A Year of Sustainability | Taking Action for Change
In higher education, we sometimes wonder if the “initiatives” undertaken on a campus actually have any genuine impact on students or if they simply represent neat sounding, short-lived fads. Over the 6 months, I have been paying close attention to what students are saying and doing, and I am beginning to believe that the In Focus theme of sustainability – defined in the broadest sense – is starting to not only resonate with students at Moravian, but also infiltrate their actions.
I have had faculty tell me that students are mentioning (without being prompted) issues of sustainability in the assignments that they submit or present in class -- connecting the dots, if you will. We have a record number of students working on sustainability-related independent studies or internships this semester. The student environmental coalition, ECO, has long recognized the links between environmental issues and sustainability, but is now also considering ways to make their club sustainable (in terms of future membership and leadership). Members are highlighting the work of unique student projects at Sustainability Soirees (see piece by Caiti Campbell below). The Campus Community Connection (C3) leaders chose an alternative spring break project that will focus on helping the National Park Service deal with invasive species and tree hazard removal in the Grand Canyon National Park.
Faculty and staff are getting in on this as well – finding ways to link some of their expertise and interests to sustainability. Many thanks to Sharon Brown for bringing Julian Agyeman and his thoughts on “just sustainability” to campus for the annual MLK speaker event. The exhibit displaying the works of Gregory Warmack, AKA Mr. Imagination, art that makes use of recycled materials, is a creative expression of sustainability – on both the part of the artist and the Art Department. I recently received a message from Nicole Tabor indicating that she and Sharon Brown were “inspired by the ‘Sustainability In-Focus’ theme and plan to devote their entire spring term meeting of the Multi-cultural Reading Group (March 13, 4P) to literature by people of color which addresses any aspect of sustainability.”
|Elizabeth "Lizzie" Sgambelluri '13
working in Africa
Over winter break, Lizzie Sgambelluri’13 returned to Africa to work on a wildlife conservation project. This time, she went to central Botswana to work with the Modisa Wildlife Project near the Kalahari Game Reserve (http://modisa.org/). According to the organization's website, the project “promotes sustainability and enhanced biodiversity in the region” and wants to “raise awareness across the globe on the necessity of sustaining the natural ecosystems that ensure a brighter future for the wildlife in Botswana.”
Several years ago, I read the book The Old Way: A Story of the First People by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas. She first went to the Kalahari Desert as a teenager with her parents who studied the Bushmen. Fifty years later, she returned to visit one of the last hunter-gatherer societies on earth, people who adapt daily to the changes in their environment and food supply. Sadly, she found that the intrusion of 21st century technology and lifestyles, even in this remote part of the world, are having devastating effects on the people and their culture.
In Setswana, the local language of the region where this organization works, “Modisa” means guardian. It strikes me that the concept of “guardian” is another way of thinking of sustainability – as we look after and protect our resources, our campus, our community, and our planet. It is worth noting the etymology of the word guardian; it derives from an Old French word (Frankish) gardein meaning garden and an Old Norse use in the sense of caretaker or guardian angel. Either way, both derivations tie in well to modern notions of sustainability.
Diane W. Husic, Ph.D.
Chair and Professor, Department of Biological Sciences
Don St. John
Emeritus Professor of Religion
Co-directors of the Sustainability Center of Investigation
Story-time at ECO Sustainability Soiree
Cuddling with baby lions, exploring Louisiana wetlands by airboat, and turning an abandoned property into a hands on learning center beloved by a community--these were just some of the stories shared by Moravian students at this month's Sustainability Soiree.
The event hosted by ECO, the Environmental Coalition, invited students to share their experiences working and volunteering in sustainability. Lizzie Sgambelluri '13 recounted her summer working with lion and tiger cubs in Africa. With antlers in hand, Matt Scott '13 spoke about his job raising, caring for, and helping maintain a deer farm. Marla Bianca '13 shared her experiences traveling to the Middle East for the COP 18 UN Climate Change Conference as well as her current research on the vegetation at the Lehigh Gap Nature Center, a superfund site. Tori Thomas '13 presented about her summer studying and researching in the wetlands of of the southern United States. Alex Bundrick' 16 presented her work with the Archibald Johnston Community Center, a nonprofit for nature, education, and the arts. Presenters and audience continued discussion over desserts from Vegan Treats.
This event is part of an effort by ECO to recruit underclassmen members and leaders. Sustainability is a subject that exists at the intersection of the environmental, economic, and human equity issues. Students of all majors are welcome: education, econ, english, nursing, art, you name it! Please contact Caiti at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info on ECO or to be added to ECO's email list.
Caitlin Campbell '13
The Rebirth of Monograph Series Ecospirit
After a 23 year hiatus, ECOSPIRIT lives once again as a literary vehicle to highlight papers, poems, and other creative expressions that explore cultural and personal resources for re-imagining our relationship to and responsibilities towards the natural world.
Ecospirit has been re-born with an essay by Moravian student Katelyn Remp '14, Using the Land to Heal: A Warrior’s Journey in Leslie Marmon Silko’s Novel Ceremony (PDF), that was shared with the campus community recently.
It features a lovely essay by one of our students on the book "Ceremony" by Leslie Marmon Silko, a Pueblo Indian. It is a rich story set among the Laguna Pueblo with lessons about culture, personal transformation and the earth. It is the story of a WWII Vet with PTSD who found healing and renewal in returning to his tradition and establishing a reverent relationship to the land and animals.. The author is Katlyn Remp, an English major who did the original for Nicole Tabor's class.
What is/was Ecospirit? For six years beginning in the mid-1980s, Moravian was home to an avant-garde mini-journal widely known for its contributions to new ways of thinking about, singing about and portraying humankind’s relationship to and responsibilities for the Earth. Edited by humanities professors Don St. John (Religion) and Paul Larson (Music), Ecospirit highlighted articles and poetry from Moravian faculty and students, as well as from writers, artists, and activists (some now regarded as great innovators) at the local, national and international levels.
Thus WE INVITE all members of the Moravian Community to contribute their reflective and creative works to the rebirth of Ecospirit and hence to the sustaining of our own spirits in this year of Sustainability. Submit your creative and reflective works to Don St. John at email@example.com. For past issues of Ecospirit please check out: http://home.moravian.edu/public/relig/ecoSpirit/
Climate Crises: Past, Present, and Future
Julian Agyeman, professor and chair of the department of urban and environmental planning and policy (UEP) at Tufts University, presented this year’s Dr. Martin Luther King lecture at Moravian at the end of January. Agyeman’s lecture, The Dream Lives on: Towards a ‘Just’ Sustainability, focused on bridging the gap between environmental activism and social justice activism and supported the College IN FOCUS theme of sustainability.
Agyeman argued for environmental justice, the idea that the environment plays a role in social justice, equality, human rights and people’s quality of life. “Where people are trashing their environments, they’re often trashing human and civil rights,” he said, noting that countries ranked highest for social justice are often also ranked highest for their environmental protection measures. In addition, the countries with the largest gap between rich and poor populations also tend to have the largest carbon footprints.
Social justice needs to become part of the discussion when people talk about sustainability and the environment, he said. Because they are afraid to blur their agendas, most American environmental organizations either make no mention of a responsibility to environmental justice or only discuss their responsibility toward humanity as a responsibility toward the next generation. According to Agyeman, “equity must be both inter- and intra-generational.”
Using Hurricane Katrina’s displacement of the poor of New Orleans as an example, he explained that environmental problems disproportionately affect disadvantaged populations. For this reason, Agyeman implored environmental and social justice organizations to work together and form coalitions to bring positive change in environmental justice.
He went on to describe five goals that ought to be the focus of the environmental justice movement: planning intercultural cities, providing fair shares of environmental space, focusing on the environment as it relates to human well being and happiness, promoting urban agriculture and food justice and instituting spatial justice.
To plan intercultural cities, city institutions must be changed to support diversity rather than simply tolerating it. When speaking on environmental space, he stated that 4.5 percent of the world’s population consumes 25 percent of the world’s resources, and there must be equality in how resources are divided. This resource division relates to overall quality of life because too many people live below the dignity floor–the United Nations’ defined minimum socioeconomic status necessary to avoid a dangerously poor quality of life. A similar challenge faces the world related to food justice. “We don’t have a world food problem, we have a world food distribution problem,” he said.
The key to just sustainability is “protecting environmental potential and releasing human potential,” he said, and avoid becoming “a society where if you can’t count it, it doesn't’t count.” A society in which people interact with and respect each other’s opinions is required to realize just sustainability; progress will be seen only if all people are included in the discussion.
“Asking the right questions means asking who’s at the table when these questions are being asked,” he said. One must never disassociate the environmental impact from the human impact when it comes to issues of sustainability.
Always be open to and respectful of different perspectives. Create a world that is livable for everyone. Strive to understand the world from an interdisciplinary perspective—which is at the heart of Moravian College’s liberal arts values, he added, all which is necessary to understand the larger issues of the world.
More information on Dr. Agyeman can be found on his website.
From InCommon, written by Steve Delturk ‘13
Campus Notes | Congratulations
Moravian student Marla Bianca is to receive the Volunteer of the Month Award from the Lehigh Valley Section of the American Chemical Society.
Bianca was recognized for her work representing the youth of the American Chemical Society at the United Nations Climate Talks held in Qatar in November.
Bianca was one of four U.S. students selected by ACS to interview scientists, policymakers and national leaders about how the known science of climate change may be incorporated into international policy.
Internship Focus | Air Quality in the Lehigh Valley
Moravian College senior Grant Pellitteri's internship focuses on addressing the current state of air quality in the Lehigh Valley. As an environmental policy and economics major and environmental science minor, his primary goal is to inform groups within the Lehigh Valley about pollutants that effect air quality.
"I hope to create a plan of action to share with the community about protection and prevention methods that address the present problems of air quality in the area," Pelitteri explains. "Some of the protection and prevention methods fall into sustainable practices."
"Sustainability has a lot to do with the current quality of air in the Lehigh Valley, and through more sustainable practices the air quality can continue to improve," he continued. "However, without the proper information about air quality it becomes difficult to address the significant contributor of pollution. Instead of labeling the culprit of the air quality pollutants I hope to promote positive sustainable practices that can continue to alleviate the problem."