A pair of initiatives aimed at promoting environmental sustainability and stewardship have been launched at Siena College, reports Mark Reamer, OFM, vice president for mission of the Loudonville, New York-based institution and the guardian of St. Bernardine of Siena Friary on the campus.
The college has opened the Academic Center for Sustainability that will offer a variety of programs, including workshops, research opportunities, and community outreach aimed at fostering a culture of sustainability and environmental stewardship on the campus and in the surrounding community.
“Our goal is to educate and inspire the next generation of leaders in sustainability, and to contribute to a more just and sustainable world,” said Mark.
The second prong is a Laudato Si’ initiative being led by Michael Perry, OFM, that will be a vehicle for promoting Pope Francis’ vision of integral ecology into all aspects of life at Siena College. The pope laid out his vision in his eponymous encyclical, Laudato Si’.
“This endeavor being led by Fr. Michael seeks to collaborate with Siena’s ongoing efforts for sustainability, as well as with other Franciscan institutions in the United States and abroad, government institutions at various levels, and practitioners in other faiths – all aiming to catalyze growing awareness of the climate crisis facing our planet into effective action for the common good,” explained Mark.
Both initiatives were announced to the Siena community by provost Margaret Madden and dean of science John Cummings.
Kate Meierdiercks, associate professor of environmental studies and sciences, will serve as the director of the new Academic Center for Sustainability, according to the announcement – which said that Meierdiercks brings a wealth of experience and expertise in the field of sustainability and environmental science. The Siena officials said they were confident that she would lead the new center to great success.
The Laudato Si’ initiative will put environmental justice at the forefront, seeking the participation of those who are suffering the greatest from the consequences of climate change in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe, and the United States so that their voices might help transform minds and hearts in the Siena community and globally, according to Mark.
“Through seminars, training sessions, public lectures, policy advocacy, publications, and clear communications, we hope to harness the ethical and spiritual values of our Franciscan tradition, as expressed through Laudato Si’, in shaping our response to the current crises at the level of personal lifestyles, institutions and, ultimately, political-economic systems,” said Mark.
“Siena is committed to integrating the Catholic tradition and liberal arts education with the principles of sustainability, and we believe that working collaboratively, these two initiatives will lead to innovative solutions to the complex environmental challenges facing our college, our regional community and, indeed, our world,” added Mark.
Siena College is inviting its campus and surrounding communities, the entire Franciscan community, and all others with an interest in environmental sustainability and stewardship to join in the launch of the Academic Center for Sustainability and the Laudato Si’ initiative, and looks forward to the active participation of all stakeholders in these innovative programs and projects.