Is our global society sustainable? What is a sustainable society? Is there sustainability crisis? How do we protect the global environment, maintain a healthy global economy, and create a sustainable society? How do we design a sustainable economy and society?
These are some of the big questions that our society grapples with — with increasing urgency. It makes sense that these are also the questions central to the Human Ecology and Sustainability Seminar, the capstone course and a requirement to graduate with a concentration in Human Ecology and Sustainability. Students hoping to graduate with this distinction will — through a number of activities — attempt to develop answers, solutions, and perhaps more questions.
In its nascent year, the Human Ecology and Sustainability concentration has seven seniors signed on. The requirements include an interdisciplinary course load as they explore the areas where sustainability, economic vitality, and the natural environment intersect. The diversity of courses is crucial to wholly understanding sustainability, according to Science Department Head Jim Serach, who likes to quote ecologist and author David Orr: “First, all education is environmental education.”
The seminar is a large part of this program, and in addition to analysis of required readings like Silent Spring, and hypothetical analyses of these ideas on a global scale, the students also had a chance to see how many of the principles they study are put into practice, or “walk the talk,” as Serach described it. For four days, the group immersed itself in the “life-changing” work of the Chewonki Outdoor Classroom in Maine, where they studied sustainable farming practices, the relationship between food and food systems, and how teamwork is critical to any sustainable solution.
In particular, students looked at food systems utilizing what we call “triple bottom line” thinking. According to Serach, “Genuinely sustainable solutions to issues surrounding food, energy, water, and waste are those that are attentive to the economic, social, and environmental impacts of the problem.” The students applied triple bottom line thinking to Chewonki’s food system and in doing so, learned how to examine other systems on GFA’s campus.
For the rest of the school year, seminar students will incorporate these experiences and ideas into their final project to identify, study and become experts on a local or campus sustainability issue. Students will present their findings to their peers at the World Perspectives Symposium in the spring.
For more information on GFA’s Signature Programs (which also includes STEAM and World Perspectives), visit us online: www.gfacademy.org/signatureprograms