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Sustainability 2010: Learn more. What can you do?

by Donna Chadderton

j0440106Sustainability is a word that has been heard with increasing frequency recently. What does it mean; why should it matter; how does it affect our individual lives?  These questions resonate as the 40th anniversary of the founding of Earth Day will be celebrated on April 22.

The Oxford Reference Online, one of Falvey Library’s e-reference resources, defines sustainability as “conserving an ecological balance by avoiding depletion of natural resources.”  It is also often expressed as “meeting the needs of the present generation, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”  (United Nations 96th plenary meeting, 11 December 1987)

Regarding why sustainability should matter, a quick search for the single word “sustainability” in Falvey’s online catalog, VuFind, reveals a wide variety of  sub-topics that include sustainable development, management, environmental policy, politics and government, globalization, agriculture, law, finance, architecture, moral aspects, strategic planning, technological innovations and more.

Additionally, numerous journal articles on sustainability and its related topics can be found by searching Falvey’s online databases, using the subject guides link on the library home page.  Through these queries, it quickly becomes apparent that sustainability touches upon virtually every aspect of our lives.

Fisheries and farms, for example, must implement more sustainable methods for food production as the world population continues to increase.  The use of fewer synthetic agricultural chemicals will help reduce runoff contamination of lakes, rivers, municipal water supplies and oceans.  Forestry managers must find more environmentally friendly methods for providing lumber for building materials in order to prevent destruction of forest ecosystems. Energy producers must develop cleaner, alternative fuels to meet our energy needs.

Globally, green corridors should be established and maintained to facilitate the cyclical migrations of the animals with which humans share the planet. One local example is the annual spring congregation of literally thousands of snow geese and tundra swans at Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area in central Pennsylvania, where the birds rest and feed before migrating north to summer breeding grounds in the arctic.

Villanova University established a formal Campus Environmental Sustainability Policy in November, 2004.  This policy is based in part upon statements by Pope John Paul II in a 1991 papal encyclical, in which he states, “At the root of the senseless destruction of the natural environment lies an anthropological error, which unfortunately is widespread in our day.  Man, who discovers his capacity to transform and in a certain sense create the world through his own work, forgets that this is always based on God’s prior and original gift of the things that are.”  (Centesimus Annus IV, 37.1, p. 543).  A copy of this encyclical is in the Falvey Library first floor Reference collection.

In 2007, University President Father Peter Donohue signed the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), joining other institutions nationwide in support of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and achieving climate neutrality, a goal that Villanova hopes to accomplish by 2050.  To this end, a President’s Environmental Sustainability Committee was formed to evaluate ways in which the campus can function more sustainably.

Finally, sustainability affects our individual lives through simple, everyday choices that are often made without much thought.  Every time we use an energy efficient light bulb or purchase an energy efficient appliance, turn off electrical devices that are not in use, reduce the use of synthetic chemicals, especially pesticides, in our homes and on our lawns and in our workplaces, landscape with native plants instead of exotics, avoid overheating or over cooling our buildings, and recycle paper, plastics, glass, aluminum and even computers, those individual actions, when combined with similar actions of our families and friends, collectively have a large impact on our planet.  These are all ways that we can contribute to sustainability in 2010.

For additional information on sustainability, please visit the library web site or consult with Falvey library staff, who will be happy to assist you.

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Last Modified: April 18, 2010