Sustainability

Are Coastal Defenses Enough?

Connor Pisano (MSoE ’15) recently posted on the social media platform Odyssey an essay about planning for the future of New York City in the face of climate change.  He begins the essay like this:

“As New York City’s coastline communities continue to rebuild four years after being decimated by the powerful storm surge of Hurricane Sandy, the biggest question that remains is: what have we learned? The answer, in short, is: not enough.

Regardless of where one falls on the climate change acceptance/denial spectrum, the events of the Superstorm served as a wake-up call, especially to those who live on the city’s waterfront. Whether you were a wealthy, white business magnate living in lower Manhattan or a poor, black family living in a Red Hook housing project, you were made very aware that the city is not as resilient in the face of extreme weather events as we would like to think. We’ve begun to learn, and accept, that we’re vulnerable.

But where we fall short is in identifying what our true vulnerabilities are.”

Check out the rest of the essay to see the kind of thinking that emerges from the Middlebury School of the Environment!

Sustainability Practicum (2016) Prompt #4

In a later chapter in his book Flourishing, John Ehrenfeld says that the question of whether one is optimistic or pessimistic about the future is the wrong question. The right question about the future, he says, is, “Are you hopeful?” Why might that be an important question to ask if you are thinking about engaging with issues of sustainability as a young adult?

And what is your personal response to that question. Are you hopeful? If so, why? From what source or feeling do you manufacture your hope? And if not, what motivates you to pursue an educational path that includes an emphasis on a study of the environment even though you are not hopeful for the future?

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

Sustainability Practicum (2016) Prompt #3

We began the class three weeks ago with a broad macro-scale perspective on sustainability, and quickly worked toward a micro-scale perspective, focusing on methods directed at small, targeted goals that address specific vulnerabilities for a specific system. Reflect on the pros and cons of these two perspectives. What do we gain and what do we lose by adopting one or the other of these perspectives? What do you think are some solutions or strategies for addressing issues of sustainability that would allow us to retain all of the benefits without suffering from the negative consequences.

 

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

Sustainability Practicum (2016) Prompt #2

SP3We have progressed in this course from discussing sustainability in broad conceptual terms to working on specific planning skills, in particular systems mapping and scenario planning. Reflect – using at least one specific example from the readings, your experience, or general knowledge – on your views of how such planning skills can contribute – or not – to developing practical strategies to promote sustainability.

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

Sustainability Practicum (2016) Prompt #1

In class on Monday, we began discussion of sustainability by considering the definition of sustainable development offered by the Brundtland Commission (1987) and how it might be revised to take into account its limitations as noted by such authors as Wackernagel and Rees, Ehrenfeld, and Engelman. We went from this …

“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” (Brundtland et al. 1987)

… to this …

“Sustainability means living within the Earth’s biocapacity to allow people and nature to flourish while assuring the ability of all future life to flourish.” (MSoE 2016)

There was general agreement that this definition also had limitations, either in interpretability, emphasis, or completeness … as well as its fundamental syntax.

For your first writing prompt, I would like you to critique (in both positive and negative ways) the definition we created. If you believe it needs improvement, then I would like you to offer and justify a revision for consideration by the class. If you believe it is perfect as it is written, then I would like you to justify that position.

Add your critiques, revisions, and justifications as comments to this post. And remember, your posts can be seen by anyone on the Internet. Please put your best face forward in your writing.

Sustainability Practicum Reflection #4

John Ehrenfeld says that the question of whether one is optimistic or pessimistic about the future is the wrong question. The right question is, “Are you hopeful?” Well, are you? If so, why? From what source or feeling do you manufacture your hope? And if not, what motivates you to pursue an educational path that includes an emphasis on a study of the environment even though you are not hopeful for the future?

 

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

Sustainability Practicum Reflection #3

We began the class three weeks ago with a broad macro-scale perspective on sustainability, and quickly worked toward a micro-scale perspective, focusing on methods directed at small, targeted goals that address specific vulnerabilities for a specific system. Reflect on the pros and cons of these two perspectives. What do we gain and what do we lose by adopting one or the other of these perspectives? What do you think are some solutions or strategies for addressing issues of sustainability that would allow us to retain all of the benefits without suffering from the negative consequences.

 

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

Sustainability Practicum Reflection #2

We have progressed in this course from discussing sustainability in broad conceptual terms to working on specific planning skills, such as systems mapping, human-centered design, and scenario planning. Reflect – using at least one specific example from the readings, your experience, or general knowledge – on your views of how such planning skills can contribute – or not – to developing practical strategies to promote sustainability.

 

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

Sustainability Practicum Reflection #1

In the course of our discussions, we have encountered examples of how the concept of sustainability complements areas of inquiry within numerous specific disciplines. Reflect on your views on how sustainability, as characterized by the principles we have begun to list in class, is relevant within multiple disciplines at your college or university. Also, reflect on how your particular focus in college/university relates to an effort to achieve sustainability.

 

Provide your answer as a comment to this post by class time on Monday. Remember – your comments are public.

The Story of Vermont

One of the questions that is often asked about studying at the Middlebury School of the Environment is, “Aren’t there more exotic places in the world to travel and study than Vermont?”  Inarguably, the answer to that question is “yes.”  As I write this post, I can glance up to the wall in my home office and view the montage of photographs that record some of the many places around the world where I have had the privilege of working: Australia, Ghana, China, Slovenia, Brazil, and Costa Rica, to name a few.

But with respect to preparing myself to make a difference, to make the world a better place, none of them offer the depth of experience and the breadth of engagement as does Vermont.  Vermont is a landscape where both cultural and ecological narratives visibly combine to shape current environmental conditions.  Further, it is a place where investigation of environmental realities — through interviews with stakeholders and policymakers, and field study of the land and water — can easily lead to an exploration of possible futures.

Vermont is more than just a beautiful place.  It is a place that almost uniquely lends itself to studying providing a foundation for understanding how one can help create a better, more sustainable future for all.

I’ve spent the past 30 years living and working here, developing an effective environmental curriculum and pedagogy that weave together stories of the people, land, and water of this place.  The School of the Environment is a reflection of that.  Another reflection is seen in my writing, often with my friend and colleague Chris McGrory Klyza.  Chris and I recently published the 2nd edition of our book, The Story of Vermont: a natural and cultural history, which expands on all of why I think Vermont is the perfect place to travel and study.

We were recently interviewed about the book on the Vermont Public Radio show, Vermont Edition.  If you want to hear more about what’s special about Vermont, have a listen.

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