Sunday brought the opening day of World Water Week which kicks off with Young Professionals Day. This aims to inspire young people and provide a platform for their voices to be heard. In the spirit of the 2018 World Water Week, the day was focused on the theme of water, ecosystems and human development.
The second session of the day was on the resilience of water systems in cities. In this session, we focused on transforming the global commitments of the Sustainable Development Goals into local action in the face of the shocks and stresses facing our water system.
Using Hull, Cape Town, Miami and Amman as case studies, 100 young professionals identified the main shocks and stresses facing these four cities, which SDGs these are impacting, and resolutions that could be implemented at a municipal and individual scale. Initiatives including governance improvements, technological solutions, nature-based solutions and public empowerment were proposed as contributory solutions to the keys issues of drought, flooding, ecosystem degradation, financial resilience of utilities and WASH challenges in informal settlements.
We concluded the day with a spirited debate on “This house believes that ecosystem conservation is fundamentally at odds with human development” chaired by Mark Fletcher, Global Water Leader at Arup. One team argued for the motion, the other argued how human development and responsible stewardship of natural resources go hand in hand.
Diego Rodriguez, Senior Economist at the World Bank, argued that “today, we have much less poverty than 10, 20, 30 years ago; and that is anchored in a very particular type of growth model that uses natural resources.”
Similarly, Marina Demaria Venancio (Young Professional and PhD student at the Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil) presented a more technology-focused future that reduced our dependence on natural systems.
Amanda Janoo (Young Professional and Alternative Economic Policy Adviser at the UN) concluded her team’s argument by outlining the role of choice in human development, stating “there is no limit to ow much people want to consume, or how rich they want to be”.
Fred Boltz (Water Ambassador at The Resilience Shift) argued that “Humans are an endemic part of the natural ecosystems that sustain our planet Earth…Humans have prospered throughout history by benefitting from nature. The growth model uses natural resources to fuel human wellbeing and development. Why would we destroy them when they provide such wealth?”
Sunil Abeyasekera, (Young Professionals for Agricultural Development) presented a balanced position: “It’s not a choice between one of the other – they co-exist. Youth around the world are yearning for these opportunities to conserve ecosystems. By investing in our human development, together we can begin to flourish.”
Following the debate, we continued our discussions at the Young Professionals drinks!