The American University in Cairo (AUC) has launched the newly established Research Institute for a Sustainable Environment (RISE), which serves as a multidisciplinary institute dedicated to promoting research in sustainable environments in Egypt, the Middle East and North Africa. “The institute represents a reaffirmation and strengthening of AUC’s commitment to sustainable environmental education and research in Egypt and the region,” said Richard Tutwiler, the founding director of RISE. Housed on the New Cairo campus, RISE has been given a mission to promote sustainability in a diversity of environments in Egypt and the region, rural and urban, desert and temperate, through applied research, education and training programs.
“One of the primary projects is the Living Learning Laboratory, which is a campus-based research model that engages students from different disciplines in various sustainability research projects. These include the maintenance of plants and vegetables on the University’s first green roof; the design of a solar roof for parking areas, as well as a solar-powered greenhouse; and the monitoring of water quality on campus,” said Tutwiler. Through these projects, students get a hands-on appreciation of sustainability in their everyday lives. Another major on-campus event is Sustainable Campus Days, which aims to raise awareness of environmentally friendly initiatives at the University.
RISE is carrying forward the legacy of the Desert Development Center (DDC), which has recently closed due to the expiration of a lease agreement with the government for its land in South Tahrir.
Tutwiler, who served as the DDC’s director since 2001, said RISE is building on the DDC’s accomplishments for more than 30 years in natural resource management, renewable energy and sustainable agriculture in desert areas.
With RISE being based directly on campus, there will be much better interaction and integration between sustainability research at RISE and AUC students, faculty and staff than in the past, when so much of what the DDC did was not easily accessible to the campus community.
RISE will also maintain a research station and outreach center for educational programs, technical training and community services at Sadat City. “We are also expanding the work of the DDC on projects where we have prolonged engagement with local communities, such as the Farafra oasis resource management initiative and the evaluation of water use and irrigation practices in Monofiya governorate.Moreover, environmental education programs will continue to be offered for school children of different ages.
Environmental issues are going to be the key to the survival of humanity in the future, Tutwiler argued, particularly in Egypt where water supply is limited because of the heavy reliance on the Nile River and where the impact of climate change is bound to be dramatic. With the DDC, the focus was on water and land management in a desert environment. In the 21st century, other environments are important too. So, in many ways, this transition to RISE could not have come at a better time. RISE is also important because it is interdisciplinary and integrates with AUC’s academic programs, making the University a more resilient institution in terms of its core mission, namely education and service.