The Five I’s for the Future of Sustainability

The following is a summary of the main take-away points of Dr. Stephanie Pincetl’s closing remarks at the Symposium on Urban Sustainability in North American Cities.

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Glen MacDonald (Director of the Institute of the environment and Sustainability), Stephanie Pincetl (Director of CCSC), and former Toronto Mayor David Miller

Based on the presentations and discussions at the Symposium on Urban Sustainability in North American Cities, there are five I’s that need to recognized and addressed for the future of climate change and sustainability action.

1. Infrastructure

As a society, we build things and then need to deal with them. It is imperative that we carefully consider what we are going to build in terms of cost, time, money, energy, etc. We shouldn’t be too quick to tear down and rebuild. Rather, we should use Life Cycle Assessments and other comprehensive sustainability evaluations to help decide future infrastructure

2. Institutions 

Institutions are enormously important and should not be underestimated. In the near future, Los Angeles might have to undergo a charter reform to get the department of sanitation and LADWP to share money more efficiently. Our government institutions are out of sync with one another and need to work with–not against–each other on shared goals.

3. Integrated Solutions 

There can and must be win-win situations when addressing climate change. The era of zero-sum games is over.

4. Information 

While the conference presented many exciting research findings, it also brought up the fact that we are still so ignorant about so many things. Repeatedly, researchers addressed the need for more data. It is difficult to understand what is happening in systems when we do not quantify what is happening and do not share the findings. Research centers and government agencies need to collaborate to help bring understanding about climate change.

5. Investments

There is no such thing as a free lunch- or a free climate change solution. If we are much clearer and more direct about the costs of climate change solutions, the public can relate to the honesty. We have been deceiving the public about how much can be done with out financial investment and are promising too much, leading to unfulfilled pledges and public distrust. Furthermore, we need to link the existing knowledge we do have to action.