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Resources for Understanding & Teaching Sustainability

This website was designed as a clearinghouse of information to help teachers, students, and others interested in finding meaning in the sustainability concept -- what it is, how and why it came to be, and how it is being implemented, supported, and challenged. This homepage is connected to a database of some 6,000 entries including academic publications, news articles, reports, videos, and websites. The topics vary widely across all fields. The database was launched in June 2013 and will undergo continuous development and improvemen. [Please send comments to:]

Why Teach Sustainability?


“Sustainability implies that the critical activities of a higher education institution are (at a minimum)
ecologically sound, socially just, and economically viable, and that they will continue to be so for future
generations. A truly sustainable college or university would emphasize these concepts in its
curriculum and research, preparing students to contribute as working citizens to an environmentally
sound and socially just society.
The institution would function as a sustainable community, embodying
responsible consumption of food and energy, treating its diverse members with respect, and supporting
these values in the surrounding community.”

Association of University Leaders for a Sustainable Future

A central goal of a liberal arts education is to broadly train students so that they may become responsible citizens who can understand and respond to the complex issues that they face. Sustainability represents a complex, interconnected and ever-changing set of issues, and the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh has adopted it as an Essential Learning Outcome in its new general education program, the University Studies Program.

The sustainability concept grew out of concerns that post-World War II development efforts were falling short on two fronts: 1) although they were contributing to economic growth, they were performing poorly in improving human welfare in many regions; 2) they were depleting resources faster than they could be renewed or substituted, degrading the environment in many places, pushing global biogeochemical thresholds in unprecedented ways, and undermining ambitious nature conservation efforts.

In this context, sustainability represents the merging of conservation and development goals for the long-term health of human societies and Earth’s life-giving processes that support them. Sustainability is now widely accepted as the way forward by governments, businesses, educational institutions, NGOs, communities, and individuals worldwide.

Below are some resources that may be of value as you begin incorporating sustainability ideas into your courses. These resources are part of a Sustainability Reference Database that contains academic and popular articles, books, reports, videos, links, and other resources related to sustainability.

Link to the complete, searchable Sustainability References Database

Introductory MaterialsKey ConceptsEnergySpecial Topics Special Topics
Anthropocene (the time period defined by human action)
Conventional Fossil Fuels
Bee colony collapse Environmental health
Defining sustainability Basic human needs
Sustainability and the liberal arts
Biodiversity loss
Campus basics
Historical Roots of Sustainability
Climate change/Global warming
  • Natural gas
Campus green fund
Nuclear energy Carbon sequestration
Fair trade
Renewable Energy Consumption Green design
Biomass (all forms)
Deforestation Hypoxic "dead zones"
Ecological Economics
Eco Communities Landscaping
Energy efficiency Neoliberalism
Efficiency and Jevons' Paradox (if I don't use it, someone else will)
Nonprofit, nongovernmental org's
Cognition (how we think about and perceive issues)
Fugitive (or unburned) methane emissions
Ozone Depletion
Collapse of societies
Human-induced earthquakes (associated with fracking)
Precautionary principle
Development and challenges to development
Net energy (energy return on energy investment - EROI)
Sense of place
Natural Capital
Research Strategies
Food and Agriculture Social justice
Other Resources
Ecological footprint
Bibliographies & literature reviews
Human population
Unconventional Fossil Fuels Journals
Planetary boundaries News sources (Sustainability)
  • Permaculture (including agroforestry, silviculture, restoration agriculture and more)
Recommended books
Vulnerability Videos

by Hansen, Shawn M. last modified Jul 01, 2014 11:42 PM
Contributors: brian kermath, stephanie spehar

Teaching Resources CTA