Emma Putahl – Opinion Columnist
This week I wanted to talk about the Sustainability Credit that many students and faculty are working hard to get established.
I hope that the upperclassmen remember in Spring of 2019, in partnership with Environmental Action Coalition (EAC), there was a group of students that arranged “Groundswell” Day. It was a day full of activities that was to show that Gusties wanted Gustavus to move towards a more sustainable campus. Yes, Gustavus in some ways is paving the way in sustainable campus life, but we knew we could and should do better. This day was to show that Gusties wanted and were excited about fostering an environment where students work with the people in charge in order to create positive changes on campus. There was a meeting at the faculty meeting (which was recorded and is somewhere on the Gustavus website) where a handful of students, myself included, spoke about why we wanted changes to happen as well as speaking on some areas of campus life that could easily make more sustainable changes. We also requested that there would be a Sustainability Credit added to the curriculum. Unfortunately, we spoke pretty late in the game and most of the ‘Challenge’ Curriculum gen-eds were close to finalization.
I don’t know how many of us know what it takes to create a new gen-ed requirement or how classes register to be considered a class that meets this requirement, but it is unfortunately not an easy process. It takes a lot of time, people, and energy to create a curriculum. Even though there is quite a bit of faculty support for this requirement, it takes much more than support to get something like established.
I want to talk about what this credit could or would even look like. (Don’t worry, this wouldn’t mess up anybody’s degree audits or four-year plans even if it got passed tomorrow). First we would have to define what sustainability means and I think that is one of the coolest things about this requirement, there is no set answer. I truly believe that every major on campus could find a way to include a sustainability requirement. Think about it. There could be a sustainability art class which could mean that some art students have to dig through some recycling for the materials they use for the class, or they create something that represents what sustainability means to them. Business majors could have a class about sustainable businesses (or whatever business majors learn). Accounting majors could talk about how sustainability may create tax breaks for companies. Psychology majors could talk about climate change anxiety and how implementing sustainable practices and seeing real changes in our society may alleviate these anxieties. Any language department can choose their areas of study and compare and contrast how the societies that speak X language have climate change discourse compared to the US (this is obviously easier for some languages or cultures than others). I’m an Environmental Studies and Ancient Greek Studies double major. One of my majors already has classes that talk about these types of things. I would bet that there are some Classical texts speaking on sustainability.
Would this be more work for students and faculty? Absolutely, but it would be so worth it. We boast about our Liberal Arts education giving us a well-rounded education. Sustainability should be included in our education. Who’s to say we can’t combine some of our gen-ed requirements? Well, currently a lot of people because it isn’t that easy… We have WRITD, or writing in a discipline, why can’t we have sustainability in a discipline? There are endless possibilities on how to make this work.
It is our duty as human beings to have some knowledge of what sustainability is, no matter the definition of sustainability.
Making conscientious decisions and knowing why (and maybe how) we should be making them is the underlying goal of this requirement. We will not be able to have consumerist lifestyles for the rest of our lives without consequences for future generations.
You can still have the cushy lifestyle of a consumerist while being more sustainable. Composting our food waste, using reusable bags, and using reusable mugs (post-COVID, of course) is just one small portion of the equation. Being able to bring sustainability knowledge into whatever your career path is and incorporating it into your life and career is how we will be able to build a great future for ourselves as well as the future generations to come.