Rio+20 Higher Education Sustainability Initiative

In the run-up to Rio+20, the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, in a demonstration of its commitment to advancing sustainability, signed the Commitment to Sustainable Practices of Higher Education Institutions on the Occasion of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. The BOKU was the first, and thus far only, Austrian university to have signed the commitment.

BOKU researcher and senior lecturer, Michael Braito, in Rio for UNCSD 2012

Michael Braito, BOKU researcher and senior lecturer at the Institute of Sustainable Economic Development (INWE), supported with a small grant from the Centre for Global Change and Sustainability (gW/N), attended the official conference in Rio de Janeiro. BOKU students and faculty – as well as the broader public – were invited to follow his activities in Rio via a blog (in German) that he updated daily. Upon his return from Brazil, Braito was invited to a roundtable discussion with staff from the gW/N, the BOKU rectorate and a number of youths interning at several BOKU institutes as part of a Rio+20 initiative coordinated and supported by the Austrian Federal Ministry for Science and Research (for more information, please see below). In order to continue sharing his insights into the UNCSD 2012 process and his experiences with as many individuals as possible, Braito will be writing articles for the Austrian National Union of Students, taking part in a number of events and lectures, and has stated that he plans on incorporating numerous aspects of his participation in Rio+20 into the courses he teaches at the BOKU.

Alliance of Sustainable Universities in Austria

In order to progress ESD at the national level, BOKU called on other Austrian universities to join together and form a national Alliance of Sustainable Universities in Austria. Currently, the Alliance includes nine Austrian universities, with plans to bring in additional Austrian institutions. At present, the Alliance is in the development phase: sharing best practices, brainstorming activities and initiatives for its first year, and working together to promote and advance sustainability in Austrian higher education – in the areas of operational ecology, teaching, research, public relations and societal responsibility – at all levels.

Five school students at BOKU in the framework of the Rio+20 internship program (additionally) of the Ministry for Science and Research

Five school students are spending the month of July at three different BOKU institutes learning about sustainability research. Madelaine Alber and Andreas Dünser are applying a model for sustainability criteria to hydroelectric dams in Austria. Jacqueline Keintzel is modelling local temperature records from tree rings in the Vienna and surrounding area. Agnes Forstinger and Jakob Zeilinger are engaged in a media analysis supporting a project which is investigating climate sceptics in Austria.