By Adrienne Cachelin, U of U sustainability curriculum director
I’m not one for heroes, generally speaking; I think the idea of a hero distracts us from the recognition that we all have a role to play in the sustainability movement.
That said, if I had to pick a hero for the movement, it’d be David Orr, hands down. Orr will be at the University of Utah this Friday at 2 p.m., presenting on sustainability leadership in the Hinckley Caucus Room, OSH 255. The event is free and open to the public.
Back in 1994, when Orr wrote his famous book “Earth in Mind,” he realized the importance of interdisciplinarity, noting that of our current educational system may foster a belief that “there is such a thing as politics separate from ecology or that economics has nothing to do with physics. Yet, the world is not this way … it cannot be broken into disciplines and specializations without doing serious harm to the world and to the minds and lives of people who believe that it can be.”
To me, Orr’s idea is key to sustainability education at the University of Utah. We know climate change is real—the science is done—but without the psychologists and sociologists, the engineers and architects, the wellness experts and religious scholars, we are not going to be able to move the ball forward quickly enough. The fact, as Orr noted 20 years ago, is that “all education is environmental education. By what is included or excluded; students are taught that they are part of or apart from the natural world. To teach economics, for example, without reference to the laws of thermodynamics or ecology is to teach a fundamentally important ecological lesson: that physics and ecology have nothing to do with the economy. It just happens to be dead wrong. The same is true throughout the curriculum.”
In his more recent work, “Down to the Wire: Confronting Climate Collapse,” his depth and hope again comes through. Our experience will be “trial by fire, hopefully, a tempering process in which we will shed our illusions of being separate from nature and our pretense that we can master nature or each other through violence.”
Whether heroes are your thing or not, Orr has game, and I expect his talk to stay with all of us as we work toward a sustainable future. Join us Friday at 2 p.m. in OSH 255 for his inspiring talk.