Themes

The Quest for a Sustainable Future

How do we sustain a growing population with limited resources?

To be sustainable, we must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Sustainability proponents advocate for a better balance of social needs, resource consumption, and economic growth. In the quest for a sustainable future theme, you will examine sustainability from biological, political, physical, and spiritual perspectives—and consider sustainability’s effects on everything from social communities to ecosystems. You will look at sustainability in terms of lifestyle, storytelling, history, and science and even question the premise of sustainability itself:

  • What does it mean to live sustainably? Is sustainability an attainable and meaningful goal?
  • How do we tell stories—in literature, in film, in media new and old—about consumerism, economic inequality and affluence, environmental change and degradation, and more?
  • In what ways will the quest for sustainability define the coming century?
  • How have values systems in different times and places shaped our economic, social, and ecological behavior?
  • What are some meaningful metrics for assessing sustainability?
  • To what extent is sustainability a scientific problem versus a social issue?

HIGHLIGHTED COURSE

PSYC23500 Conservation Psychology: Psychology for a Sustainable World (QUEST FOR SUSTAINABLE FUTURE/SOCIAL SCIENCES)

This course will revolve around the question, “How can we effect human behavior change so that we can live sustainably on the planet?” The many ways in which psychology can help answer this question will be examined. Readings from ecopsychology writers, biologists and ecologists, as well as empirical research in psychology, will be interpreted and critically assessed. Films in class predispose the connection between values, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. All of these resources will signify that when it comes to sustainable behavior choices, values don’t always predict behavior.

Several class discussions and blog entries will ask students to relate their discoveries to their own development, identity, values and the role of personal beliefs and social factors in their own behavior (sustainable or not). An interdisciplinary service learning project (a collaboration with the course, Conservation Biology) will also be assigned to students which will entail proposing new solutions and techniques for promoting sustainable behavior in humans. This project will require members of the class to conceive, design, and (at least partially) implement a campus-based conservation project.