Spheres of Sustainability


Ecological Sustainability

Courses in the ecological sustainability sphere will build upon a baseline understanding of ecology and address issues concerning ecosystem services, environmental degradation, and climate change. Courses in this area must provide a basic understanding of ecological and environmental processes, including:

  • The interdependence of species and the dynamic interrelationships within social and ecological systems

  • Systemic limits, such as carrying capacity, and the ways in which human systems can and do threaten ecological systems

  • Local biomes, watersheds, and natural history

  • Biodiversity

  • Ecosystem health

  • Ecosystem services

  • Concepts of energy, water and waste

Ideally classes will connect this understanding of ecological processes to human and economic systems, particularly the ways in which these systems inter-relate and impact one another.

Economic Sustainability

Courses in this sphere will build upon a baseline understanding of economics and address bottom-line issues such as:

  • The economics of population growth

  • Poverty and income distribution

  • Market failures

  • Economic valuation

  • Economic incentive instruments

  • Food, water and energy resources

  • International agricultural markets

  • Fisheries, and wildlife conservation

  • Concern for intergenerational equity in the long-term decision making of a society

Classes should connect economic principles to social and ecological realities focusing on sustainable development.

Social Sustainability

Courses in the social sustainability sphere will build upon a basic understanding of social science and will address the social aspects of sustainability, including issues of cultural diversity, social justice, equality, participation, the built environment, and community. Courses must cover one or more of the following:

  • Cross-cultural perspectives of sustainability

  • Cultural assumptions of environmental and social problems

  • The relationship between poverty, social justice, and environmental degradation

  • Intergenerational responsibility

  • Power and limits of new technologies and the relationship between technological and other types of solutions

  • Impact of the built environment on ecology and society

  • Development and conservation

  • Human consumption

  • Community

  • Normative assumptions and ethical frameworks, particularly as they relate to equity, justice, human rights, and extending the moral community

  • Personal values within the context of a larger society and how these values are manifested in daily habits

  • Humans’ place and limits within ecological systems

  • Principles of environmental ethics and their application to population, habitat quality, affluence, and energy use

  • Environmental rhetoric and persuasive arguments that address sustainability issues

  • Environmental Law and Policy

  • Communications and the Arts

  • Institutional factors mediating human-environment interactions

  • Unequal power relations

Ideal classes cover personal assets and those aspects of community that lead to a quality life for all now and into the future.