Distinguished Speaker Dr. Debra Rowe Drops Some Eco-Knowledge

In Uncategorized on November 7, 2008 at 5:18 am

Dr. Debra Rowe called students to take action to “make the world a better place” by learning about sustainability development and being engaged in solutions to our environmental problems.

Rowe spoke as a part of Arcadia University’s Distinguished Speaker Series on Wednesday, October 29th at 7:30 p.m. in Murphy Hall’s Stiteler Auditorium.
Rowe is president of the U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainability Development as well as integrally involved in many other organizations for the promotion of sustainability. She is interested in helping higher education organizations, such as Arcadia University, to integrate sustainability in their missions and curricula.

The goal of her speech, “Sustainable Future: Going Green in a Global World,” was to “…talk about how to make the world a better place, how to improve the quality of life.”
Rowe gave the United Nations’ official definition of sustainability as “…meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.”

She said that education for sustainability “…enables people to develop knowledge, values and skills to participate in decisions that will improve the quality of life now without damaging the resources for the future.”

Rowe talked about the importance of higher education organizations and their students in the changes going on in the world in relation to sustainability. She said that taking action, rather than just talking about ideas, is the only way that change can happen, and that students are sometimes the only people who can make an impact and cause change.
According to Rowe, calling elected officials, joining environmentally active organizations, or starting environmentally aware groups on campus are a few ways that students at Arcadia University can make a difference. was one website that Rowe suggested for students to find information on becoming involved in volunteering, voting, recycling, or signing a petition.

Careers in sustainability and energy are increasingly in demand, but information about them is not always available in career offices at universities.

“Education to action – that’s the key,” Rowe said about the importance of colleges and universities in the movement towards sustainability.

Rowe said that the “emphasis on critical thinking is producing ‘armchair pontificators.’” She thinks that teaching critical thinking in colleges is a waste of resources because college is supposed to be a time where students try new ways of thinking and move to action.

“When you get out of higher education you should be aware of sustainability problems and engage in the solutions,” Rowe said.

For Rowe there are two main things that everyone needs to do in order to improve the quality of life: changing private choices or habits, and influencing public choices and laws. According to Rowe, if these changes are made, “We can reduce human suffering, environmental degradation, and social ills now, while creating stronger economies.”

Rowe said that educational organizations need to require sustainability development as a general education requirement in order to promote knowledge and action about sustainability. If students become more engaged in solutions then “we can move from materialism as a goal to reduced human suffering,” Rowe said.

The environmental aspect of sustainability is so important because “we’re in trouble”, according to Rowe. “Rivers are drying up, fish species are dying out, every ecosystem is stressed and in danger.”

Rowe briefly mentioned the greenhouse effect as the cause of the shifting climate, which she thinks is one of the worst effects of our materialistic society.

Climate shifts are responsible for disrupting the food chain, extreme weather events, disruption of water supplies, spread of disease, and the submersion of land masses. She referred to climate change as “civilization disruption.”

“This is not about saving the planet,” Rowe said. “The planet is going to be fine. It’s a only matter of what species are going to be living on the planet.”

Students were intrigued by Rowe’s information and seem interested in seeing Arcadia become a greener campus.

“I think she had a lot of excellent information,” said Susan Annette Holeman, an Arcadia University grad student. “I think that, as a community, country, and world, we need to do something about this. It was overwhelming, but, like she said, you just need to pick a place and start.”

Other websites that Rowe suggested students to visit throughout her speech were,, and

Her slideshow can be found at, where she lists many economic ways to promote sustainability, many resources for information on sustainability, suggested sustainability-based curricula and resources for careers in sustainability.


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