Erik Dunmire, Ph.D.

| Chemistry & Engineering

   
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SABBATICAL

Overview

Energy Insights

 

Overview

Objective  I took a sabbatical leave during the 2007-2008 academic year.  In general, the intention of my sabbatical project was to update, as well as deepen and broaden, my knowledge base in energy sustainability, and to increase my general interdisciplinary “environmental literacy.”  This was achieved through a program of independent study involving literature review, discussions with experts in the field, and site visits to novel energy production facilities and green building projects.

Sweden  One especially important component of my sabbatical plan was to visit a number of important sites in the country of Sweden.  Sweden is recognized as the world leader in sustainable development, and as such, provides a wide range of case studies in all areas of sustainability.  In various international rankings of countries’ performance in a range of environmental, economic, and social sustainability categories, Sweden consistently ranks first or second in nearly every category.  In terms of energy initiatives, Sweden has been particularly effective at simultaneously reducing their carbon footprint, improving domestic energy security, and stimulating long-term economic growth by pursuing innovative, holistic approaches that reduce waste, improve energy efficiency, and capitalize on renewable and locally-available energy sources.

The Natural Step   Additionally, Sweden is the source of the Strategic Sustainable Development (a.k.a., "The Natural Step") framework for achieving sustainable development.  This framework, introduced by Swedish oncologist Karl-Henrik Robèrt in 1989, has provided a sustainable planning model adopted by a growing number of companies around the world, including Ikea, Electrolux, Nike, and Starbucks, to name just a few.  More importantly, this Strategic Sustainable Development framework has been applied to community development in Sweden for nearly 20 years, resulting in over 70 “eco-municipalities” that have made significant strides in modeling sustainable development, and having considerable influence over national and global approaches to sustainable development.  The founders of this framework established several years ago an international Master's program in Strategic Leadership Towards Sustainability at Blekinge Institute of Technology in southern Sweden.  Visits to this institute to attend lectures and meet with program faculty provided me with important insights during my sabbatical leave.

Timely  The timing of my sabbatical leave was fortuitous in several regards.  First, January 1, 2005 – December 31, 2014, has been designated the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD) by the United Nations General Assembly.  This international call for increased awareness of sustainability issues has acted as a catalyst for many educational institutions around the globe to step up their educational efforts in this area, providing models for our own educational initiatives at College of Marin.  Second, the past year has seen the release of numerous landmark national and international reports relevant to energy sustainability and climate change, as well as a flurry of activity and discussion at local, national, and international levels.

 

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Energy Insights

Immediate and rapid progress toward greater energy sustainability is crucial to human welfare at both the national and global levels, and an educated citizenry will be a vital tool in achieving any progress.  Locally, Marin citizens will be confronted over the coming decade with a broad spectrum of decisions about various measures related to sustainable development in general, and energy sustainability in particular. 

It therefore occurred to me to share the insights I gained through my sabbatical work with the Marin community at large.  In addition to helping people to understand the scope and scale of the current challenge, I think it would be useful for Americans to learn from some of the considerable successes that have been achieved within Sweden (and other European countries) during the past few decades.

As a result, I have begun writing a series of essays that discuss various aspects of the sustainable energy challenge from the perspective of Marin County residents, and drawing upon innovations that have proven successful within Sweden.  The essays are available in PDF format via the link below.

Sustainable Energy Insights (opens in new window)

 

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Livet i Sverige (Life in Sweden)

During my 2007-2008 sabbatical leave, I and my family were able to spend a considerable amount of time experiencing life in Sweden.  Most of that time, we lived in the city of Vetlanda, a town of approximately 25,000 residents in the heart of Småland, the central farming region in southern Sweden.  This slideshow provides a glimpse of life there:

Livet i Sverige (opens in new window)

 

Sustainability Resources

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Copyright 2008 Erik Dunmire                  erik.dunmire@marin.edu                  Last updated: September 3, 2008