Erika Takeo ’13: Global Sustainability Studies

Overview of the Major: The study of sustainable systems has expended greatly within interdisciplinary studies for liberal arts institutions across the United States. A sustainable society is one where its social systems, in interaction with the environment are sustainable. For that to happen, social systems must become more fair, and more just, before being fully sustainable. Social justice includes, and is not limited to the economic, political, ethnic, religious, and cultural spheres. Additionally, we live in an ever increasingly globalized world; different cultures provide valuable perspectives to examine the relationship between environmental and social injustices. This major seeks to study environmental and social justice issues in context of one another through understanding the interdisciplinarity between the environment, social justice, global engagement, and sustainability.

Objectives of the Major:

  1. Learn about, research, and analyze, through interdisciplinary methods, current issues of environmental sustainability in its social, political, and economic contexts.
  2. Develop skills to communicate the complex and interdisciplinary nature of creating sustainability on a global scale.
  3. Link theory to practice through involvement in action-based courses and programs that focus on the study, development, and implementation of sustainable systems.
  4. Attain a global perspective and experience on issues of sustainability, with an emphasis on its environmental and social justice aspects.

Structure of Major: (Including the courses student eventually chose to fulfill these requirements)

Environmental Studies Across Disciplines (4 Courses)

  • ENVS 200: Environmental Analysis and Action (The Gulf)
  • GEOL 210: Climate Change
  • PSCI 202: Environmental Policy
  • ENVS 110: Science, Society, & Environment

Theory-Based Courses (4 Courses): Identifying theories and topics of sustainability from various disciplines.

  • RELS 219: Ethics in a Social Perspective
  • RELS 26911: Religion and the Environment
  • RELS 269: Ghandi – Nonviolence and Peace
  • ENVS 310: Sustainable Development

Practice-Based Courses (2 Courses): Applying classroom concepts through hands-on experiences.

  • ENVS 230: Innovations in Agroecology
  • ENVS 20003: Environmental Analysis and Action (Plastics and Environmental Contamination)

Global Perspectives Course (1 Wooster Course + Study Abroad): Gaining a global perspective on the path to sustainability and social change.

  • IDPT 406: Global Social Entrepreneurship Seminar
  • IDPT 407: Global Social Entrepreneurship Internship

Independent Study: People and Plants in a Rust Belt City: a Critical Analysis of Urban Agriculture in Cleveland, Ohio Using a Sustainable Development Framework

Abstract: The purpose of this study was to take a critical snapshot of Cleveland, Ohio’s urban agriculture movement using a sustainable development lens. Twenty-one representatives of a variety of urban agriculture projects (including community gardens, market farms, non-profits, vineyards, and orchards) participated by filling out a written survey, being interviewed by the researcher, and providing a tour of their project’s site. Most of these projects started in 2010 or later. Trends across all projects were first analyzed according to a traditional sustainability framework, finding that Cleveland’s urban agriculture scored well environmentally, poorly economically, and mixed socially. However, the traditional sustainability framework oversimplified or excluded some important components of what it means to be sustainable, which is why the use of a more holistic sustainable development framework that heightens the importance of justice (equitable distribution of resources) and democracy (inclusive, grassroots procedures) was also used. These measures prove to be far more important to urban agriculture participants, who contest traditional sustainability metrics and recast the goals of their projects in terms of food justice and community empowerment. Their responses reveal a more complex, critical, and racially aware strain to urban agriculture that has little to do with “going green” or city beautification. Urban agriculture ends up having a lot more to do with people than plants.

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