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Community engagement keynote speaker focuses on human-first strategy to sustainability

Former sustainability adviser to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Ibrahim Abdul-Matin, spoke at the annual community engagement conference in the Ohio Union. | Photo Credit: Akayla Gardner

Environmental policy expert Ibrahim Abdul-Matin spoke to faculty, staff and Ohio State community partners at the annual community engagement conference entitled “Partnering for a Resilient and Sustainable Future” on Wednesday.

Abdul-Matin is an integral player in sustainability efforts, especially in New York City, as the former sustainability advisor to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and director of community affairs for the New York Department of Environmental Protection.

In his presentation, Abdul-Matin approached solutions to sustainability through building relationships between institutions and the surrounding community.

He said using the words “sustainability” and “environmentalism” can generalize the specific problems Americans face today.

“I feel like human beings have the ability to make good decisions if we have a level playing field. If we all have clean water, if all have food to eat, if we have a safe place to sleep at night, if we all feel like loved and cared for, I think we are going to generally do the right thing,” Abdul-Matin said to The Lantern after his presentation. “Just create the conditions for people to have their own beautiful moment.”

Abdul-Matin used examples from his childhood, the Islamic faith, the Bloomberg administration and various projects from around the world to illustrate successful collaboration among diverse people.

Stephen Myers, associate vice provost for outreach and engagement, spoke after Abdul-Matin gave his presentation, saying the theme of resilience and sustainability was chosen for the two-day conference because it is a major priority for the university.

“The way we now frame engagement is around meaningful partnerships, we believe that’s really what we’re after,” Myers said.

Myers said resilience and sustainability was chosen as the theme of the two-day conference because it is a major priority for the university.

University President Michael Drake announced Wednesday when he spoke at the conference that the university will open a Sustainability Institute.

“Ohio State actually has to do things in a completely sustainable, amazing way for the future,” Abdul-Matin said. “It’s the responsibility, it’s an expectation … because you are such an important institution and because you are so large, you have to do it.”

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