Himanshu Grover, assistant professor of urban and regional planning, tells us about his work in, and thoughts on sustainability.
Q: What are you doing to help UB become more sustainable?
My teaching focuses on introducing students (both graduate and undergraduate students) to various facets of “sustainability”. Course work in each of my courses is designed to get students to think about how they can incorporate principles of sustainable living in their daily tasks, and in professional practice. It is my hope that the students will apply these skills, and will contribute to sustainability initiatives in their community.
Q: What kinds of sustainability related research/projects do you pursue at UB?
Within the overarching umbrella of sustainability, my research focuses on community response to the global challenge of climate change. I have been analyzing various means to create “GLOCAL” (Global Challenge Local Response) solutions for adapting to climate change. In a recent project, my survey of local decision makers in Buffalo-Niagara region revealed that most decision makers do not consider climate change a significant problem. This is concerning because if we do not proactively plan, the costs of adaptation will increase. In an ongoing project, I am working with the UB Regional Institute on a HUD Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant to develop a participatory web-mapping application that will provide demographic, economic, social, and climate change data maps to the public and decision makers. This website will also include basic tools to analyze and visualize future impacts under various development scenarios in this region. In another National Science Foundation (NSF) sponsored project, I am working with collaborators from another university, to analyze how local policies and plans can contribute towards building community resilience to natural disasters along the hurricane coast.
Q: How are students involved in your sustainability work?
Students are involved as research assistants, part-time student workers, and as volunteers. A number of these students use the datasets collected in these projects in their own research papers and publications. As part of the Great Lakes Futures Project, I am mentoring two students, one from UB and another from a Canadian university in identifying demographic and societal drivers of future changes in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin for the next 50 years. I also work with graduate students on specific research projects and help them develop publishable manuscripts in reputed journals.
Q: What is the one thing you would like people to know that you do in your personal life to further sustainability?
To be frank, I have not been able to do as much as I would like to do. Since I have moved to Buffalo, I have started using public transportation more often. Private vehicles are a major source of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. Each one of us can make a significant difference if we cut down our private vehicle miles. I firmly believe in the cumulative power of individual actions. Through education, information, outreach and engagement we can motivate colleagues, friends and others to take sustainability seriously. Last month, with another colleague in the department, we have launched a web blog that provides a platform for everyone to post, comment and discuss a number of issues related to sustainability.
Q: How could UB improve its sustainability efforts?
UB has been actively pursuing a number of sustainability projects and activities on-campus and in the community. I think through increased outreach and knowledge sharing the impact of these initiatives can be increased many times. I think we need to support faculty and students to further engage the UB community but beyond as ‘Sustainability Ambassadors’. Some specific suggestions include adding more zip cars on campus; free NFTA bus passes for students and faculty; better water fountains to dissuade use of bottled water; motion sensor controlled lights; and promote online meetings/conferences.