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Sustainability Essays


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Sustainability at Luther
Steve Holland, Luther College
There are several reasons for my interest in sustainability education. Sustainability education complements the goals of a liberal education and the mission of Luther College in many ways. First, sustainability education emphasizes an interdisciplinary, systems approach to thinking about problems. It promotes an understanding of social and ecological systems, an awareness of their interdependence, and an appreciation for the complexity of our world. Second, sustainability education demands attention to the importance of place and community while simultaneously increasing students' awareness of cross-cultural perspectives and global interconnectedness. Finally, sustainability education helps students become informed, ethical citizens. The ability to assess empirical claims, think critically about alternative viewpoints, engage in political discourse, advocate change, and commit to action leads students toward a life of service and learning. As a teacher in a liberal arts college, I think it is essential to introduce sustainability concepts wherever appropriate.

Sustainability and Me
Jim Farrell, St. Olaf College
Curiosity brought me to sustainability, and it still keeps me interested. Many years ago, Alexander Wilson wrote a book called The Culture of Nature,a title that seemed so strange to me that I decided to teach it (which is what I often do to satisfy my curiosity). My first step was a course by that title in the first year writing program. My second was an interdisciplinary course on "The Environmental Imagination," meant to introduce the Humanities as part of our Environmental Studies major. In both of those classes, I encouraged students to think about their own place, St. Olaf College.

Geology and Sustainability
Mary Savina, Carleton College
I think most geologists would say that sustainability is at the root of our discipline, though we certainly didn't invent the word or define the concept. Geology considers the earth as an open system of gases, liquids and solids, distributed from the outer limits of the atmosphere to the earth's center. We know that within this system are many interacting subsystems that involve the transfer of energy and materials from one area and state to another. Resources minerals, fuels, water, soils and others all exist within the earth system that geologists study. Geologists study how these resources are created, how they are altered, and how they move from place to place. Just tracing the routes of water on the globe, for instance, involves the atmosphere, the earth's land surface (sometimes called "the critical zone"), the oceans, the ice caps, and the crust and mantle of the solid earth. Humans alter many of the transfer processes and at the same time they alter the amounts of resources in storage. It may be true, as the physicists say, that matter can neither be created or destroyed, but matter can certainly be changed from an un-usable state to a usable one (think mining and smelting) or from a usable state to an un-usable one (think gasoline and carbon dioxide).

Sustainability at Carleton
Aaron Swoboda, Carleton College Download essay as PDF (Acrobat (PDF) 39kB Jun8 10) The largest problem that confronts us as we try to take steps to make ourselves, our society, our cities, and our lifestyle more ...

Education for Sustainability
Jon Jensen, Luther College
How can I be a better teacher? How can I make my community and the world a better place through my work? Perhaps I am hopelessly idealistic but I believe that all of my colleagues in education share the goals embodied in these two questions. At one level they are simple questions, reflecting desires to do good work and to make a difference. But anyone who has spent much time in the classroom knows that the answers are rarely simple and the work involved in answering these questions is never complete.

Sustainability at Macalester College
Suzanne Savanick Hansen, Macalester College
For the past three decades, Macalester College has been a leader in implementing sustainable practices on campus. In 2008-2009, the newly established Sustainability Office facilitated a campus-wide sustainability strategic planning process. The results of that work, along with Climate Action Plan recommendations by the Environmental Studies senior seminar led to the adoption of Macalester College's first comprehensive Sustainability Plan ( The plan articulates concrete goals and actions for the college including:

Sustainability in Psychology at Coe College
Jennifer Lee, Coe College
Does your college have a sustainability program? If so, does the program have a web presence?

Sustainability at Colorado College
Barbara Whitten, Colorado College
Colorado College has a very active sustainability program, which is fully described on our web page ( Because of our location, we traditionally attract students with strong environmental interests, who spend their weekends and block breaks hiking, climbing, kayaking and skiing. We've had an active environmental student group for twenty five years; recently their efforts have shifted from preserving the wilderness (old growth forests, endangered species, etc) to sustainability on campus and in the community. Administration support has also increased; sustainability is a significant effort of President Celeste, who signed the President's Climate Commitment in 2009. In 2008, he created the Sustainability Council, which is composed of administrators, facilities staff, faculty, and students, and oversees all campus sustainability initiatives. Administrative support has enabled us to increase the level of support for sustainability, but many of the initiatives continue to be student-driven.

Sustainability in the Art Building
Kate Martinson, Luther College
Artists are the makers of things. We create these for ourselves or in reaction to exterior forces ranging from such things as economic necessity of the artist to political ideology to fashion. Teaching artists create not only things, but also create the intentional environment in which students can understand what visual art is, what it ought to be and how individuals can participate in it. The myth of the ' lone artist in the garret' encourages society to think of artists as having little interest in sustainability other than in a personal means of survival. However, sustainability is increasingly finding, and in many cases re-establishing, a place in studio, workshop and classroom. Teaching artists are finding that topics of and work with sustainability is 'invading' our space in higher education.

Sustainability at Beloit - Biology
Yaffa Grossman, Beloit College Download essay as PDF (Acrobat (PDF) 20kB Jun2 10) My interests in sustainability date to the late 1980s, when I worked in the Public Affairs Office of the Ecological Society of ...

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