Sustainability Practicum reflection #1

Sherman (2008) makes the argument that the concept of sustainability complements areas of inquiry within numerous disciplines. Reflect on your views on how sustainability, as characterized by the elements we listed in class, is relevant across multiple disciplines at your college or university.

Provide your answer as a comment to this post. Remember – your comments are public.

12 Comments

  1. Finky says:

    In class discussions, we have left the concept of “sustainability” as somewhat of an amorphous one. Despite (or perhaps owing to) the synthesis of a host of different definitions and interpretations of this idea, we have been unable, as a group, to reach consensus regarding a neat definition of the term. Sustainability, it seems, is something that incorporates elements of many of the different proposed definitions that we considered, including the Bruntland Commission’s (1987) definition: “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”; the definition presented by Wackernagel and Rees (2006): living within the regenerative capacity of the biosphere; and John Ehrenfeld’s (2013) definition: “the possibility that humans and other life will flourish on the earth forever”.

    What we have been able to agree upon, however, is that sustainability is, as Sherman (2008) suggests, a “big idea,” and as such, is necessarily the “generative material of all academic disciplines”. That is, in order to fully understand sustainability, an interdisciplinary approach must be taken, as the elements that characterize this concept span beyond the realm of any one area of academic focus, as regularly defined in most university settings. To demonstrate this cross-subject relevancy, three criteria of sustainability, as identified by the group, will be considered; these three criteria have been chosen, however, simply to reflect the larger trend of the interdisciplinary nature of our developing understanding of sustainability.

    Firstly, the idea of sustainability being characterized by access to a reasonable standard of living for all is fundamentally tied to the field of economics. A “reasonable standard of living” is directly related to the workings of the current economic system within a given region, and of the economics of the global system. Understanding the factors that enable a given individual to achieve a lifestyle that, by some measure, has been deemed “minimally acceptable” necessitates an understanding of the fluctuating markets of commodities, housing, and transportation, in addition to the trend of inflation. These concepts fall squarely in the sphere of classical economics.

    Secondly, sustainability as tied to a notion of happiness and well-being readily relates to the field of psychology. In order to understand how to promote a way of life that results in the greatest possible (and sustained) happiness, both for humans and for other sentient forms of life, it is essential to consider what exactly happiness is: that is, what factors contribute to a sense of happiness. Psychology stresses the importance of perception to reality, and in some sense, there is an aspect of sustainability that stems from this logic. If happiness and well-being is key to sustainability, and if these concepts are subjective reactions to the state of the world, then psychology necessarily offers key insights to the idea of sustainability.

    Finally, notions of sustainability that are more closely tied to Wackernagel and Rees’ definition – that is, characterizing sustainability by some sort of metric – relies heavily on the field of mathematics. In order to determine whether we are living within the regenerative capacity of the biosphere, this capacity must be mathematically determined, which requires the synthesis of a host of numerical data. In the same way, our current usage of the planet’s resources must be tabulated. Any reported metrics, such as the nine planetary boundaries presented by Carl Folke (2013), are integrally tied to the mathematic processes that allowed for the collection, amalgamation, and interpretation of real-world data, and the reduction of this massively diverse data into a single number, or series thereof, that is readily understood by mainstream society.

    What is sustainability? We as a class – and I as an individual – are not entirely sure. But we were able to identify that sustainability is a concept that is universally applicable, and it can be seen that this holds true not only when considering different species or societies, but also different academic disciplines. Therefore, an interdisciplinary approach will be essential as we continue to hone in on the nuances of the idea of sustainability in our world.

  2. Kate Eiseman says:

    Sustainability as a big idea, understood as the sweet spot between the outer limits of environmental resilience and the inner limits of human need, over time and without distinction, challenges our human-centric approach to the disciplines of higher education. Sustainability is system-based and we, humans, are only one component of that system. If we isolate the study of sustainability and the environment to a single subset within the college, we surrender to sustainable thinking as a reaction (at best) to an existing understanding. By integrating sustainability across the disciplines, we incorporate the more-than-human into the initial conceptualization.
    Architecture, the study of the built environment, could concern itself with the strength and resiliency of the existing natural environment in addition to that of the structure proposed. While we often conceive of these structures as fixed or stagnant, sustainable thinking introduces the important (and inevitable) influence of change over time. The most progressive architects are beginning to design ‘living buildings’ that do change over time, adapting to their changing environments.
    The study of Economics may expand its measurements of growth to include the health of the natural world and all of its inhabitants. While some companies have begun to evaluate using a triple-bottom-line (an accounting framework that considers people and planet along with profit), we continue to measure international growth through GDP, a fundamentally limited tool.
    A final thought I have is with respect to access, inclusion, equity, and universal applicability, four of the characteristics of sustainability that we identified. Even within the strictly human domain, our disciplines do not always encourage our thinking about the well-being of the entire population. In fact, in the cases of architecture and economics, we often consider only a single individual’s needs. What if we were to evaluate each decision against the impacts on the population as a whole? How would we design a single-family home to best meet the needs of the entire population? Perhaps it would not be a single-family home at all.

  3. Alex Cort says:

    Just to give this post some context, in class we listed the following words as components or criteria of sustainability: biocapacity/limits, resiliency, values, equitability, well-being, intrinsic value of all life, flourishing, individual to group, inclusion (of all stakeholders), access, universal applicability, time/future, change, and trade offs. Keep in mind this is a rough list and is open to additions.

    Sustainability is a buzzword. We hear it in the news, printed on reams of paper, even on pints of ice cream. What we seemingly fail to recognize is that sustainability inherently spans many disciplines. Solutions will not come from one area of study, but instead be made of small parts from across a variety of different studies and is characterized by a number of different elements. As a student engaged in the liberal arts, I have seen first hand how different disciplines contribute to the many facets that comprise sustainability.
    A higher-level curriculum I can speak to is that of Middlebury College. With a diverse course offering specifically in environmental studies, an interdisciplinary approach is taken in studies. This framework acknowledges the idea that sustainability has many components ranging from biocapacity and limits to access and equability. Each component can be seen significantly better in some areas than others, thus each discipline contributes a small piece to a bigger picture. In Economics, study focuses on the markets and how our economy functions. This can easily be applied to the concept of sustainability through trade-offs, but it only tells one part of the story. Architecture gives us the idea of how we are living and interacting with the built environment. Through the study of architecture, we learn how to better build, which directly effects the present, but also the future. Sociology and gender studies bring to light questions of accessibility and equality. These are only a few areas of study that bring a piece of sustainability into their fields. Ask yourself, how many different disciplines can you tie with a component of sustainability. What ties all of these together is that we must somehow put all these disciplines into context.
    While my area of study may bias my opinion, one discipline that ties all of these together is Geography. Geographers study the space and our interactions within that space. This can be applied to fields ranging from biology to sociology. Our culture, conservation, even the future can all be viewed through a geographic lens. We may ask, why do specific area of study even exist then? I honestly believe that by being able to study issues without contextual space, we can ask the question of the bigger problem. A geographer then studies these issues within a more defined space. Moreover, the increasing use of geographic information systems (GIS) allows the study of anything that can be quantified and assigned a spatial location. This means that as we further explore the concept of sustainability, understanding the spaces we interact with will improve our understanding, leading to solutions or allow us to flourish as described by John Ehrenfeld in the text Flourising.

  4. Eliot Neal says:

    On our recent field trip to Mt. Independence, it became clear that hidden beneath a seemingly simple historical event were layers of different geological, biological, and cultural narratives that all influenced the direction history took. Such is the case with sustainability as well. Sustainability cannot simply be defined by scientists who have crunched the numbers and set certain metrics. There are countless narratives that together provide an idea for what sustainability means, and what must be accomplished for the human and non-human experience to continue and flourish. It is unrealistic to expect that students studying environmental sciences would be able to firmly grasp all aspects of sustainability in four short years. By incorporating sustainability into other disciplines in higher education, we provide for a sort of specialization that could streamline our understanding of sustainability and allow each of the narratives to be thoroughly examined.

    Additionally, overwhelming evidence indicates that we are not currently growing at a sustainable rate. What we are doing now is not working, and thus to achieve sustainability will require much innovation. The idea of innovation has become a staple of the liberal arts education, and entrepreneurship and creative thinking are greatly encouraged in this setting. If other disciplines were to apply the practices of innovation already taught in their classrooms to the issue of sustainability, I believe far more solutions would become apparent. In our workshops so far involving teaming and leadership, we have discovered that looking at an issue from multiple perspectives yields a far more effective and accurate understanding and solutions than would be generated solo. Higher education is a valuable team, and other disciplines could provide great insight into ways in which to make the planet more sustainable.

  5. Dana Kluchinski says:

    The idea of sustainability can feel abstract when unable to define boundaries, or when the boundaries are the earth itself. By understanding the world as a compilation of many stories and perspectives, we can parse out sustainability into a lifestyle that can be incorporated in any discipline. Sustainability can be seen as part of our role in the world. We tend to relate ourselves to the world through our passions, majors, or jobs so by attaching sustainability to those factors, we can achieve a more sustainable way of life.

    Carl Folke discusses keeping the biosphere in the “Holocene-like state” we exist in today. There are nine planetary boundaries with limits that we must not surpass, and the three boundaries that we have crossed, we must work to bring them back below the threshold. This is the quintessential idea most people have of sustainability, that the sciences will understand the limits of the earth and help us to maintain our biosphere. This is true. Biologists can understand the biological cycles, consequences of land use, and chemists can understand carbon emissions and pollutants at a chemical level, but this is only one part of the problem.

    Kate Raworth in “Defining a Safe and Just Space for Humanity” agrees that the safe place for humanity lies within the environmental ceiling and planetary boundaries, but as long as on the social level we are above the threshold of human rights. These social boundaries are deprivations in food, water, health care, income, education, energy, jobs, voice, gender equality, social equity, and resilience to shock. Philosophy helps to determine how these needs came to be, how they may evolve in the future, and why they are important. Staying between these two boundaries is possible, but will require change within other disciplines.

    As reminded in Flourishing, these problems cannot be solved only with growth, and especially not material growth to stay within our plants boundaries. We need structural change especially within economics. Most institutions teach economics as a direct science with ideals like maximizing profits and growth in always the answer. If economics returned to its human focus to examine the societal implications of our current economic system and where the flaws are, we might get a closer look at what we can be doing differently.

    Sustainability, when achieved, has no boundaries within this earth. If we continue to conceptually segregate different disciplines within themselves, we will never break the threshold of creativity, interdisciplinarity, and collaborative focus needed in order to become truly sustainable.

  6. Dylan McGarthwaite says:

    Sustainability. Sustainability? Sustainability! As I have very simplistically demonstrated, the term sustainability is often thrown around in different contexts and holds different meanings. The previous posts have effectively illustrated the general content of the class discussions and readings thus far, which have revolved around this big idea of sustainability. If you ask me, in understanding the term sustainability we can look at it and relate it the Vermont’s first snowfall of the season. As we all have been told, no two snowflakes are the same. However, each of the individual snowflakes retains many similarities and their accumulation plays an integral part in the function of the overall system or the snowstorm. Similarly, the first week of class has taught us that no two definitions of sustainability are the same. What is important though is that each of these individual descriptions can be combined and are necessary to Earth’s overall system. This brings me back to the opening line. Similar to the term sustainability, Vermont’s first snowfall in mid-October leaves individuals either saying; Snow. Snow? Or Snow! The moral of the story is that there will be variations in our definitions of sustainability but it is more about how we live our definition and how we understand/connect to the system as a whole.

    From that, we can acknowledge that sustainability is relevant across all the disciplines of a college. One of the elements of sustainability that we have discussed are tradeoffs. In a tradeoff one thing increases while another thing decreases. This scenario can be easily comprehended in the disciplines of economics and physics. Understanding the different aspects of a tradeoff in the economy or in the physical world helps us grasp the system as a whole. Additionally we have mentioned that values play a crucial role in sustainability. Two key disciplines that that assess human values are religion and psychology. In order to understand sustainability we have to emphasize what we value most. Our values play a huge role in connecting the environment with sustainability. Though it is difficult to formulate a concrete definition for sustainability, we understand that it is a part of a big idea and a large system.

  7. Joseph Interligi says:

    Though many areas of study may not believe sustainability is a complement to their teaching, there are definitely areas of cross over. Two areas that I see as having consistent connection with the concept of sustainability are Anthropology and History.
    Anthropology is one of the best cross disciplines to conceptualize the idea of sustainability. To understand the culture is to understand the inner working of a society. There is such a wide range of societies that live on this planet; anthropology allows us to receive different ideas about how sustainability should work. Using the anthropological discipline to gather more view points on what sustainability is we are more educated to make a decision that does not just benefit us but also provides for the needs of the others. We can look at how and why societies dealt with saltification of crop land or loss of water resources in their own specific ways. Each environmental problem we come across will allow us to study the society that dealt with that obstacle in regards to their societal make up. The key for anthropology is, of course, to understand other cultures but also to use that information to better understand your own.
    History is another subject to we could use to look at sustainability. Historians spend countless hours trolling over documents to make a compilation of events that have happened over time. By doing so they hope to show a trend or reason for why things have gone down certain paths. History, with the help of dedicated historians, has created its own section within itself strictly dedicated to environmental history. This is a perfect subject to look at the trends of sustainability and to understand how we, as humans, have gotten to the point we are at right now. By looking at the past, we can also see how others have looked at the word sustainability and choose to revitalize pieces of their definition or stop from going down an already travelled path. In the words of George Santayana, “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.”

  8. Jess Parker says:

    As a class, we have discussed the meaning of sustainability, a concept which permeates our mainstream culture but lacks grounding in a clear definition. We considered several varying definitions for sustainability, and came to the general understanding of sustainability as living within the Earth’s regenerative capacity while ensuring that humans and other life have the possibility to flourish into the future. This basic summary of sustainability is incomplete, as we also listed a variety of characteristics that we think are inherent in the meaning of sustainability, including resiliency, values, equity, well-being, intrinsic value of all life, universal applicability, access, and bio-capacity/limits. The point is that sustainability, as Sherman (2008) emphasizes, is a “pedagogical big idea” that demands inquiry and attention across disciplines and cannot be limited to a series of practices carried out by sustainability offices in U.S. higher education (188). If our society is going to reach sustainability, we must begin to critically think about how sustainability informs and relates to the study of a variety of disciplines.
    At Middlebury College, the Environmental Studies program encourages an interdisciplinary approach to the study of sustainability. Each student within the major must select an area of focus to complement the four core classes and two cognate courses. My focus, Geography, studies phenomenon across space and place. Geographers are interested in understanding where something occurs, why it occurs there, and what are the implications of that thing/process being there. As we seek to understand and counter the effects of climate change in the hopes of ensuring a sustainable future, a geographic lens can help us see spatial relationships and can unveil how our actions play out across space and impact people and environments across the globe.
    Another discipline that can deepen our knowledge of sustainability is Political Science. As we work toward achieving sustainability as a society, political action will play a fundamental role in instituting the major changes necessary to mitigate the disastrous effects of unchecked industrialization over the past two centuries. This discipline asks us to consider how different governmental institutions and processes work in concordance or in opposition to the goals of sustainability. Ultimately, if we are to reach a sustainable state, the concept of sustainability must begin to inform how we think in and across all disciplines.

  9. Charlotte Ahern says:

    One of our particularly interesting class discussions addressed the question of whether we should view Sustainability as a set of concrete actions or a big idea. Promoting individual actions, such recycling, have the danger of implying restrictions and limits. Rather, sustainability is not a set of actions, but every action: from purchasing compostable floss to changing sleeping patterns to mimic the sun. Sustainability is a way of thinking, fully explained through John Erhenfeld’s concept of ”flourishing”, similar to permaculture’s “regeneration”: a way of living full of growth and mutually beneficial to the earth.

    Sustainability can be applied to any discipline, for it is impossible to separate our human experience from living on this earth. In the context of the University, however, this is not the case. A typical student could potentially study a variety of disciplines, ranging from Chemistry to Business, never having truly focused on the big idea, the way of thinking, that is Sustainability. Thus, the role of education comes into play—what is the purpose? To perpetuate the system, or to change and improve the ways in which we interact with our environment through a common vision? Similar to promoting individual actions, separating Environmental Studies from other disciplines implies exclusivity; Sustainability should be the root of our educational system, the various disciplines of study as the branches.

    A unique and extremely helpful component of our program is that we are able to learn from leaders in the world of Sustainability. Middlebury School of the Environment’s Artist in Residence, Martin Bridge, uses various art forms to explore our relationship with the natural world. In his art, he highlights and celebrates the beauty of nature interwoven with his own spirituality. He invites people into a conversation, believing that people are more open to something when they ask questions, rather than being told what to believe. The possibilities for this form of activism are infinite. Personally, I have focused on the idea of Sustainability for more than a year in my studies and drawn very few conclusions. One conclusion I have made is perfectly exemplified through Martin Bridge’s art, that a change of heart towards Sustainability-as-flourishing occurs not from impending doom, but of the celebration of life.

  10. Marjeela Basij-Rasikh says:

    Sustainability is a key theme recurring throughout academic fields, big business corporations, NGOs, and other private or public sectors. The incorporation of sustainability is crucial for the well-being of humans, the environment, and other non-human lives. However, the dilemma is that not all of these respectable public and private sectors practice sustainability. Without actually understanding what it means to be a “sustainable” organization, they use the term “sustainability” for marketing purposes and to gain a positive reputation. Sustainability has become a mainstream phrase used by many people who may not necessarily have a holistic comprehension of sustainable practices. For instance, almost all of the oil companies claim that they are pursuing a sustainable approach to oil or gas extraction from nature. Shell Global has written on their website: “To help meet tomorrow’s energy needs, Shell is working responsibly today. Our approach to sustainability starts with running a safe, efficient, responsible and profitable business.” Shell is claiming that their commitment and policy reflects the integrated way they work across Shell in the areas of health, security, safety, the environment (HSSE) and social performance (SP). Are they really? If Shell and other oil/gas companies are working so responsibly to include sustainability in their production, then why is our environment polluted, why are there so many families whose children have been dealing with side effects of toxicity due to fracking next to their land, why there are so many sea animals suffering, why are so many lands dealing with degradation, and why do so many people have to leave their land (whose land were near a gas/oil extraction center) because the air they were breathing was polluted and because their water was not drinkable due to the toxic chemicals that were flowing on their river?

    Keystone pipeline is another great example of a company who thinks they are sustainable but the reality is different then what they claim. We perhaps might not have dealt with all the harmful impacts from the Keystone pipeline on humans, many other species, and the environment if only TransCanada and its contractor have thought of the following issues before the application of this proposal in 2010: environmental issues, political issues, safety issues, conflict of interest issues, indigenous issues, economic issues, public opinion, and geopolitical issues. The main key stakeholders in TransCanada who were working on the Keystone pipeline proposal did the opposite of what Sherman suggested, which is “complementing and connecting avenues of inquiry across the academic disciplines”. Sherman also mentions that “if sustainability is employed as a method of examining the relationship between environmental limits and human values, decisions, and actions that shape the future, it will transform not only what we do on campus [or any other workplace], but also how we think”. So for small or big, public or private, business industries or NGOs, it is crucial to cultivate a sense of individual and organizational responsibility towards other human beings, the environment, and other non-human beings, and to limit harmful practices through first understanding the place where they are working or aiming to bring progress, and also to work with various stakeholders closely to come up with an inclusive and feasible solution to the problem they have identified to resolve.

    Sherman writes “to be sustainable in economic terms [is] to use a resource without diminishing or permanently damaging its supply”. In addition the Brundtland definition of sustainability is as follows: “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. These two different definitions point to some important concepts of sustainability, however, it is important to keep in mind that our values and priorities are changing from one generation to the other. Therefore, it is useful to keep reminding ourselves about the boundaries of our behaviors and engagement with development. It is in our best interest to include the intergenerational prospective and the multi-stakeholders interests, and to be mindful of our goal for now and our vision for the future. Essentially, as individuals we ought to be mindful and cautious that “sustainability can be exploration of the interaction between environmental limits and the values undergirding human visions for the future”. The practices of sustainability should be then an evolving concept as the cultural values, the priorities, and the needs of our world changes from generations to another generations.

  11. Isaac Baker says:

    Whether we think of sustainability in purely quantifiable terms regarding natural resources or as an abstract concept defining the human-environment relationship, it is clear that there is excellent potential for its incorporation into traditional academic disciplines outside of the environmental studies umbrella. In this post I will provide two examples of this incorporation, but I want to stress that I believe that it is relevant across all academic disciplines, as my peers have shown in previous posts.

    English:
    As a lover of literature (and an ES Non-fiction major at Middlebury) I cannot help but start here in my thinking. Middlebury has already made significant strides towards incorporating environmental writing into the English track for traditional majors and multidisciplinary folks alike. Reading authors like Rachel Carson or Aldo Leopold offer obvious examples of unsustainable human interactions with nature in the non-fiction realm, while authors like Herman Melville provide some fictional insights as well. Class periods are short and it’s possible to skip past this theme in favor of something like the use of metaphor, or chapter organization, or authorial background, or racial tensions. Thus far, however, I have been fortunate to have professors who value discussions of the human-material-nature interactions as well — who for instance cannot teach a class on Moby Dick without also assigning ted talks on the historic decimation of global fisheries. Non-fiction and fiction both offer innumerable examples of humans living inside and outside of resource availability. They similarly feature characters interested in exploring the concept of sustainability who can play out thought experiments in invented worlds and relate lived experiments from our own world. Sustainability clearly has a place in the English discipline and need not crowd out other important themes of style, structure, and content already part of the regular discourse. The abiding flaw in Middlebury’s approach to topics of sustainability in literature is not level of airtime, but the focus on dead white males (which is obviously a problem throughout academia). The program would benefit enormously from a greater range of personal and geographic perspectives.

    Economics:
    If we summarize economics broadly as the study of human behavior and trends of production/consumption in our global exchange economy, then sustainability is a clear fit. In today’s world where our population’s resource consumption already well exceeds the earth’s carrying capacity (Wackernagel and Rees 2006), the scramble for the remaining minerals, hydrocarbons, and fresh water reserves will likely be the most significant contributor to global economic trends (perhaps after geopolitical relations). Whereas in English it is useful to discuss sustainability, in economics it is absolutely essential. With a carbon tax already built in to most large companies’ forecasts, sustainability — or human balance with environmental absorption and retention rates — is a crucial concept for economics. As sustainability experts seek to create and improve metrics for sustainability to meet economists at the table, it is all the more important for economists to flex the other way and consider the value of the unquantifiable symbioses and connections that make up our world as well.

    Sustainability has been historically measured around human proliferation. We have sustained ourselves, we have been fruitful, and we have multiplied beyond all comprehension. The problem we face today involves reconciling our previous negligence of natural limits. It is high time that our traditional disciplines in academia step up to the plate and help put together multi-faceted ethics and metrics for sustainable living. No discipline is too obscure or beyond the scope of the human-environment relationship.

  12. Eleanor Bennett says:

    One could spend weeks if not a lifetime attempting to create an all-encompassing, picture-perfect definition of “sustainability”—and in many respects this is one aim of our time here on the Middlebury campus this summer. It is all too easy, however, to get bogged down in the world of theoretical definitions—when this happens we forget that the original purpose of our efforts was to make a tangible difference in the world. As my fellow student Joseph Interligi says, “it’s not enough just to talk the talk, you must be willing to walk the walk as well.”

    To address the paradox of how to act sustainably without a single official definition, our class used select elements of proposed definitions as our reference point. This included the 1987 Brundtland Report definition:

    “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future generation to meet their needs.”

    From here our class established criteria we felt were crucial to the vision of “sustainability”—flourishing, resilience, equality, access, reasonable standard of living, well-being, current and future generations of humans and other living beings, and a shift in cultural values among many others. In light of these criteria, it is clear that the concept of sustainability—as Sherman (2008) argues and my peers have so eloquently demonstrated in their posts—is a “big idea” and complements areas of inquiry within numerous disciplines. Two such disciplines at Middlebury College that have not yet been discussed here include philosophy and photography.

    Philosophy—
    In its broadest sense, the study of philosophy critically and rationally examines the underlying basis of the most basic human beliefs, concepts and attitudes that different individuals and groups often take for granted. One example of a philosophical inquiry offered at Middlebury College is the philosophy of human and animal rights. Courses in this topic challenge us to critically analyze the rational arguments behind widely held views including “all humans have a right to basic food, shelter, and health” and “animals have a right to life.” This is incredibly relevant to sustainability because inherent in any definition are assumptions about “the inalienable rights” of current and future generations as well as the natural world. Thus, philosophy proves to be a useful tool in providing a basis to rationally support these widely taken for granted views.

    Photography—
    Since the invention of photography in 1839, photographers have attempted to capture meaning in the natural world. At Middlebury College, we offer courses including, “Environmental Photography,” which focus on the ways in which photographers, as artists and journalists, have shaped societal views of local and global environments. This relates directly to the concept of sustainability because the way we perceive the natural environment and human nature interactions is intimately tied to our decisions of how to live our lives within the regenerative capacity of the earth. Since the 19th century photographers have used their medium as a tool for environmental activism and to bring awareness about current environmental issues pertinent to sustainability including climate change and rapid loss of biodiversity.

    As my peers and I have markedly demonstrated, there are few limits—if any—to the relevance of sustainability across the diversity of disciplines offered at our various colleges and universities. Furthermore, as we embark on the “rest of our lives” and face the challenge of trying to make sustainability a reality for ourselves and for our planet, we will do well to remember that creative solutions and lifestyles can only be reached through holistic thinking across multiple disciplines.

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