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Sustainability Essays


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Teaching Sustainability in the Humanities classroom?
Anne-Marine Feat, Luther College
As the daughter of a French government official specializing in environmental issues, I grew up repeatedly hearing about "le développement durable" (French for sustainability) and our individual responsibility as stewards of this world. This childhood influence followed me to this day and I still recycle, use a reusable mug for my tea and spend far too much time and money finding the ultimate shower head that doesn't drain our water supplies while still providing a "spa-like experience". In a word, I really believe in sustainability. That is, at least in my personal life.

Sustainability at Ripon - Economics
Dmytro Zhosan, Ripon College
While in general sustainability seems to be becoming more and more popular as a topic these days, one thing that needs to be understood is what kind of sustainability we are talking about. There is no secret that the definition itself varies among people and among institutions. Some prefer to focus on small issues like switching to local-grown food and going "trayless" in the commons, some decide to "go bigger" and replace grass on athletic fields with artificial turf made of recycled tires or turn to alternative energy sources for different campus needs. Regardless of which particular actions we are talking about, the end goal seems to be the same for all minimizing the environmental impact of human activity.

Sustainability at Monmouth - Ecology
Tim Tibbetts, Monmouth College
As a plant ecologist I look at sustainability through biodiversity lenses. How many corn and bean fields will be planted where native forests and prairies were cleared? How many invasive plants will threaten the remaining fragments? How will these fragments be used, preserved, protected? How will we deal with soil erosion, loss of soil fertility, increased fertilizer demands, run off and eutrophication of our waters? And still feed a growing population?

Sustainability at Coe College - Chemistry
Marty St. Clair, Coe College
In a sense, my interest in sustainability began as I worked with my father on a small farm in northern Indiana. While our operation was not particularly "green", my father's efforts were often focused on taking care of the land that he farmed. As an undergraduate, my focus on issues related to sustainability was honed by faculty who taught courses in a broadly based environmental studies program at Butler University. Professor Dick Miller showed me the complexity and rigor of the study of ecology, as well as introducing me to the complex issues of the time: energy, acid rain, water quality, and toxic wastes. Perhaps most importantly, he also introduced me to the work of Aldo Leopold, whose work has shaped my thinking on environmental issues since that time.

Sustainability at Monmouth - Chemistry
Bradley Sturgeon, Monmouth College
I am a chemist/scientist; not a traditional chemist of years past, but one who approaches his work with an interdisciplinary attitude. As a scientist, all good ideas fall inside of my academic boundaries. In my traditional chemistry-related research, I explore enzyme-related science. In particular, I study enzyme generated free radicals and attempt to uncover the role (good and bad) of free radicals in biological systems. Chemistry, in general, has been a discipline that has provided technologies that has enabled civilizations to be non-sustainable. In the recent years chemist have provided technology that have enabled civilizations to be more aware of the need to engage in sustainable practices. As with the fore mentioned free radials, technology has a good and bad side that is not so evident at the time of development. In my traditional role as a chemistry instructor, I focus on foundational principles, the scientific method, and logic. I feel that these skills will allow our graduates to make sustainable decisions/choices and be productive citizens of our world. I introduce "green" or sustainability ideas/concepts whenever possible, although this is done as a secondary part of the educational process; I think I can approve in this area. I direct student-initiated projects dealing with solar panels, LED lighting, rain gardens, rain barrels, native plants, and soft drink design, all of which have "green" underlying concepts. I have an interest in thermal imaging as a means of promoting energy conservation, although I know very little on the topic.

Sustainability at Ripon - Communication
Steve Martin, Ripon College
As a newcomer to the academic application of sustainability, I admittedly have a lack of knowledge of official College efforts related to sustainability. I do know that four years ago, Ripon College received some favorable national attention for its "Velorution" program. The College provided a free mountain bike to incoming first-year students in exchange for an agreement that they would not bring a car to campus. In part, this was a response to a perceived "parking problem" (there really was not a problem, though students liked to think there was), but it was also done with the environment in mind. The College also closed and removed several city streets that went through the middle of the campus. It is now a much nicer green space. It is aesthetically more pleasing and also safer. Importantly, it has discouraged students from driving from their rooms to classes (something that was silly to do in the first place, since walking to class is actually faster than driving anywhere on our small campus.)

Sustainability at Beloit - Chemistry
Brock Spencer, Beloit College
My academic generation grew up with issues of population, resources, and the environment, which strongly influenced my developing interdisciplinary interests. Within my discipline, my physical chemistry course included a detour into entropy as applied to resources and the economic process, while our NSF-funded ChemLinks project produced topical modules that make it possible to build a general chemistry course around themes like global climate change, air pollution, acid rain, energy-efficient lighting, and fats in our diet. As we developed our program of First Year Seminars, mine dealt with food or water on a personal to global scale. My early courses for what eventually became an interdisciplinary Environmental Studies Major included The Challenge of Global Change and Science and Environmental Policy.

Public Education and a Responsible Sustainability Disposition
Sonja Darlington, Beloit College
In the summer 2009 Harvard Educational Review (HER), an issue in which 47 educational experts debated the potential of the Obama presidency to affect education in dramatically new ways, critic Henry Giroux pointed out that Obama and his instrumentalist view of education tended to gloss over philosophers such as Horace Mann, John Dewey, W.E. B. Dubois, and Jane Addams, "who valued education as a preeminent force for preparing young people to be socially responsible, critically engaged citizens in a democratic society" (258). Yet, Giroux, like other educational experts, in the volume including Linda Darling-Hammond, overlooked what a growing number of concerned citizens believe is public education's most pressing need: to educate American young people to live in ways that contribute to earth's sustainability. Among the topics that the experts addressed were urban school reform, integration of "non-white" communities, and the high rte of child poverty. Yet, the issue that will affect all learners, whether publically or privately educated, is whether a future will exist for the coming generations and if so for how long. If the predictions of thinkers, such as Jared Diamond and Joseph Tainter for a societal collapse, due to increasing complexities with economic, political and social systems, are to be taken seriously, as many believe, then the need for environmental education ought to be part of public education and every single teacher's curriculum, whether implicit or explicit.

Sustainability at Coe College - Business and Economics
David Hayes, Coe College Download essay as PDF (Acrobat (PDF) 8kB Jun7 10) Being tardy with my essay submission affords me the ability to piggyback on the work of my colleagues. Coe's current effort in terms ...

Sustainability and Latin American Literature: Initial Thoughts
Nancy Gates-Madsen, Luther College
I have very little experience or expertise related to sustainability, so this essay serves more as an outline of some initial thoughts on what I hope and plan to do, rather than a description of what I have already done. As a teacher of Spanish language and Latin American literature (mainly related to the legacies of authoritarianism), I haven't had much opportunity to incorporate sustainability into my teaching (aside from the lone chapter dedicated to "el medio ambiente" (the environment) in our current language textbook). However, teaching the "Corn" section of Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma started me thinking about how I might incorporate issues of sustainability into an upper level Latin American literature seminar. Many Luther students combine a Spanish major or minor with areas of study in the sciences or environmental studies, and I hope my participation in this workshop will help me develop a strong course offering that will help students think about issues of sustainability from a literary and cultural perspective.

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