Sustainability News 6-28-2010

Ashley Thorne

Background: When NAS began examining the rise of the “sustainability” movement on college campuses several years ago, we wanted to understand two things: what sustainability is and what it means for higher education. We learned that sustainability is a benign-sounding term that seems to mean environmental stewardship but piggybacks on multiple non-environmental ideas such as population control, affirmative action, gay rights, and anti-capitalism.

For colleges and universities, commitment to “sustainability” has become a matter of competition (especially now that Princeton Review has come out with a “Top Green Colleges” rating) similar to yesteryear’s race for campus diversity. Colleges have embraced sustainability’s multi-faceted meaning. In 2007 the University of Delaware conducted a curricular residence life program to correct the attitudes of first-year students in regard to race, sexuality, and American society. It turned out that the program billed itself as an education in “sustainability” and “citizenship.” One curricular document said that “sustainability provides a viable conduit for citizenship education and the development of a particular values system.” Imparting such a “particular values system” so that students reject traditional American values and assume a politically correct worldview is the goal of sustainability education. Planting trees and turning off lights on campus is only one part of it.

As of today, 686 institutions have signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), which requires signatory colleges to “make climate neutrality and sustainability a part of the curriculum and other educational experience for all students.”

In order to keep a finger on the pulse of this movement in its manifestations in higher education, NAS has begun posting regular reports with 10-20 links to sustainability news stories. We have also launched a new weekly email newsletter specifically for such news. Sign up here to receive the sustainability news report.

This week’s news includes colleges’ contributions to plugging the oil leak in the Gulf (students are sending their hair clippings); new uses for Biosphere 2 (site of two failed attempts to study “sustainability” in an enclosed ecosystem); one of the first generations of sustainability graduates, and why sermons on the earth’s doom encourage one MBA student. West Virginia University’s decision to go trayless in its cafeterias reflects a nationwide trend, piloted by food services giant Aramark. In other news, sustainability education is ever expanding, with new academic programs and new money devoted to it every day. To learn more about the key players—people, programs, groups, books, media—in the campus sustainability movement, check out NAS’s Encyclopedia of Sustainability. Look for an updated edition of our sustainapedia in July.

  1. Special Report: Biosphere 2 Studies Sustainability, UA News
    The University of Arizona will use the Biosphere 2 facility (site of two failed scientific missions) to research environmental change.
  2. Summer of Sustainability: WVU Dining Services, The State Journal
    To cut waste, West VirginiaUniversity’s cafeterias are going trayless. To learn more about the trayless movement, click here (NAS).
  3. US News and World Report’s 10 Eco-Friendly College Campuses, Second Nature
    They’re all signatories of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC).
  4. Sustainability: It’s Booming, Gainesville Sun
    U Florida graduates the first six students majoring in Sustainability and the Built Environment.
  5. Critiquing Sustainability, Sustainability History Project
    Are there any schools of thought that disagree with the idea of sustainability?
  6. Reduce, Reuse, Research? Harvard Crimson
    “Ultimately, Harvard’s campus sustainability efforts will serve more as a symbolic declaration of the University’s commitment than as a practical contribution in addressing climate change, Schrag says.”
  7. Toward Sustainable Capitalism, Wall Street Journal
    Al Gore and David Blood argue that capitalism needs to be checked if it is to be sustainable, and that company incentives should include “environmental sustainability, customer satisfaction, employee morale and workplace safety.”
  8. Hair Clippings to be Sent to Gulf, Independent Florida Alligator
    U Florida students send their hair to help absorb the oil spill in the Gulf.
  9. Colleges and Universities Across the US Work on Oil Spill, AASHE
    Colleges train students to help clean up the spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
  10. Sustainability: It Starts in the Schools, Triple Pundit
    Academia is doing a good job of preparing the next generation to preserve the environment, writes the author, who cites the ACUPCC, sustainable MBAs, the Yale Sustainable Food Project, and campus Earth Day participation.
  11. Some Really Great Bad News: The Right Choice for a Sustainability Student, Triple Pundit
    A student seven weeks into her Sustainable MBA at Green Mountain College derives hope from apocalyptic predictions.
  12. Sustainability Isn’t Always More Interesting. But It Should Be. Tree Hugger
    Deep sea oil exploration and novelty cars are getting boring – we should reject the old “cubicle” lifestyle and grow our own food. Fast cars: yawn. Fast cars with zero emissions: exciting!
  13. Start Them Young(er): Education Overlooks Global Sustainability, SmartPlanet
    According to a new study, students feel that their education isn’t providing adequate preparation in globalization in sustainability.
  14. UMD to Offer Sustainability Summer Camp,
    “UMass Dartmouth's Office of Campus and Community Sustainability is offering summer camps for both kids and adults interested in creating a more sustainable world.”
  15. The Sustainability Dilemma, Huffington Post
    How do we make the choice between green and good quality?
  16. Being green: MSU offers sustainability specialization, MSU News
    “Sustainability, Habron said, is more than just saving energy. ‘Going through this program, students will not only have an understanding of how to better protect the planet,’ he said, ‘they will also have a better feel for how sustainability directly affects people, economics, business and how interdependent they are.’”
  17. Clemson University to Create Endowed Chair in Sustainable Development, Clemson University Newsroom
  18. The Sustainability Imperative, Harvard Business Review
    Sustainability is an emerging megatrend, write two businessmen, and corporations that want to thrive must get on board.
  19. Young Scientists Urged to be Prime Movers of Sustainable Development, The Hindu
    Young Indian scientists at a conference are told they must pay attention to “ecology, economics, equity, employment, ethics and energy,” while “mainstreaming the concept of sustainability in our research and development work.”
  20. Secretary of Labor Solis Addresses Environmental Charter Graduates,
    “Environmental Charter, in its 10th year, uses an environmentally-focused curriculum model. White House officials have lauded the school for its project-based approach and emphasis on pursuing higher education.”
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