The Nature of College by James Farrell


The Handbook of Sustainability Literacy

What do we need to know to live sustainably? There are mountains of books that answer that question, and many of them quite intelligently. But fewer books wonder how we need to feel to live sustainably, and fewer yet address the skills we’ll need for the ecological revolution of the 21st century. The Handbook of Sustainability Literacy does all three–and, even better, it’s available both in book form and online–and the mulimedia edition is available right here! “The starting point for the book is not the environmental problems which are undermining the ability of the earth to support life, but instead the social, cultural and economic systems that give rise to these problems. And instead of featuring essays on green tech and/or green consumption, the handbook offers instead short meditations on skills like ecological intelligence, commons thinking, systems thinking, carbon capability, materials awareness, finding meaning without consuming, and beauty as a way of knowing. And it concludes with four short chapters on the educational transformation needed for genuine sustainability literacy.

It begins with Greg Garrard’s essay on ecocriticism, which he defines not merely as a theoretical perspective for English majors, but as a survival technique for everyday people. Ecocriticism is, he says, “the ability to critique existing discourses, cultural artefacts, forms and genres, and explore alternatives.” And he suggests ways to investigate both the “infosphere”–our semantic environment, including TV, music, ads, pop-ups, webpages, social media, etc.–and the biosphere so that we finally arrive at an understanding of how the one really relates to the other–and how we’re responsible for the relationship.

This handbook is a challenge to our thinking–and a challenge to just thinking. If offers perspectives that include the whole person, and skills that can engage us in the good work ahead. You’ll hear more about it here.