By Thomas H. Kelly, Ph.D.
With this first issue of The Declaration, the Association of
University Leaders for a Sustainable Future (ULSF-formerly the
Secretariat of University Presidents for a Sustainable Future)
begins a dialogue among a growing membership that includes more
than 230 university leaders representing institutions of higher
learning in over 40 countries. These leaders share a commitment
to global environmental literacy that they have affirmed by signing
the Talloires Declaration.
The Talloires Declaration is fundamentally a call to action;
the setting for this action is our individual campuses and the
communities, regions, and nations in which they are embedded.
Accordingly, the dialogue in which we are engaging is a pragmatic
one; it is about how internationally accepted principles can and
should be manifest in our educational missions, programs and practices.
Therefore, it is about problem solving, experimentation, innovation,
and collective learning.
The evolving dialogue on environmental literacy is occurring
in institutions of higher education across diverse cultural landscapes
in every region of the world. While the accompanying action has
been taking place for some time, much of it has been happening
in institutional or regional isolation and is dependent upon committed
individuals or small groups without policies and systems to support
Notwithstanding many important accomplishments, global environment
and development trends in population, poverty, climate change,
urbanization, ecosystem degradation, and threats to human health
continue to point to the need for a significant change in the
awareness, values, knowledge, and skills of professionals in all
fields. The Declaration's ten-point plan integrates the activities
of administrators and staff, lecturers and researchers, students,
alumni, and external partners in pursuit of environmental literacy.
The ULSF Secretariat support signatory members in the vigorous
implementation of the Talloires Declaration. Much of our initial
work has been to heighten awareness, an essential first step in
facilitating a change in institutional culture and individual
behavior. The challenge is now to animate that awareness with
the requisite knowledge, skills, and information that enable institutional
policies and practices, and other collective actions that are
consistent with the aspirations of sustainable development.
The Talloires Declaration provides a common set of objectives
around which experience and accomplishments can be shared and
compared, information exchanged, and capacity strengthened. In
addition to regular publication of The Declaration, this interaction
will take place through a variety of mechanisms including:
- regional councils
- university presidents' convenings
- environmental literacy institutes
- institutional ecology conferences
- an assessment and reporting system
- "state of the campus" reports
- a World Wide Web site
- a discussion paper series
As we celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Talloires Declaration
we can cite significant achievement. Our membership has grown
ten-fold, from 22 original signatories in 14 countries to 236
signatories representing 43 countries across five continents.
The Talloires directives were incorporated in Agenda 21 of the
United Nations Conference for Environment and Development (UNCED,
1992). Member institutions around the world are making great strides
in their initiatives to support sustainability and achieve global
environmental literacy. Highlights of these efforts will be documented
in each issue of The Declaration.
We applaud the vision of our signatory presidents and the efforts
of their faculty, staff, and students. We extend an invitation
to all leaders in higher education to join the ranks of their
colleagues in this important international movement. Together
we can provide the academic leadership to achieve environmental
literacy and foster institutional responsibility by demonstrating
the principles of sustainable development in action.
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