Sustainable Systems Thinking– by Seth O’Bryan

Embarking on our third full academic year in the Commons means the addition of new classes and evolved approaches. Seth O’Bryan, co-teacher of the new Sustainable Systems course (co-taught with Chris Hartman) offered this introduction and scope for the course.

“What does sustainability mean?  Can it be used as a framework to gain a more meaningful understanding of our lives and the world we live in? Can a class study sustainability and also engage in action projects?  This year, Harley is offering a course called Sustainable Systems Thinking, which is co-taught by Chris Hartman and Seth O’Bryan.  The co-teachers are hoping to combine an academic approach to studying sustainability and concurrently engage in work that directly impacts the topics we are learning about.  We started the course by exploring definitions of sustainability and ultimately critically examining a definition the Commons teachers and students have been working on.  The first unit culminated with creating a proposed display about sustainability for Flag Hall.  

Our working definition is:  Sustainability is a system that focuses on an interdependence among the environment, community, and economy.  Sustainability builds on the past while being attentive to the present, and aims for a positive, lasting impact on future generations.

More importantly, what’s on the horizon?  Soon, we will be studying food and sustainable systems, and the unit will culminate with an action project that aims to have tangible outcomes that affect our community.  Also, we hope to get community feedback on the sustainability definition in order to promote common language and understanding among community members.  If you have questions or an interest in collaborating with our class feel free to contact us.”

The current fruits of their continued efforts:

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