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United for Earth: embracing our shared responsibility for sustainability

Alumni Zaheer Allam stands in front of a white wall smiling at the camera with his arms folded

To mark Earth Day 2023, Dr Zaheer Allam, a graduate of ARU and an urban strategist, writes about the importance of the event – and how we can all live sustainably and protect our planet's resources.

Sustainability, in its simplest form, is the principle of meeting our present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own. This idea resonates with me profoundly, as it requires us to evaluate the long-term consequences of our actions and strive to maximise the synergies between economic growth, social equity, and environmental preservation.

"Earth Day holds a special place in my heart. It's a day that reminds us of the need to protect Earth's natural resources and our shared responsibility to live sustainably. We all have a role to play."

That is why Earth Day, celebrated every year on 22 April, is an event that holds a special place in my heart. It's a day that reminds us of the critical need to protect Earth's natural resources and our shared responsibility to live sustainably, and we all have a role to play in this.

Individual and collective action

Throughout my career, I have witnessed firsthand the power of individual and collective action in driving sustainable change. In our daily lives, we can all make choices that contribute to the larger goal of protecting our planet. Simple acts such as reducing water and energy consumption, choosing public transportation, and supporting local businesses with eco-friendly practices can accumulate into a significant positive impact. Together, we can even force corporations to align, or curb governmental actions.

The power of policy

As a former activist, I have engaged in legal actions against the leaders of my country, managed a hunger strike, and organised national marches. Today, as an urban strategist, I focus on policy aimed at creating sustainable urban environments that cater to both the needs of people and the planet. This involves incorporating green spaces, promoting walkability and bikeability, and designing energy-efficient buildings. By advocating for these solutions, I believe that we can transform our cities into more sustainable and liveable spaces for everyone.

Spreading the word

Creating awareness about the need to protect Earth's natural resources is an integral part of fostering a sustainable future. Knowledge is power. We must educate ourselves and others about the environmental challenges we face, as well as the potential solutions. This can be done through public forums, workshops, and even informal conversations with friends and family. By engaging in open and honest dialogues, we can inspire others to adopt sustainable practices in their own lives, as together our collective choices do make a difference.

More than ever, social media platforms have emerged as powerful tools for raising awareness and building communities around sustainability. By sharing our own experiences, challenges, and successes, we can inspire others to embark on their own journeys toward a sustainable lifestyle. In doing so, we can create a ripple effect, spreading the message of sustainability far and wide.

Shaping the future

In the spirit of Earth Day and as a humble advocate for sustainable living, I encourage all of us to reflect on our own actions and choices and to seek out opportunities to make a positive impact. Let us remember that our individual actions, when combined, have the power to shape our collective future.

As we continue to learn and grow together, it is my hope that we can create a world where sustainability is not just a lofty ideal, but an achievable reality; one that benefits both current and future generations.

By Dr Zaheer Allam
Graduate of ARU, 2018