Taylor’s Slice of Nice is a semester-long column that will feature good things happening around the globe and take a look at how we can implement them locally.
What they’re cooking up:
Sustainable development is a pattern of resource use that meets human needs while preserving the environment. If you attended the first installment of UW-Eau Claire’s 2011-2012 Forum Series on Monday night, you heard Dr. Debra Rowe say just that. Rowe, a professor at Oakland Community College in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., is the president of the U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development.
According to Rowe, the U.S. education system is lagging behind its European counterparts when it comes to integrating sustainable development into the classroom. Sweden, for example, has made sustainability classes a requirement for every level of schooling from kindergarten through university.
Sustainability is a word that we are now beginning to hear every single day and for good reason. We are the first generation responsible for deciding the fate of our species — not the planet, said Rowe, the planet will be fine. It’s everything living on this planet that we need to worry about.
Currently, the North American population makes up only 5 percent of the world’s total population, which is right now at 6.96 billion and is expected to reach over 9 billion by 2050. North America may not make up much of the world’s population, but it uses 25 percent of the world’s resources. And no, Canada and Mexico are not the culprits.
We, the United States, are the problem, and we also need to be the solution.
How it can be homemade:
We need to be more than just “armchair pontificators,” said Rowe. There are so many ways that sustainability can become a dialogue — and then, action — in the classroom. Many of the attendees of Monday’s Forum were professors, some of whom were hoping to implement Rowe’s ideas in their own classrooms.
Eau Claire has already made efforts to become a more sustainable campus. The cafeterias and food courts use only biodegradable materials for plates, cups, napkins and even silverware and has made a great effort to mark which trash cans biodegradable items can be thrown into. The new Davies Center is even being built to comply with many sustainability standards, meaning when it is finished, it will be one of the “greener” buildings in the UW System.
Eau Claire as a city has also made efforts towards sustainability through encouraging bike culture. Life-threatening potholes aside, Eau Claire is a fairly bike-friendly city, with plenty of bike paths and abundant bike racks.
These strides are great, but I agree with Rowe in terms of gaining a sustainability education. We need to cultivate a knowledge of sustainability from the very beginning of our educations, at age 5 in the kindergarten classroom, so that sustainability is a way of life rather than a change or sacrifice.
General education requirements could be reformed to include a basic sustainable development course that teaches students not only about their own negative impact on the environment but methods in which to decrease or even reverse that impact. We need to learn not only how to take faster showers and bike instead of drive, but also how to make sustainable choices right from the start.
Math classes can calculate the savings of a solar-powered water heaters over time (look! Algebra in a real-life application!), science classes can conduct actual field experiments (just how polluted are the Chippewa and Eau Claire rivers? Can we generate hydropower from them?), virtually every discipline can at least touch on sustainability once.
English, math, science, social studies, sustainability. It needs to become part of an American education’s core curriculum so that we can better use and evenly distribute resources across the world without forcing future generations to go without, or worse.
Taylor Kuether is a junior print journalism major and Editorial Editor at The Spectator.