Deborah Lawrence / Environmental Science

Sustainable Living, in my living room

I have been asked by a group of students to teach a course in ‘Sustainable Living.’ They assume that perhaps because I study the sustainability of tropical agriculture, or because I am an environmental scientist, or because I ride my bike to school, that I know how to live sustainably.  But I do not. Like so many of us, I am deeply concerned by the state of the environment and I am committed to trying to minimize my impact on it. Nevertheless, all my credentials do not actually give me all the answers.

I want to teach this course, and I actually promised to do so next spring. But I would very much like to engage a group of students to help me design it. I would like to include students from all disciplines in this discussion, not just the environmental science majors I run into every day. I believe people think and speak most freely outside the classroom, and especially around the dinner table. So my dream idea is quite simple: to have weekly dinners at my home over the course of the semester to discuss what it means to live sustainably. I hope to find out from the students what they are doing, what they think they should be doing, and what they want help figuring out. I will ask them what they are reading, or viewing, or listening to that informs their thinking. I will broach issues of technology, ecology, politics, equity, religion and economics to try to understand how we can motivate and maintain sustainable living. Most of all, I will do my best to keep quiet so the students can make themselves heard. I believe it will be easier for all of us if no grades are involved and if excellent food is served.