Dr. Richard Plate
Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies
October 2017

Q: What does Sustainability mean to you?
A: In a general sense, I like the Brundtland idea of meeting the needs of today without decreasing future generations’ ability to meet their own needs. But this definition is vague. To dig down a bit deeper, I like to focus on the resilience of socialecological systems. The term “social-ecological system” is meant to emphasize humans’ role in, and reliance upon, the ecosystems all around us. The term “resilience” refers to the capacity of these social-ecological systems to flourish in the face of change and uncertainty. In an ecological context, such resilience requires maintaining the species and conditions necessary for the proper functioning of an ecosystem. In a social context, resilience requires developing the knowledge, awareness, skills, and institutions necessary to address contemporary environmental and social challenges.

Q: Describe the class you teach.
A: I teach two classes that are focused on sustainability. The first class, IDS 3150, Foundations of Environmental Studies, provides a survey of concepts and issues related to environmental studies. We integrate insights from a wide range of disciplines (e.g., biology, psychology,
economics, marketing, and ecosystem management) in order to develop a contextualized view of contemporary challenges related to sustainability.
The second class, IDS 4893, Capstone Experience in Environmental Studies, is a project-oriented class in which we apply insights and approaches from a wide array of disciplines to the sustainability challenges we face right here on campus. We partner with UCF’s Office of Sustainability Initiatives to provide students with the opportunity to work on a real problem
with the goal of developing and implementing strategies to address that problem. Students work in groups with key UCF personnel to collect data and develop ways to make UCF operations more sustainable.

Q: What do you do at UCF to advance sustainability initiatives?
A: This is only the second semester of IDS 4893. In future semesters, I believe we will begin to see impacts from the collective work of students in these classes. I am also a co-adviser of IDEAS UCF, a student group focused on sustainability that holds campaigns and events to help raise
awareness about sustainability and get more people involved in activities to increase sustainability locally.

Q: How can students get involved in your work?
A: I encourage students to look into IDS 3150 even if they are not majoring in environmental studies. It provides an introduction into environmental issues and concepts that could be useful for any major (and, really, for anyone who breathes air, drinks water, and eats food). IDS 4893 requires IDS 3150 as a prerequisite.
Also, contact IDEAS UCF to find out about sustainability initiatives taking place around campus
and around town.

Q: What is your vision for sustainability?
A: Sustainability requires a community of people who:
1. are aware of their place within the larger social and environmental systems, including the impacts of their behavior on those systems and the ways they depend on those systems and
2. act on that awareness to be responsible members of the social and ecological communities of which they are a part.
And it involves a combination of behavioral changes and technological innovations to help us
maintain the health of those communities.

Q: What is one sustainable practice you do that you would suggest to students and faculty?
A: Become an informed consumer. Learn about the social and environmental impacts associated with the food you are eating and the products you are buying. Then let your purchasing habits reflect your values.