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Sustainability

A summary of the work of the 2010-2011 Sustainability Task Force

April 12, 2011

Lewis & Clark

Last summer, in recognition of surging student and public interest in sustainability and the lack of a shared vision of sustainability among our students, faculty, and staff, Executive Council appointed a task force to shape a coherent approach to sustainability at Lewis & Clark. As was accurately noted in the task force charge, the College has been struggling with “growing confusion [about] Lewis & Clark’s approach to sustainability, both in terms of substance on the ground and the story we tell to our constituents and the public.… The challenge is to resist having sustainability defined for us—in ways that are often contrary to our interests—and to stake out our own ground as an institution that understands, pursues, and is known for approaching sustainability in rigorous, complex, and ethical ways.”

The Sustainability Task Force—composed of students, faculty, and staff from all three of Lewis & Clark’s schools—has been working over the course of the year to come to a complex understanding of sustainability and to define its meaning and scope for our institution. Indeed, given the sector-wide tendency for “sustainability” to mean both everything and nothing, the exercise of defining the concept was a crucial first challenge. After spending fall semester studying the origins of sustainability and its various expressions across ours and other sectors, the task force arrived at this articulation of what sustainability should mean at Lewis & Clark:

Lewis & Clark College is committed to learning, innovation, and principled action on matters related to sustainability, as grounded in our educational mission to cultivate global thinkers and leaders. Our approach to sustainability will build on the best available scholarship and practice; recognize the importance and interrelatedness of ecology, economy, and equity; and operate on scales stretching from our campus to the world.

Most of spring semester has been devoted to the work of a half-dozen subcommittees appointed to develop findings and recommendation in the following key areas: organizational structure, institutional decision-making, communications, campus operations, off-campus dimensions, student life, and teaching, research, and service. As part of their work, the subcommittees collected input from various departments and offices as well as numerous individuals on and off campus. In March, the subcommittees submitted their reports.

Here are the six subcommittee reports:

Given the complexity of sustainability and the diversity of opinions about how to better integrate sustainability into operations and academics at Lewis & Clark, it is not surprising that the Task Force is still working to reach consensus on how to bring these six subcommittee recommendations into a more cohesive whole.

As task force co-chairs, we believe that by defining and implementing “integrated sustainability” Lewis & Clark has an exciting opportunity to take a leadership role within higher education, both in teaching and practicing sustainability for future generations.  How this concept of “integrated sustainability” might be developed and implemented for the Lewis & Clark must ultimately be decided by Executive Council.

—Submitted by Jim Proctor, director of environmental studies, and Tom Krattenmaker, associate vice president for public affairs and communications, April 12, 2011

 

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