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Expo 2020 Dubai: a university mission to save the Earth

Circular economy, environment and sustainability are key at Casa Italia, the 3,500 square meter Italian pavilion at the World Expo in the United Arab Emirates, which has welcomed thousands of people in recent months. To visit it for us, making their own contribution, the students of IUSVE and Cube Radio have committed themselves to the dissemination and implementation of Laudato si’.

By the Cube Radio team*

Sixteen students from the Salesian University Institute of Venice (IUSVE), accompanied by the Director, Fr. Nicola Giacopini, flew to the Pearl of the Desert for the international meeting of sustainable universities within the framework of Global Goals Week. Their contribution took different forms: from the presentation of a social communication project linked to the themes of sustainability, the fight against pollution, integral ecology and the proposal of interactive installations in the field of green communication visual for Expo visitors. Vatican News was also present alongside IUSVE and RUS, to tell the story of the present and the future of the Common House which does not belong to one but to each of us and which must be rebuilt, brick by brick, with the many new forms of “cement” of which the Pope speaks in his Encyclical Laudato si’.





The group of IUSVE students in front of the Italian pavilion

Challenges

Seen from above, Expo 2020 is shaped like a flower, a symbol of beauty, with three main petals that correspond to three thematic areas, the heart of the exhibition: mobility, opportunity, sustainability. The latter often results in very concrete transformative practices given, for example, that within the 4 square kilometer zone, people and goods are moved exclusively on foot, pedals or by electric means, while solar panels installed on the roofs of buildings produce a total combined energy capacity of 5.5 megawatts. In order to make visitors aware of carbon emissions, the organizers of Expo 2020 Dubai have also created the “Seeds of change” platform which allows, on the one hand, to tell about innovative sustainable development projects and, on the other hand , to participate in their dissemination by online vote or sharing on social networks. Measures aimed at making the Universal Exhibition more sustainable in the long term include, for example, the realization of many permanent buildings in compliance with the criteria defined by the rigorous Leed certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and the study promoted by the Center for Sustainability through Research and Education at Modul University Dubai on the impact that tourism has had during Expo 2020 Dubai to determine ways to optimize visitor flows and consumption in a perspective of sustainable tourism.

Installation of the 17 goals of the 2030 Agenda at Expo 2020 Dubai




Installation of the 17 goals of the 2030 Agenda at Expo 2020 Dubai

RUS’ sustainability efforts

The University Network for Sustainable Development (RUS) was launched in 2016 with the help of a committee made up of Politecnico di Torino, Politecnico di Milano, Università degli Studi di Milano, Università Bicocca, Università di Verona, Università di Bologna, Università di Parma, Università di Trento, Università Ca’ Foscari di Venezia, Università di Bari and Polytechnic of Bari, with the aim of spreading culture and good practices of sustainability inside and outside universities. Its presence at Expo 2020 Dubai is driven by its intense commitment to sustainability. “We are eight years away from achieving the goals of the 2030 Agenda,” explains Patrizia Lombardi, President of RUS, “and we believe that universities have a fundamental role to play; they can make a difference through the strength of partnerships between universities.”

But RUS activities do not end with the dissemination and sharing of guidelines and best practices, but rather open new energies, as in the case of the two-year preparation of the event “Universities in Action for the UN 2030 Agenda” held at Expo 2020 Dubai on January 18 at the Italian Pavilion. The forum, sponsored by the Conference of Chancellors of Italian Universities (CRUI) and the Ministry of Sustainable Infrastructure and Mobility, with interventions by Ministers Maria Cristina and Enrico Giovannini, Maurizio Tira, Delegate for International Affairs of CRUI, and Alyssa Gilbert, President of the COP26 Universities Network, proposed strategies for the contribution that Italian universities can make to sustainability processes. In addition to their attendance, the forum also showcased a range of innovative and creative ideas proposed by a number of students representing over 600 peers involved in the planning of this event.

The forum "Universities in action for the 2030 Agenda" at the Italian Pavilion




The forum “Universities in action for the 2030 Agenda” at the Italian Pavilion

Sustainable mobility in academia

One of the areas where action is urgently needed, partly due to changing habits and practices adopted as measures to contain Covid-19 infection, is sustainable mobility. “There are basically four types of interventions that universities can implement to improve sustainability in this specific area,” explains Matteo Colleoni, national coordinator of the RUS “Mobility” working group. The first concerns agreements with public transport services, so that they are used more and more by students and staff, then there are restriction policies, i.e. limiting for example the use of university public spaces for private car parking, to encourage the use of these spaces for hybrid cars and electric vehicles in general. A third type of policy we call “political-organizational”, that is, policies reorganizing campus areas and class schedules. Just to give an example, in this pandemic period: the importance of rearranging the start and end times of classes in order to avoid peak times for the use of public transport. The last type, concludes Colleoni, “concerns innovative policies and research on sustainable mobility. In this field, universities are strong in doing research in general but also in collaboration with companies.

Students from all over the world participated in the forum "Universities in action for the 2030 Agenda"




Students from all over the world participated in the forum “Universities in action for the 2030 Agenda”

RUS and Laudato if’

“The particularity of RUS”, explains Paola Biglia, coordinator of the Network’s organizational secretariat, “is undoubtedly its choral aspect at the university level, which allows you to share your best experiences both to make the campuses more sustainable from a environmental and social and to extend to adjacent territories transformative proposals that can encourage “third mission actions” in terms of sustainability. It is also about raising the quality of relationships, as Laudato si’ reminds us: in the awareness that we are all part of the same common home. With RUS, continues Biglia, “we want to make everyone aware that they belong to the same network, from the technical-administrative staff to the teaching staff, each with their own responsibilities, uniting in a common direction. The RUS “Climate Change” working group, concludes Paola Biglia, “has prepared very clear guidelines for designing decarbonization plans, so that each university or any other institution can design its own plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. in the air”.

16 students from the Salesian University Institute of Venice (IUSVE) were among the young people who took part in the forum “Universities in action for the United Nations 2030 Agenda”. The director, Don Nicola Giacopini, explained the effort that the University of Venice has devoted to this mission: “For two years, IUSVE has been involved in the project ‘Integral Ecology, New Ways of Life’ which aims to improve the care and custody of our Common Home, following the invitation offered by Pope Francis in Laudato si’. Thanks to the support of the Deutsche Post Stiftung project, we were also able to participate in this university mission with a representation of students who are part of the Green Team, an animation group that promotes transformative practices related to integral ecology.”

* Cube Radio – Istituto Universitario Salesiano Venezia e Verona

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