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SMC president speaks on sustainability

| Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Saint Mary’s President Jan Cervelli spoke Monday about the importance and necessity of sustainability in the world today.

Cervelli spoke on Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato si’ and said the Pope did a great job explaining the complexity of environmental issues.  

“I think Francis hits on the head that many of the problems we see today around sustainability are not simple, they are multi-dimensional,” Cervelli said.

Cervelli said the issue of environmental conservation is much more than just the environment and that it affects so many other aspects of our lives.

“The first part about environmental, economic and social ecology is how they’re all interconnected. We can’t look at them separately,” Cervelli said.

Cervelli said colleges like Saint Mary’s can take steps towards dealing with sustainability issues by thinking of academics as integrated learning spaces and looking at the issues as issues of social justice.  

“I have some hopes and dreams for the college and for all of you, and to think about academic programs that take this approach solving problems,” Cervelli said. “It’s not just the environment, it’s dealing with the social justice dimensions as well that we’re so passionate about at Saint Mary’s.”

Cervelli said that progress can only happen once people share information and communicate with each other, no matter the field.

“Many of our problems today follow the fragmentation of knowledge and the isolation of bits of information [that] can actually become a form of ignorance,” Cervelli said. “So many of you are studying in very fine departments with very fine faculty; one of our goals is to work across departments, and be able to talk from science over to humanities.”

Cervelli spoke about one of her personal heroes, landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. Olmsted designed Central Park in New York City and Cervelli said he put parks in cities because it made the cities more livable.

“He had a strong belief, as does Pope Francis, in the healing power of nature. It’s the unconscious reflecting, it’s that ability to escape,” she said. “He believed it’s one of the more important responsibilities of the government to provide these spaces.”

Cervelli said that Olmsted and Pope Francis are similar in their beliefs for the importance of the common good.

“Francis talks a lot about human health and wellness and how it comes out of the environment, but what comes out of it are human interactions, with each other, socially,” Cervelli said. “Frederick Law Olmsted believed back in 1852 that nature has a direct impact on healing of humans.”

Cervelli said Americans should be very proud that the first idea of a national park was born in the United States.  

“That spawned the conservation movement,” Cervelli said. “And I’m afraid often times it’s not even taught in schools. The ideas of land conservation, and perpetuity for everyone and to protect our environment [and] essentially ourselves.”

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