Ethics and Sustainability in the Chicago Region

On Friday, October 29th, Roosevelt University Sustainability Studies professor Mike Bryson participated in the inaugural Chicago Regional Forum on Ethics and Sustainability, co-sponsored by the Center for Humans and Nature and the Chicago Botanic Garden. This forum brought together academics, policymakers, businesspeople, activists, and citizens invested in the idea that work toward a more sustainable future in the region must not just focus on science and policy, but also include attention to matters of ethics as a way to cultivate what forum organizer Gavin Van Horne calls “cultures of conservation.”

Suburban sprawl in Will County (photo by Mike Bryson)

The Ethics and Sustainability forum featured noted speakers from across the country — including writers Kathleen Dean Moore and Scott Russell Sanders, lawyer Robin Morris Collin, philosopher Michael Nelson, and ecologist John Vucetich — and paired them with area experts in urban sustainability, such as Debra Shore, commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District; Michael Howard, founder of Eden Place Nature Center on Chicago’s South Side; Alaka Wali, director of the Center for Cultural Understanding and Change at the Field Museum of Natural History; and Suzanne Malec-McKenna, commissioner of Chicago’s Department of the Environment.

The speakers engaged each other and the forum attendees on four major issues related to ethics and sustainability: green infrastructure and water; place-based education and the Leave No Child Inside movement; ecological restoration and local nature; and climate change. A key feature of the event was the participatory nature of its format, allowing attendees to interact with the main speakers as well as engage each other in roundtable conversations. Plans by the Center for Human and Nature for future forums over the next two years bode well for their goal of creating productive conversations about conservation ethics in the region, and will provide opportunities for college and graduate students to engage notable academics, policymakers, and professionals in this dialogue.

This forum’s interdisciplinary approach to sustainability issues mirrors the goals and curriculum of Roosevelt’s Sustainability Studies program.  We have several course offerings for the Spring 2011 term, including courses downtown, in Schaumburg, and online. Professor Mike Bryson will teach SUST 210 The Sustainable Future at Roosevelt’s Schaumburg campus and we will also offer one section of SUST 210 at Roosevelt’s downtown Chicago campus.

Following a successful debut last summer, Maris Cooke will once again offer an online version of SUST 230 Food.

We are also pleased to debut two new courses in the Sustainability Studies curriculum. Professor Carl Zimring will offer SUST 240 Waste online, and Professor Julian Kerbis Peterhans will offer SUST 330 Biodiversity downtown.

Visit our faculty page to learn more about these teachers. If you are a currently-enrolled Roosevelt University student interested in taking one or more Sustainability Studies courses, please get in touch with your academic advisor.  (As this autumn’s courses filled up quickly, we encourage you to register sooner rather than later.)  If you are not currently a Roosevelt University student, we encourage you to investigate our degree options, and our course listings.  For more information, please visit our Sustainability Studies website, call 1-877-277-5978 (1-877-APPLY RU) or email

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