An Education in Sustainability: Perspectives from a Geologist-Philosopher Collaboration

Wednesday 11:30am-1:30pm UMC Aspen Rooms
Poster Presentation Part of Teaching about Systems


Ellen Metzger, San Jose State University
Randall Curren, University of Rochester
Earth system science, with its integrative investigations of our planet's complexly interacting components, must play a pivotal role in addressing pervasive and accelerating challenges to sustainability. The roles of the humanities and social sciences in achieving sustainability are frequently overlooked, however, and this is reflected in recent and growing recognition within the geoscience community that this science is a crucial but insufficient guide for humanity's pursuit of a more sustainable trajectory. While there is much discussion of the merits of "crossing borders" to topple disciplinary silos, there has been little progress in successfully bridging disparate disciplinary cultures and developing robust cross-disciplinary conceptualizations of the problems, basis for solutions, and related vocabularies and tools of analysis. In hopes of advancing the ongoing conservation, the goal of our work is to develop a concise and systematic argument for the importance of education in sustainability that is informed by an iterative synthesis of our respective disciplinary perspectives on sustainability and sustainability education, interwoven with key ideas from psychology, economics, and policy-making. This presentation offers an overview of our attempts to clarify the nature, forms, and value of sustainability, catalog the obstacles to achieving it, identify the kinds of efforts needed to overcome those obstacles, and articulate an ethic of sustainability with lessons for governments, organizations, and individuals. We also examine the dynamics and costs of linked socio-economic-educational complexity, and articulate a vision of education in sustainability with practical guidance for fulfilling this vision across diverse subject domains and levels of education.