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188-014 WBIS: Sustainable Futures

188-014 WBIS: Sustainable Futures
Instructor: Manjari Chatterji
What will a sustainable future look like? Endless energy from renewable sources; clean drinking water for the planet; safe food, "smart" buildings, and mass transportation; oceans teaming with life, intact eco-systems, just and sustainable uses of land, resources and people. We must envision it, if we are to work toward such a future. But first we must define Sustainability, and then decide what it is we want to sustain. This is not easy!
There is a growing consensus that human activity significantly impacts the natural systems that sustain us. The challenge of the future will be to balance the needs of human communities, with healthy natural systems, by recognizing the interconnectedness of all global systems. In catchier terms, we must balance the needs of the economy, ecology and equity; put another way: People, Profit, Planet. We will need to think creatively about such a future, and engage critically the debates about sustainability.
The topic is large, but we can view it through a lens we are all familiar with: food. Although we may think of food as simply everyday sustenance, food is also enmeshed in competing views of how best we should feed ourselves: a global industrial model that provides large amounts of inexpensive food but with significant externalities, or, a local, community based, healthy one that requires more human labor but reduces environmental and social impacts.
At the heart of this debate are related issues of energy, water usage, biodiversity, population and consumption.
Learning the key issues about a sustainable future, and debating the emerging viewpoints by making critical judgments, and finding and evaluating substantial evidence is part of what a liberal education aims to be. Your 4 year college experience is intended --among many things--to make you a critical thinker, a democratic citizen, and a societally engaged human being with a strong sense of values and ethics.

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