Find Your Sustain Ability - 007 Dr. David Orr on sustainability education and politics and his earliest memories of the natural environment on Stitcher (2023)

29 minutes | Oct 9, 2019

007 Dr. David Orr on sustainability education and politics and his earliest memories of the natural environment

Before most people even knew what the S-word was all about, David Orr was pioneering the field of sustainability education. His groundbreaking work in the '90s led to the construction of one of the greenest buildings in North America. On this podcast, Orr discusses The Oberlin Project's mission to reduce carbon emissions and create a new, sustainable base for economic and community development. He also shares his thoughts on sustainability politics and what he calls a "dramatic shift" in our capacity to protect the environment. Transcript Intro:Define sustainability. Odds are your definition is completely different from the next person's. Appalachian State University's Director of Sustainability, Dr. Lee Ball, sits down with his guest to explore the many ways in which sustainability affects our lives. This is Find Your Sustain Ability. Lee Ball:Welcome, everybody. I am Lee Ball, and I'm your host of Find Your Sustain Ability. Today's podcast is a conversation that I had with David Orr. David Orr is Emeritus faculty at Oberlin College. And David is one of the country's foremost leaders in sustainability education. David pioneered the field of sustainability education before most people even knew what the "S" word was even about. Because of David's insights and his deep perspective on campus sustainability and political science and the politics of sustainability, we've asked him to join us in our podcast today. And I hope you enjoy it. Lee Ball:David Orr, thank you so much for coming back to Boone and joining me in our podcast. We call this Find Your Sustain Ability. David Orr:Well, thanks for having me. This is a great place to be. And your work is really great. So thanks to you for doing what you're doing. Lee Ball:Yeah. This is your eighth Appalachian Energy Summit that you've attended. And we're extremely lucky to have you to be a part of the Appalachian family. Again, thank you for taking the journey from Oberlin, Ohio down to Boone. David Orr:Well, Lee, thank you for all the leadership and the work that you do here and the excitement and creation of alternatives within higher education. That's critically important. And you're carrying that on, so thanks to you. Lee Ball:You're welcome. I understand you have some family in the area? David Orr:We do. My roots of both my mother and father's family go back in North Carolina for two centuries. And mostly dirt farmers and hell raisers around Charlotte. I think they're part of the Mecklenburg crowd back in the 17 whatever it was, but yeah, North Carolinian by lineage. Yeah. Lee Ball:Yeah. That's fantastic. So having a sense of our place is so important to the work that we do. I know that you feel the same, especially with your work in Oberlin and the Oberlin Project. I know that that place is a big part of what you focus on. David Orr:Oberlin is interesting. Like Boone and Appalachian State, there's a legacy that builds up over the years. And in the case of Oberlin, it was the first college to accept African Americans and women and graduate them. That goes back into the 1830s. That was part of the DNA of the institution. It wasn't as wonderful as it sounds. There were real conflicts. The board votes to accept African-Americans were close calls, but it happened. And it marked the institution and it's carried that commitment into the present. David Orr:What we tried to do in the past, in my roughly 30 years in town, most of that, 27 years on the faculty or in the administration, is to begin to broaden that sense of commitment to include environment. What good is a great college if you don't have a decent planet to put it on, to paraphrase Thoreau. That's been our attempt to see environment and climate and energy issues as flip sides of a coin that involve equity, fairness, decency and justice. That's the role. But Oberlin has been a great place to live because of that commitment. Lee Ball:What do you think was special about Oberlin to create a space where there was tolerance and more acceptance than other places? David Orr:Well, I think part of it is simply the legacy, the history of the place. Having African Americans and women there, they mixed in the student body and became a... You knew people. And they were friends and they were classmates and so forth. I think over the years it broke down this barrier that had begun a long time ago. Slavery and racism are separate kinds of issues as part of the darker legacy of the United States. They're not the same thing. David Orr:Racism was a different thing than simply slavery. It was a denigration of the personhood. That breaks down in situations where you know people. They're your neighbors, they're your friends, they're your roommate down the hall. I think it was that personal contact. It's harder to be a racist if you know African Americans or Asian Americans or Native Americans. I think it was just the years of contact plus the institutional commitment to work at that level. Lee Ball:How do you think that contributed to Oberlin being a campus that also focuses on the environment and cultivating a citizenry that cares about the environment? David Orr:It's a great question. In the case of Oberlin, the environmental studies program that I chaired from 1990 off and on until I retired, it was started by a group of students in the January term back in 1979 or 1980, long before I got there. It was a student-led initiative that drove the program. When I went there, what I did, the college had no facilities, capital plant for environmental studies. And I got permission to build an environmental studies center. That was at the start of the green building movement was beginning. David Orr:Sim Van der Ryn's work in California and other people, John Lyle's work in Southern California. There were people beginning to ask these kinds of questions about the built environment. So we organized an effort. I had to go raise money independent of the college to fund it. It was about a roughly seven and a half million dollar project. We eventually raised over 10 for it. But the result was an initiative that was very environmental. It was the first substantially green building on a US college campus. David Orr:It still generates, thanks in part to the App State alum, Sean Hayes. It still generates more energy than it uses by a large margin. It's 40 to 50% more every year than it actually uses from solar energy. But we made that an environmental class project. Had about 250 students work on that project along with a great design team that include Amory Lovins, and RMI, and people from NASA and The Bill McDonough Firm and Carol Franklin's landscape architecture firm. David Orr:So we put together an incredible group of people who were thinking about design in the '90s with students. And that was one of the requirements. And so what happened was, at a scale you can get your head around, this is a 14,200 square foot building powered entirely by sunshine. No toxic materials in the building and so forth. It was a Platinum building before there was a rating system. But what that did was to give us something tangible. David Orr:You can see it. And we're visual creatures. Something like 80% of our sensory apparatus is in our eyes. So we privilege what we see. And all of a sudden green design was you something you see. It's the, oh that building over there. And Oh by the way, it's powered entirely by sunshine. And that's in a state where sunshine is still kind of a theory. It's cloudy in terms of degree days and so forth as say the city of Seattle. But you can do it. It's a zero discharge building. There's no waste product comes in. It's drinking water in, drinking water out. David Orr:So what we did was to take the state of the art at that time in the '90s, pulled together an incredible design team at that point. That was the A team of ecological design in the US and probably the world. We put that together and with students and it became a learning project. David Orr:So one of the things I've always worried about is kids in this age bracket. Well actually from like five years to PhD, what they see is a world coming undone. And whether it's climate change or species extinction, ocean acidification, or soil loss or whatever, they're looking at these graphs that go up sharply or down sharply and they see their future disintegrating. David Orr:But if you reduce the scale to something the size of a building, you can get your head around that. And you put them to work doing material safety data sheets, all this stuff about toxicity or climate or the technological possibilities. And it turned out that even in the '90s, so as we were in a process designing this building, yeah, you could design entirely solar-powered buildings in a place where sunshine was a theory. Dark, cloudy places a good bit at the time. David Orr:So the last project before I retired in November of 2017 was a solar-powered hotel. The college has a 105,000 square foot hotel conference center with commercial space and a jazz club and so forth entirely powered by sunshine. It's an off-site array about a quarter of a mile distant. But it is rated as a USGBC Platinum building. David Orr:And so what we did was to make what is possible visible. In both cases. The hotel project is lacking only the final touch, Maya Lin, a great designer, is doing the landscape design as one of three projects in the hotel and around the hotel. So I think making these things as you've done here, I mean what you do at Appalachian State, you galvanized a lot of this throughout the state at other institutions in this state's system. And making these things visible, it's the normal thing to do and it's the easy thing to do. That's the challenge. David Orr:So that takes your real quickly into politics. You have to change the regulations, you have to get a lot of stuff out of the way to make what is the right thing to do and the economically smart thing to do and the ethically just thing to do. You have to make that easy to do. Lee Ball:Well, we really appreciate your leadership with tho



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What did David Orr do for the environment? ›

In 1987 he organized studies of energy, water, and materials use on several college campuses that helped to launch the green campus movement. In 1989 Orr organized the first ever conference on the effects of impending climate change on the banking industry.

What are the David Orr's challenges? ›

David Orr holds that the challenge for all educators is to bring young people to become aware of and appreciate the natural world so that they can align their lives with how the world works as a natural system.

What is David Orr famous for? ›

Orr is the author of eight books, including Dangerous Years: Climate Change, the Long Emergency, and the Way Forward (Yale, 2016) and Down to the Wire: Confronting Climate Collapse (Oxford, 2009) and coeditor of three others. He has authored over 200 articles, reviews, book chapters, and professional publications.

What is the definition of sustainable development article? ›

Sustainable development has been defined in many ways, but the most frequently quoted definition is from Our Common Future, also known as the Brundtland Report: "Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

What started the environmental conservation movement? ›

The early conservation movement evolved out of necessity to maintain natural resources such as fisheries, wildlife management, water, soil, as well as conservation and sustainable forestry.

Who started the environmental protection movement? ›

In 1892, John Muir founded the Sierra Club in the US to protect the country's wilderness. Seventy years later, a chapter of the Sierra Club in western Canada broke away to become more active. This was the beginning of Greenpeace.

What is the eco literacy theory? ›

Ecoliteracy is the ability to understand the organization of natural systems and the processes that maintain the healthy functioning of living systems and sustain life on Earth.

Why is Bobby Orr a hero? ›

The 65 points he scored this season broke a 1968-69 record for most points by a defenseman. Bobby Orr was honored in 1979 as a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. Bobby Orr is a hero because he changed the face of hockey as one of its greatest athletes. Despite his small stature when he was young, he did not give up.

Where does David Orr live? ›

Des Moines, Iowa, U.S.

Where was David Orr born? ›

Born in Des Moines, Iowa and raised in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania, he holds a B.A. from Westminster College (1965), a M.A. from Michigan State University (1966), and a Ph. D. in International Relations from the University of Pennsylvania (1973).

What are the 4 major components of sustainable development? ›

Introducing the four pillars of sustainability; Human, Social, Economic and Environmental.

What are 4 types of sustainable development? ›

The four main types of sustainability are human, social, eco- nomic and environmental.

What are the three concepts of sustainable development? ›

Sustainable development is based on three fundamental pillars: social, economic and environmental.

What was the main focus of the environmental movement? ›

The environmental movement has sought to protect the natural world through a number of initiatives, including reducing pollution, conserving natural resources, preventing endangered species from becoming extinct, and shielding natural areas from destruction or overdevelopment.

What are the 4 stages of environmental history? ›

  • 2.1. Material Environmental History. ...
  • 2.2. Political Environmental History. ...
  • 2.3. Cultural Environmental History. ...
  • 2.4. Environmental History as Interdisciplinary History.

What were the main goals of the conservation movement? ›

The movement's goal was to preserve and promote the wise use of the nation's natural resources, and it led to the development of national parks; flood control; reforestation; and the preservation of minerals, soil, water, and wildlife resources.

What is an example of an environmental movement? ›

Chipko Movement

The Chipko is one of the world-known environmental movements in India. The movement was raised out of ecological destabilisation in the hills. The fall in the productivity of the forest produces forced the hill dwellers to depend on the market, which became a central concern for the inhabitants.

What is the environmental movement today? ›

Today it includes sustainable yield of natural resources, preservation of wilderness areas and biodiversity. The modern Environmental movement, which began in the 1960s with concern about air and water pollution, became broader in scope to include all landscapes and human activities.

Why is environmental activism important? ›

Why Is Environmental Activism Important? Environmental activism can bring important attention to serious issues, mobilizing others to use their voices — and their votes — to influence political leaders. Activists can also help shape environmental legislation.

What are the 7 elements of environmental literacy? ›

These seven major components served as the basis for the structure of NAAEE's Guidelines for Learning (NAAEE 2000/2004) and included: (1) affect, (2) ecological knowledge, (3) socio-political knowledge, (4) knowledge of environmental issues, (5) cognitive skills, (6) environmentally responsible behaviors (ERB), and (7) ...

What are 5 aspects of environmental literacy? ›

Within this model, five essential components of environmental literacy are outlined: Awareness, Knowledge, Attitudes, Skills, and Action.

How did Bobby Orr lose his money? ›

His second contract was the first million-dollar contract in the NHL. However, after his retirement, Orr learned he was deeply in debt and he had to sell off most of what he owned. Orr broke with his agent Alan Eagleson and sued the Black Hawks to settle his contract.

What was the famous goal by Bobby Orr? ›

1970: Bobby Orr scores one of the most iconic goals in NHL history 40 seconds into overtime, giving the Bruins a 4-3 victory against the St. Louis Blues, a four-game sweep in the Final and their first Stanley Cup in 29 years.

How did Bobby Orr change the game? ›

"He changed the sport by redefining the parameters of his position," wrote Sports Illustrated's E.M. Swift. "A defenseman, as interpreted by Orr, became both a defender and an aggressor, both a protector and a producer. Orr was more than an opportunist: He created opportunities."

What city does Bobby Orr live in? ›

Bobby Orr resides with his wife Peggy in Weston, MA, a suburb of Boston.

What is Goal 4 of sustainable development explain? ›

Sustainable Development Goal 4 aims at ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. This goal ensures that all girls and boys complete free primary and secondary schooling by 2030.

What are the three 3 elements of sustainability? ›

The figure at the top of this page suggests that there are three pillars of sustainability – economic viability, environmental protection and social equity.

What are the 5 element of sustainability? ›

Systems theory identifies 5 elements for a sustainable business model: Diversity, modularity, openness, slack resources and matching cycles.

What are the key concepts of sustainability? ›

Sustainability is ability to maintain or support a process over time. Sustainability is often broken into three core concepts: economic, environmental, and social. Many businesses and governments have committed to sustainable goals, such as reducing their environmental footprints and conserving resources.

When was the term ecological literacy first introduced by David Orr? ›

David Orr coined the concept of 'ecological literacy' in 1992 in his seminal book Ecological Literacy. Orr proposed a need for education to impart an understanding of the interdependence between natural processes and human ways of living.

What is the environmentalist movement USA? ›

United States

American environmentalists have campaigned against nuclear weapons and nuclear power in the 1960s and 1970s, acid rain in the 1980s, ozone depletion and deforestation in the 1990s, and most recently climate change and global warming.

What is an ecologically literate person according to Orr? ›

The term was coined by American educator David W. Orr and physicist Fritjof Capra in the 1990s – thereby a new value entered education; the "well-being of the earth". An ecologically literate society would be a sustainable society which did not destroy the natural environment on which they depend.

Who should be an ecologically literate person according to ORR *? ›

Orr continues: “An ecologically literate person would have at least a basic comprehension of ecology, human ecology, and the concepts of sustainability, as well as the wherewithal to solve problems.” When a student can identify ecological concepts, but then also begin to ask questions of what comes next in action, then ...

Who was the first person to introduce ecological approach before the term ecology was coined? ›

Evolutionary biologist Ernst Haeckel became the first person to define the term ecology in his work published in 1866, entitled 'General Morphology of Organisms'. Science historians and biologists have now worked out just how close his original classification is to our modern understanding of ecology.

What was the goal of the environmental movement? ›

The environmental movement has sought to protect the natural world through a number of initiatives, including reducing pollution, conserving natural resources, preventing endangered species from becoming extinct, and shielding natural areas from destruction or overdevelopment.

What was the purpose of the first Earth Day? ›

The First Earth Day in April 1970

Because there was no EPA, no Clean Air Act, no Clean Water Act. There were no legal or regulatory mechanisms to protect our environment. In spring 1970, Senator Gaylord Nelson created Earth Day as a way to force this issue onto the national agenda.

Why is the environmental movement important today? ›

Environmental activism can bring important attention to serious issues, mobilizing others to use their voices — and their votes — to influence political leaders. Activists can also help shape environmental legislation.

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