To any rational social improvement agent, it has become abundantly clear—in a positive, equitable, ecologically diverse future, more humans practicing sustainable development are required, across the entire spectrum of human activities—especially faith and business networks. In order to manifest this future, we need centers of education and training for those nextgen leaders and practitioners.

DrArtWhatleyChallengesFacingHPUIn 2010, Dr. Art Whatley, founder then director, of the Global Leadership and Sustainable Development program, and yours truly, then a graduate student, co-wrote and delivered a proposal for a Center for Sustainable Futures, to the president of HPU. My belief then is stronger now.  A center, located at my alma mater, Hawaii Pacific University could quickly become a global leader for applied island-based resilience adaptation.

More than many island academic institutions, HPU is poised to be a destination for applied sustainability science education. Hawai`i attracts students from around the globe because of its cultural and environmental richness and remote, yet edge-of-Asia-Pacific location. With the completion of the Aloha Towers campus build-out, merger of Oceanic Institute, and a new university president John Gotanda, whose wife, Brenda is an environmental attorney, the time is ripe for the creation of a Center for a Sustainable Futures (CSF) at HPU. I invite our new president and his wife to consider the CSF proposal anew.

What would be the case for such a move? There are two good reasons.

  1. Student centered: “In a review of 239 broadly defined ‘applied sustainability centers’ at universities across the globe, the Aspen Institute concluded that the number and size of centers is increasing quickly, they are attracting significant resources, and their leadership in sustainability provides an increasing edge in attracting top students, faculty, and companies.”1
  2. Strong need: Humanity’s top challenges – climate, energy, food, water, poverty and inequality – have been addressed by nations adopting the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). “The major obstacle to achieving the millennium development goals is a lack of cadre of generalist professionals trained across fields of public health, agronomy, engineering, economics, and environmental science that can recognize these interrelated challenges and know how to address them.”2

The-Global-Goals-for-Sustainable-Development-1024x820Sustainable development forms the bedrock for an effective civilization response to the broadening challenges and volatility we are experiencing in the Natural World. After much discussion among the nations, the UN  recently released Global Goals for Sustainable Development responding to these challenges. Academic institutions have been leading the way in adopting sustainability and training the SD practitioners. For example, in the last decade, scores of campus sustainability centers and hundreds of programs have been funded at US and global schools.

A Center for Sustainable Futures could be known from the Marshall Islands to China to Aotearoa for island-based innovations in applied sustainability education. Hawaii’s Asia Rim location and indigenous wisdom, offers unique solutions to sustainable development practice. On this foundation, a CSF could build the capacity of emerging young professionals to address the challenging global issues of environment, economy and the well-being of people.

John Gotanda, HPU’s new president, could convene next-gen leaders for applied sustainability at HPU, by bringing all disciplines together to focus on the interrelated challenges facing the blue continent, as the Pacific Islands are called by some. HPU could establish clear leadership here in the Pacific by jump-starting a center for innovation in sustainability sciences.

SDinCurriculumFdiSIn truth, HPU is already leading the way, the popularity and innovation of the Global Leadership and Sustainable Development graduate program, strong campus sustainability projects at both HPU and UH campuses, campus sustainability coordinators, and HPU membership in IUCN and AASHE, provide clear evidence of the interest and desire for a Hawai`i destination for sustainability research, education and practice. CSF could serve as the academic crucible for the interdisciplinary MA/Global Leadership and Sustainable Development program and the administrative home for HPU’s Campus Sustainability Coordinator.

Recently, Dr. Neal F. Lane, who served as Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) under U.S. President Bill Clinton, discussed the challenges of translating scientific knowledge into public policy. A HPU  Center for Sustainable Futures (CSF) could be the catalyst for a transformation in Pacific policy-makers and business leaders practice of sustainability. What do you think? Share and comment below.


1 A Closer Look at Applied Sustainability Centers. The Aspen Institute Center for Business Education, Aspen, CO. 2008
2 International Commission on Education for Sustainable Development Practice, FINAL REPORT, October 2008

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After 22-y of self-funding social improvement projects, Rob holds a diversified career portfolio of social purpose start-ups. Whether it is decreasing entropy, building community resilience, giving voice-to-the-voiceless, or making visible-the-invisible, his teams envision, innovate, and demonstrate community improvements, through inspiration, education, lean action and community synergy, using both local and global campaigns, focused in the areas of conservation, agriculture, and energy innovation. He has been an observer, participant and social philanthropist in the fabric of the islands, via for-benefit, for-profit and faith networks. He has a Master’s degree with distinction in Sustainable Development Leadership from Hawaii Pacific University. He is a co-founder of a new social start-up, Workforce Wingmen and public speaker for Forte Speakers Hawaii. Change agent, strategic sustainability advisor, and inspirational public speaker, his audiences span Hawaii's business, government, and educational organizations. Combining a friendly approach, a professional curiosity, and downbeat humor, in his presentations, shift happens. At HawaiiReporter.com, he writes about science, climate change, spirituality, and sustainability systems, and how these scale to social improvement.