Sustainability Perspectives and Methods

SUST 501, sustainability perspectives and methods brought new concepts to light. The course covered topics that were transdisciplinary, and solutions based. Within my studies, we dove more deeply into sustainability problems to examine them with a greater influence on the humanities and social science lenses. Within this sphere, many proposed solutions were stakeholder driven and began to be solved through collaboration.

One local sustainability problem that the class focused on was implementing a tidal turbine in Eastport, ME. Eastport is a small community that was having difficulty retaining their local population and economy. Within this coastal town, fishing is the largest industry. Scientists began researching the idea of putting a tidal turbine on the coast of Eastport which would create new jobs to heighten the economy and provide green energy. Scientists interviewed local fisherman to learn about the effects this would possibly have on their catch. This discussion of Eastport hit all the different characteristics of sustainability science; problem based, context specific, solutions driven, systems approach, interdisciplinary, and normative.

Within this course, each class member had to read a different book and report to the class the ideas described and relation to sustainability. As I’ve said before, sustainability is a complex and transdisciplinary issue and the ideas I learned from these books described this. I read Sharing Cities: A Case for Truly Smart and Sustainable Cities by Duncan McLaren and Julian Agyeman. This book explored the aspects of a sharing paradigm, and the differences between the paradigm and a sharing economy. Living within a capitalistic and consumerist society, it is second nature to always want the newest and best thing, and we show our wealth and culture with these “things”. This book described that a shift to sharing entities for a sustainable future. The other book I read was Secondhand: Travels in The New Global Garage Sale, by Adam Minter. This book also described the consumerist society in which we live. This book followed Minter on his own personal journey across the globe to visit different secondhand shops and speak with people of all different cultures within the thrifting industry. The main idea within these travels was that as humans we put sentimental value in a lot of worthless items, and although we are great at acquiring items, we are terrible at getting rid of them.

As every student in SUST 501 does, I contributed to the Sustainability Methods Reader. I saw a huge gap within this reader on the topic of sustainable business. I and three other students that were completing the SDM with a business major took on the task of drafting this new chapter “Sustainability in Finance”. We covered topics on sustainable investment approaches, stakeholder engagement and microlending. I also discussed the returns from sustainable investing, as this is the most common question I hear when the topic is brought up.

Again, within this project, I was able to collaborate with business and sustainability. I appreciate how open the field of sustainability is and the many disciplinaries it involves.