The Academics

by Bronte Sone

Yes, we have laptops. Yes, we have electricity. Yes, we have heating and hot water. And yes, we have classes. In fact living at the Sustainability site is exactly like living in a normal house (albeit a beautiful farmhouse on a great plot of land). To the outside world, participating in the Sustainability Semester means something akin to living before the Industrial Revolution; but we don’t see it that way. We have commonplace luxuries, and our classes deal with issues that did not exist a hundred years ago. But most importantly, the classes, which all relate to each other, grab us at the core.

Sustainability is a study; this much we knew. It includes big picture thinking and pondering in regards to topics such as resource use and depletion, global geopolitical problems, and the ideals, institutions, and traditions that shape the way we approach and relate to the environment in particular, but more importantly the global community in general. The study of sustainability incorporates practical, personal, and usually, easy solutions that, when practiced with intention, allow one to be more sustainable with one’s actions.

We are often asked about classes. What are they? What do you learn? What’s the work load like? Do you enjoy them? We get asked by peers, faculty, parents, etc.  I suppose this is understandable. As explained above, sustainability is a big, inter-disciplinary study, and any program that is founded on such a topic must be, well, inter-disciplinary. It must examine sustainability on a global scale and a personal scale. From embedded carbon emissions to homesteading techniques.  Luckily the Sustainability Semester accomplishes this. 

Ok, we know you, too, are dying to know what classes we are taking; classes include Sustainability Studies, The Dangerous Human Race, Traditional Knowledge and Fabrics of Sustainability, and Resource Sustainability (for those of us who are not First-year students, since they are instead returning to campus for their First Year Seminars during that class period). The courses cover a lot of ground. More precisely, in Sustainability Studies, we ask the big questions and examine the connections between these often global issues. In The Dangerous Human Race we reflect and muse about how and why we have become a globalized planet with a grow-at – all costs attitude, and what kind of critical thinking it will take to become a sustainable species. We have begun our focus with a fast paced review of the first million years of human history. For example, last week we discussed the transition from hunter-gatherer society to a more industrialized farming one, and the advantages and disadvantages of both with respect to sustainability. While Traditional Knowledge and Fabrics of Sustainability surely teach one how to knit (you should see some of the cabled Irish hiking scarfs around here) it also examines “traditional and modern fibers and textiles, primarily for clothing, and the impacts of production”. As you might have guessed, the focus of Resource Sustainability is resources: what are they, how do we get them, what are they used for? The answers, as you might also guess, are not very sustainable.

But sustainability is a lifestyle. Sure our course load, which is nothing greater nor less than that of a semester on campus, is concerned with one over-arching topic, and we really do let it mellow when it’s yellow. But the crux of our studies in sustainability is the intellectual community that is created here and each individual’s participation in it. It is the working together for a common goal that brings the studies to life; that gives passion to knowledge. It is the impromptu discussions about the change we want to see in the world and what we are going to do about it. It is the defining and embracing of a lifestyle that allows one to do part in the mobilization for a sustainable world. This is how we truly conduct sustainability studies; we live it. 

- Bronte and Jake