Learning to Include the Global Community in Change

By Matthew Cossel '17

Dr. Monika MacDevette, United Nations Deputy Director of Environmental Policy, came all the way from Nairobi, Kenya, to speak on campus last Thursday, Sept. 8, to a packed Sinclair Auditorium.

The United Nations Environmental Program, created in 1972, operates in over 26 countries with offices all over the world.

“The world finally gets it now,” she said in regard to climate change. “There are a huge amount of challenges but also an enormous amount of opportunity.”

MacDevette’s talk focused on these opportunities, the United Nations Environmental Program and what those mean for the future.

“There were hard lessons learned from the [Millennium Development Goals],” she said. The Millennium Development Goals were created in 2000 to curb major global issues like poverty and hunger. The Sustainable Development Goals are the replacement for the Millennium Development Goals that expired in 2015. The new goals, 17 in all, aim to end most of the same issues but are tagged as more inclusive.

The Millennium Development Goals did not consider the environment, she said, but the Sustainable Development Goals are much better in this regard.

“Sustainability begins with you,” she said.  MacDevette said that it is vital we disrupt the status quo with education and networking amongst universities and other organizations.

There are multi-disciplinary facets of problems in the Sustainable Development Goals, she said, and these will require multi-disciplinary solutions. “If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together,” she said, stressing that we must work together.

“If we all start making a difference individually, then we can make a difference collectively,” she said. Science and policy need to come together in this way to avoid uncertainty and create a clear road forward. “We messed up the world over the last couple centuries, but we can make it better for all,” she said.

The next morning, MacDevette met with the United Nations youth representatives on campus. The youth reps were given the opportunity to get up close and personal with her, network, and get their questions answered.

Challenging your own point of view was the pinnacle of MacDevette’s second talk. “What makes sense to you, doesn’t necessarily make sense to other people [globally],” she said.

An example was that of a Kenyan’s idea of maintenance. MacDevette said that she had to explain the idea of taking your car in to be checked. “Why would I spend money on something that isn’t broken?” she quoted her co-worker as saying. Such a mindset is much different than ours, she said, and this is something that more people need to recognize.

MacDevette also met with a group of graduate students and professors to discuss ideas and methods of Environmental Education. The basis of this talk was to foster collaboration between educators and the United Nations Environment Program.

“Never stop believing that you can make a difference,” MacDevette said.