Open Source Ecology is a network of farmers and engineers that has put together the Global Village Construction Set, an open source, low-cost, high performance technological platform that enables DIY fabrication of 50 different industrial machines that they believe are required to build a sustainable civilization with modern comforts. I like the principles behind the machinery (low-cost, modular, user-serviceable, DIY, closed-loop, etc.) but I’m not totally convinced that our modern lifestyle can every be truly sustainable. Giving the myriad nature of the problems we face, though, it’s important to be open to a variety of approaches.
Their website features a bunch of videos, along with a blog and a wiki, all of which could make interesting course content. This site could be especially relevant for students interested in engineering.
In addition to looking at the primary content of this site (i.e. considering it is as an approach to solving various global and environmental issues), an interesting angle to take would be to look at it as an example of non-traditional education. For example, one of the participants was recently awarded a Thiel Fellowship, a $100,000 fellowship given to 20 people under 20 each year for not going to college. This article about the Thiel Fellow, a Korean-born Canadian, would make a great short reading. His family was shocked by his decision not to go to college, something that many of our students may be able to relate to. The question of whether or not a traditional college education is right for everyone is an interesting one. Furthermore, many of the most promising approaches to environmental issues (natural building, permaculture, etc.) are developing largely outside of traditional learning institutions.