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DCU and Sustainability

This week seems to have been a big week for DCU and sustainability. One of my supervisors was part of this initiative and so people from our lab got roped in to attending a couple of meeting organised. Yesterday was a lunchtime talk organised by the Biological Research Society at DCU and the Institute of Biology in Ireland. The talk was given by Professor Roland Clift and it was on ‘Bioenergy – and why biofuels for transport are a nonsense’. Professor Clift is at the top of the pyramid in the area of environmental science and sustainability. I really enjoyed listening to him and getting an idea of how things work, especially in relation to policy making.

It was especially enlightening to see the openness with which he gave the presentation, and particularly relieved to see that even in the higher echelons of science and even more so in policy making, pragmatism is one of the main considerations. You do not necessarily do what is the best out there (and very often you would not even know what is the best), but you take a decision based on practical factors, some of which are not wholly ‘scientifically’ based. For example, why a particular year was chosen by himself and the rest of the team preparing a policy document in relation to a particular target, where one of the reasons was that it is not too close that people in government say it is not possible and therefore not do anything about it, yet not too far away that people can afford to sweep it under the carpet.

I could link his train of thought very well with some decisions I have had to make as part of my PhD, where sometimes selection was based on practical rather than a wholly ‘scientific’ basis, such as the selection of analytes for my project…it would have been nice to be able to analyse for everything (this could run into the hundreds), but it is simply not possible, and the analytes finally selected were based on a number of criteria, which include financial considerations and time considerations rather than simply ‘scientific’ considerations.

Then today, a one day forum was held on Sustainability at DCU. I could not attend the whole day, since I was getting some other training related to my PhD, but I really enjoyed the parts I could attend. I missed out most of the morning session, where different members of the panel presented what is currently being done at DCU in achieving a green campus and future initiatives to reducing the University’s environment impact and making the campus more sustainable. I was present for part of the presentation by Dr Yvonne Ryan from An Taisce, regarding the Green Campus initiative. I had previously attended a seminar by An Taisce, when I had just moved to Ireland, where I had seen their enthusiasm in the area of environmental awareness and initiatives. This was followed by a presentation by Maggie Fagan, a student at Colaiste Dhulaig, who was part of the ‘green committee’ at the college for further education for the past 3 years, during which time they have maintained their green campus status. Maggie talked about the initiatives they have taken and the particular considerations of importance.

After these talks, a DCU campus environmental audit was carried out. However I had to be back in training, and therefore missed out on that, though I was back for the reporting back by the different groups. One of the suggestions which was of great interest to me was the introduction of a Dublin Bike stand at DCU for students to use. This would be really handy, and I would definitely use it to go to the city centre or so, if it becomes available. I have been toying with the idea of buying a bike, and this would be a good alternative.

In the afternoon session, principal investigators from the different DCU schools (including my supervisor) gave a short presentation on the research in the environmental and sustainability sector being carried out within their groups, giving a better idea of what is happening on campus. I had known what some of the other groups are doing, particularly from the Chemistry and Biotechnology schools. However I had no clue about the research being carried out in the school of engineering.

Overall, successful meetings, and I look forward to seeing what comes of these couple of days.

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