Earth Month Activities at Neumann University

Earth month is in full swing here at Neumann University, and there is a plethora of activities in bloom for students to enjoy. Whether you want to learn more about how you can spark change and make a positive impact for the planet, spend time outside and connect with the beauty of nature, or put yourself out there to try something new, there is truly an event for everyone to enjoy.  

This past Friday, Jim Kain, Assistant Professor of English, and Dr. Etsuko Hoshino-Browne, Professor of Psychology, hosted Lighting the Way to a Sustainability Curriculum where they discussed how Neumann has initiated a program to develop sustainability in response to Pope Francis’s call to action on the Laudato Si goal of ecological education. The program highlighted goals to implement Laudato Si, hosted examples of workshops, resources, course materials, and introduced the design of a sustainability minor. It was a great way for faculty, staff, and students to learn more about this important minor and the actions they can take to have an impact on the earth.  

When asked what he hopes students will take away from the activities, Professor Kain stated that he wants students to know “That the environmental problems we face are solvable, that solutions need to come from multiple fronts (individuals, communities, industry, and politics), and each of us can contribute to the solution in our own way. We can’t do it alone, but we can do something, and we can encourage and support others who want to do something.”  

Dr. Etsuko shared a similar sentiment stating, “This is our students’ future, and they need to start thinking about what they can personally do in their own lives and around campus to make change. I hope these events spark reflection about the planet and sustainability which leads to connection which then leads to action. The action does not have to be big, it can be a doable and feasible action, but it should also be meaningful.”  

One example of a meaningful action is Professor Kain working with his students to create a bulletin board about Pope Francis’ Laudato Si. This allows students to actively participate and engage in an activity that teaches them about protecting the planet.  

The remainder of Earth Month activities at Neumann teaches the community various ways to protect the Earth. 

This Monday, Professor Kerry Hustwit and Dr. Etsuko Hoshino-Browne facilitated a reflection and discussion on the 15-minute documentary film 73 Cows. This film is the story of Jay Wilde, a beef farmer who battles with his conscience every time he takes his cows to slaughter. Feeling trapped within an industry he no longer believes in; Jay knows he must make a change and do what no other farmer from the UK has ever done before.  

This documentary is meaningful to Hustwit because she eats a vegetarian diet and is interested in how diet affects the planet and health. Huswit’s fascination on the topic began while she was in college, mentioning, “In college I was interested in philosophy, and I had two philosophy professors who ate a vegetarian diet and raised their family vegetarian. I decided to go to the talk the one professor was hosting because I was interested in ethical issues, and I always thought about animal rights issues because I knew the horrors of the factory farming system, but it was at that talk I learned about the environmental impact which was something I never realized.”  

That talk inspired Hustwit to become vegetarian which ultimately made her feel better, and today like her professor, she is sharing with students ways that they can make an impact. Her hope is to inspire them to give back to the planet. She mentioned how in this documentary she admires the farmers strength to transition amidst being ostracized by fellow farmers who thought he was crazy and too sensitive. She tied her talk into our RISES values as she highlighted Wilde’s integrity and reverence for animals and the planet. This film showed how his service helped make the world a better place. 

Another wonderful activity is the discussion on Spirituality and Climate Crisis from an Indigenous Perspective happening April 25th from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the Devine Hospitality Suite.  

As an extension of the Social Justice Book Group sponsored by the Neumann Library and the Neumann Institute for Franciscan Studies, adjunct professor Lauren Garrett will address spirituality and climate crisis from an Indigenous perspective.  

Professor Garrett is a Federally enrolled American Indian (Native American) with the Eastern Shoshone Tribe of Wind River Reservation, Fort Washakie, Wyoming. She also embodies bloodlines of Celtic, Nordic, and Teutonic origins. Additionally, Professor Garrett practices the spiritual and religious traditions of her ancestors as a way of life. She is a registered Tribal member of the Oklevueha Native American Church.  

When asked what makes her excited for students to learn about the earth and to be involved in efforts that promote sustainability and protecting the planet, Garrett stated, “The Earth is our home. Everything we can ever think of that we need comes directly from the Earth in its rawest form. I am excited for students to gain this awareness if it is unknown to them, and I am excited for students who already know this to deepen their relationship with our home.”  

Regarding Earth Day, Garrett explained, “My indigenous religion, heritage, and worldview gives me an animist perspective. Since I was a tiny child, Earth Day was always something that I loved. I've grown up to be one of those folks who is always saying, ‘Every day is Earth Day.’ As stated in my first answer, the Earth is our home. Maybe humanity will colonize other planets or the moons thereof eventually, but will we adapt to live naturally in such places? Can we actually survive elsewhere without contraptions and technology (which I will remind readers is wholly dependent on resources that come FROM THE EARTH)? We already survive here on Earth…”  

Garrett will be sure to talk more about the animist perspective and share more of her incredible heritage during her talk. She stated, “I am honored to be among the faculty invited to share my perspective and to honor our home, the Earth.” To register for Ms. Garrett’s talk, visit: 

For those who want to spend some time outside in the natural world, admiring God’s creation and thanking him for the many gifts he has bestowed upon us, there will be mass outside at noon in the rose garden on April 22nd (weather permitting).  

Sister Pat Hutchinson, a co-chair of the sustainability council, reflected on God’s creation and her hope in what students will take away from the activities. She shared “I hope students will appreciate that the Earth and all its resources are gifts from God to be treasured, respected, and cared for. Traditionally, Earth Day was a time to highlight the importance of reverencing the earth, caring for creation, becoming better educated about the environment, and engaging in concrete actions to respond to the challenges we face (e.g. climate change, global warming, the human impact, especially on persons who are poor and marginalized). At Neumann we extend this celebration to the entire month of April as a way of giving concrete expression to our values, especially Reverence and Stewardship. We hope that students will recognize their responsibility to engage in some concrete way. We also hope that students will recognize that whatever their career path is, they will be more prepared with a strong understanding of sustainability and environmental issues.”  

She also feels it is important for students to get involved because the lessons learned from these events connect to Neumann's values and mission. Sister shared “Students are responsible for living the actions our mission and values require. As a Catholic university in the Franciscan tradition, we have been called by Pope Francis through his documents (Laudato Si and Laudate Deum) to become knowledgeable in these areas and then to act to respond to injustices in our world. Caring for creation is especially close to the heart of Franciscans.” 

Additionally, professors are urged during the month of April to incorporate information from the Worldwide Teach-In on Climate & Justice into each of their courses. For more information on the Worldwide Teach-In see its website. 

If you’d like to make an impact outside of Neumann, on Saturday April 20th at 12 p.m. join CRCQL for their 4th annual march and car caravan for environmental justice. The group will meet at Chester City Hall and walk/caravan to Covanta trash incinerator to generate awareness of the pollution from the nation’s largest trash incinerator and its detrimental impacts to the health of residents in the city and across the county. Musicians, artists, drummers and dancers are welcome to join! Also, please be sure to bring signs with you! To register for this event or to volunteer visit: 

Be sure to take advantage of all these amazing earth month opportunities, but don’t just stop learning when Earth month is over. Continue to treat every day like it is Earth Day and strive to protect this beautiful planet that we call home.