Today marks the beginning of LMU’s first annual interdisciplinary symposium, “The Sustainable City.” Over the course of the next two days, the University will host a series of guest speakers, panel discussions and events centered around issues of environmental justice and urban ecology.
According to Brian Treanor, one of the symposium’s organizers, director of LMU’s Environmental Studies Program and associate professor of philosophy, the idea for the symposium stemmed from a class he taught with Dorothea Herreiner, associate professor of economics. “[The Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts (BCLA)] gives grants to interdisciplinary teams to host a symposium on campus. [Herreiner and I] were team-teaching a course for the environmental studies minor and applied for and ended up winning that grant … [which] was the seed money for the symposium,” said Treanor.
In addition to funding provided by the grant, “The Sustainable City” is also the product of Eric Strauss, presidential professor of urban ecology. Independent of Treanor and Herreiner’s efforts to develop an interdisciplinary symposium, Strauss had been working to bring MacArthur Fellow Majora Carter to campus. Strauss, Treanor and Herreiner united their efforts and funds to create the University’s first interdisciplinary symposium.
The goal of the symposium is to educate students on issues of environmental justice and provide them with opportunities to engage in hands-on activities that promote
a more environmentally conscious city, according to Treanor.
“I’d really encourage students to attend the academic paper [presentations] on Friday,” he said. “They don’t have the hands-on appeal of a trip to the Ballona Wetlands, but they are key to the mission of what happens at a university – intellectual inquiry about what things mean.”
Treanor also feels the symposium’s keynote address delivered by Carter will contribute to students’ understanding of the relationship between their traditional concept of the environment and the urban setting in which they live. “It’s easy for people to think of the environment as a place out there away from the city, not somewhere in the city,” he said. “We wanted to highlight the falsehood of that dichotomy.”
Carter, who created the Sustainable South Bronx (a nonprofit that focuses on community involvement in the revitalization of the South Bronx’s local environment), will be speaking tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Hilton 100.
ASLMU’s current Director of Environmental Responsibility and 2011-12 ASLMU Vice President, Kim Tomicich, a junior environmental studies major, is very excited for Carter’s keynote address. “She speaks so passionately,” Tomicich said. “She started a nonprofit, and that [is] what I want to do with my life, so I’m very excited to hear her speak.”
Senior political science and economics double major Greer Gosnell is also looking forward to tonight’s speaker. “Carter truly embodies the spirit of social justice and has made incredible strides for low-income communities in the Bronx,” said Gosnell. “Everyone should watch her talk … to get inspired.”
Tomicich thinks the symposium marks an exciting new step in University programming. “It’s the first interdisciplinary forum taking place at LMU. [Plus,] it’s on a topic that’s really relevant to us right now as we face ecological disasters,” Tomicich said. “It’s something that can empower us to make changes needed to have a more sustainable lifestyle in our cities.”
“This symposium has the potential to be life-changing for students,” said Gosnell.
Treanor echoes Gosnell and Tomicich’s sentiments, saying the symposium was intended to get students thinking about environmental issues on an intellectual level and working to solve them in a hands-on way.
“Theory without action is impotent [but] action without understanding theory first is blind,” he said. “Before we can transform our cities we have to think about what it is we’re going to do. [We have to] theorize, dream and imagine what kind of city we want.”