We have always been taught that education is important. And while that is completely true, in the world of sustainability, many have come to realize that education isn’t only enough, but may not be the most effective means to inform the masses of our changing world.
In North America, there are only 18 different collegiate institutions that have sustainability programs. And, while I’m lucky to be able to attend the Univ. of Florida as a Sustainability Studies major, I understand that just under 20 schools isn’t enough to make an impact. As the years go on, we must begin to make the tough decisions about the relationship between the Earth, humans and all the other organisms that live and thrive here.
According to the Pareto Principle, we only need 20 percent of a population to inspire real and lasting social change. In this way, we determined that even if the university were to require a sustainability class for everyone to take in their undergraduate years, it may not be the most conducive to helping make critical changes in our lifestyles. Although the intent of a required course would be to inspire learning, these courses tend to do the opposite, as the audience becomes resentful of the topic. The last thing the environmental movement needs, is greater disapproval.
So, what’s the solution? How do we convince the masses of the critical importance of living sustainable lifestyles? We should start by finding professionals in various disciplines the higher education system and having them enlighten the masses about how the interdisciplinary study of sustainability is involved in all matters.
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Sustainability can be defined as the study of interdependent systems and how they connect to one another. To lead a sustainable life, we need to understand that each decision we make has unintended consequences, both good and bad. To make the best decision possible, we must be prepared to face such consequences. These are difficult concepts to grasp because they’re so abstract. Thus, it’s just as important to study the science as it is to study the ethics and philosophies behind the decisions that our government makes every day.
This is where education comes into play. In our last lecture in a Facets of Sustainability course, we discussed how sustainability is “a journey and not the destination.” It’s going to take a lot of work to reduce our current production of green house gases and garbage while increasing our “ecological handprint.” We can do this by making sustainable choices, and the best way to do that is by adding more sustainability-oriented courses and encouraging young thinkers to value what is available now so future generations can enjoy.
Jillian Samowitz, Golden Beach