Last month, President Mulkey made a presentation to the faculty introducing the ideas in the white paper he wrote, titled The Imperative of Sustainability and Opportunities for Unity College. His speech, as well as the white paper in greater detail, (both available here: http://www.unity.edu/AboutUnity/PresidentWelcome/PresidentMessages.aspx ) outlined how Unity College’s instructors should go about integrating the concept he refers to as sustainability science into the way courses are taught. The goal of integrating sustainability science into all of the courses is to equip students with what Mulkey calls the “right tools” for facing a changing climate and an economy which has to step up to the task of addressing those changes.
“The thing that matters most for Unity College is that climate change will be the single-most important determinant of our environmental practice and programming,” Mulkey told faculty after beginning to delve into some of the hard facts behind climate science, which he feels will affect every field offered at this college. “It will amplify everything that we do…especially,” he emphasized, “in conservation and natural resources.”
In the white paper, Mulkey, whose previous experience as a research-gathering climate scientist predisposes him to trusting peer-reviewed literature, supports the need for sustainability science with information about climate change and the need to address it. One of the more practical applications of this that I saw was his mention of the zone maps that tell growers where their plants will survive based on the temperatures the plants can tolerate. These zone maps may normally only play a small role in horticulture, but the changes in the location of the zones in the past ten years has much larger implications, such as those that Mulkey warns about. As a sustainable agriculture major, I couldn’t help but notice when the recently revised map was released, and couldn’t help but wonder, How many times will this map have to be re-released to reflect the changing climate across the country before the world will realize what the changes mean?
Mulkey’s plan caused me to realize that Unity College students should already be, and if not, should start, asking in-depth questions about these maps. Almost all students here have chosen to dedicate their lives to managing living organisms whose range is very likely dependent on those USDA-developed zones. To “give our students the tools to deal” with climate change, Mulkey believes we need an “increasingly sophisticated curriculum.” This curriculum, in his vision, will be based around the framework of sustainability science.
The idea of sustainability science as an interdisciplinary tool –rather than a course or degree track –is one that is rapidly being developed by graduate institutions across the country, Mulkey tells us. At Arizona State University, one of the country’s largest universities, a whole school has been devoted to sustainability. There, students can attend a School of Sustainability just as easily as they could attend a School of Technology and Innovation or School of Journalism and Mass Communication. It’s hard to deny that sustainability is an up and coming issue in the world and in education –one that is increasingly in demand, and for good reason. Mulkey assures us that the numbers of green jobs will burgeon as the world realizes a need for sustainable practices.
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