Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks at Sustainability Conference

Maggie Mallon

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. delivered the keynote address at the International Sustainability Conference on April 23. In his speech titled “Our Environmental Destiny,” Kennedy acknowledged the importance of environmental preservation and the responsibility to commit to sustainability that every American should recognize.

Kennedy’s address was one of 30 scheduled events that occurred during the four-day event.

“We need to provide our children with the same opportunities that our parents provided for us and protect our environmental infrastructure,” Kennedy said. “We’re not protecting the environment for the fish and the birds, but for our own sake.”

The conference began Wednesday, April 22 with the student-led discussion, “Community Activism in the Face of Global Climate Change.” It was followed by a screening of the documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car?”

During the panel, students and faculty addressed the use of coal as a source of energy in Pennsylvania.

Other participants in the panel included Mark Shirling, a local Sierra Club leader.

The panel focused on current Pennsylvania legislation supporting clean energy alternatives, including solar and wind power, but also containing a provision that stipulates that all plants using coal must sequester the cabon emissions to prevent them from entering the atmosphere.

Delaware County Representative Greg Vitali has sponsored this bill, which would keep Pennsylvania residents partly dependent on coal, an increasingly costly source of energy.

Kennedy also acknowledged the importance of the political change to environmental sustainability. When asked how college students can best help bring forth change, Kennedy encouraged students to become politically active.

“Get involved in the political process,” Kennedy said. “You need to change politicians more than you change light bulbs.”

Included in the various events throughout the four-day conference was a theatrical production scheduled for Friday evening. The performance, “A Sense of Wonder,” told the story of Rachel Carson, a marine biologist and nature writer. Carson’s writings are credited with advancing the global environmental movement.

Another student-led discussion was held on Saturday morning. “Taking the Lead: Students, Green Campus Initiatives, and Environmental Studies,” featured a panel of students and faculty from Villanova, as well as Temple University, Bryn Mawr College, Ursinus College and the University of Pennsylvania.

Students involved with the Villanova Environmental Group scheduled events throughout the four-day period that were independent of the conference, but coincided with the sustainability message. VEG held an Earth Day barbecue on Friday afternoon and sponsored a trip to Newton Square on Sunday to plant wildflowers.

Villanova University’s year-long commitment to sustainability culminated in the four-day event. Although the University has been committed to sustainability efforts for over three decades, this past year has seen numerous advances in making the Villanova campus more environmentally sound.

Driscoll Hall was the University’s first structure to be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified. The new law school building is also planned to be LEED-certified. This summer, Fedigan Hall will undergo renovations to make it the first “green” residence hall on campus. The conference concluded Saturday afternoon with Villanova alumna Deborah Murray delivering a lecture on sustainability.

A guided hike along the Wissahickon River watershed was scheduled for after the lecture.