The SDG Connection: Devens Forward and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

The Devens Forward Climate Action and Resilience Plan is aligned with the United Nation’s seventeen Sustainable Development Goals. These goals guide global climate work and are related to the actions that Devens is pursuing to make our community strong. This blog introduces the blog series that is focused on the connection between Devens Forward and the Sustainable Development Goals.

What Connects Devens Forward to Global Sustainability?

The Devens Forward Climate Action and Resilience Plan is grounded in sustainability, both locally and globally.  Devens’ commitment to Sustainable Development was derived from the 1994 Reuse Plan. The first goal of the Reuse Plan states: “Development must be sustainable, which means achieving a balance of economic, social, and environmental needs, while maintaining and enhancing the natural resource base.” Since 1996, when Devens was transferred from the Department of Defense to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Devens Enterprise Commission and MassDevelopment have worked to advance this goal.  Devens defines sustainable development as balancing economic development, environmental protection and social equity.  We have used the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals as a means of identifying gaps in our local sustainability efforts.

Why Should Residents Care?

Devens residents and workers should care about our local sustainable development initiatives! They are not just about clean energy and preserving natural resources; they're also about addressing inequality, eliminating hunger, and ensuring the well-being of all community members. Adapted from Devens Forward Plan language: While it is our responsibility to address climate change, it is also our duty to ensure that our community has a vibrant economy that supports a high standard of living for those who live, work, learn, and play in Devens. 

Image of green plants in a rectangular raised garden bed
At their raised bed garden in Devens, YMC America employees support social equity by growing food for community organization Growing Places.

Devens’ community members’ actions towards energy efficiency, native gardens, creating affordable housing, and healthy food access all work towards these high-level sustainable development goals. YMC America in Devens is a great example.  They have a raised bed gardening site on their Charlestown Road facility in Devens where their employees grow food for Growing Places, a community group supporting social equity in the north central Massachusetts region.

The SDG Connection

What are the SDGs?

The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a pathway to measure our progress toward achieving sustainability for our planet and help shape the global response to climate change. They provide aspirational as well as quantifiable goals by which nation states can measure their progress towards global sustainable development for the third rock from the sun. The 17 SDGs adopted by the United Nations in 2015 are “an urgent call for action by all countries – developed and developing - in a global partnership. They recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.”

Why Connect the SDGs to the Devens Plan?

E.F. Schumacher wrote “Think Globally, Act Locally,” and that is what our application of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals to our Devens Forward Climate Action and Resilience Plan does. In 1993, when Fort Devens was going through its base closure process, the Boston Society of Architects (BSA), through the efforts of the late DEC Commissioner Hermann Field, FAIA, FAICP, conducted a charrette with the underlying communities of Devens to develop a shared vision for its redevelopment. From this effort, sustainable development emerged as the organizing theme for the base reuse effort, as incorporated into its Reuse or master Plan of Redevelopment, its Devens By-Laws, and the DEC’s Rules and Regulations.  This truly exemplifies the principle of “think globally, act locally” by incorporating a global vision of sustainability for our piece of this precious planet. 

How Are We Making the Connection?

The Devens Forward Plan incorporates the SDGs, using the 17 goals to conduct a gap analysis to identify areas where we need more work.  We have been all about sustainability since the BSA Charrette.  In fact, each firm that locates at Devens is asked how they will conform to our sustainable development vision. The Devens Reuse Plan established Sustainable Development as our organizing vision.  The Devens By-laws established the zoning which implements that vision, and the DEC’s Rules and Regulations take it a step further, requiring the use of native plant species and integrated pest management, for example.  The Devens Forward Climate Action and Resilience plan addresses in detail how Devens residents and businesses can implement measures to increase the overall sustainability of our four square miles of Massachusetts, while specifically focusing on measures which reduce and adapt to the impacts of climate change.  Devens Forward has incorporated the SDGs and they are a foundational building block for the actions of the Plan that will drive climate work for decades to come.

What's Next?

This is the first in a series of monthly blogs in which we will go into more detail on how we are working to create a greener, cleaner example of how industry, social equity, and the environment are compatible and achievable goals. These blog posts will cover the Plan elements and their relation to the SDGs, how climate action in Devens follows these principles, and ways that you can make a difference in moving Devens forward. 

I encourage you to stay tuned for blogs each month, to read the Plan if you want more information, and check out the actions that will help guide Devens forward to a sustainable, vibrant future.