Conversation sparked last Wednesday, Nov. 13, as four panelists gathered for a discussion entitled, “Where sustainability and social justice meet.”Senior Lydia Dyck brought
the panel together in order to carry out discussion between professionals and students on the topics of peace, justice and conflict studies (PJCS) and sustainability.
The panel consisted of associate professor of sustainability and environmental education, Jonathon Schramm; sustainable food systems educator and Merry Lea farm manager,
Jon Zirkle; professor and department chair of PJCS,
Regina Shands Stoltzfus; and sustainable peace and development practitioner from Zimbabwe, Sibonokuhle Ncube.
All panelists came to the event with varied backgrounds in fields across the board of academia with a common goal of balancing ecological realities and social equity.
Schramm offered a definition of sustainability to introduce the conversation.
“Sustainability is trying to understand how we can design and work in our social systems, economic systems and in dealings with our natural world, to have human civilization to continue into the future,” he said.
To guide conversation in the multi-disciplined discussion, students in attendance rolled two, large paper dice with numbers correlating to a PJCS topic and a sustainability theme.
Panelists shared their thoughts on a combination of subjects including: infectious diseases and climate change, race and ocean acidification and access to healthcare and deforestation. The unusual pairings sparked layered dialogue on the interconnectedness of social and ecological systems.
Ncube shared examples of this through her work with rural communities in southern
African that have been disrupted by flash floods, increased malaria rates due to longer summers
and other social tensions caused by ecological factors.
The complex problems addressed were familiar to students in attendance as many came with backgrounds in either PJCS or sustainability, but the nature of the discussion provided a different perspective into the two fields.
“I was amazed by how interdisciplinary so many of these complex topics are and
how important it is to have
people that are specialized,” senior Luke Rush said.
“I think it’s really important to
have experts in different fields that understand the importance
of doing interdisciplinary work.”
Dyck closed with words from Rabbi Tarfon as a summary of eco-justice work as a whole
and what motivates conversations like these.
“The work is not yours to complete nor are you at liberty to give it up.”