The Real Housewives of Sustainability

By Sarah Baulac, Academic Initiatives Intern

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I have a guilty pleasure- it’s watching The Real Housewives of Orange County. I’m not exactly proud of my trashy television addiction. The entire premise of the show is to be more, bigger, and better – a glimpse into the lives of the rich and not so famous. To fit in, one has to be at least 60% silicone (it helps to be married to a cosmetic surgeon) and own a home that could sufficiently house an entire small country. None of the aforementioned ideas are on point with living sustainably; and I can imagine that by this point you’re probably wondering where I’m headed with this blog post.

The lifestyles shown on this TV train wreck are all about keeping up with the Jones’. It seems necessary to have the biggest car, the best house, and send your kids to the most expensive, private daycare. Can we learn something from all of this?

The principle of “keeping up with the Jones’” can actually be of some benefit to us in the sustainability realm at IU. When it comes to sustainability education, we’ve got a good start. The School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) offers a Master’s Degree in Public Affairs, with a concentration offering in Sustainable Development. IU also offers sustainability focused classes on the undergraduate level. However, with undergraduate sustainability degrees sprouting up in an abundance of universities across the country- it’s time for IU to upgrade and deliver.

Universities like Arizona State, Michigan, and Wisconsin have already invested in impressive sustainability education tracts. Thankfully, we’re right on track with our “Jones’”. The College of Arts and Sciences and SPEA have proposed for a new undergraduate sustainability degree. The proposed B.A. in Environmental and Sustainability Studies will take an interdisciplinary approach to human-environment interactions. Social, physical, and life sciences will be incorporated into the major as well as arts and humanities. In the proposal for the new major, students will be able to choose from five concentration options: sustainable food systems; sustainable energy and resources; environmental ethics/justice; conservation, biodiversity, and sustainability; or a sustainability individualized program concentration. The proposed major will be built so that students in other degree programs can easily matriculate into the program.

In order for IU to see this new B.A. come to life, it will need approval from the Indiana Commission for Higher Education (ICHE). ICHE evaluates new programs based on how they align with the goals for Indiana’s higher education system. A few of these goals are: increasing student success and employability, degree completion, and assisting in economic development. With the job market booming in sustainability-related possibilities and other universities already taking the lead in this field, it is clear that ITCHE should approve the new major. For now, only time will tell if IU will be able to implement this new major and keep up with the [higher education, sustainability] Jones’.


3 thoughts on “The Real Housewives of Sustainability

  1. I love the positive reinforcement spin placed upon the “Keeping Up With the Jones'” idiom. With career specific majors becoming more popular, it is absolutely crucial to meet the challenge set by other institutions in order to be on the cutting edge of education. And what better topic than sustainability? The topic will only increase in relevancy as time progresses.

  2. I like how you took a saying that could be seen as contradictory to sustainability, like “keeping up with the jones”, and turned it into a positive. This saying is normally used to promote consumerism, however you have changed it to promote conservationism. I think that it is vital for universities today to promote sustainability in the class room and across the entire campus, in order to keep up with the changing environment and culture in the United States.

  3. I agree that it is important that IU begins to broaden the selection of sustainably-focused classes, especially since there is a growing demand for it among students. I think this demand speaks highly of our generation and the millennials, who are usually characterized by having a more self-centered and consumerist attitude.

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