Date of Award

Spring 2010

Project Type


Program or Major

Natural Resources and Environmental Studies

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

John E Carroll


In light of accelerating global warming and climate change, the importance of sustainability education is unquestionable. It is a requirement of our time that sustainability education must become a part of any professional curriculum in higher education because today's college students are tomorrow's decision makers and the key players at local, national, and international levels.

Although the importance of education for a sustainable future has been recognized by the global community and we are now living through the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014), a common conceptual approach to teaching sustainability does not exist. We face a paradoxical situation. Students often are frustrated by information regarding the developing ecological crisis and feel hopeless about their uncertain future, while educators are not only confused by the overwhelming flow of information on sustainability and sustainable living but often are lost, trying to adapt multiple and various approaches to teaching sustainability.

The notion of sustainability education is still vague and indistinct due to its broad, multi- and interdisciplinary nature. Moreover, the name of Russian scientist Vladimir Vernadsky (1863-1945) -- the author of the theory of the biosphere and the noosphere, which is a scientific foundation for Earth System Science and the concept of sustainability -- is often unknown to many western educators. According to Vernadsky, the noosphere is a new evolutionary stage in the development of the biosphere when human-and-nature interaction will be consciously balanced.

Vernadsky's theory of the biosphere and the noosphere provides a solid scientific foundation for working out a conceptual approach to teaching sustainability. In our time of ecological challenges and uncertainty about the future, it is important to include Vernadsky's theory of the Biosphere and the Noosphere in sustainability education curricula because his concept carries an interdisciplinary and systems thinking approach, ecological and holistic worldview, and an optimistic vision of the future.

Using the Systems Thinking approach and based upon Vernadsky's original work, an extensive literature review, and the author's positive teaching experiences in applying Vernadky's ideas to the teaching of sustainability, the present research shows that Vernadsky's theory of the biosphere and the noosphere represents a ready-to-use conceptual framework for universal sustainability education that can be effectively implemented by educators at all levels and in various settings.