AGENTS OF CHANGE: Universities can foster sustainable development lifestyles in Malaysia, writes Dr. Irina Safitri Zen.
SUSTAINABLE development aims to meet human needs through inter and intra equities for the present and future generations, while ensuring the sustainability of natural systems and the environment.
As institutions of higher education, universities have a unique way of translating sustainable development into action.
The UN “Decade of Education for Sustainable Development” which spans 2005 to next year, promotes the commitment to education on sustainability as the primary agent of transformation into a sustainable society.
Universities educate students at the classroom level. However, the adoption of sustainable concepts should be led by example through sustainable campus initiatives.
The research spirit in the university allows the sustainable campus to transform into a “Living Lab” or “Test Bed”. From the theoretical to the real, and from the classroom experience to life, it allows for more robust products and services to emerge from its experiments.
Students learn and live sustainably in the campus environment where sustainable concepts rule. It marches the students, academia and the staff towards the culture of sustainability and provides a unique micro-culture to the global sustainable society. In the end, the sustainable campus gives the students a training camp for real life challenges of the world beyond.
The adoption of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) in universities has the potential to integrate various singular disciplines such as chemistry, physics, biology and even social sciences like psychology and sociology.
The Sustainable School concept or Sekolah Lestari was established in Malaysia more than 10 years ago. The green spirit was spurred by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) together with the Institute of Sustainable Development and Environment (Lestari) in the National University of Malaysia.