Workshop Promotes Values of Sustainability Among IWU Faculty, Staff
Ken Detloff (right), assistant manager of grounds services at Illinois Wesleyan, tells
workshop participants about efforts--and obstacles--for the use of environmentally
friendly methods in maintaining campus grounds.
June 9, 2006
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – It’s an overcast day in early June and an Illinois Wesleyan biology
professor has just caught a small water snake at the edge of Evergreen Lake. The young
son of a colleague stands nearby, transfixed, petting the reptile’s soft skin. Soon,
Biology Chair Given Harper is surrounded by a crowd of Illinois Wesleyan faculty and
staff admiring his catch--and later watching the released animal swim away into the
The small assembly has just braved rainy skies to explore the lake by canoe, an outdoor
adventure that followed two days of intense, mostly indoor education and discussion
about integrating the values of sustainability into IWU classrooms and campus life.
Participants toured the campus to learn about sustainability efforts and obstacles,
and visited a nearby organic farm and the Children’s Discovery Museum in Normal, Ill.,
which was built to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) “green
Keynote speaker Dr. Anthony Cortese, president of the nonprofit organization Second
Nature, taught workshop participants not to use the limiting phrase “environmental
sustainability,” but instead to embrace holistic concepts of sustainability in social,
economic and ecological terms--based on principles of protecting human health, economic
opportunity, and fair and stable social systems, as well as the earth’s ecological
diversity and integrity.
The 40 participants were each asked to develop a project for incorporating sustainability
concepts into their courses or their campus work. Volunteers will meet again on Monday,
Aug. 7, to present their finished proposals.
The workshop was intended to help implement the University’s mission and vision statements
and strategic plan, with the ultimate goal of educating and motivating students as
leaders in creating a just and sustainable world.
During workshop discussions, faculty and staff realized that sustainability could
be connected to other core values of the University’s mission and not be seen as separate
from concepts of social justice, diversity and global understanding--all of which
relate to humans’ interconnectedness. The overall goal is to help students be good
citizens, aware of their impact on society, noted participant Kira Hudson Banks, assistant
professor of psychology.
To live sustainably, Cortese said, resources should be used at a rate that doesn’t
exceed their regeneration--in other words, “living off nature’s income, instead of
its capital.” To Cortese, it’s not enough to drive a fuel-efficient car. Recognizing
that the world’s supply of fossil fuels is finite, alternative sources of energy must
soon be embraced. Workshop co-convener Steve Hoffman, assistant professor of chemistry
and environmental studies, said that by some estimates, proven domestic oil reserves
will last as few as 11 years at current usage rates.
Co-convener Abigail Jahiel, associate professor of environmental and international
studies, said the American model of economic success in terms of growth and consumption
is not sustainable in the long term, which is becoming especially evident as the huge
population in developing China attempts to follow our lead. Participants discussed
ways to embody a value system that doesn’t follow the cultural paradigm of continually
acquiring more and more.
Said Cortese, “We’re the first generation that has the ability to determine the habitability
of the planet,” noting that the current pattern of “develop first, worry later” cannot
be sustained indefinitely.
Contact: Ann Aubry, (309) 556-3181.