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SMC professor begins Earth Week with talk on sustainability

| Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Assistant professor of biology and Saint Mary’s Environmental Action Coalition faculty advisor Dr. Cassie Majetic kicked off Saint Mary’s Earth Week on Monday with a discussion about the world today and topics within sustainability.

Majetic said she first experienced a sustainable lifestyle as a child, when her father and grandfather would take her fishing.

“They would let me explore,” she said. “I would track birds and look at plants. I became a pretty good fisherwoman. All of these trips with my grandfather and father allowed me to truly appreciate nature.”

Majetic said her grandfather, who grew up during the Great Depression with a sustainable mindset, first taught her about sustainability and its benefits, which she later studied as an adult.

“I then Googled sustainability on Wikipedia and found that it had some unique descriptions from the United Nations Environmental Program,” she said. “In 1987, they had a large conference relating to economic development. They defined sustainability as meeting the needs for the present without compromising the future generations.”

Majetic said the pool of resources available worldwide is not only for humans, but it extends to other organisms.

“If we need resources, so do they,” she said. “Most people argue that humans should come first, that we hold superiority. I don’t always agree with that. There are some great organisms that are capable of manipulating their environment like us.”

While discussing the aesthetics and beauty of raw nature and the surrounding environment, Majetic quoted the late environmentalist John Muir: “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”

Majetic said there is scientific evidence that being in nature is good for human health, physically and mentally, though it is difficult to achieve a sustainable society.

“The elephant is in the room is that sustainability is hard,” she said. “Hard with a capital H, especially in economically developed countries like the United States. I think it has to do with the fact that we are resource-rich, meaning that we have plentiful access to food and water. We are financially rich compared to people elsewhere. There are also socioeconomic divides based on race, gender and ethnicity, not only in underdeveloped countries, but also in places within America.”

Majetic said the changes people undergo to make their lives more sustainable depend on each person’s own preferences and ethical code.

“Enforcing a list of mandates on how to live sustainability is like finding a pair of shoes that fits everyone,” she said. “I subscribe to the idea that every bit helps. If you want to be sustainable, sit down and look at your life and see how you can reduce your impact. Start small.”

Majetic described what students can do cut down energy usage. The list included turning off lights, walking more often, watching how you charge your appliances, minimizing water waste, being conscious of food distance and being conscious about purchases.

“These are things that anyone can do,” she said. “College students can do these.”



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