Elaine Ho, PhD student in Waterloo’s School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability, has always had an affinity for water. As a child, Elaine was fascinated at the world beneath the surface that is so different from our own. She sometimes felt as though the planet could be broken into two – the terrestrial world and the aquatic world. The more she learned about issues around water, the more concerned she grew over its diminishing health and our growing impact on a system that supports much of what we depend on.
On May 7, Elaine will be one of four student delegates representing the University of Waterloo during the launch of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network Canada. She will be representing Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) – clean water and sanitation – in addition to leading the rapporteur team during the second day of the launch.
“SDG 6 is important to me because it’s foundational to all aspects of our life, and to the other SDGs,” said Elaine. “Three of four jobs on the planet rely on functioning water systems (fresh or marine), as do 100% of its plants, animals and people. We cannot address gender equality and global health without first addressing access to safe drinking water and context-appropriate sanitation.”
Elaine has been involved in local sustainable development activities for many years. She was a co-founder of a renewable energy non-profit organization in Toronto that inspired and created the model for the Solar Schools Program, and she contributed climate change materials for a national environmental education organization (GreenLearning Canada).
Last year, Elaine enrolled in Waterloo’s Collaborative Water Program where she had the opportunity to work with, and learn from, students from other disciplines while tackling complex water challenges.
“I cannot stress enough how important this program is and I often take pride in letting others (everywhere) know about it,” said Elaine. “Being a student in the Collaborative Water Program, working with students from many other disciplines, has challenged many of my perspectives and has been a big contributor to my growth as an individual, professional and academic.”
Elaine is currently studying cumulative effects monitoring in the lower Grand River and nearshore Lake Erie, which engages key stakeholders to co-create a stronger, more robust monitoring framework for the area surrounding the mouth of the Grand River. She hopes the outcomes of her research will strengthen water monitoring, and will provide a model for bringing together diverse water sector actors (government, civil society, academia, and practitioners) to create effective and productive working relationships that will contribute to improved water and land management.
About the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network
The United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) was developed in 2012 under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General. Its purpose is to mobilize global expertise, accelerate joint learning and promote integrated approaches to addressing the social, economic and environmental challenges involved in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Climate Agreement.
Last year, the University of Waterloo’s Faculty of Environment was selected as the host of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network Canada, which officially launches May 7-8, starting with a free public lecture delivered by Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Special Advisor to United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on the Sustainable Development Goals.