A New Perspective on Sustainability

By Camile Brown

Published December 20, 2017

Economic and environmental sustainability is a critical challenge for populations around the world, but the obstacles are diverse, reflecting the politics, cultural identities and geographies of each nation. One method to improve a nation’s sustainability is Green building, or the efficient use of resources, safeguarding occupant health and preventing environmental degradation.

“[UN Habitat] was one of the most valuable experiences of my life, giving me new perspectives on sustainability practices around the world.”
Camile Brown, Undergraduate Student
Urban and Regional Planning

These concepts were highlighted at Habitat III, the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development. The Habitat Conference occurs every 20 years and sets global standards of achievement in sustainable urban development. I attended Habitat III in October 2016 with support from the UB Community for Global Health Equity and Dr. Samina Raja.

Eager to begin my adventure in Quito, Ecuador’s capital, I was impressed that the people of Ecuador are mindful of their environment, taking steps toward sustainable design, such as separated lanes for buses and cyclists.

At Habitat III, partners, stakeholders and urban actors at all levels of government and the private sector gathered to voice their sustainable development concerns – including poverty, quality of life, environmental degradation, and climate change. I attended sessions such as People Powered Housing: How Communities Take Control and The Cano Martin Pena Community Land Trust (CLT). People Powered Housing featured the excellent practices of self-help housing in the North of England (UK), a program that assists low-income families in building their homes. Companies like Canopy and Giroscope also deliver self-help housing – training homeless and vulnerable populations to renovate abandoned properties and bring them back into use.

CLT is transforming eight informal settlements, located around a flood-prone channel, into a sustainable community. These projects demonstrate that people within different vulnerable communities are powerfully exercising their right to safe and sustainable housing.

I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to attend Habitat III and experience Ecuador. It was one of the most valuable experiences of my life, giving me new perspectives on sustainability practices around the world.