The Planetary University initiative explored how the university campus is a microcosm of the larger urban environment and led to the 2006 book Planet U: Sustaining the World, Reinventing the University by Michael M’Gonigle and Justine Stark. The basic premise is that universities face problems similar to any other growing urban environment, including allocation of available space, transportation issues, energy consumption, water management, and protection of natural areas. The campus is—or could be—a model for the larger community.
Universities are entrusted with a major responsibility to enable societies to address the immense social and environmental challenges of the 21st century. Each university is different, but each has attributes that no other institution has, collectively equipping these places with an unparalleled potential for ecological innovation and ability to drive regional sustainability. A place-based strategy can be used to integrate everything from the development of green buildings, local reinvestment strategies, and governance structures into an integrated approach for university sustainability. Where innovative development patterns are embraced, campuses can become comprehensive models of sustainability. The “planetary university” is the one that consciously shapes itself as a local model of planetary sustainability. The planetary university:
- Is locally catalytic.
- Is globally networked.
- Creates a comprehensive vision of sustainability through an expanded political mission for the university.
- Redirects decision-making through new institutional arrangements.
- Cultivates constructive citizenship.
- Offers a whole learning organization and community.