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Second Nature


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Working with colleges & universities to create a healthy world now and in the future

General Overview

Second Nature works to create a healthy, just, and sustainable society by transforming higher education. Second Nature is the lead supporting organization of the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment, a growing network of over 675 signatory higher education institutions in all fifty states that have made a public commitment to neutralize their greenhouse gas emissions and transform their curricula to educate all students to contribute to solving the climate crisis.

Professional Services
Boston, MA

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Sustainability Website(s) or Pages

Sustainability Mission Statement
Sustainability can be scientifically defined as a dynamic state in which global ecological and social systems are not systematically undermined. Ensuring that activities do not systematically undermine ecological and social systems is to ensure that the capacity of future generations to meet their needs is not compromised.

Ecological and social systems can be undermined (as originally articulated by The Natural Step ( in four basic ways: when natural systems are subject to:

1) systematic increases in concentrations of substances from the earth's crust e.g. fossil fuels, heavy metals);

2) systematic increases in concentrations of substances produced by society (e.g. CFCs, DDT);

3) systematic degradation by physical means (e.g. deforestation, overfishing);


4) when social systems are subject to conditions that systematically undermine people's capacity to meet their basic needs (e.g. oppressive conditions, non-living wages)

Thus sustainability is a shared vision of success in which these four principles are not violated, and strategic sustainable development (SSD) is the process of moving towards this vision in systematic and strategic ways on the individual, organizational, community, national and global scales.

To do this, we need an unprecedented shift in the way we think and act. These four principles represent the basic constraints we have been dealt as a global society. While at first this may seem negative, or limiting, it actually provides the basic structure - the rules of the game - within which we have unlimited potential for innovation and creativity. Having an understanding of these principles is like having an understanding of pitch and rhythm in order to make music instead of a jumble of sounds, or understanding the rules of soccer in order to play a fun and competitive game as opposed to merely chasing a ball.

Too often, we view health, social, economic, security, environmental, and other major societal issues as separate, competing, and hierarchical, when they are really systemic and interdependent. We do not have environmental problems per se, we have negative environmental consequences of the way we have designed our business, social, economic, and political systems. The challenge of addressing these flaws in societal design is unprecedented, daunting, and exciting. It is one that will require the best in all of us.

Key Issues
Education for Sustainability


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