The Greening of Comprehensive Internationalization (Part II)
by Scott G. Blair, PhD
Posted November 29, 2019
If SIOs acknowledge the importance of greening the internationalization process at their institution, where do they start?
First, become knowledgeable regarding the global environmental crisis. Despite the recent nationalistic pullback from decades-old globalization and the fast-changing and integrated world of our 21st century, the notion of “international” has given way to the idea of “global” and the reality of the “global” is most clearly demonstrated today by the environmental impact our species--Homo sapiens—is having on Earth’s five natural systems: air (atmosphere), water (hydrosphere), land (lithosphere), ice (cryosphere), and life (biosphere).
Our collective impact on the natural world since the descent of Man—today driven by 7.5 billion individual and upwardly-mobile consumer choices—is changing the very nature and interactions of these five natural systems. We are altering the chemical composition of air and the corresponding regularity of both weather and climate. We are depleting and poisoning terrestrial water resources while simultaneously altering the acidity, temperature, currents, sea-level, and natural purity of our oceans. Through intensive agriculture, genetic farming, and deforestation, we are making soil both chemically artificial and prone to erosion. We are melting polar ice, glacial ice, seasonal snowpack, and permafrost. We are pushing unprecedented numbers of animal, plant and insect species towards extinction.
Taken together, at no time in human history have these five systems undergone such radical and rapid change. Significantly altering any one of these natural systems could lead to catastrophe. Recklessly altering them all at once will have unpredictable and probably perilous consequences and the risk of global biospheric collapse is certainly among them and no doubt statistically high.
The man-made causes of this global systemic crisis are well-known: the collective consumer habits of 7.5 billion people acting within an economic system premised upon limitless growth, carbon extraction, resource depletion, air-water-soil pollution, habitat destruction, and species expendability. The consequence of all this is the unprecedented global and systemic environmental crisis that is upon us today.
Second, rethink the role of the modern university in light of this alarming reality. Indeed, recognizing this reality and finding urgent corrective political, economic and social responses—this is the central moral and ethical challenge of our time. The modern university—premised on overcoming obscurantism since the Middle Ages, achieving citizens’ political and social rights since the French Revolution, and building peace in the minds of women and men since the end of the World War II—must now embrace the next great challenge in the history of ideas—educating for sustainable development.
As such, colleges and universities have a special responsibility to lead society towards a fuller understanding of the extent, implications, and urgency of the global environmental crisis the world now faces. This begins with recognizing that all institutions of higher
learning must build sustainability literacy and environmental leadership into the ethos and outcomes of educational programs. This is doubly true for international higher education, given its pedagogical commitment to the learning outcomes of intercultural
competence, global learning, and cross-cultural perspective-taking. Indeed, what value are such outcomes if they fail to change our planetary-wide destructive behaviors? This implies that the 21st century University also has a new mission—to teach the principles and practices of sustainability literacy to anyone who enters the Academy, whatever their discipline or career path. Educating for sustainability literacy and socially respon-sible behavioral change—this is [Cont'd at top right]