Investigating Sustainability Professors’ Conceptualizations of Sustainability and Sustainable Universities at Dalhousie University
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The consumption of renewable and non-renewable resources has increased across the globe since the industrial revolution, largely due to a growing human population. This rapid expenditure of resources has several negative effects, one of the most apparent of which is the unnecessary strain on the environment through increased emissions and wastes produced by the harvesting and consumption of natural resources. This accelerating rate of resource use has urged many around the world to begin a movement toward more environmentally friendly practices. One of the basic principles of this movement is the concept of sustainability; a significant part of this notion is the understanding that we should use resources in a way which meets the needs of our own generation without detracting from the abilities of future generations to do so as well (WCED, 1987). In working towards a more sustainable society, several key institutions have been presented as vital in dealing with matters on sustainability, including current political affairs, the opinion of the public (Orr, 1992), scientific and educational research centres and higher education institutions (UNESCO-UNEP, 1977). Higher education institutions (HEI) have the unique ability to endow an environmental education on those within the institution, helping to “provide the necessary knowledge, understanding, values and skills needed by the general public and many occupational groups for their participation in devising solutions to environmental questions,” while at the same time encouraging “an awareness of economic, political and ecological interdependence of the modern world so as to enhance a spirit of responsibility and solidarity among nations,” (ibid. p. 12). These factors are a necessary step in moving toward a more sustainable society, placing HEIs at the forefront of the sustainability movement. This study uses research and interviews to examine perceived issues of sustainability and barriers toward sustainability among a cohort of professors within Dalhousie University. The first section of this paper will introduce the research question and provide background to the foundations of sustainability, as well as its relevance to HEIs. This will be followed by a discussion of the relevance of the research project as a contribution to the subject of environmental science, along with a literature review and the findings of the study.