I want to congratulate you on your recent address on sustainability. It represents a step toward the truth that environmental awareness is not a side issue, but a core issue of every undertaking. The student body is not fully aware that everything we do has an impact on the environment, and that all education needs to be environmentally minded. I am particularly pleased with your efforts to reach out to the student body with the Planet Blue Ambassadors program, and with our ever increasing staff of sustainability-minded teachers. However, sustainability needs to be integrated into the curriculum at an even more fundamental level so that every student who graduates has a basis in the field.
It’s my recommendation that we need to set aside the idea of creating more sustainability-focused classes for the broader goal of incorporating sustainability into all our courses. It is a fallacy to assume that a student can receive a complete education in any field without learning about the basics of environmental conservation and sustainability because those concepts are an immutable part of the world in which we live. David Orr, a professor of environmental studies, once said that to “teach economics … without reference to the laws of thermodynamics or those of ecology is to teach a fundamentally important ecological lesson: that physics and ecology have nothing to do with the economy.” Everything is connected, and our education about the environment needs to reflect that.
Now, this will mean negotiating with the heads of the many schools that make up the University to fit more material into already packed academic schedules, but it is essential that this be done. It would also provide the additional benefit of cutting the costs of setting up new classes if we could instead educate our current faculty. The knowledge that we are receiving at the University comes with the responsibility to use it for the betterment of our society, and we cannot hope to make a meaningful use of it unless we truly understand how our work fits into the greater scheme of the world around us.