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Regenerative Sustainable Development of Universities and Cities

Regenerative Sustainable Development of Universities and Cities

The Role of Living Laboratories

Edited by Ariane König

Now that the Earth has reached the limits of its biophysical carrying capacity, we have to change technologies, social practices and social norms relating to material production and consumption to ensure that we do not further jeopardize the functioning of our planet’s life support systems. Through research, education and civic engagement, universities have a pivotal role to play in this transition. This timely book explores how universities are establishing living laboratories for sustainable development, and examines the communication networks and knowledge infrastructures that underpin impact both on and beyond the campus.

Chapter 2: Next generation sustainability at The University of British Columbia: the university as societal test-bed for sustainability

John Robinson, Tom Berkhout, Alberto Cayuela and Ann Campbell

Subjects: education, education policy, geography, cities, politics and public policy, education policy, social policy and sociology, education policy, urban and regional studies, cities


Sustainability is a growing priority for universities all over the world. Many universities are developing strong operational sustainability goals and targets, and are giving increasing emphasis to teaching and research on sustainability issues. Yet few have committed at the corporate level to integrating academic and operational sustainability in the context of treating their campus as a living laboratory of sustainable practice, research and teaching. The purpose of this chapter is to provide a description of an attempt at The University of British Columbia (UBC) to implement the living laboratory concept at a deep level. At UBC we conceive of sustainability as the emergent property of a societal conversation about the kind of world we want to live in, informed by an understanding of the ecological, social and economic consequences of our individual and collective actions (Robinson, 2004). We build the case for sustainability because we believe it is necessary – the consequences of unsustainability are devastating – it is the right thing to do ethically and in terms of distributive justice, and it is desirable in itself, offering the possibility of a better life for people and the planet, and major opportunities for the university to fulfill its societal mandate for teaching and research in productive and innovative ways.

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