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Archive for the ‘SHP Fall 2010’ Category

[The post below is an extra-credit assignment written by B. Bazsó, with notes by James V. Hillegas]

Multnomah County Office of Sustainability together with the Green Team has started the Multnomah County Sustainability Film Series, with films and panel discussions at Bagdad Theatre on a quarterly basis.

The films, or rather documentaries, are all related to topics of concern to sustainable development. The event I attended on 17 October 2010 focused on the issue of water supply; locally, globally, sustainably. The film shown was “Blue Gold: World Water Wars” (2008) by Sam Bozzo , narrated by Malcolm McDowell, is an informative work of art that, which for the most part, paints a dire picture of our fresh water supply—present and future. As any work of art, including documentaries, Blue Gold is clearly geared toward raising public awareness of the economic and political facts behind the current fresh water supply situation and getting private persons in motion to defend against corporate robbery of this precious natural resource.

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[The post below was written by students Ian C. and Brian H., with notes by James V. Hillegas]

This week we looked at two articles that are critical of sustainability, “The Roots of Sustainability” by Glenn M. Ricketts, and “Is Sustainability Sustainable?” by Daniel Bonevac.[1] Both authors take strong anti-sustainability stances.

Ricketts mostly criticizes sustainability as a political movement. He accuses sustainability proponents of being dogmatic, and spreading their beliefs in an evangelical manner, calling it a secular religion. According to Ricketts, a culture exist within academia that is hostile to any critique of sustainability. Though he does little in the way of actually offering critiques of the principles of sustainability themselves, except to point out that the more dire predictions of previous decades have not yet come to pass. He focuses on presenting a sinister-sounding narrative about the people and social trends supporting sustainability rather than engaging with the ideas behind it.

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[This post written by Jonathan F., Paul Quiring, Danny S., and Angelo S.]

We were lucky enough on Oct. 14 to have Dianne Riley from the CLF come to our class to introduce us to The Equity Atlas and she opened up a lot of ideas about what needs to be worked on in our community to improve sustainable living. One of the most overlooked aspects of sustainability is equity. While the majority of people working in the field of sustainability focus on the environmental aspect, equity is something that needs more attention in order for future generations to be sustainable too.

The idea of redefining the indicators of success plays a large role in developing social sustainability from the standpoint of corporate responsibility. There are many contrasts and difficulties that are faced when striving for both economic and social sustainability among corporations and business. This dilemma is largely due to the fact that economic success and social responsibility often times do not go hand in hand. Because the measure of success in the corporate world is mostly profit driven, social responsibility takes a back seat to making money. This is where the indicators of success could use change, or at least a tweaking. Society as a whole can demand corporate accountability and social responsibility, because as the consumers we have the ultimate say. If consumers demanded contributions to the development of social sustainability from corporations, and didn’t consume products from these corporations if they did not comply, the indicators of success would surely change and the reality of economic and social sustainability going hand in hand may emerge.

Cartoon from filipspagnoli.wordpress.com.

 

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This quarter, I asked the students to compose blog posts highlighting what they felt to be the most important elements from their Reading Response 1 and 2 assignments.

As part of Reading Response 2, I asked students to pair an article I had selected with something from their own discipline or area of interest that addressed the broad scope and meaning of sustainability in this discipline. Below is a list of sources that students found themselves to complement the articles I assigned.

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For the Fall 2010 academic quarter, we will be looking at sustainability in the Portland area (broadly defined) through the lens of equity.

I’ve facilitated these courses since the Winter 2009 quarter, and I’ve consistently found that the majority of students don’t immediately think of equity issues when considering sustainability; most of them readily think of economic and ecological topics, but not necessarily equity, social justice, etc. That students tend to come to class with this perspective suggests an opportunity to bring this dynamic to the forefront for educational purposes. This quarter, then, I sought to address this issue directly and engage my students more explicitly with one of the Brundtland Commission’s three co-equal pillars: equity.

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[This post written by J. Orr, B. Green, & B. Bazsó]

As we try and come up with our own definition of sustainability, we have difficulty fitting everything involved into a single sentence or two. We believe that our idea of sustainability is in response to the idea that current practices in social equity, economics, and the ecosystem cannot continue. Having said that, we believe that sustainable practices are the ones that make an effort to have the lowest possible negative impact on all three areas.

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[This post written by Jonathan F., Paul Quiring, Danny S., and Angelo S.]

Goat Lake, Lewis County, Washington, from Washington Trails Association, http://www.wta.org.

As our class begins the journey into the world of sustainability, we started the course by reading a couple of broad articles looking at sustainability in the big picture. After discussing the articles in class, we have started to gain a better grasp on how large the concept of sustainability actually is. Defining the word sustainability is something that is always changing and nearly impossible to fit into one sentence. One of the definitions we found that seemed to cover the majority of sustainability can be found on The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics Online (see “Sustainability“).

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[The post below was written by students Ian C., Natalie T. Z., and Brian H.]

    Enhancing human capitol (through education) and strengthening social values and institutions (like trust and behavioral norms) are important tools to increase the resilience of social systems and improve governance. (Intergovernmental panel on climate change, 2000)

Sustainability simply means being able to sustain something for some period of time. When we speak of sustainability, what we aim to sustain are those things which are required for humanity to thrive. The three pillars of sustainable development have been defined as economy, ecology, and equity. Of those three, equity seems to be furthest from the spotlight. While protecting rainforests and wetlands can be the first thought that comes to mind when the concept of sustainability is raised, developing social justice and sustainability could have a greater impact on the ability of future generations to thrive. Stable social environments are a crucial building block in developing sustainable growth, Oluf Langhelle reinforces this concept saying “the environment does not exist as a sphere separate from human actions, ambitions, and needs” (Langhelle, 131).

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Beginning with the Fall 2010 quarter, I’m trying a new exercise with my students. The previous two quarters I’ve taken highlights of student reading responses and, from these highlights, created blog posts. The two primary reasons I wanted to do this were to make student insights and questions available to the broader public; I also wanted to disseminate some of my replies to individual student work to the whole class, rather than have my replies be just a dialogue between the individual student and I.

Examples of these posts include:

This quarter, I thought it would be more engaging & thought-provoking to both students and the community if the students wrote the blog posts themselves, based upon their own understanding and interpretation of the readings. This week, I’ll post the first round of student blog posts. Stay tuned!

** Update Oct. 12, 2010**
The three posts are:

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