Each month, an individual at a different ACU member institution is invited to write the introduction for this newsletter, providing an opportunity to highlight perspectives. This month, Professor Sally Wheeler, Pro-Vice Chancellor of Australian National University (ANU), writes for us about resilience in a changing world.
The start of 2020 in Australia was heralded by extreme bushfires. This was followed by a hailstorm so severe that it inflicted millions of dollars worth of damage to our Canberra campus. Miraculously no one was hurt. Repairs continue and many buildings are still unable to be used.
Resilience is a word we use and hear a lot in the context of these climate change related disasters, and other threats such as COVID-19. Breaking the concept down might help us align research and teaching with action. Framing resilience to include elements of knowledge, motivation, capacity, and opportunity sets an agenda for universities globally.
Our capacity to respond to global challenges begins with knowledge. We have a role in creating, building, communicating, and respecting knowledge. Universities can help advance informed, ethical action by diagnosing issues and identifying opportunities, outlining benefits and trade-offs, understanding the psychological, social, economic, and political aspects, and connecting with people’s emotions via communication and the arts.
Alongside developing information and technology, universities also have roles in developing the human and institutional capacity to take effective strategic action. Through an understanding of policy, political, economic, and other dynamics, universities can not only help our partners grab opportunities for change but also create them.
At ANU we have a cross-university institute – the Climate Change Institute (CCI) – that convenes, coordinates, and facilitates inter-disciplinary responses to climate events, food security, health, and others. The CCI engages with governments at all levels across Australia and globally (via the IPCC), as well as with community groups and industry, bringing the knowledge and expertise of these partners into academic research.
ANU also has an internal Below Zero initiative which aims to turn the university from being a significant net emitter of greenhouse gases to a net sink. The CCI is leading this complex, cross-ANU activity, working with partner universities and industry from across the globe to enhance cross-institutional learning.
By recognising the multiple ways in which universities are working to enhance societies capacity to deal with change, we can see how integral we are to a brighter future for all.
Professor Sally Wheeler,
Australian National University
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