It is wonderfully ironic that the word "sustainability" first appeared in a printed text in 1972—a year after the College's founding. The Oxford English Dictionary has this quote from the original work:
In this sense, Stockton's emphasis on the concept of sustainability and the word that describes it grew up together.
1972T. Sowell Say's Law iii. 100. An increase beyond limits of sustainability existing at any given time would lead only to reduced earnings and subsequent contraction of the quantity supplied.
1980 Jrnl. Royal Soc. Arts July 495/2. Sustainability in the management of both individual wild species and ecosystems is critical to human welfare.
In a very real way, the Environmental Studies Program (ENVL) was the progenitor of sustainability here. It is doubtful that, without the ENVL faculty, the College would have been so prominently recognized for its efforts to preserve and continue its projects. From the very beginning—even before the land was purchased—it was supposed to be an institution centered on the environment and preserving it.
As Claude Epstein so clearly states, Environmental Studies hardly existed in 1971 as a separate discipline and while student interest in the courses was well-intentioned, student participation was more romantic than realistic. In addition, there was the credibility of the discipline as a concern in the surrounding communities. Even if students worked their way through the ENVL curriculum, there weren't any jobs for them to seek. Also, in the 1980s, the College itself set up personnel policies that worked against continuing an effective environmental program.
The ENVL program has, in spite of these setbacks, survived and has strongly advocated for rational and sustainable growth matched with preservation.
Tait Chirenje and Patrick Hossay write a long and comprehensive history of what "sustainability" means at the College, what has limited it, and what the future holds as the College tries to balance the forces pressuring it from all sides. They discuss four issues: (1) sustainability across the curriculum, (2) institutional structures, (3) energy use and conservation, and (4) energy generation and purchase. They also discuss solutions that have been or need to be adopted. They are honest in identifying the time when there has been little or no collaboration between the administration and the faculty.
Through a thorough discussion of what has worked, what hasn't, and why, the two authors still seem optimistic for the future of our efforts. Curricula are being designed to stress sustainability, students are graduating and finding employment, and our national reputation for these efforts is solid and held in much esteem. Their essay ends:
All of us understand that Stockton College must now commit itself to growing in a way that ensures a clear commitment toward environmental stewardship, energy efficiency, and addressing the great threat of climate change. We can set a new standard in green design, efficiency, and stewardship that could serve as a model for other public and private institutions; we can earn the title of New Jersey's Green College.
Jamie Cromartie's essay is less positive. His argument is based on his experiences when trying to protect the site's biodiversity and its water quality. These are, as he points out, serious issues for any complex located within the Pine Barrens. He suggests that the problems come not from lack of environmental expertise or from innovative plans for protection but, rather, from a lack of clear collaboration between the ENVL faculty and administrations from the beginning of the College to the present. Specifically, Cromartie objects to the lack of implementation of the 1971 Master Plan in three areas of concern: professional management of forested areas, innovative use of native plants, and, finally, planned runoff from College buildings (to avoid damage to Lake Fred).
These are warnings to all of us that this precious environment cannot be maintained without careful planning and an understanding that our need to develop and grow must be matched with our need to preserve what we have inherited. The lesson—an old one—is that we are but stewards and that, in some absolute sense, we do not own the spaces we occupy.