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The context of learning will change to make human/environment interdependence, values, and ethics a seamless and central part of teaching of all disciplines. All students will understand that we are an integral part of nature. They will understand the ecological services that are critical for human existence and how to make the ecological footprint of human activity visible and as benign as possible. Understanding how to create a just and sustainable society must be a fundamental principle in all education.
Sustainability Curriculum History
In the late 1990's when Susan Bratton was a biology faculty member, Whitworth offered several courses related to environmental issues, including Conservation Biology, Human Ecology, and Global Environmental Perspectives. Professor emeritus David Hicks taught Global Environmental Perspectives. From 1999-2003 an Environmental Studies minor was offered in Biology, including courses in physical and life sciences and humanities, social science, and practical fieldwork. This minor was discontinued in 2004 due to no Biology faculty available to teach the Conservation Biology and Human Ecology courses. Of the current Biology faculty, Craig Tsuchida has a background in Ecology, but is primarily teaching courses in other areas. The Biology department has discussed reviving the minor, and adding an Environmental Chemistry Class.
Current Status of Related Curriculum
- Kerry Breno teaches a Jan term class called CH 111 Green Chemistry for a Sustainable Future for non-majors. This course has four main components. First students learn about chemicals including hazards and how they are part of everything. We will use some of this information to discuss the use of potentially hazardous materials and whether the precautionary principle is realistic or essential. This is done through debates on the use of DDT for malaria prevention. Then we look at products and processes we use in everyday life (how they are made, what hazards are associated with products, what is the use of them, and how we dispose of them). We focus on case studies regarding building materials for construction. We also look at life-cycle analysis for materials including the perennial favorite "paper or plastic". The third section is how humans affect the planet. We discuss global warming, energy (we make biodiesel), water, and if we get time the biosphere. The end of the course is a reflection on stewardship and sustainability from various worldview positions and corporate policies.
- Kerry has also incorporated sustainability and green chemistry principles into her organic chemistry courses and labs. For organic chemistry II (CH278) faculty teach sustainable principles (green chemistry) for the synthesis of organic compounds. It teaches our students how to select responsible reagents, solvents, products, and processes. It is an essential skill for future pharmaceutical research as well as good practice for all chemists/scientists. In organic chemistry I and II (CH271L and CH278L) labs, faculty reinforce the concepts of green chemistry. We discuss the hazards of the reagents and processes we use. The labs have been developed to minimize hazards to humans and the environment.
- Mike Sardinia in biology teaches a Jan Term course titled Northwest Agriculture. He does not believe that requiring only the natural science courses to include sustainability would be a wise recommendation. For some classes (such as chemistry and health or molecules in the mind or HIV and AIDs) those topics would be an inappropriate add-in. In addition, sustainability is an issue not just in science it is important to consider communities (sociology), politics, business practices, as well as science and technology. Instead he would recommend encouraging team-approach courses from various disciplines which may have a GP (?) or NS designation for students.
- Patrick Van Inwegen is also interested in collaborating on courses, and incorporates discussion relating to sustainability into several of his Political Studies courses, including PO 353: International Political Economy – the course was organized around the broad issue of sustainable development. In PO151: International Relations – the students spend some time on environmental issues and this past semester he had the students visit his house to see what he's done to make it more eco-friendly and to give him advice on what additional steps he could take. PO396: International Organizations – though not dealing with sustainability per se, we are just finishing up a section on global efforts to limit the emissions of greenhouse gases (a simulation based on the Kyoto Protocol).
- Undergrad business courses address environmental issues in terms of corporate social responsibility.
- Craig Hinnencamp teaches BU 450 Social and Ethical Issues in Business and Economics (Business Ethics), which includes a week-long unit on environmental ethics.
- Craig teaches a graduate course titled Environmental Management that includes sustainability strategies and ideas for "greening a business."
- Economics of Social Issues, a course only taught periodically, could potentially include issues of sustainability and currently somewhat addresses environmental issues.
- Mary Alberts teaches BU 373 Human Resource Management. She stresses that HR people can influence companies to consider environmental issues.
- Core 350 includes four case studies related to environmental issues and public policy, including a case on traffic on CA highways, one on public transportation, the international greenhouse gas agreement, and a proposal from the church regarding an environmental stewardship plan. Each case involves readings and briefings, with students analyzing and proposing related policy.
- Students can attend the Au Sable institute during Jan. term and summer in Puget Sound or Michigan, and take courses in Conservation Biology. Only a few students per year select this option. Au Sable is also more the conservation biology. They teach lots of field biology, geology, and enviromnetal programs. In addition, they have study programs abroad including in India during Jan Term. It is a great program. Tom Hillman, lecturer in physics teaching geology is a regular Au Sable instructor.
- The Art Department has attempted to use minimum wastes that are not considered "green waste" in any chemical processing. Courses include safety and clean up in dealing with any wastes. Many art projects include using found objects, a form of recycling.
- The Natural Science requirement does not require courses to include curriculum related to sustainability.
Short term (1 year) opportunities to increase sustainability curriculum
S1. The Science Advisory Committee is discussing potential new majors, including an Ecology and Environmental Chemistry major, but no action has been taken at this time.
S2. GE 125 book focused on sustainability issues.
S3. A reading group on sustainability for faculty.
S4. Encouraging a faculty team approach to teaching courses from various disciplines which may have a GP or NS designation for students.
S5. Arrange trips to local farm communities for students to be able to purchase local produce.
S6. Speakers and Artists presentations focuses on sustainability issues. The proposed Intellectual Passport (1/2 credit per semester for attending Speakers and Artists and other campus events) could include a requirement for X number of sustainability related presentations.
S7. Review Natural Science requirement to include emphasis on sustainability.
S8. The Art Department will integrate sustainability into 3-D courses by having projects that incorporate recycling and talk about sustainability. A guest artist may come to campus next year who uses solar powered stained glass.
S9. Mary Alberts is working with the Center for Justice and other faculty to form an interdisciplinary graduate course on sustainability. Brean Biggs, a Whitworth Alum, works for the Center for Justice.
S10. Mary is also forming an undergraduate business course on sustainability, funded by the Herbert B. Jones grant, a grant focused on entrepreneurship.
S11. Mary Alberts suggested a faculty training and putting together a book like what was done for writing across the curriculum for sustainability, and/or having a faculty development day devoted to training on environmental issues.
Long term (2-5 years)
SL1. Identify courses in all disciplines that could include sustainability emphasis.