Higher Education for a Post-Growth World

This article was originally written in The Chronicle of Higher Education.  From today until July 12, 2017, Worldwatch readers can access the full article for free! Michael Maniates, contributing author of Worldwatch’s EarthEd: Rethinking Education on a Changing Planet, digs into education in a post-growth world.

President Trump’s repudiation of the Paris climate accords has not gone unchallenged by leaders of U.S. higher education. In the seven days following Trump’s decision, more than 200 college and university presidents and chancellors joined hundreds of cities, states, and businesses in promising to meet the Paris emissions targets. More colleges and universities will surely follow.

The roots of such broad resistance to the White House lie in a campus environmental revolution some 20 years in the making. Sustainability offices that track resource use and promote eco-efficiency are becoming the norm. The number of academic programs in sustainability science and environmental studies has increased, as have enrollments. New academic journals devoted to sustainability have flourished. More than 500 institutions have committed to eventual carbon neutrality. Anthony Cortese, an early advocate of environmental stewardship within higher education, got it right when he recently described all this activity as “a beacon of hope in a sea of turbulence.”

Cortese’s beacon shines as an affirming rejoinder to the President’s imprudence. And yet, as successful as they have been, college sustainability programs must now evolve, along with their institutions. The reason is both straightforward and stark: Contrary to the promise of eye-popping economic growth that Trump used to justify his decision, we are getting our first real experience of a post-growth world. Rapid and sustained economic growth is becoming a thing of the past, and it looks to be a bumpy ride.

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Read the full article on The Chronicle for Higher Education

Good news! From now until July 12, 2017, the full article is available for FREE to Worldwatch readers.

You can also read the full chapter on our EarthEd website.


Michael Maniates is a professor of environmental studies at Yale-NUS College in Singapore. This essay was adapted from his essay “Suddenly More Than Academic: Higher Education in a Post-Growth World,” in the World Watch Institute’s Earth Ed: Rethinking Education on a Changing Planet (Island Press, April).

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2 thoughts on “Higher Education for a Post-Growth World”

  1. Despite recent gains by young adults, formal schooling is neither universal nor equal around the world. The global norm is barely more than a primary education – an average of about eight years of formal schooling for men and seven years for women.

  2. The contribution of higher education to jobs and growth , and its international attractiveness, can be enhanced through close, effective links between education , research and business – the three sides of the ‘knowledge triangle’.

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