A thirst for unbridled economic growth and an increase in comforts and amenities afflicts humanity today. Humans began using their intellect to satisfy their basic needs and to provide some additional comforts. We thus developed technologies and frameworks for management and governance, collectively known as development. Our development in all the various fields has been truly impressive in many ways. Yet ironically, today the basic needs of at least a third of the human population are not secure. Society is riddled with innumerable and intractable problems. Moreover, we now face environmental problems of such magnitude that they threaten the very existence of humanity and ...view middle of the document...
But before action, comes knowledge and understanding. How can we know that our actions are actually promoting sustainability? Are we even sure that we understand the problem correctly?
1. 1 Root Cause of Unsustainability
2. 2 Environmental Studies—a unique course
Root Cause of Unsustainability
It is important to diagnose what exactly went wrong with our development. If we are unable to identify and correct the root of the problem, no real solution can ever come out of it. Any improved model proposed on the basis of a superficial understanding of the actual problem is bound to fail in the long run even though it might give some temporary symptomatic relief. We know that a number of symptoms can be caused by the same disease. Likewise, it is possible that the various problems related to the environment, society and the individual are caused by a common root problem. Today we find that almost every aspect of human existence and activity is filled with some problem or crisis. This supports the possibility that a fundamental cause for all these problems exists. Symptomatic treatment of each of the various problems will undoubtedly be required to contain losses to the environment and human society. But a simultaneous investigation and resolution of the root cause of unsustainability is necessary.
This root cause of unsustainability is understood by many thinkers as the human tendency of over-consumption. Humanity’s overconsumption of resources on this finite planet is causing both the environmental and social disasters that we are witnessing. The way to sustainability then begins with the individual; by effecting changes in the tendencies and attitudes of individuals. Attitudes drive decisions, which in turn drive action--sustainable or unsustainable. But what forms attitudes? Knowledge. Thus education is the essential and most important step to ensure long term sustainability. That's precisely why we study the Environmental Studies course!
Environmental Studies—a unique course
It helps us understand the environmental problem in its wide scope and complexity. It also clearly reveals that human society, economic development and the environmental problems are very closely related and that any attempt to resolve any one of them in isolation will never succeed. It identifies the root cause of the environmental problem and guides sustainable action. Environmental Studies is a course that is quite different from any other engineering course on two counts:
1. The scope of this course is broad; it spans science and humanities.
2. It seeks to catalyze a transformation in the attitudes of the student towards the environment and society.
Hence, it is not mere objective science. Its end goal is to develop a deep interest in sustainability and motivate sustainable action; not to produce mere training in a particular field of engineering. Developing such a deep interest involves both the head and the heart.