Sustainability Through Times of Change
University life continues to evolve
By Wendy Anderson
Director of Campus Sustainability
We are living in a period of incredibly rapid change. Technological change, climate change and land use change are among the myriad consequences of human population growth. This growth has brought our existence on this planet to a state of crisis.
But crisis creates opportunity, spurs innovation and brings people together to collaboratively seek solutions. As educator and scientist Carl Folke so aptly said, "Sustainable development does not imply attaining and maintaining states of balance, preserving existing conditions or shutting out change. The world is complex and dynamic and characterized by uncertainty and quick—often unexpected—changes, with sudden tipping points and new directions we must learn to relate to, live with and develop alongside."
Adaptation in a rapidly changing world will ensure that humans and the natural systems that we depend on will persist well into the future.
Universities are a microcosm of society, and Drury is no exception. In stride with the national and international sustainability movement, Drury has embraced sustainability as a central feature of its academic and operational strategic goals.
In the 1970s, '80s and '90s, many charismatic faculty and student leaders courageously laid the foundation for Drury's commitment to the environment during a time when "environmentalism" was still pitted against economic interests and the drivers of "progress." Some of those faculty and student leaders during those decades included Dr. Ruth Bamberger (Political Science), Dr. Steve Jones (Biology and Environmental Science), Dr. Don Weber (Physics), Phil Page '78, Eric Dannenmaier '81, Diana Shockley Sheridan '93 and Stacy Pugh-Towe '95.
The current sustainability movement fully recognizes that progress must occur through an integrated lens of environmental preservation, economic prosperity and social equity. A decision is not sustainable if all three of those conditions are not met.
Drury has embraced this integrated brand of sustainability as well in its operations, academic programs and community partnerships. Very few schools in the Midwest have taken quite as aggressive an approach to infusing this into the campus culture.
Our commitment has blossomed out of a shared value among the administration, faculty, staff and students who claim environmental responsibility as individuals and as members of the Drury community. With our commitment to global perspectives and engagement, this comes quite naturally. We strive to nurture students' understanding of their place as individuals in society and as members of global community, including sharing responsibility for the limited natural resources we all depend on. More and more of our students are having significant experiences with internships and local civic engagement, both in southwest Missouri and abroad, that involve making communities stronger while improving the physical environment.
We are also finding ways to use our own campus buildings and grounds as a learning laboratory for sustainable living, such as involving students in performing campus energy audits, developing strategies for water conservation and reducing solid waste.
Students are increasingly involved in the planning stages of new buildings and green spaces. They learn about the consensus building that is required to move Drury forward and improve our shared space for the common good. On a daily basis, students are making sustainable food choices in the Commons, remembering to turn off lights when leaving a room and choosing to walk or ride a bike instead of driving to class. These efforts and even small individual actions to sustain our campus infrastructure make a huge impact. Mostly, though, they are instilling an ethic and a behavioral pattern they will carry with them long after they have moved beyond our 80-acre campus.
Most important, though, Drury's hallmark liberal arts education teaches collaborative problem-solving skills, fosters innovation and encourages entrepreneurship. Such creativity will be the foundation of the "green economy" that will define the lives of our current students' generation and those beyond.
Our business majors will know how to operate sustainable businesses and deliver environmentally responsible products and services. They will account for natural capital on their books. Our architecture majors will know how to design buildings that are sensitive to a site's natural conditions and will minimize those structures' environmental footprint. Our education majors will have a stronger grasp of sustainability issues that will nurture younger generations. Our pre-health students will understand the impact of poor air and water quality on human health. And we will have more students graduating with degrees in Environmental Science, Environmental Studies and Environmental Health than ever before. Drury is creating the physical and academic space to nurture those who will serve and lead in a rapidly changing world.
Change is inevitable. Major and rapid change is upon us. The ultimate solution is not a LEED-certified building, although that is a short-term solution. The solution is the ongoing ability to learn, to change, to adapt and to solve problems in smart, thoughtful and innovative ways so that all people and the planet will prosper.
As Drury faculty, students, alums, staff, administrators and friends, what is expected of us? We are hard-wired to have a sense of moral obligation to each other and to the rest of life on earth on which we all depend.
What is expected is that we care, that we take care, and that we nurture life in all its forms, including our own children, our students and all other species with whom we share this limited and remarkable planet.