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Saint Mary’s lecture discusses sustainability

Alicia Smith | Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Sustainability involves bringing into harmony the environment, economy and society, Mike Keen, director of the Center for a Sustainable Future at Indiana University-South Bend, said.

Keen, along with Colleen Kelley, president of GreeND at Notre Dame and Sister Mary Turgi, chair of the Congregation Justice Committee, discussed the importance of living sustainably Tuesday.

Keen compared life on earth to that of life in a terrarium. In a terrarium, plants are able to grow and sustain life for themselves by simply in taking sunlight. However, Keen said, if one would put a candle inside of the terrarium, the entire equilibrium would be thrown off and the plants would no longer survive.

Keen said the candle, which ruined the environment in the terrarium, is the equivalence of carbon emissions on earth.

“Basically, what it really gets down to, we’re living on a terrarium, we’ve got this wonderful balance and if things get out of balance, we’re going to be in trouble,” Keen said.

Keen explained some basic ways to work towards a sustainable society, such as reducing dependence on fossil fuels, reducing dependence on man-made compounds and reducing contributions to the depletion and destruction of nature. He urged students to take steps to improve their own sustainability.

“I’m really pretty optimistic. I think that what you’ve got to do is take that first step no matter how small it is,” he said. 

Like Keen, Kelley also asked students to become active in the sustainable movement and discussed ways in which the University can go green.

Kelley said the University made changes toward sustainability by creating the recycling program on football weekends. In 2008, about 81 tons of recyclables were collected during football weekends, she said.

Kelley also said the University made progress by hosting educational events to bring about awareness about sustainability. 

“Sustainability excites me in a way that other issues don’t. It’s integration of things that interest me and that I care about but more importantly I feel its something where we can all find our niche,” she said.

Turgi said the Sisters of the Holy Cross also  made progress in sustainability.

“This has been a very important issue for us for a long time both here and around the world,” Turgi said.

The congregation has recently increased efforts to go green, she said. By converting the power plant from coal to natural gas, the Sisters have been able to decrease emissions.
Other efforts include composting, moving away from the use of disposable plastic ware and creating a natural prairie, which allows wildlife to live with limited human involvement.