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THE ECONOMIC PAMPHLETEER: Sustainability in Higher Education: Beyond Going Green
by John Ikerd
http://dx.doi.org/10.5304/jafscd.2012.023.009, pp. 5–7
It is encouraging that a growing number of colleges and universities are making serious efforts to address questions of sustainability in their teaching, research, campus operations, and public relations programs. Some are building green buildings, buying green cleaning supplies, and competing in greenest campus contests. It is also heartening that food and agricultural issues have risen to prominence on green campuses, as food services respond to student demands for local sourcing of foods, composting of food waste, and space for student gardens to produce foods by sustainable methods. While going green is necessary, it is not sufficient.
Authentic sustainability is about meeting the needs of the present without diminishing opportunities for the future. Everything that is used for meeting human needs ultimately must come from either nature or society. The economy provides an efficient means of using natural and societal resources to meet human needs. Ecological integrity, while necessary, is not sufficient to ensure sustainability. A society that is lacking in social or economic integrity cannot sustain ecological integrity. Ecological, social, and economic integrity are inseparable dimensions of the whole of sustainability. Educational programs that focus on a specific ecological, social, or economic dimension of sustainability without effectively addressing the other two may be useful, but they do not address the fundamental question of sustainability. ...
John Ikerd is professor emeritus of agricultural economics, University of Missouri,
Why did I name my column “The Economic Pamphleteer”? Pamphlets historically were short, thoughtfully written opinion pieces and were at the center of every revolution in western history. Current ways of economic thinking aren’t working and aren’t going to work in the future. Nowhere are the negative consequences more apparent than in foods, farms, and communities. I know where today’s economists are coming from; I have been there. I spent the first half of my 30-year academic career as a very conventional free-market, bottom-line agricultural economist. I eventually became convinced that the economics I had been taught and was teaching wasn’t good for farmers, wasn’t good for rural communities, and didn’t even produce food that was good for people. I have spent the 25 years since learning and teaching the principles of a new economics of sustainability. Hopefully my “pamphlets” will help spark a revolution in economic thinking.
Banner photos include a Cape Cod cranberry bog; a cranberry “screen house” used to grade fresh cranberries; farmland near Lake Placid, NY, in the Adirondack Mountains; Montmorency cherry trees on the Mission Peninsula of northern Michigan; the historic Round Barn in the South Mountain Apple Belt of Adams County, Pennsylvania; the “Sea of Grapes” district of the Lake Erie Concord Grape Belt, near Erie, Penn; a field of cabbages near Shortsville, NY, home to one of the world’s largest sauerkraut factories. All photos copyright by Duncan Hilchey.
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