Student-led Sustainable Development Journal Celebrates Year of Rapid Growth
Written by Sophia Ahmed and Amar Bhardwaj, co-editors in chief of Consilience: The Journal of Sustainable Development
Consilience is a cutting-edge sustainable development journal with global presence and scope, run by students at Columbia University. The journal seeks to publish at the frontier of sustainable development understanding and thought, with contributions from both within the university and across the world. We work to engage a broad audience of academics, practitioners, and the general public, and to elevate youth voices and new insights in sustainable development.
It was our absolute pleasure to lead Consilience for the 2019-2020 academic year. We have guided Consilience through a time of rapid growth and development toward realizing the journal’s full potential. We are excited to share some of our most important initiatives and advances from the past year.
We were thrilled to publish Issue XXII of our academic journal. Our team has produced an issue which expands our understanding of sustainable development, ultimately allowing readers to envision a better future for our planet and its people. The issue opens with a perspective on COVID-19 by Columbia professor Jeffrey Sachs. The research articles in the issue span six continents in scope, and address diverse facets of sustainable development. Authors critically evaluate traditional water structures in India; discuss the power of narratives in the lives of climate refugees in Alaska and the Maldives; and thoroughly analyze the relationship between a nation’s culture and its urban climate resilience, to describe a few.
We have started a new branch of the journal called Briefings, which publishes short-form articles with discourse on sustainable development produced by our student staff writers and editors. Briefings caters to a broader lay audience that may not engage with our long-form academic research articles. The Briefings page also provides a platform for expressing youth perspectives in this space from our student writers. The youth will bear the worst consequences of unsustainable practices today, and in many cases are already on the frontlines of fighting for a more sustainable and equitable society. Their voices are crucial to the sustainable development field as a whole. Our Briefings team has published dozens of insightful articles so far, with many more to look forward to in the near future.
In March, we teamed up with Columbia EcoReps to co-host the Youth Climate Summit, a one day conference for high school students and their teachers to learn about climate change on a personal level through plenary speakers and workshops that demonstrate actionable ways to engage in the climate movement. We had over 250 attendees from across the greater NYC area. The university reported on the summit here.
We established three important partnerships this year. First, we now cross-publish select Briefings articles with the Earth Institute’s State of the Planet blog. Second, we became an official partner with Covering Climate Now, an initiative committed to increasing media coverage of climate change. Lastly, we partnered with the United Nations International Conference on Sustainable Development to receive article submissions from the conference’s esteemed presenters.
The positive change we have created in the journal this year began with our investments in our organization’s membership itself. We have expanded our team from just a handful of students to over 40 members across our academic journal, Briefings, and managing board branches. We created a Sustainability Chat series at the beginning of each weekly meeting, where Consilience members or outside experts gave short talks to the group on topics they were passionate about. Through these and other initiatives, we have worked to create an organizational environment that is enriching, purposeful, and enjoyable for our staff. And it has paid off: Our talented and dedicated Consilience staff have been a driving force behind each of the advancements we have made this year.
As we look to the next school year, much of which will be digital, we are making plans to ensure that we have the same level of community as we did when we all piled into Hamilton Hall on Tuesday nights. We hope to be a welcoming force for new students, offering them a voice in the sustainability world. We must also make active steps to become better allies to Black and Indigenous communities. The sustainability community, including Consilience, must act against the racism and underrepresentation that exists silently, structurally, and explicitly in our field — complacency must no longer be the norm. If you are interested in being on Consilience for the upcoming school year, please send us an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
We hope to grow in new ways next year and continue the momentum that this year brought. Thank you to our Consilience family and our readers at Columbia and beyond for your support this past year. We can’t wait to see where the journal goes in years to come!