THE ECONOMIC PAMPHLETEER: Sustainability in Higher Education: Beyond Going Green
It is encouraging that a growing number of colleges and universities are making serious efforts to address questions of sustainability in their teaching, research, campus operations, and public relations programs. Some are building green buildings, buying green cleaning supplies, and competing in greenest campus contests. It is also heartening that food and agricultural issues have risen to prominence on green campuses, as food services respond to student demands for local sourcing of foods, composting of food waste, and space for student gardens to produce foods by sustainable methods. While going green is necessary, it is not sufficient.
Authentic sustainability is about meeting the needs of the present without diminishing opportunities for the future. Everything that is used for meeting human needs ultimately must come from either nature or society. The economy provides an efficient means of using natural and societal resources to meet human needs. Ecological integrity, while necessary, is not sufficient to ensure sustainability. A society that is lacking in social or economic integrity cannot sustain ecological integrity. Ecological, social, and economic integrity are inseparable dimensions of the whole of sustainability. Educational programs that focus on a specific ecological, social, or economic dimension of sustainability without effectively addressing the other two may be useful, but they do not address the fundamental question of sustainability.
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