February 5th, 2013

The Smorgasbord: Sustainability comes to flavor every corner of our lives and our institutions.

By Larry Frolich

I have a confession to make.  Three years ago, when I took on this revered post as editor of the soon-to-be-inaugurated Journal of Sustainability Education, I wasn’t too sure what, if anything, “sustainability” was.  Not that I hadn’t spent the better part of a decade thinking about it, listening to what others had to say about it, sitting in on debates about it and even writing and presenting on it.  I’d like to say that, now, three years later, all is well and I do understand what the S-word on our bannerhead means.  Unfortunately, I can’t.

However, we are not without progress.  It has helped to sit in this chair and read and read and read.  To watch one article after another start with the same dilemma I face…what exactly is sustainability.  The more I’ve read, the more I’ve become certain that sustainability means many different things to many different people.  But there are some constants.  One is that it is always considered a plus, a positive.  No one argues against sustainability.  This is unusual, especially for a concept that is at the core of so many hard-battled social and political issues.  Inherent in the word is a sense of constancy, of survival, of continuity, of being here in the future.  And since that survivorship must be an integral part of any evolving biological system…that’s why the system is still around…it makes sense that no one would argue against sustainability.  But I think there’s another constant.  It’s about being a mensch.   We face so many moral and ethical dilemmas in today’s world.  We decry a society that seems to place individual achievement and monetary gain above all else.  But who doesn’t want to be a mensch—in case you’re not familiar with the Yiddish word, it literally just means “man” or “person,”  but the sense of it is that you’re a “good person,” someone of honor, of valor, of strength, someone who does the right thing because that’s what we do.  That’s what we do as people—we do the right thing.  And the right thing means to bring about better quality of life, which is also hard to argue against—back to everyone being in favor of sustainability.

The continuing success of the sustainability meme emerged as we assembled this issue of JSE.  More than ever, unsolicited articles came from across the disciplines and from all types of educational settings.  As I read, it became clear that sustainability was on its way to where it needs to arrive…embedded in the fabric of our every-day lives, flavoring all that we do.  Here’s a small sample of the topics from this issue:

 

A focus theme could not do this issue of JSE justice.  It’s a smorgasbord and the flavor of sustainability makes each morsel—each quirky, nuanced, heart-felt article—full with the sense of being a mensch, looking towards not only our survival but our overall future quality of life, and doing the right thing.

Here’s to the journey,

Larry Frolich, Editor
editorjse@gmail.com

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