Why do we need a Sustainability Centre in Reading?
Well, let’s first ask, what is sustainability? The word means different things in different situations. Essentially, it’s about doing everything in ways that allow resources to regenerate so any activities we do can be repeated in 50 or 100 years from now and beyond. Much of how we are living in the early part of this century is storing up problems for the rest of the century. Even if we manage to pull through, the picture is less rosy for the globe’s next generations. We owe them something better, but what can we do?
Our concerns for the future include providing enough energy, food, and water for a growing population, but without degrading the fragile environment of the Earth. We need to act restoratively, to put in place systems that will be resilient to the effects of climate change, while mitigating such change over the longer term. We must develop low-carbon energy sources, while engaging in regenerative agriculture and permaculture, to reduce soil erosion, rebuild the soil-carbon, and allow the natural stores of water to recharge.
We must also use energy more efficiently. Proper insulation of existing buildings can make huge energy savings. Growing food, and producing more of what we need at the local level, will reduce our reliance on global transportation and a declining supply of crude oil. Societies must become sustainable too, by building strong communities, with a focus on cooperation, mutual benefit and self reliance.
A critical factor in sustainability is “engagement”. It is as important to take part in practical activities as it is to grasp the underlying ideas and concepts. The Reading Sustainability Centre will aim to play an educational role, both in-house and through outreach activities, with an emphasis on integrating the practical and conceptual aspects of sustainability, using real-life demonstrations.
Reading showing the way
Cities and towns, like Reading, are central to developing positive responses to climate change and the challenges of a world of finite resources. Reading is particularly well placed in the UK to show what that might look like in practice.
The university has an international reputation for its work on climate change, management and the built environment. Reading Borough Council has shown leadership in managing and reducing its own carbon emissions. Reading International Solidarity Centre has a national reputation for its work on global citizenship, and there are a whole host of other local green groups taking practical action to sustainable development. All of this is happening against the backdrop of one of the UK’s most buoyant local economies. But there is no room for complacency.
Our vision is that The Reading Sustainability Centre will develop to become a catalyst for the sorts of conversations and collaborations necessary for Reading to develop as an exemplar of a prosperous and sustainable town.