It is inherently paradoxical that our contemporary concern for the environment would emerge only after a period of sustained, indiscriminate use of the earth's natural resources. While it is commonly acknowledged that the planet's now limited assets - undeveloped land, fresh air, clean water - should be responsibly managed for future generations, it is also evident that human settlement must envision alternative constructs that are both socially and ecologically sustainable. And yet the word 'sustainable', as its etymology suggests, is not limited to ideas of continuance. Perhaps there is a tendency to overlook its more profound meaning - an optimism for life. In Vancouver, in the province of British Columbia, and in every place and every city, there is also a tacit need to rediscover the meaning of ethos - of life, of community and of education - including the manner in which we understand and represent the world, how we propose to act in the world amongst others, and how we might speculate on the nature and quality of its inhabitation beyond our own lifetime.
The ENDS program proposes that an appropriate place to explore these issues is in the context of an ethically based, comprehensive design education. The Bachelor of Environmental Design [ENDS] program is a 4-year [8 term] degree. The program begins with a two-year foundation in a general liberal education, and, in the third and fourth years, the program focuses on themes emphasizing analysis and representation, history and theory, technology and practice, all anchored by a Core Studio Design curriculum. The purpose of the whole of this design education is to suggest to each student something of his or her own potential in the physical and intellectual realm. Each student will be expected to assume a critical position in this world: for some, this process will lead to a professional role in the planning and shaping of the natural and built environment.
At the heart of the ENDS program is the proposition that a community of liberally educated, broadly skilled citizens might eventually serve as advocates for a sustainable planet, manifesting a humanist view of the public world. A constituency aware of the real challenges and opportunities in forming space and designing with the land finds common ground first as a community in the academic environment of the university, considering as its central focus issues relevant to contemporary society. Their designs, critically engaged and imaginatively considered, will be the next, optimistic memos of this new millennium.