Moravian takes a holistic approach to sustainability
Moravian College’s IN FOCUS theme for the 2012-2013 academic year is sustainability. Diane Husic, professor of biological sciences, and Donald St. John, professor emeritus of religion, have led the college’s programming efforts around this theme. Their programming has taken a holistic approach, which has opened a campus-wide discussion about sustainability.
According to Husic, a holistic approach to sustainability incorporates the human elements that may be overlooked in sustainability discussions. Often, sustainability is looked at purely as a movement that focuses on “going green” and becoming more environmentally friendly in the use of energy, water and food.
“People don’t see sustainability as something that affects everything we do,” she says.
The relationship that people have with the environments in which they live, how they play a role in changing these environments, and how these changed environments, in turn, affect them, are all critical elements in sustainability. Unfortunately, sustainability efforts also tend to be tied up with money and decisions are made with the goal of either avoiding up-front costs or of setting a foundation for long-term profits. Husic hopes that discussing the issue from a holistic perspective will take the focus off of finances and shift the conversation to reflect on the role sustainability plays in our lives.
The IN FOCUS programming and the Sustainability Committee are leading the College’s efforts in sustainability. Whereas the former program addresses how sustainability affects people on a local, national and global scale, the Sustainability Committee, led by Frank Kuserk, professor of biological sciences, works to promote long-term change within Moravian’s campus.
Husic and St. John hope that this year’s programming will influence the Sustainability Committee and encourage students to become more active agents of change on campus.
Programs presented this year have included the common reading for first year students, Living Downstream by Sandra Steingraber, which discusses how environmental pollutants that result from human processes affect human health. In her fall address to the freshmen, Steingraber discussed sustainability’s place within a liberal arts education. At Convocation, Cohen Keynote Speaker Winona LaDuke spoke to the college about recognizing one’s role in the environment and social justice as being a key aspect of being a responsible citizen rather than activism.
Sharon Brown, director of the office of institutional diversity, brought Julian Agyeman, professor and chair of the department of urban and environmental planning and policy (UEP) at Tufts University, to campus for the College’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King lecture. Agyeman’s presentation focused on environmental justice and how environmental sustainability can promote human equality and social justice.
Husic and St. John also intended to use the United Nations coordinated World Sustainable Development Teach-In Day on February 8 as an opportunity to clarify the College community’s definition of sustainability and to discuss how its sustainability efforts are connected to the health and wellbeing of people in the world’s poorest countries. The response to the Teach-In Day was limited, but one of the highlights came with exhibition of works by Mr. Imagination, most of which were made out of recycled materials.
Husic notes that she has received positive feedback about the programming so far, but would like to see it translate into greater activism among the college community. She notes students’ efforts to increase recycling on campus over the past few years as a positive example of what can be achieved with greater engagement. She hopes that students will build on what they learn from the IN FOCUS programming and will take initiative about the issues that they care about. She wants to spark a widespread dialogue on campus that will set a benchmark with which the college can judge its improvement when sustainability again will be the theme four years from now, but her most important goal is to make the campus community think critically about what they do.
“If we got students and faculty thinking about the implications of their actions, it would be a huge step forward,” she says.