The University and Sustainability: New Directions in Science, Technology and Culture

By Arthur B. Sacks.

Published by Journal of the World Universities Forum

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In 1955, Robert Hutchins, then President of the University of Chicago, said, “The object of universities …is not the preservation of the status quo. It is the improvement of the conditions of life and the clarification of its aims.” In the 21st century, universities have the responsibility of creating new knowledge and educating people as professionals and as citizens able to comprehend the human-environment system and the human impacts that threaten the biosphere and social stability.

Universities must be organized and committed to help humankind reduce its ecological footprint, preserve and better utilize knowledge that resides within indigenous peoples, and deliver interdisciplinary education to insure students and society better understand their responsibilities to inspire behavioural and technological change that promotes sustainability. Former Yale President Albert Giammatti observed, “The University must be a tributary to a larger society, not a sanctuary from it.”

Further, as David W. Orr (1994) has said, “…all education is environmental education. By what is included or excluded, students are taught that they are part or apart from the natural world.” The contemporary University must be organized to enable the educational community to pursue new directions, integrating science, technology and culture with the aim of educating students—future leaders of society—about the social, political, economic and environmental context of science and technology Inherent in the University must be a goal to teach students they are “part of” the natural world and have responsibilities to it and to current and future generations. The university has the responsibility of being fully engaged with community, at levels that range from the local to the global, creating partnerships that enable society to confront value-based behaviours that undermine sustainability and develop technologies, techniques and approaches that promote sustainability. The University faces no greater challenge and has no higher mission.

Keywords: Interdisciplinarity & University Organization, Human-Environment System, Sustainability, New Directions in Science, Technology & Culture

Journal of the World Universities Forum, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp.93-100. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 753.495KB).

Prof. Arthur B. Sacks

Professor, Academic Affairs, Colorado School of Mines, USA

I have been involved in higher education as a faculty member and senior administrator for 35 years, dedicated to institutional and organizational change to respond to the requirements of sustainability. I have been engaged in he design, teaching and administration of interdisciplinary environmental studies programs since 1976. My specialties are “sustainability”, “environmental politics and policy” and “environmental education”. Prior to joining the Colorado School of Mines in 1993, I served for 18 years in the Institute for Environmental Studies of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, 5 years as Director. I have served as President of the North American Association for Environmental Education; the Deputy Director of the International Society for Environmental Education (“Education for Ecologically Sustainable Development”); the U.S. Chair of Area XII (“Environmental Information, Education & Training of the U.S.-U.S.S.R. Agreement on Environmental Protection; as a member of the Education Commission of IUCN; and, I have been an advisor to the Governments of China, India, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, among others. My work focuses on the design for and obstacles to sustainability and the requirements of the modern university—especially technological universities—in responding to global change.

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