AUNE’s Jim Gruber: On serving as a Delegate to the UNEA Assembly, the importance of communicating science to policymakers, and his forthcoming book
This past March, long-time Environmental Studies Faculty and former Department Chair, Jim Gruber, served as a National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE) Delegate to the fourth United Nations Environmental Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya. Other delegates included the Ministers of the Environment from one-hundred and seventy countries, other government representatives, and civic participants from business and academic sectors. UNEA is recognized as the world’s most important, highest level, international decision-making body on the environment.
“A key goal of the science delegates was to inform the international environmental decision-makers on the importance of integrating scientific knowledge into global environmental governance,” Gruber wrote in a reflection piece on the event. “We were also able to gain unique insights into UN processes and were able to explore opportunities to identify and engage in new partnerships and collaborations.” For Gruber, the assembly provided an opportunity to develop deeper working relationships with other NCSE senior scientists and explore potential international partnerships— such as with the Climate Adaptation Center at the University of Nairobi.
The reported outcomes of the assembly included twenty-three environmental resolutions, a Ministerial Declaration, and three decisions addressing emerging global environmental issues. Amidst the areas of focus for the assembly, which included resource efficiency (chemical and waste), ecosystems and biodiversity management and protections, and environmental governance; it became clear that a global priority lies in eliminating single-use plastics worldwide.
Meetings with global environmental policy leaders and with the US State Department delegation helped Gruber recognize “the critical importance and timeliness of the work of Antioch’s Environmental Studies Department. This includes not only educating the next generation of environmental scientists and leaders, as well as developing knowledge but also actively engaging with policymakers to integrate scientific knowledge into national and global environmental policies and governance.”
What made Gruber a good choice as a delegate to the UNEA? He has been focused on the importance of communicating science to policymakers for decades and has given workshops on the subject to NCSE during their summer meetings. “My area of focus for many years has been on developing public policy through broad citizen and stakeholder engagement processes,” he said. When NCSE solicited interest from members about representing the organization at the assembly, Gruber expressed interest and was invited to attend. He has been involved with NCSE and their affiliated Council of Environmental Deans and Directors for many years.
Gruber has a book coming out next spring with New Society Publishers, Building Community: Twelve Principles for a Healthy Future. It explores in depth the need for communication between citizens, scientists, and policymakers. It also discusses the importance of looking to successful grassroots efforts to increase sustainability in local communities, with the hope that these communities and others like them could help to promote specific critical actions to address climate change and our global environmental crisis.
The Introduction reads, “The contributors to this book believe that strong local communities are the foundation, the tap roots, of a healthy participatory and resilient society. (…) National leaders and global corporations are failing to address this growing crisis. However, throughout the US and many other nations, local communities are finding innovative ways to thrive while protecting natural resources, enhancing the livelihood of community members and growing social vitality.”
First image: Plenary Meeting on March 14th. Over 4,500 attended the UNEA4.
Second image: Delegates of NCSE (L. to R.) Dr. Alan Gertler, Dr. Veera Mitzner, Dr. Esther Obonyo, and Dr. Jim Gruber.