Out of the three pillars of sustainability–environmental, economic and social–the latter is perhaps the most overlooked. This is especially troubling, since social sustainability plays a crucial role in every community, particularly on college campuses.
So, what is social sustainability? Providing equity and ensuring good-standards of living, social sustainability affects all communities, but emphasizes improving the lives of the less fortunate.
To quote Randy Bowden, “the basic notion of sustainability is taking responsibility for the fact that our actions have an impact on others…Social sustainability considers the entire worldview in relation to globalization, communities and culture.”
How does this affect college students and college campuses? Let’s take the University of “Mizzou” Missouri for example, where social sustainability, for a long time, was nowhere to be seen.
Racism was prevelant on Mizzou’s campus, targeting minorities in extremely cruel ways, with administrators failing to put an end to this type of behavior. However, social sustainability occurred when students from Mizzou, and around the country, protested these atrocities, congregating to initiate change not only on Mizzou’s campus, but campuses across the nation.
Mizzou is the perfect example of how you, as students, can help social sustainability thrive. As human beings, we cannot be bystanders. Like the students at Mizzou, if you see instances of mistreatment on college campuses, whatever they may be, do something about it.
The most important thing to do as a student is to educate yourselves. Attend meetings like Gay Straight Alliance, Black Students Alliance and Feminist Equality Movement. Go to events that talk about different social issues affecting communities today and participate in fruitful discussions surrounding these topics with other students to learn different perspectives.
If you see it happening, protest discrimination–be proactive. That’s the most important part of our role as students. As Rev. Desmond Tutu said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”