Monday, October 19, 2009
Ultimately, the point of a sustainable campus is to provide a nourishing and supporting learning environment that promotes personal, community, and planetary well-being. Placed in an ecological context, we emphasize the importance of biodiversity, atmospheric and oceanic circulations, and ecosystem services in relationship to the human community. The idea of sustainability necessarily implies that human health is linked to ecosystem health.
Yet wellness also provides an extraordinary lifelong learning opportunity. How do we model the importance of sustainable personal and professional lives? Don’t most students, staff and faculty, complain about being overworked, time stretched, and maxed out? Is it just the demands of the job, the context of American professional life, or the culture of higher education? Many campuses deal with a wide assortment of student (and staff/faculty) human health problems, often related to stress, including smoking, alcohol, funky diet, and poor physical conditioning.
Given the urgency of addressing the “planetary emergency,” there is no choice but to work intensively and thoroughly. But if work is perceived as meaningful, purposeful, service-oriented, and collaborative, it is considerably more fulfilling. This is a crucial curricular and administrative mandate—how to provide meaningful work, balanced with a healthy work place, and opportunities for relaxation and leisure. Working hard doesn’t always mean working well.
As a foundation for campus wellness, I encourage curricular and workplace efforts that generate reflective awareness about diet, nutrition, exercise, spending time outdoors, stress-reduction, and meditative activities. A healthy campus is a more interesting and vital learning community, provides students with wellness habits and routines, and may even save money on health insurance. I suggest that it’s hypocritical to advocate for a sustainable planet and community when we don’t maximize human wellness.