Stephen F. Austin State University

About Us


The Center for a Livable World explores the human dimensions of sustainable development and offers a vision of the future that emphasizes community development, personal engagement, and economic responsibility. The Center serves as a crossroads for all viewpoints and aims to promote dialogue that leads to practical solutions and shared values.


While the topic of sustainability has captured headlines on a global basis, little progress is being made to address the situation. On the one hand, ideology has overtaken reasoned discussion and positions are now staked at the polar extremes, locked in the circular debate whether environmental disaster can be averted without sacrificing economic growth. On the other hand, national governments have effectively sidetracked efforts at international collaboration by citing the lack of concessions by other countries as an excuse to dodge action. The result is that movement has become stalled. The Center for a Livable World at Stephen F. Austin State University (SFA) strives to drive the discussion of sustainability in a direction that bridges both ideological and cultural differences.

While the causes of environmental change can be debated, what cannot be ignored is that drastic consequences are on the horizon no matter the reason. Almost every facet of human existence will be directly and negatively impacted. Unilateral action by communities or even nations will not be enough because the problems are global in scope. The uneven distribution of resources coupled with wide variations in consumption make an international approach essential.

The absence of momentum is allowing potential catastrophes to lurch forward on almost all environmental fronts. As the situation drifts, the danger of geo-political conflict escalates as competition for resources becomes more intense. However, a public commitment to sustainability requires a shift in culture that cannot be accomplished by relying on governments alone. While a change in habits can be imposed by law, sustainability ultimately depends upon the cooperation of almost every individual in adopting new patterns of behavior. Personal responsibility is, at bottom, the key to preserving a livable world and education is the best vehicle to bring about this cultural shift. A public literate about sustainability will be better equipped to make informed decisions and follow through with or without legal threats.

The Center for a Livable World is proposing to establish a global consortium of universities that collaborate on producing literacy about sustainability that transcends cultures. The universities will engage in three sets of activities coordinated by the Center: academic (common courses and degrees, faculty and student exchanges, joint conferences and research projects), business (consulting, professional certification, corporate seminars) and social (public outreach, community development, policy recommendations). Each university will be responsible for engaging its regional constituency to provide a seamless global network. Taken together, the consortium will create a platform that supports worldwide dialogue on achieving sustainability by promoting shared values and concrete projects.

This focus differs from prior initiatives that have sought to resolve isolated problems through public policy or scientific solutions, such as by mandatory recycling or by discoveries in areas like solar panels. In contrast, the consortium formed by the Center for a Livable World will explore the human dimensions of sustainable development by offering a vision of the future based on personal engagement.

The Center for a Livable World at Stephen F. Austin State University is revising the way sustainability is understood. New patterns of behavior are needed and these will not happen without a cultural shift on a global basis.

Center Faculty

The Center for a Livable World has a unique academic perspective on sustainable development. Specifically, the Center explores the human dimension of sustainable development and offers a vision of the future that emphasizes community, personal engagement, and economic responsibility. Unlike most work conducted on the topic, the Center applies the contributions of the social sciences and humanities in an effort to keep the human dimension as the focal point of discussions in moving toward a sustainable world. This approach places the faculty in the College of Liberal & Applied Arts at the cutting edge of research on the human dimensions of sustainable development. A core group of faculty members in the College spearhead a collaborative research agenda.

Name Discipline Areas of Interest

C.F. (Rick) Abel, Ph.D. Political Science/Public Administration Eco-politics & Eco-pragmatism
Mark Barringer, Ph.D. History Environmental history
Kathleen Belanger, Ph.D. Social Work Sustainability & personal responsibility; faith & sustainability; rural sustainable community development
Ray Darville, Ph.D. Sociology Human dimensions of sustainable development
Ben Dixon, Ph.D. Philosophy Environmental ethics
Rhiannon Fante, Ph.D. Psychology Sustainability leadership
William Forbes, Ph.D. Geography International conservation & development
Brian Murphy, Ph.D. Political Science Transatlantic policy on sustainability
Lee W. Payne, Ph.D. Political Science Environmental public policy
Cynthia Pressley, Ph.D. Political Science Environmental law
Kelly J. Salsbery, Ph.D. Philosophy Social & technological change involving sustainable development; applied ethics