Dr. Anthony Barnum, Sociology
Looking for Sustainable Solutions to Issues of Inequality
I have often engaged and thought about ideas of sustainability in relation to society and the environment. However, I have not often thought of social, political, or economic sustainability: how to conceptualize these ideas, and what they might and could mean especially in terms of addressing issues of inequality. This however is the logical next step in addressing sustainability and several environmental sociologists suggest that environmental issues cannot be addressed until inequality is address (Barbosa 2015).
Through the Valley and Ridge Sustainability Program, a course that I teach on Inequalities in the U.S. has been redesigned to incorporate ideas and concepts related to social, political, and economic sustainability as a means of addressing and understanding inequalities within the context of the U.S. at both the macro level and the micro level in terms of how inequality can be seen and understood as a social issue that should be examined at multiple levels. By partnering with The Cumberland County Historical Society, I have been able to rethink my course objectives and assignments so that students can come to understand inequalities as they exist around them in local spaces. Through place-based and experiential learning activities students will come to a better understanding of the study of inequalities both theoretically and as applied to specific local, state, regional, and national contexts.
My participation in the Valley and Ridge Sustainability Program has enabled me to take this course and rethink issues related to the system of stratification based on race, class, gender, sexuality, etc. within the U.S. and how they must be addressed in holistic and sustainable ways to achieve real and lasting solutions through social change. Valley and Ridge pushed me to incorporate service-learning, experiential, and place-based learning where students can spend time at local community organizations and use both qualitative and quantitative methods and reasoning. The objective is to enable students to see inequality within local, regional, and national contexts and to link these experiences to global forces and the social worlds that we inhabit and for them in turn to become active participants in the local community where they become teachers on issues of inequality.