Sustainability is about change, not preservation. It is about transformation, not protecting the status quo. It asks whether the current system is creating a future where we will want to live. Sustainability makes people uncomfortable. It challenges existing power. It is radical. It puts us at odds with the system that employs and entertains us. It encourages us to question basic assumptions of modernity such as control of nature and perpetual economic growth.
For these and other reasons discussed in previous blog posts, universities are uncomfortable teaching sustainability.
But most institutions of higher education already support leadership institutes and service learning centers, which are efforts to build student capacity, encourage more engaged citizens, and create a positive force for change. If you are a student interested in sustainability: take advantage of these opportunities. If you are a college faculty or administrator: find ways to create and then integrate these opportunities into college curricula. Collectively we can promote the social entrepreneurship sustainability requires.
R. Bruce Hull, IV, Ph.D. is a professor in the College of Natural Resources at Virginia Tech practicing social ecology. His work focuses on healing forests fractured by pressures of urbanization and globalization. He is author and editor of over 100 publications, including two books: Infinite Nature (Chicago 2006) and Restoring Nature (Island 2000). He serves on the editorial advisory board for Gale’s GREENR environmental and sustainability studies web portal.