chapter  5
8 Pages

Teaching Sustainability: The Case of the Incredible Shrinking Professor

Teaching sustainability, it seems to me, is different than many of the topics we

teach at a university. Unlike biology, say, which creates biologists, or planning

which creates planners, there is not profession of “sustainer.” As David Orr

notes, achieving sustainability in the postmodern world will require an “active,

competent citizenry” (1992, p. 30), demonstrating “civic virtue, a high degree of

ecological literacy, and ecological competence throughout the population” (1992,

p. 31). The pedagogic goal is to encourage a world view, one in which students

will become citizen activists for sustainability after they graduate, whether in the

civic sphere or by bringing sustainability criteria to bear on their work. Because

sustainability is very complex, these citizens need to be able to acknowledge the

insufficiency of what they will know and not be paralyzed by it. Instead, they

will need to turn to others to form groups of inquirers who can research mul-

tiple aspects of a question and together have a chance of seeing a broader picture

of the complex designs of the world and the opportunities for sustainability.

Sustainability will be achieved only through communities of learners and activists,

and this is what a curriculum in sustainability must model. Empowerment cannot

be only an academic concept described in the class, but must also be experienced

by the students within the class. Only by making teaching approaches consistent

and coherent with teaching substance on this topic will we create the communities

and citizens we need for the future.