Could it be? A PLU definition of Sustainability?

You may be familiar with PLU’s regular 10 year visioning exercise. In 2000, Pacific Lutheran University went through a plan to map out goals for 2010. Now in 2010, we are in the process of mapping out PLU 2020.

As a newer member of PLU, let me start by saying I am very impressed with this type of long-term planning. It shows that PLU is living intentionally, and aims to shape history rather than react to it. The collaboration, transparency and enthusiastic spirit this takes is inspiring. There are 8 groups tasked with a different theme that the University holds dear. These groups are responsible for asking questions in their first year, and seeking answers to them in the next (2011). Out of this will come a comprehensive vision for Pacific Lutheran University to stand by.

One of the 8 themes is “Sustainable Communities”. That group has the unique task of defining qhat is a sustainable community?, and for that matter, what is sustainability? Well, this is what we’ve come up with, but we need your input. Please comment!

At PLU, the ideal of sustainability incorporates concern for social justice with the inherent value of the natural world, combining attention to immediate needs and long-term goals in both areas.

Commitment to this idea develops directly from the mission statement of the University, which commits us to “seek to educate students for lives of thoughtful inquiry, service, leadership and care – for other persons, for the community and for the earth.”

Sustainability is also a priority for the Christian community with which PLU is affiliated. In its social statement Caring for Creation, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America lists sustainability as a core principle of justice, calling believers and communities to the work of “honoring the integrity of creation, and striving for fairness within the human family. . . . When we act interdependently and in solidarity with creation, we do justice. We serve and keep the earth, trusting its bounty can be sufficient for all, and sustainable.”Division for Church and Society (1993), Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope, and Justice, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.

Sustainability as a global concern is also frequently traced back to the Brundtland Commission of the United Nations, which defined the concept in broad terms as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.Brundtland, G. (ed), (1987) Our Common Future: The World Commission on Environment and Development, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

The work of sustainability at PLU involves incorporating these concerns into all aspects of our daily business, influencing our lives together, our attitudes toward the campus environment, the education of our students, the research of our faculty, and our relationships to the local and global communities of which PLU is a part. This work can be summarized in three areas of focus:

Many disciplines incorporate sustainability into their learning objectives, and many research projects involve sustainability, but it is vital that we create and maintain a common set of objectives to solidify sustainability in our students’ education and our faculty’s work. Teaching and studying sustainability requires developing a deliberately multidisciplinary approach while respecting the very different language and tools used by each discipline. The more PLU’s academic community can come together to discuss and engage the challenges of sustainability, the more these themes will be integrated into curriculum, research, and all other aspects of academic life.

Built Environment
Built environment includes human made, arranged, maintained and affected products, interiors, structure, landscapes, campus, regions and earth. All are interrelated and interdependent. Incorporating and utilizing existing knowledge in a way that will uncover next steps in improving our management of the built environment. Educating the campus community of their role in the built environment will reduce current impacts, lead to carbon neutrality and better define sustainability.Bartusta

Campus and Community Culture
Sustainability requires a culture aware of its environmental and social impacts, attentive to its dynamic contexts, and prepared to make positive change. PLU’s strengths are leadership development, professional growth and collaboration. Our task is to utilize these strengths to build a sustainable culture in all the decisions we make, the conversations we have, and the values by which we define ourselves. Our campus and our students will be models to share with our neighbors in Parkland, the Puget Sound, and across the world.


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