“S”-Course Marker

What is a Sustainability Course?

You deserve an education relevant to the future you will inherit; therefore we believe that we must equip you with the  knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors that you will need to survive, and thrive, in a more sustainable world.

The “S” course marker indicates a sustainability course offered at UH Community Colleges. This list of courses in the general education curriculum evolves and is updated each semester, so that your higher education remains relevant in a rapidly changing world. You should be able not only to be equipped to understand our relationships and function with the biosphere and each other, you can be empowered to create a thriving & flourishing livelihood amidst times of change.

Similar to the way “WI” identifies a Writing Intensive course, “S” identifies a course that has a primary and explicit focus on sustainability. The “S” course-marker was created to help you more easily connect with faculty teaching awesome sustainability courses.

In addition, there are many other courses that teach sustainability-related subject matter and assignments across curriculum.

Core Concepts of Sustainability

Core concepts of Sustainability that you will learn about in S-Designated courses include:

  • Sustainable economics: Quadruple Bottom Line, Gross National Happiness
  • Ecosystem Services / Biodiversity
  • Ecological Footprint / Carbon Footprint
  • Cradle to Cradle / Waste Reduction
  • Climate Change Mitigation / Renewable Energy
  • Local First / Food Sovereignty / Food Miles
  • Adaptive Resilience

Core Competencies of Sustainability

Sustainability can be understood as both a value and a discipline.

As a value, we can think of core cultural values such as Mālama Honua (Care of Island Earth), ‘Āina Aloha (Love of Our Lands), ʻImi ʻIke (Student is the Teacher; All Knowledge is Sacred), and Ho’omāuo (To Perpetuate Well-Being) as ethical filters that can guide our decision-making; before we decide on a course of action we pause to ask ourselves how this action conflicts with or is an expression of one or more of these core values.

As a discipline, sustainability educators seek to equip students with core sustainability competencies that will better support graduates to navigate their futures successfully.

Wiek, Withycombe, and Redman (2011) synthesized essential sustainability learning competencies [1] emergent from international dialogue on Education for Sustainability.

These sustainability learning competencies offer a useful starting point for articulating locally & culturally appropriate core competencies in island sustainability:

  1. Systems-thinking competence – the ability to collectively analyze complex systems across different domains (society, environment, economy, etc.) and across different scales (local to global), thereby considering cascading effects, inertia, feedback loops and other systemic features related to sustainability issues and sustainability problem-solving frameworks.
  2. Interpersonal competence the ability to motivate, enable, and facilitate collaborative and participatory sustainability research and problem solving.
  3. Strategic competence the ability to collectively design and implement interventions, transitions, and transformative governance strategies toward sustainability.
  4. Anticipatory competence (futures-thinking) – the ability to collectively analyze, evaluate, and craft rich ‘‘pictures’’ of the future related to sustainability issues and sustainability problem-solving frameworks.
  5. Normative competence (values-thinking) – the ability to collectively map, specify, apply, reconcile, and negotiate sustainability values, principles, goals, and targets.

The sustainability learning competencies articulated above relate to the competencies required by the Master Navigators of Polynesia:

  • The ability to visualize an unseen destination, and conceptualize & implement a strategy to get there.
  • The ability to navigate a rapidly shifting landscape to a destination you may have never been to
  • The ability to inspire, motivate and lead a team to accomplish an audacious and highly challenging goal.
  • The ability to rapidly process copious amounts of data points and continuously adjust your strategy as new data is received.

With rapidly growing access to unprecedented amounts of information, the Information Age demands competencies in developing the ability to rapidly process copious amounts of information whilst simultaneously being able to discern the quality of different information sources, and the ability to know how to find the right information you need to solve any given problem.

[1] Wiek, A, Withycombe, L, and Redman, C. (2011) “Key competencies in sustainability: a reference framework for academic program development”, Sustainability Science 6: 203-218.