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Overcoming Stone Age Logic

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A challenge to universities

Through a remarkable manipulation of limited knowledge, brute force, and an overwhelming arrogance, humans have shaped a world that in all likelihood cannot sustain the standard of living we have come to take for granted. Our approach to energy, to look at only one sector, epitomizes our limitations. We remain fixated on short-term goals and a simplistic model governed by what I call “Stone Age logic.” Find it, burn it, bury it — our dependency on fossils fuels would be worthy of cavemen.

Fortunately, we seem to be slowly moving out of the final decades of the Stone Ages. Although the general public and especially our younger generations have begun to think in terms of sustainability, the task remains to improve our capacity to implement change through knowledge and sound policy decisions. Our approach must be transformative rather than incremental.

Progress toward sustainability will require the reconceptualization and reorganization of our ossified knowledge enterprises. Our universities will need to drive innovation at the same time we forge closer ties to the private sector and government alike. To realize the potential of this moment will require both a focused collective commitment and the realization that sustainability, like democracy, is not a problem to be solved but rather a challenge that requires constant vigilance.

Michael M. Crow, from “Overcoming Stone Age Logic”, Issues in Science and Technology, December 2008 ASU is a New American University — a place where knowledge informs decision-making, research and study transcends academic disciplines, students learn from the world around them, and local solutions have a global impact. Please join us in transforming the world.

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Michael M. Crow
President, Arizona State University