A conference hosted recently by Tech’s Center for Serve-Learn-Sustain had participants look at how to blaze new paths in sustainable education and community engagement — and even took them into the field to get their hands (or rather, shoes) dirty.
This summer, Georgia Tech served as a site for the annual Integrated Network for Social Sustainability (INSS) Conference, co-hosted by the Center for Serve-Learn-Sustain, the College of Engineering, and the College of Design. The aim of the conference was to bring together a broad group of researchers, faculty, practitioners, partners, and professional association representatives to craft a Southeast Regional agenda for more in-depth coordinated research, teaching, and action on social sustainability. The Conference supported the Center’s goal of integrating sustainability and community engagement into research and curricula across the Georgia Tech campus.
Clarifying the definition of a buzzword like ‘sustainability’ is difficult; integrating the concept into disciplines as diverse as English language and industrial engineering is tougher. But at Georgia Tech, we’re always up for a challenge.
Serve-Learn-Sustain officially launched in January 2016, but the Center began operating in Fall 2015. My first day was August 17, 2015—the same day as the students. It has been a rollercoaster of a year—reaching out to faculty, students, and staff across campus and meeting new community, industry, and municipal partners, developing and rolling out new programs, launching and supporting courses, honing our mission and vision, and hiring new staff to make this all happen.
These are just some of the questions that we explored in the Sustainable Community Principles Class offered through the Center for Serve-Learn-Sustain during the Spring 2016 semester. In this course, we were able to dive deep into various theories on sustainability as well as take a look at real life incidents that highlight the benefits that arise when undergoing a participatory research design, as well as the dangers of failing to engage the community.
I once read a quote from Karen Kearney at Georgia’s own Koinonia Farms that said, “Pay attention to what works in the garden, for what works in the garden may one day work in the world.” That echoed in my mind as I sat at the INSS conference this year. Considering all the ways that action and learning can connect around social sustainability, a clear picture of synchronized human and natural flourishing struck me most. We’re here to ruminate upon what will bind human and natural flourishing together, in our learning and action, as it ultimately is bound in our eco-system and biosphere.
At Emerald Corridor Foundation, our main philosophy is that we “lead with green,” through revitalizing the environment and communities of northwest Atlanta’s Proctor Creek watershed. The foundation’s two main projects, the Proctor Creek Greenway and Proctor Park, will give west side residents new, safe, healthy access to the waterway that winds through their neighborhoods, 7 miles from where it daylights near the coming Beltline, all the way to the Chattahoochee River. Proctor Park will utilize principles of green infrastructure to slow flashy destructive storm water and filter out contaminants at the point the creek waters daylight onto the surface and into neighborhood homes and yards.
Serve-Learn-Sustain is proud to announce the official launch of our 2016-17 Environmental Justice Series! Environmental Justice is one of SLS’ key themes for this year—and we are grateful for our colleagues in College of Sciences who suggested it.
I care about Flint not because I can relate to it, and especially not because I empathize with the residents, for it is impossible to do so. I care about Flint because of how bad the situation is. Many of these kids will likely develop intellectual disabilities and behavioral problems, and have a much higher rate of ending up in jail. I can only try to imagine what it might be like to live in such a community.