x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Sustainability thinkfest takes shape

SustainabilityCamp is first conference of its kind to gather activists, university students and other grassroots organisers.

DUBAI // A small but diverse group of online activists, university students, artists and bankers is gathering at Dubai Knowledge Village today to discuss sustainability.

SustainabilityCamp organisers are expecting about 70 participants, and hope they can come up with solutions through open discussions that will incorporate the myriad viewpoints of the attendees.

The key to achieving this goal, said Kedar Iyer, one of the organisers, is to create "an un-conference" - an event created by the participants themselves.

"Typically in a conference you will have the agenda decided first," said Mr Iyer, who is a marketing and product developing specialist.

"This means that several people decide on the topics and invite speakers, and most of the people attending are listeners."

SustainabilityCamp invited participants to list their key concerns through an online survey. Common areas of concern - such as waste management and education - began to emerge in about the first 40 replies.

Even though the two might not seem connected, there is a link, because if more people knew about the damage of littering or the benefits of recycling, the country's waste would likely be better managed.

"One is the cause and one is the effect," Mr Iyer said.

The organisers want to attract a diverse audience so that the connections between issues that are not so obvious can be highlighted, he said.

For example, while the idea of sustainability is allied to environmental preservation, it also relates to the financial stability of businesses and communities, as well as the health of individuals living in a community.

One of the sessions will be hosted by the local writer and podcast host Abdulla al Suwaidi, who specialises in problems related to diabetes and obesity.

"I do not want to preach to people," said the 20-year-old accounting student. "I will just pose the questions and we will debate and discuss them."