Since its inception in 1965, Unity College has demonstrated an ability to see over the horizon.  No better example of this propensity for leadership can be cited than the development of sustainability science as the answer to “what’s next” in Unity’s future. The future is now.

Sustainability science is now recognized by the actions of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), with a new section of its journal dedicated to sustainability science.

The PNAS defines sustainability science as “an emerging field of research dealing with the interactions between natural and social systems, and with how those interactions affect the challenge of sustainability: meeting the needs of present and future generations while substantially reducing poverty and conserving the planet’s life support systems.”

Sustainability science with its attendant trans-disciplinary (collaborative learning/problem solving) approach to teaching connects each of Unity’s five academic centers: The Center for Biodiversity; The Center for Environmental Arts and Humanities; The Center for Experiential and Environmental Education; The Center for Natural Resource Management and Protection; and The Center for Sustainability and Global Change.

Sustainability professionals on campus point out that sustainability science is a framework for learning, and that framework influences not just the curriculum but also planning, governance and campus operations.

The term sustainability has been around for some time, says Professor Doug Fox.  “We all have a general idea of what it means, figuring out how to live on this Earth in perpetuity without using up the resources needed for life and without poisoning ourselves with our wastes,” Fox explained.  “Sustainability science faces those challenges directly and systematically with frameworks for addressing the issues and with practical problem solving research.” Inevitably, Fox says, solutions to sustainability science questions around climate change, biodiversity loss, and resource depletion will need to be trans-disciplinary, that is, they will involve, very directly, natural and social sciences.

By focusing on sustainability science and the trans-disciplinary approach to problem solving, Unity is not only pursuing the leading edge of global environmental problem solving, it is training students to be the next generation of environmental leaders.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012