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Introduction to Sustainability for Teachers. Dr. Defne Apul [email protected] Department of Civil Engineering University of Toledo . Outline. Why do we care about sustainability What is sustainability. Humans’ Impact on Earth: A Disaster is Brewing. Pollution Climate change

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Introduction to sustainability for teachers

Introduction to Sustainability for Teachers

Dr. Defne [email protected]

Department of Civil EngineeringUniversity of Toledo


  • Why do we care about sustainability

  • What is sustainability

Humans impact on earth a disaster is brewing
Humans’ Impact on Earth: A Disaster is Brewing

  • Pollution

  • Climate change

  • Water supplies

Global warming
Global Warming

  • What are the implications?

America s infrastructure report card
America’s Infrastructure Report Card

A = ExceptionalB = GoodC = MediocreD = PoorF = Failing

I = Incomplete


  • Evolution of species and extinction of others is a natural process

  • Species present today represent 2-4 % of all species that have ever lived


  • 4-6 million species on earth (Novotny et al. 2002. Nature 416: 841–844)

  • Between 2000-2050

    • 1 species will be extinct every 44 minutes (low)

    • 1 species will be extinct every 9 minutes (high)

Indicators of environmental health
Indicators of Environmental Health

  • 50 % of 6,000 amphibian species threatened with extinction

  • 165 species already gone extinct

  • Habitat destruction, contaminants, climate change

Collapse of civilizations
Collapse of Civilizations

Historical factors:

  • Deforestation and habitat destruction

  • Soil problems (erosion, salinization, and soil fertility losses)

  • Water management problems

  • Overfishing

  • Effects of introduced species on native species

  • Human population growth

  • Increased per-capita impact of people

    New factors:

  • Human-caused climate change

  • Buildup of toxic chemicals in the environment

  • Energy shortages

Paul hawken blessed unrest
Paul Hawken, Blessed Unrest

  • if you look at the science that describes what is happening on earth today and aren't pessimistic, you don't have the current data. If you meet the people in this unnamed movement and aren't optimistic, you haven't got a heart

A revolution has begun
A Revolution Has Begun…

  • Similar intentions and objectives

  • Large and diverse

Engineers play a crucial role in improving living standards throughout the world. As a result, engineers can have a significant impact on progress towards sustainable development

World Federation of Engineering Organizations

Beginning of environmental movement
Beginning of environmental movement…


Images are from

1972 finite earth
1972: Finite Earth…

  • Computer modeling that predicted the overshoot

  • “We... believe that if a profound correction is not made soon, a crash of some sort is certain. And it will occur within the lifetimes of many who are alive today."

Demand versus world biocapacity

Global overshoot:

humanity's demand on nature

exceeds the biosphere's supply

Demand versus World Biocapacity



  • 1962: Silent Spring

  • 1972: Limits to growth

  • 1987: Our common future (Brundtland Commission report)

  • 1992: Earth Summit (Rio de Janeiro)

    • Agenda 21

  • 2002: World Summit on Sustainable Development (Johannesburg)

    • Millenium development goals

Birth of sustainability
Birth of Sustainability

Brundtland (1987) Our Common Future

“development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”

More than 350 published definitions

Definition of sustainability
Definition of Sustainability

Three E’s:








Equity: fairness

Equality: access

Or should it be this model
Or should it be this model?

  • Stop and discuss within groups

Ways of dealing with environmental problems
Ways of Dealing with Environmental Problems

Taken from Davidson et al. (2007) available at:

Energy and climate
Energy and Climate


Toxic chemicals
Toxic Chemicals

  • Traditional Contaminants

    • Metals (Cd, Zn, Pb, Cu), PCB, DDT, benzene

New findings
New Findings…

  • Traditional Contaminants

    • Metals (Cd, Zn, Pb, Cu), PCB, DDT, benzene

  • Emerging Contaminants

    • Fire retardants (PBDE)

    • Hormones

    • Prescription and over-the counter therapeutic drugs

    • Fragrances

    • Cosmetics

Buckeye Cable: revolution…

Channel 204


Channel 286

Sustainability in ohio
Sustainability in Ohio revolution…

Traditional sustainable
Traditional Sustainable revolution…

  • Chemistry

  • Math

  • Microbiology

  • Hydrology

  • Engineering design

  • Chemistry

  • Math

  • Microbiology

  • Hydrology

  • Ecology

  • Engineering design

  • Economics

  • Sociology

  • Politics

  • Technology

  • Business

We need to think in greater temporal and spatial scales
We need to think in greater temporal and spatial scales revolution…

Taken from Mihelcic et al. (2003)

Our designs should work with nature not against nature
Our designs should work with nature, not against nature revolution…

Treatment wetlands

Soil bioengineering

Industrial ecology

Restoration ecology


Traditional sustainable1

  • Chemistry revolution…

  • Math

  • Microbiology

  • Hydrology

  • Ecology

  • Engineering design

  • Chemistry

  • Math

  • Microbiology

  • Hydrology

  • Ecology

  • Engineering design

  • Economics

  • Society

  • Politics

  • Technology

  • Business

  • Linear thinking

  • Reductionist approach

  • Near future

  • Regional analysis

  • Non-linear thinking

  • Holistic approach

  • Future generations

  • Global analysis

Traditional Sustainable

The problems that exist in the world today cannot

be solved by the level of thinking that created them. Einstein

Remaking the way we make things
Remaking the Way We Make Things revolution…

  • Being less bad is no good

  • Circulated infinitely in industrial cycles ... without loss of quality or damage to our environment or ourselves

  • Downcycling

Pessimistic or optimistic
Pessimistic or Optimistic revolution…

  • Pessimistic: All the science and engineering facts

  • Optimistic: All the grassroots movements

    • LEED, Engineers Without Borders, companies, governments, shift in paradigm in engineering and other education