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Universities in the Early Decades of the Third Millennium: Saving the World from Itself?


Environmental degradation, economic and political threats along with ideological extremism necessitate a global redirection toward sustainability and well-being. Since the survival of all species (humans, animals, and plants) is wholly dependent on a healthy planet, urgent action at the highest levels to address large-scale interconnected problems is needed to counter the thinking that perpetuates the “folly of a limitless world.” Paralleling critical societal roles played by universities – ancient, medieval, and modern – throughout the millennia, this chapter calls for all universities and higher education institutions (HEIs) generally – estimated at over 28,000 – to take a lead together in tackling the pressing complex and intractable challenges that face us. There are about 250 million students in tertiary education worldwide rising to about 600 million by 2040. Time is not on our side. While much of the groundwork has been done by the United Nations (UN) and civil society, concerns remain over the variable support given to the UN-2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially in light of the negative impact of global biodiversity loss on achieving the UN-2030 SDGs. Ten propositions for global sustainability, ranging from adopting the SDGs at national and local levels to ensuring peaceful uses of technology and UN reforms in line with global socioeconomic shifts, are provided for consideration by decisionmakers. Proposition #7 calls for the unifying One Health & Well-Being (OHWB) concept to become the cornerstone of our educational systems as well as societal institutions and to underpin the UN-2030 SDGs. Recognizing the need to change our worldview (belief systems) from human-centrism to eco-centrism, and re-building of trust in our institutions, the chapter argues for the re-conceptualization of the university/higher education purpose and scope focusing on the development of an interconnected ecological knowledge system with a concern for the whole Earth – and beyond. The 2019 novel coronavirus has made clear that the challenges facing our world cannot be solved by individual nations alone and that there is an urgency to committing to shared global values that reflect the OHWB concept and approach. By drawing on our collective experience and expertise informed by the UN-2030 SDGs, we will be in a much stronger position to shape and strengthen multilateral strategies to achieve the UN-2030 Transformative Vision – “ending poverty, hunger, inequality and protecting the Earth’s natural resources,” and thereby helping “to save the world from itself.”



Lueddeke, G.R. (2020), "Universities in the Early Decades of the Third Millennium: Saving the World from Itself?", Sengupta, E., Blessinger, P. and Mahoney, C. (Ed.) Civil Society and Social Responsibility in Higher Education: International Perspectives on Curriculum and Teaching Development (Innovations in Higher Education Teaching and Learning, Vol. 21), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 229-266.



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