Costanza brings solutions focus to PSU
By Christina Williams, Sustainable Business Oregon
Sustainable Business Oregon
Robert Costanza came to Portland this fall, trailing behind him more than two decades of globally influential research in the field of sustainability, economics and ecosystem services.
But perhaps the most telling thing about the man Portland State University hired to lead its interdisciplinary sustainability program is the fact that he renamed the department.
What was the Center for Sustainable Processes and Practices became the Institute for Sustainable Solutions.
Costanza isn’t interested in talking sustainability unless it’s in the interest of finding actual solutions to real problems.
One of the reasons he came to Portland is he saw in PSU the same desire.
"They take the idea of service learning seriously," Costanza said. "There's a willingness to be engaged in problem solving as part of the curriculum, to blur the boundaries of teaching and research."
Of course, money never hurts. The James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation's $25 million challenge grant for sustainability research, awarded to PSU in 2008, has catalyzed funding for the institute.
Costanza said he was also attracted to Portland by the region’s businesses.
"It's a business community that is open to the idea that a growth-at-all-costs mentality is not sustainable," he said.
Costanza comes from Vermont, the land of Ben and Jerry's and Seventh Generation, where he led the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont. As such, he knows all about progressive business environments.
He also knows, firsthand, that Portland is not the center of the sustainability universe, a fact that bears emphasis from time to time in greener-than-thou Portland.
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