Development of sustainability within a university curriculum
Smith, Eugene Arlington
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There are currently many complex issues facing human society. There are a range of well-documented environmental problems that stem from past and current methods of human development. Declining ecosystems and species extinctions aside, many humans suffer and struggle within this mounting tide of environmental hardships as well as continuing struggles with access to education and equality within society. A large portion of these struggles arise from the disparity in wealth and the seemingly oppressive nature of economic systems for the 'have-nots' of the world. This quick overview of environmental, social, and economic conditions shows the interdependencies of the three aspects of sustainability or sustainable development. As there are calls to action from the scientific community, government, and society to address these issues of sustainable development, there are a number of voices calling for general changes within the various levels of the education system and more specifically with connecting students to the subject of sustainability. This thesis makes the argument that the most effective step in addressing both these issues is an introductory course on sustainability. Although the issues of sustainability and education are framed under different context, they both can be reduced to the concept of more holistic thinkers in society and in the classroom. A review of more discipline-specific courses incorporating sustainability, faculty surveys, and alternative learning and teaching methods strengthened the course design process. The end result is an upper level undergraduate course that uses the topics of food, water, and energy to bring a new level of understanding to the student on sustainability and holistic thinking.