Sunday, September 17, 2006

University of Western Ontario Considers Environmental College

The growth of green consciousness on college campuses is a really exciting development, and I always enjoy finding news of new efforts to green campuses, and/or to introduce environmentalism and sustainability into the curriculum. The University of Western Ontario is considering taking an even bigger step: creating a new School of Environment and Sustainability. From the University's Press office:
A new School of Environment and Sustainability could become a reality as early as 2008 if Professor Robert Bailey and Western's Environmental Education Working Group are successful in convincing the university a need exists.

Formed in 2005 by administration to re-define Western's profile and activities in undergraduate environmental education, Bailey, Director of Environmental Research, says the group quickly found merit in proposing a new structure for environmental education and research at Western.

The objective would be to showcase strengths of existing environmental scholars and break down barriers between faculties and departments.

Going even further, the proposed school would guide Western in adopting sustainable behaviours on campus.

"We also wanted the new initiative to focus and assist Western's corporate commitment to greater responsibility and sustainability in its use of resources and waste management," says Bailey, who co-chairs the group with Geography Chair Dan Shrubsole.
There are several encouraging points here. First, one of the main arguments supporters are making is that there will be great demand for environmental professionals in the not-too-distant future, and Western could put itself on the cutting edge of economic trends. Secondly, the School would focus on an interdisciplinary curriculum, so it wouldn't just create scientists (who are certainly needed) but also experts in the human relationship to the natural environment who could prove quite useful to governments and businesses. Finally, their seems to be support for the idea: the University's provost, for instance, didn't come right out and endorse the idea (as he probably shouldn't at this point), but certainly had kind words to say about the initiative being taken by the Environmental Education Working Group.

Not only is this a great idea for purely educational reasons, but, given the increasing interest in sustainability we're seeing around the world, Western could make itself a magnet for research funds and other financial endowments. It's hard to imagine that such a school wouldn't be sustainable at a number of levels...

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