Aura Silva ’18Aura Silva ’18

Aura Silva ’18 has watched sustainable development talks at the United Nations with a keen eye since she attended a conference in New York last spring. It was there, at the U.N. Sustainable Development Intergovernmental Negotiations, that she realized that the framework being discussed was really not the best nor most realistic option.

“Economy is not endless. It is contained by biophysical limits.” - Aura Silva ’18. 

The goals being set out by the negotiations “represent a homogenizing, and arguably even hegemonic, version of sustainable development that inadequately reflects the complexity and multifaceted nature of humanity and the world,” Silva said. 

Silva had other ideas in mind, and, during spring term, with the guidance of economics professor Davis Taylor, she created an independent study in which she focused on economic readings and refined her thinking.

This weekend, Silva’s work on sustainable economics is hitting a high point, as she presents a paper proposing a new developmental framework at the 2015 Canada and United States Societies for Ecological Economics (CANUSSEE) conference in Vancouver, Canada.

During the CANUSSEE, Silva will be giving a 20-minute presentation on a potential sustainable development framework outside the United Nations umbrella. She will argue, she said, “that space must be created in sustainable development goals for differences in context, and that can only be achieved through the inclusion of less formulaic, more local, nuanced, and organic processes - based on holistic and non-prescriptive forms of community engagement and participation.” 

Silva said that her work splits from mainstream thinking on sustainable development and presents a more realistic way of looking at the issue.

“[In my paper], I am breaking with the mainstream of development as framed by the U.N.,” she said, “Economy is not endless. It is contained by biophysical limits.”

The CANNUSEE conference aims to promote dialogue that transcends disciplines and geographic boundaries. This dialogue is meant to engage academics, policy-makers, practitioners and activists in sharing ideas and discussing practical solutions to achieve a just and sustainable economy.

Speakers at the event include well-known environmentalist David Suzuki and ecological economist Peter Victor. It is being held at the University of British Columbia.

   Aura Silva speaks at the United Nations: