I’ve argued more than once on this forum that sustainability is the future of Extension.
The challenges that are prompting calls for sustainable practices stem from a host of causes— environmental, economic and social — but virtually all of them to one degree or another relate to living and working in ways that address present-day needs without eroding the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
A news.google search of gubernatorial state of the state addresses conducted this morning underscores why there is no getting around that fact. Governors throughout the country are expanding their use of sustainability to underscore the importance of stewardship within a wider context that not only encompasses the environment but also economic and lifestyle practices.
“Taxpayer contributions for state employee pensions increased by 594 percent over the last 11 years, and for health care by 257 percent,” observed Delaware Gov. Jack Markell. “While this escalation is not sustainable, we value our state employees and they value the benefits they receive.”
Meanwhile, as part of his effort to “reinvent” Michigan, newly installed Gov. Rick Snyder rolled out his “sustainable business model” and chided public workers for their pension and benefit packages, describing them as “unsustainable financial model.”
Incoming New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled the Cleaner, Greener Communities to provide competitive grants to encourage communities to develop regional sustainable growth strategies in housing, transportation, emissions control and energy efficiency.
In neighboring New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie stressed the urgency of putting unemployment insurance on a “long-term sustainable path.”
The growing public policy preoccupation with sustainability holds major implications for Cooperative Extension System. To put it bluntly, we’re in the driver’s seat in a way we have not been for decades.
We’re presented with a remarkable opportunity: a chance to demonstrate to our clients and stakeholders how all of us can play an integral role in developing and fostering new production systems and other approaches to address mounting environmental, economic and social concerns.
As I’ve stated time and again, no other organization is as well equipped to demonstrate sustainable practices within multiple contexts — to show how sustainability relates to all of us.
Granted, we can serve an important role demonstrating the values recycling and adopting greener production systems. But we have an even greater role to serve: introducing our clients and stakeholders to the bigger picture by demonstrating how all the major challenges of the day are best addressed by adopting sustainable practices.