Background on CUSA’s Sustainability Lecture Series
While its roots may be traced back decades and even centuries, the concept of sustainable development only became a prominent and perennial feature of world affairs in the late 1980s with the publication of the Brundtland Commission’s landmark 1987 report, Our Common Future. Although critics have assailed the concept for being an oxymoron, redundant or vague, it has nonetheless been widely endorsed by political, business and community leaders, and embraced by different cultures and socio-economic classes around the world. Proponents have represented sustainable development as an invaluable approach to designing unified solutions to linked challenges.
The concept of sustainable development acknowledges the urgency of global problems, recognized critical connections between them, and sought to devise a framework for thinking about how they could be jointly addressed. The core elements of this framework are often understood to be economics, environment and equity, and the goal is to balance the requirements of each in a way that satisfies the needs of the present generation without compromising the prospects of future generations. While there is general agreement on the value of the goals of sustainable development, demographic, economic and environmental trends present considerable challenges to particular efforts aimed at improving sustainability.
Creating more sustainable societies will require addressing challenges and will require involving multiple perspective`s from the social and natural sciences, as well as political, community and business leaders. Our sustainability seminar series brings together scholars, researchers, experts, and business leaders to consider a variety of perspectives on choices and challenges related to improving the sustainability of water, energy, food, transportation and security systems.
Religion and Sustainability
January 29, 2014 at 7:00pm, St. James Anglican Church
CUSA research associate and co-recipient of the center’s 2013 Human Security Fellowship, Nora Davis, gave a talk on Religion and Sustainability on January 29th at 9pm in St. James Church and was part of UCI’s inaugural Peace Week.
Researchers do not commonly characterize the relationship between sustainability and religion as particularly positive; however, closer study reveals a far more complicated relationship between the two. As the specific goal of achieving environmental sustainability is often addressed purely by technological, economic, and efficiency-oriented solutions, this lecture will focus on an area given comparatively little attention: the overlap between religious experiences and environmental sustainability. In solutions-based discussions, this overlap plays are surprisingly small role, especially given the common action item that concludes nearly every environmental conversation: “we need to change people’s values; we need to change culture.” When paired alongside the similarly-common narrative that value-based institutions (religions) are incompatible with environmentalism, we are left with quite a gap to close. This lecture will explore the relationship between sustainability and the history, practices, and sacred texts of major world religions to ask the question: How can these theologies, concepts, and experiences be leveraged to strengthen the relationship between religion and sustainability?
Ecovillages: Lessons for Sustainable Community
February 5, 2014 at 7:00pm, UCI: Engineering Lecture Hall 100
Karen T. Litfin, Ph.D.
University of Washington’s Karen T. Litfin, Ph.D., visited the Center for Unconventional Security Affairs on the UC Irvine campus on February 5th to discuss her book, Ecovillages: Lessons for Sustainable Community (2013).
Her approach to her teaching and research is through a person-planet perspective, encouraging her students and readers to explore questions of human meaning and values in relation to global environmental politics. She also directs the UW Auroville Program on Sustainability, Community and International Cooperation, which has been bringing students to an international township in south India since 2001.
The Psychology of Sustainability
February 12, 2014 at 7:00pm, UCI: Engineering Lecture Hall 100
Transformational Media Lab Director Dr. Beth Karlin spoke about psychology and sustainability during Dr. Richard Matthew’s Sustainability I class on February 12th.
There is growing consensus that environmental, social, and economic sustainability are not possible given current trends and that understanding human interactions with the environment is a key aspect of ameliorating many of these issues. Psychology, as the science of human behavior, is in a prime position to assist with this task. Human interactions with sustainability include human drivers of un-sustainability (e.g. over-use of limited resources), human consequences of instability (e.g. natural and technological disasters), and human responses to a changing environment (e.g. mitigation and adaptation). Although progress is being made in the natural and physical sciences towards technological solutions and in political circles towards more sustainable policies, an understanding of individuals is vital for these new technologies to be adopted and policies supported. This talk will include a discussion of current and pressing issues in the psychology of sustainability and share recent insights in areas such as social norms, risk perception, message framing, and positive psychology that highlight some of the ways that psychology is contributing to these issues.
CUSA would like to thank the the following organizations for their generous support of this seminar series: