While sustainability is generally seen as the work of government (policymakers) and technologists (scientists or engineers), and thus a top-down endeavor in which citizens or communities are seen as "adopters" (as in, how can we get people to retrofit their homes? or turn off their lights when they don't need them?), the field is slowly starting to recognize the key role that people and communities need to play, not only as trusted messengers in getting people to engage in sustainability and climate actions, but also in deliberating about the challenges and creating new innovative, community- and culturally-based solutions. Within sustainability studies and in practice, there are increasingly theories and examples of participatory processes that lead to new types of sustainability practices. When these processes involve collaborations between communities and government, they are known as "collaborative governance."
In the past decade Atlanta has undergone phenomenal changes in infrastructure, and food culture because of two things: being a beta-hub in the tech industry, and tax credits that have cultivated a thriving film industry. This influx of people, money, and innovation, restaurant culture has seen tremendous growth. This Serve-Learn-Sustain (SLS) course encourages students to learn the story of Atlanta through its food history.
This course - taught on the Pacific Program - will develop a theoretical understanding of sustainability, from a bottom-up perspective that considers ecological outcomes as a function of human institutions. It begins with defining and understanding the tragedy of the commons, and develops an understanding of why we might not be doomed to this tragedy. While exploring broad themes in environmental ethics, philosophy, and management, it will explore cases in the Pacific context, and will include a service-learning project in Fiji.
Policy Tools for Environmental Management constructs a general framework for analyzing environmental issues, and develops concepts and techniques for managing environmental systems, within the context of environmental planning and policy within sustainable communities.
Vertically Integrated Project: Civic Data and Design
The purpose of this course is to research and develop information, communication, and media systems to address regional civic issues, using techniques from design, computing, and social sciences, in collaboration with government and community partners. These systems will have real-world impact, and promote social sustainability, equity, and justice.
The search for life beyond the Earth is reaching new heights. So what are we looking for, and how will we know when we find it? This course will explore the history of the solar system and the Earth as the one example of a habitable planet—one that can support living organisms—that we know now. We will consider how the planets formed, the important planetary processes that brought about the Earth as it was when life arose and the planet we live on today.
Ever the Land is an internationally acclaimed documentary film about Te Kura Whare, the fully certified Living Building built by the Tūhoe, a Māori tribe of northern New Zealand. The Tūhoe built Te Kura Whare as a public community center and tribal heritage archive. This tool introduces context about the Tūhoe and the 2014 Tūhoe-Crown Settlement that is necessary for understanding the film as well as the historical and cultural significance of the Te Kura Whare (Living Building) project. An in-class “gallery walk” discussion will prepare students for a take-home writing assignment that asks them to reflect on how the film defines and represents equity.
SLS approaches sustainability as an integrated system, linking environment, economy, and society. As an initiative focused on “creating sustainable communities,” we especially emphasize the role that SOCIETY plays in sustainability – and particularly issues of social equity and community voice. You can learn about SLS’ approach to sustainable communities here. The purpose of this tool is to help students begin to understand the SOCIETY part of sustainability. It includes two exercises and resources for learning more.
This tool explores the principle that environmental health impacts are a function of the inherent risk multiplied by exposure. In chemical processes we have become better at managing inherent risk, but we also have a significant legacy of mismanagement. One such example occurred in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where local politician Harold Mitchell and community organization ReGenesis tackled the problem of their community's long-term exposure to hazardous waste.
The tool below uses a video of Rep. Mitchell to explain the events in Spartanburg. It explores how local chemical plants mismanaged and deliberately covered up risks, nearly leading to a chemical disaster that they were not equipped to contain. Through this activity, you will explore and discuss how chemical engineering professionals should respond to similar situations, and what responsibilities such professionals have to the communities around them.