Planning for Higher Education Journal

Impeding Sustainability? The Ecological Footprint of Higher Education

Journal Cover
From Volume 31 Number 3 | March–May 2003
By William E. Rees

Institution(s) referenced in this resource:
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, University of New Hampshire-Main Campus

Global society has “overshot” the long-term human carrying capacity of Earth. This unsustainable state is an emergent property of the systemic interaction of techno-industrial society as presently configured and the ecosphere. It cannot be corrected without fundamental changes to critical socio-cultural variables that determine the interaction. To the extent that higher education (re)produces the dominant cultural paradigm, it is a source of the problem. Universities must strive to reduce the ecological footprints of both their own operations and, more importantly, of the growth-oriented materialistic worldview they promote. Indeed, the real challenge for higher education is to help articulate an alternative life-sustaining worldview.

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