Highwire Earth: Princeton University’s new publication on sustainable development

Written by the Editorial Board

How can we achieve a minimum standard of living for the world’s growing population, while reducing our carbon emissions to curb climate change and limiting our impact on the planet’s ecosystems to stop the current mass extinction? How can we protect and manage our natural resources such that people across nations and generations have a more equitable access to them? How can we create a more inclusive and pluralistic society that provides equal access of opportunities to all of its members? These are some of the questions that we have posed ourselves as a society as we work to reduce poverty and inequality, acknowledge the impacts that we have had on the planet, and develop strategies to correct them and move forward.

“Cada cabeza es un mundo” (“Each mind is a world of its own”) says a Mexican proverb — each of us is the primary actor of our own life with our own dreams and struggles. Yet there are over 7 billion of us and counting, and we have realized that our collective actions can have global consequences — both good and bad. We have created an interconnected world where we can often forget that physical, political, and language boundaries exist, but we have also breached many of the planet’s environmental boundaries leading to worldwide consequences. This is why on September 2015 the United Nations agreed on a set of global goals to which we shall strive in the upcoming years: the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs. An improvement from the Millennium Development Goals, they acknowledge the importance of framing these issues in the context of a planet with limited resources, whose climate we can affect, and that is inhabited by many other living beings aside from us.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (2015–2030). Credit: United Nations

To capture all aspects of sustainable development, including the opportunities for synergies, we will need to create more interdisciplinary, inter-institutional, and international partnerships. The solutions will lie throughout engineering, the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities, as much as in government, industry, NGOs, and academia. Furthermore, global collaborative efforts will be required to coordinate, scale up, and share the solutions that we develop. However, working towards achieving these interdisciplinary and multilateral efforts will require constant communication amongst us, as well as patience, humility, and commitment to spend the necessary time listening and learning from those outside of our fields of expertise. This is why we created Highwire Earth.

“[…] working towards achieving these interdisciplinary and multilateral efforts will require constant communication amongst us, as well as patience, humility, and commitment to spend the necessary time listening and learning from those outside of our fields of expertise. This is why we created Highwire Earth.”

The purpose of this publication is to act as a platform for members of the Princeton University community, namely students, research staff, faculty, visitors, and alumni, on which they can share the insights that they have gained on topics related to sustainable development through their coursework, research, and work experiences. We seek to engage the academic community across disciplines in a conversation that will teach each of us how our work is related to that of others and how together we can begin to form solutions. Similarly, we want to engage with the general public to develop and improve our communication skills and habits, and to share the insights that we have gathered through our academic work in a more accessible and useful way. By no means do we pretend to have all the answers as individuals or as a group. Yet, a great deal of the work done by members of the Princeton University community can contribute with pieces of the solutions.

Through this publication we invite both readers and writers to think of topics such as water, energy, food, biodiversity, health, education, and poverty as belonging to larger, interconnected systems. We encourage you to explore the broader aspects of your topics of interest, which we will aid by means of broad categories and sections. Finally, we also invite you to constantly think about the underlying assumptions and ethics of the efforts made towards sustainable development. Being aware of the motivations and values that drive our moral decision-making process on these topics and how they match or clash with those of others will help us work towards consistent solutions that respect all forms of life around the planet.

The Editorial Board

Julio Herrera Estrada, Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief

Matt Grobis, Co-Founder and Managing Editor

Greta Shum, Co-Founder and Communications Director

Arvind Ravikumar, Co-Founder and Associate Editor

Special thanks to our friends at Atte. Design for helping us with our graphic design needs.

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