rica
13. Austria
14. United States
15. Ireland
16. Germany
17. Belgium
18. Luxembourg
19. United Kingdom
20. Chile

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At the beginning of the week, I was living in catered accommodation, constantly kept up all night by noisy flatmates and finding it difficult to eat a healthy, vegetarian diet at the dining hall. Since then (in a very quick and abrupt process), I have made the decision to leave my old room and transfer to a self-catered room in accommodation closer to the university. I apologize for not really updating anyone, it was a bit of a whirlwind with no time to really express how I felt about the whole situation! I am happy now with my new room. Maybe dorm photos round 2 will be coming soon?

How it happened: I asked to be put on a waiting list for a new room on Tuesday, and by Friday I packed up my things and settled into a new space! I didn’t express my dissatisfaction with my old living space due to what I previously thought was an inability to move. What this means is now I will be doing my own cooking and meal preparation. Initially I was quite scared of the idea of having to food shop, cook, and prepare for myself at age 18 - it is really uncommon to not have access to a dining hall while at university back in the US. However, I felt that in order for me to stay healthy and follow my vegetarian diet, a change needed to happen. 

Tomorrow my friend Jorja is going to help me out with purchasing all the necessities for my kitchen as well as my first grocery shopping experience as an adult! In the future I am researching possible methods for buying zero waste groceries and bulk-buying, but for now I just need to become acclimated to this change! 

To those who I gave my address to: that has changed as well! I will message anyone who I gave my old address - but please let me know (friends and family) if you would like my new one! Cheers!