The Year of Sustainability, that’s what my first year was marked as, a new chapter for the history of St. John’s University. So our school rolled up its sleeves, distributed some metal water bottles, set up a few hydration stations, and called it a day. Well that was all good, but the heart of sustainability is more than just the physical, and we must adopt a mindset of sustainability in all decision making. With the recent closure of the Edelbrock Eco-house at SJU, we must question our school’s commitment to a sustainable future.
Stated simply, sustainability means meeting your needs without compromising the needs of future generations. To do this we must not only invest in ourselves, but in the livelihood of our communities. An investment in a sustainability director, a fossil fuel divestment initiative, or even the renovation of a campus house rather than tearing it down, are decisions that require an upfront cost, the rewards however, of preservation of place, moral right, and history, are worth the price. They preserve the pride we take in our campuses and allow future students to enjoy the quality of life we have experienced here at St. Johns. As a student, I understand having reservations about spending money on something new that doesn’t have a quick payout, but also appreciate what my money buys, something of quality, something long lasting, and that is one of the best ways to be sustainable. As they say, “the greenest building is one that already exists”. We must consider the consequences of all our actions—not just the economic ones, but the social and ecological ones as well. What our school lacks is someone with authority to question our decision making and ask, “How are we furthering our commitment to a more sustainable future?”.
I ask for a voice. A voice in the decision making process to speak for sustainability in our community, because we as students are too-often handed a decision and left to deal with it. Last time I checked, our school prided itself on being guided by “Benedictine Values”, two of which are Taking Council (We call the community together for counsel to make decisions) and Common Good (We integrate a commitment to the common good and respect for the individual). Where are these values to be found in the decision making processes? Certainly they have been misplaced in the Edelbrock decision. I fear these values are more talk than practice, so I would ask the powers that be to, in future decisions consider more than the cost but also of the impacts their decisions have on sustainability at our school, both present and future.