New Gen-Ed Course Addresses Challenge of Sustainability

Sheridan Professors Marcus Freeman (FHASS) and Vito Masi (FAST) have developed a new General Education course to address a perceived gap in students’ understanding of the global sustainability crisis. The new course, Transitioning to a livable planet: The challenge of sustainability (SOCS12884G), will launch in Winter 2024. The impetus for this course was a desire to make students aware of the importance of sustainability, and possibly lay the groundwork for a sustainability program.

Freeman and Masi Describe the Course:

Our review of other examples found many contemporary sustainability courses focus more on current issues in sustainability and less on the historical context that led to the development of the current situation. After a lot of discussion about how best to address the subject, we decided to take a broader survey approach.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Looking at the issue through various cultural lenses, we will attempt to show how societies through history and around the world transitioned from once sustainable systems to the largely unsustainable practices now threatening the world. Using the contemporary United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals and working backwards, the course will take students through the stories of different societies and how sustainability factored into their emergence and how its loss over time constitutes a threat to ongoing survival.

Our goal within this broader historical perspective is to prepare students to investigate current issues of sustainability and research potential solutions whether by social, economic, or technological means. Through a range of activities and assignments, students will build the context by which to explore current unsustainable practices in food, energy, housing, economics, resource extraction, governance. We intend to examine efforts across a range of communities, from local to international, to create and achieve sustainable development goals. We will also look at efforts to explore and revive traditional and indigenous knowledges within the contemporary sustainability discourse and how many are hopeful past wisdom can provide solutions to meet the needs of present and future generations.

We’re excited to bring this course to our students and are looking forward to its launch in the Winter 2024 semester.