In 2015, the United Nations announced 17 Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, as a call to action for countries and governments to unite in ending poverty, protecting the planet and ensuring prosperity for all by the year 2030. Universities, companies, other organizations and individuals all have a role to play.
Nearly every undertaking at FIU — from educating students across a wide, diverse swath and operating sustainably to conducting high-level research — contributes to the global good. FIU’s efforts, through hundreds of on-the-ground projects and thousands of published studies, a large portion of them led by the College of Arts, Sciences & Education, have been recognized as significant in many areas, and many of the SDGs are closely linked to one another.
In addition to SDG4, Quality Education, which speaks to the university’s core mission, several others have been addressed with special focus and great success. Named a university of distinction in environmental resilience, FIU has, in particular, advanced the cause of sustainability and found ways to combat climate change. A sampling of these and other successes are described here.
GOOD HEALTH AND WELL-BEING
Teams in the Robert Stempel School of Public Health & Social Work are tackling the human consequences associated with environmental contaminants. The Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine immerses students in the lives of the underserved through the Green Family Foundation NeighborhoodHELP program, which has aspiring physicians providing assistance and connecting families with continuing services. The Biomolecular Sciences Institute is investigating solutions to defeating antibiotic-resistant bacteria and mosquito-borne illnesses.
CLEAN WATER AND SANITATION
FIU researchers have spent more than three decades guiding management, restoration and protection of water resources in and around the Everglades, one of the largest environmental restoration projects on the planet. They provide the science behind federal water quality standards to protect drinking water and have conducted toxicity studies to determine levels of human-made “forever” chemicals polluting groundwater and drinking water.
SUSTAINABLE CITIES AND COMMUNITIES
FIU protects the cultural as well as the physical foundations that define the life of urban centers, twin priorities of SDG 11. Three comprehensive museums, two of them located in Miami Beach, elevate the arts and celebrate diverse heritage while libraries on two campuses serve as important repositories of local and regional collections of specialized materials and artifacts. Faculty from the College of Communication, Architecture + the Arts, College of Engineering and Computing and College of Arts, Sciences & Education together form the Innovation for Sustainable Built Environments research group.
FIU has pledged to accelerate the transition to low-carbon energy while enhancing sustainable and resilient practices as part of its operation. The university has formally committed to support the international climate agreement in the United Nations COP21 climate negotiations in Paris. Through innovations coming out of the Extreme Events Institute and the Institute of Environment, FIU is pioneering new ways to withstand ever-stronger storms, hold back the rising seas and combat saltwater intrusion.
LIFE BELOW WATER
A team of international researchers led by FIU scientists in 2022 released findings from the first comprehensive survey of the world’s reef shark and ray populations. The information has been amassed in a central database available to all research scientists throughout the world as part of efforts to protect habits and identify dwindling species. In 2020, FIU responded to the declining health of South Florida’s Biscayne Bay. An unprecedented fish die-off brought together university researchers and more than a dozen collaborating organizations to respond to the emergency, which included aerating the water to ensure a successful return to former oxygen levels. Ongoing projects examine the health of the world’s coral reefs, seagrasses and mangroves.
LIFE ON LAND
By drawing inspiration from a location with a legacy of scientific exploration and discovery, FIU continues to be Florida’s leader in exploration, conservation and management of tropical plants while focusing on fighting invasive species and preserving tree canopy. Other work addresses issues of biodiversity loss and its effects on food security and the trafficking and conservation of wildlife abroad.