The Nine Elements of a Sustainable Culture/Campus Mitchell Thomashow, Director Second Nature Presidential Fellows Program President Emeritus, Unity College (Mthomashow@secondnature.org)
Sustainability is a Response to a Planetary Emergency The Sixth Megaextinction Plunging Declines in Biodiversity Rapidly Changing Climatic/Oceanic Circulation Biogeochemical Imbalances Rapidly
The Consensus of InternationalPeer Reviewed SCIENCE is Clear
Sustainability requires that we think about theWhole Earth as an Ecological, Economic, and Creative System
A Sustainable Approach to Economic Decisions Encourages: Frugality Debt Reduction Living Within Our Means Protecting Future Generations Conserving Natural Resources Creative Problem Solving
As a former College President I suggest that Sustainability is the single biggest challenge for all of education, ultimately linked to: Turbulent Economy Accessibility and Affordability of Schooling How We Think about the Future of the PlanetOur goal should be nothing less than to train a new generation ofsustainability leaders, graduates who understand the intricateconnections between economics and ecology, place and planet, how welive and the consequences of our actions.
Collective Impact5 Year Review Climate Education for Leadership Sustainability 2020 Campaign 8
The Nine Elements of a Sustainable Culture/Campus Culture: How We Think, Organize, Communicate, Campus: Where We Live, Work, PlayA TEMPLATE FOR ACTION relevant for schools, businesses, hospitals, and any organizational setting
THREE BROAD CATEGORIES Infrastructure Community Learning
Imagine these categories as dynamic, unfolding, emergent, and intrinsicallyinterconnected. Any sustainable practice may involve multiple categories. Energy Food MaterialsInfrastructureCommunity Governance Investment WellnessLearning Curriculum Aesthetics Interpretation
ENERGY Energy refers to the ability to do work, involving the transformation of matter to produce heat and electricity.The point of sustainable energy practices is to maximize the efficiency of those processes so as to minimize unwanted byproducts.We require a new energy algorithm that enables us to heat and cool ourbuildings, move people and their goods from one place to another, and power our machines, without simultaneously altering the biosphere.
HOW TO MOVE TOWARDS ZERO-CARBON ENERGY USE Ingenious Technical Innovations Renewable Energy Sources Rigorous Conservation and Retrofitting Energy Cost Accounting Monitoring Cooperatives
Energy Structures Serve as Institutional Landmarks
FOOD (Everybody has to Eat!)A food-producing, edible landscaping,demonstration-garden laboratoryLawns bisected by garden strips andpermaculture shrubberyAdministration buildings with smallgreenhousesCafeterias serving local and organic foodRegional center for cooperative food growing
FOOD AS LANDSCAPE Inviting Hard Questions Where does your food come from? How much energy is used in its production and distribution? What policies will support more sustainable food operations? How does the history of the food we eat reflect ourselves in this place?
MATERIALSrefers to the manipulation, rearrangement, and heating and cooling of matter to produce the stuff of our goods, appliances, dwellings, and tools minimize energy use and toxic byproducts resilience, durability, recyclability procurement, life cycle accounting from green cleaning materials to recycled carpets
Responding to the challenge Inviting Hard Questions Unravel and expose the full cost of What is the supply chain? building materials andHow can we minimize ecological impact? construction products.Can we find materials that are recycled, Creatively use recycled and reclaimed or re-imagined? reclaimed materials.
COMMUNITY Energy Food MaterialsInfrastructureCommunity Governance Investment WellnessLearning Curriculum Aesthetics Interpretation
GOVERNANCEThe role of organizational cultureAlignment between mission, governance, andcurriculum (or work practice)Job descriptions and performance evaluationsGuidelines for procurement, events,procedures and protocolsThe capacity to change and innovate
GOVERNANCE: The Importance of Leadership Boldness and Tenderness Urgency and Patience Innovation and Tradition Two caveats: (1) Sustainability is not the political philosophy of an esoteric, green politics. It is beyond traditional left/right categories,embodying elements of traditional conservative and progressive political approaches. (2) Decisions related to governance will be complex and controversial, and not always consensus-driven.
INVESTMENT: Where Capital GoesEvery college campus has a significant impacton the surrounding communityColleges serve as dynamic economicmulltipliersTheir investment decisions have profoundramifications
Investment QuestionsIs the college working with schools,communities, and businesses to transform theregion into a thriving sustainable community?Is the campus an incubator for newsustainability research and design initiatives?Is the endowment invested in ecologically andsocially responsible businesses?Is the college considering sustainabilityworkforce training?
WELLNESSUltimately the point of a sustainable campus is to provide anourishing and supportive learning and work environment thatpromotes personal, community, and planetary well-being.
WELLNESS QuestionsIs stress impacting performance of students,faculty, and staff?Does the college promote healthy living?Is wellness an integral part of the academiccurriculum, staff training, and professionaldevelopment?
CURRICULUMWhat you know and how you think is always a reflection of how you live The best sustainability curriculum is one that provides the hands-on experience of living, implementing and designing a sustainable campus
CURRICULUM: The Hard Questions Is climate change and sustainability education a core component of the curriculum? Are students involved in campus-wide master planning? Are service learning opportunities available that bring sustainability initiatives into the community? Are the professional schools involved in sustainability initiatives?
AESTHETICSThe Art and Sensibility of Sustainability At the core of understanding sustainability, biodiversity, and climate change is a perceptual challenge: scale and the biosphere. Art projects use imagination to convey scale and are a bridge to scientific understanding Art projects catalyze the emotional responses to the planetary challenge A deeper cognitive advantage
The Aesthetic Challenge Are there vivid, imaginative and evocative campus exhibits, art projects, and installations that support sustainability initiatives? Is the campus used as an exploratory “canvas” of environmental art using recycled materials for sculptures, soundscape designs, native plant arrangements, watercourse flows and patterns?
INTERPRETATION: Making Sense of Sustainability Every sustainability project should have an interactive, dynamic explanation The campus is a sustainability learning laboratory Hide nothing Measure, keep records, and share information in compelling ways
INTERPRETATION Some QuestionsHow can we use buildings, gardens, andcampus facilities to exemplify the campus as aliving laboratory?How can we best tell the story of the campusas an ecological place that is located in adynamic environment?How can we make our sustainability effortstransparent and interesting, rooted in thehistory of the campus and projected into thefuture.
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN This is my narrative as a sustainability explorer, a former college president, a writer, and now a Second Nature Presidential Fellow What is your narrative? How will you be a change agent? What catalog of ideas and possibilities will you initiate? When you come up with a great idea and you’ve accomplished something, tell your story, too!