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  • Episode 01 – Nancy Tuchman – Loyola U. – Inst. Enviro. Sustainability

Episode 01 – Interview with Nancy Tuchman on the Y on Earth Community Podcast – Stewardship & Sustainability Series.


 

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Nancy Tuchman – Loyola University – Chicago

 

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(Automatically generated transcript for search engine optimization and reference purposes - grammatical and spelling errors may exist.)

We're here with the YonEarth Thought and Action Leadership Series, and it is my pleasure

to introduce our guest, Nancy Tuchman, who joins us from Loyola University in Chicago.

And Nancy is the founding director of the Institute of Environmental Sustainability there,

and has also been playing a leading role in the thinking and the implementation connected

to Pope Francis LaDouteau's seawork around stewardship and sustainability.

And Nancy, it's such a pleasure to have this opportunity to chat with you.

Thank you so much.

Thank you, Aaron. Nice to be here.

Great. Well, and I thought we might frame our conversation today by first talking about

Jesuit universities, and you know, what makes them a bit different from some of the other

universities out there. Obviously, there are a good number of Jesuit universities here in the

United States, as well as internationally. And would you speak to that a bit just to give folks

an idea of what we're talking about? 

Sure, absolutely. In US, we have 28 different Jesuit colleges and universities. It's a pretty good sized network, but internationally, we have

over 200 Jesuit colleges and universities. So it really ends up being the largest network

of universities on the planet. Well, and we know we know some of them are pretty well known as

being pretty good at basketball, right? School like Zaga, Georgetown, of course, Loyola.

That's right. That's right. And these are also some of the leading institutions when it comes to

research and other social sciences work that's being done around these big complex challenges we face in terms of sustainability. Yes. I think most universities are really working with these

big problems, but the Jesuit universities are unique in that their entire mission is about

justice, about social justice, and how do we affect change that can raise people out of poverty

and really impact people who are living at the margins? So with that kind of a focus,

the environment is really a part of that because, of course, as we deplete our environment,

it really directly impacts the people at the margins and people who are poor before it impacts

anyone else. So the Jesuits have really embraced environmental justice as being a big part of their mission. It's so important. I was recently talking with our mutual friend, Father Mark Bosco,

who's a Jesuit, and was actually one of the teachers I had way back in high school.

And he was sharing with me that he's actually going to be working with some Syrian refugees

later this year. And that's one of the areas, the groups of people in geographic areas that's

making the news quite a lot lately, and some of that news being so very sad. And I think one of the things that a lot of my friends, anyway, don't necessarily realize is a lot of what appears to be simply political or economic instability or disruption around the world. Also,

often has very deep environmental or ecological causes at play. And now we know that there are a great number of refugees all around the world. So great a number, a number we haven't seen since World War II. And so many of these folks are being dislocated, displaced, having their lives literally upheaved by some of the environmental tragedies that we're dealing with right now. Absolutely. And serious, such a good example, because we do think about it as a political war. But it was really induced by an extremely long period of drought, which was a result of global climate change. And so with this long, long period of extended dryness in Syria, people that lived on the land could no longer feed themselves and their childrens. And so they all began to move into the cities. And it was that conflict of, you know, all these people migrating into the cities all at once that started the Syrian war. And those kinds of things caused refugees as you

as you described. And all over the world, this is happening with extended floods and droughts

and natural disasters that are happening more frequently and more intensively because of climate change. Absolutely. Yeah. What do you, what do you find in that Jesuit universities are doing that might be a bit different from some of the other secular universities around the country or around the world? Well, first of all, Jesuit universities don't deny climate change. And so it's really easy to to start pulling that into the curriculum because we all believe it's a very important thing for us to be raising awareness, you know, with our students and really teaching them about the impacts of things like climate change and the loss of biodiversity and some of the other major threats to the planet. So I would say what Jesuit universities are doing is they're working to integrate lessons of environmental sustainability into the curriculum and across the curriculum. So that every student that goes through these universities has a certain level of literacy around environmental issues, you know, no matter what their major is, they still understand

environmental issues and how that impacts them and how it impacts humanity. So I would say that

Jesuit universities are doing quite a bit in terms of teaching and also integrating into

this type of issue into their research. And maybe another unique thing about the Jesuit

universities is that, you know, the Jesuits work through, primarily through education, both higher

education and secondary education. I mentioned earlier that there are about 200 Jesuit universities

around the planet, but there are 2,500 Jesuit high schools. So it's really an enormous

body of, you know, education, it's such a big education platform that we can really affect

change with our students. So it's not only the teaching that we're doing and the research that

we're doing, but it's the advocacy and the connection to communities.

Absolutely. You know, we were recently you and I were both at the climate summit hosted by St. Louis

University, which of course is also a Jesuit school. And I've been to several climate-related

sustainability-related conferences over the years as I know you have as well. And one of the

what's that? We see each other there. Yeah, exactly. And one of the things that really strikes me

as being different about the tone, the tenor, the dialogue, the exchange that goes on at some

of the Jesuit settings is that it's okay to talk a bit more about our spiritual relationships

with Earth, with place, with one another. It's not only okay, it's encouraged that we are, yes,

focusing on data, on mind, on important and complex problems from a technical perspective,

but we are also really focusing on our heart and our passion for one another and for our living

planet and that that is increasingly defining, I would say, the narrative and the discussions

that are occurring within the Jesuit context, which I happen to believe is really important

and actually great for folks to be able to experience.

Yeah, you know, I love that about the Jesuits that they, they aren't

bashful to talk about human spirituality and what an important role that has in the decisions

that we make, political, social, environmental decisions. If you're disconnected from

your own heart and your own spirituality, then you tend to make, you know, decisions only out

of your frontal cortex and it doesn't always do the best for humanity or for the common good.

I think that's one thing I love about the Jesuit education is they really talk about, you know,

the whole person, how do we educate the whole person, not just their intellect, so not just

teaching facts and teaching, you know, figures, but really engaging the mind, the heart and the body

in this whole person kind of an education. It really makes for a fun way to educate, a rich way

to educate and I think it's a terrific way for students to learn to really be able to engage

their whole selves into these issues. Yeah, absolutely. Well, I know you and I have talked

together about how so much of what we're working on is a matter of holistic

understanding and action from our own lives to our service and roles in our communities

and around the world and I totally agree that it seems the context that is set within Jesuit

education allows us to really approach that in a 360 degree kind of way that seems to work well.

Yeah. Well, we know that there's incredible thought leadership now occurring throughout the world

with the leadership of Pope Francis, Laudato C, care of our common home. Many really exciting

and laudable examples in Jesuit universities and high schools. I would say all around the

all around the country, all around the world, but I'd love to take a few minutes to focus on

the things you all are doing at Loyola Chicago because I've had the opportunity to visit a

couple times this past year and it has really struck me that the sustainability efforts and

discussions are not sidebars at Loyola Chicago. They are really front and center even in terms of

the layout of the campus and some of the special buildings and projects you all have going on.

So maybe you could share with us about that. Well, thanks for the opportunity. It's always fun to

talk about the progress that we've made at Loyola has sort of been in two avenues. One is really

greening our campus so that our buildings are more sustainable. They're more energy efficient

so that we're using less water and conserving water and and our storm water doesn't go right down

the sewer but actually is retained in the soils. We've done a lot with putting on green roofs

in our buildings. We've replaced a lot of old very inefficient buildings with new lead certified

buildings so this process of sort of greening our campus has taken us. It's been about a 15-year

journey and it's really been exciting because every year we do more than we did in the previous year

and yet we have really done a terrific job on our main campus in Chicago and we have a second

campus in Chicago that's called our Water Tower campus that's right down in the loop and both of

those have really become much more green. In fact, this main campus that you've visited our

Institute of Environmental Sustainability, we've been able to decrease our environmental footprint by

over 50% over these past 15 years and that's enormous. You know, that's better than any other

school that I know of. Certainly the best in the Midwest and we're leading with the Jesuit

universities as well. So that's been an inspiration to our students but also to our faculty staff

and administration. What can we do next? What about our landscaping? What about our food system

and our waste of course and our consumption? So all these different buckets of sustainability

have been areas where people have really gotten involved in figuring out how we can do better.

So that's exciting because it helps to affect change in your own life and your own behavior

and the way that you make choices about what you buy and the ways that you produce. So that's one

of the directions that we have really been pursuing on this campus but then of course the other one

is our main line of business which is education and we have been very intentional about integrating

sustainability and environmental degradation awareness into our curriculum. Every student at the

university has to take a certain number of credits that we call our core, our university core

curriculum and the introductory science course that every student has to take is a course that

talks about these issues of the environment through a lens of science and so they learn about

climate change and they learn about the acidification of the ocean and the nitrogen pollution problem

and the loss of biodiversity etc. So I feel like that one thing probably has the biggest impact on

our campus in terms of raising awareness the fact that every student regardless of their major

has to take this core foundational science course which is about environmental justice and

environmental issues. Of course and then we also launched the Institute of Environmental Sustainability

in 2013 we're five years old this year in August so that's kind of a fun anniversary for us to

celebrate and we have developed curriculum at this point only to the undergraduates but now we're

moving into graduate programming and it is very exciting because these are things that students

want to learn about they want to be part of the solution so they want to come and be well-educated

in their undergraduate degrees so that they can go out to the change agents and we've seen our

numbers of students really increase you know from when we started just five years ago we've

incrementally increased the number of students that are majoring with us and now we're up to

about 350 so we're growing and very much enjoying working with these young minds they have a lot

of energy and a lot of motivation to do good work and to do innovative work. Oh absolutely well

congratulations on the five-year anniversary and also on those numbers that's that's tremendous

impact that you and your colleagues are having that's that's wonderful. Thank you thanks very

much. Our other Jesuit universities also making similar environmental courses required regardless

of major. Yes this is something that many of the Jesuit universities are doing they're doing

it certainly within majors but also some of them are putting it into their core curriculum as well

and I think I think that's a really terrific way to start because it is a big impact you know on

just that one course. We also see a lot of the Jesuit universities really building their campuses

to be more green and building sustainability committees that have faculty staff and administrators

so that they really have a more integrated approach to greeting their campus. You know it's

difficult because if you really want to make a big change on your campus you have to put a

financial investment into upgrading your buildings and your heating and cooling systems

but there are so many things that you can do in the curricula that don't really require more

money it just requires a lot of work to change you know the way that the curricula is presently designed.

So we see people trying to you know go after those low hanging fruits when they just start their

sustainability planning on campus but then once they find success there and they see the student

interested involvement it kind of keeps them going and that's been a really exciting trend across

the universities. So cool well it makes me think a little bit about the the work we're doing with

the the YonEarth Community and our sort of two-pronged approach where on the one hand we are

discussing and working toward getting active around solutions for sustainability for stewardship

and then on the other hand we're really encouraging folks from varieties of backgrounds ages

and so forth to cultivate that thriving practice in our own lives our own homes where we go to these

five themes we can count them on our hands where we're working with soil with food and drink we're

working with movements we're working with connection with nature we're working with wellbeing

practices and it's so exciting to see with with folks this increasing level of awareness and

recognition that my goodness so many of the things we can do I can do in my own life that will

enhance my own health well-being quality of life are also well aligned with global strategies

for stewardship and sustainability and I think at a place like Loyola Chicago this is being

not only inculcated with the students in terms of curricula but is also part of the campus

experience when walking around one sees a whole lot of effort and resources that have gone

into helping connect these dots and that's a challenge you know because we do have a big turnover

of people especially students they come in as freshmen and they kind of become socialized to the

culture the sustainability culture that we have on this campus and then they graduate and we get

new students that come in so it's it's constantly working with new people and and trying to

socialize them to this idea that this is how we live on our campus and this is how we live in our

personal lives as well but I imagine that YonEarth has the same kinds of challenges you know

just constantly trying to bring people into the fold and and change habits old habits die hard

it's absolutely true we are we are very focused on habit changing and in the opportunities that

these really present us in our in our own lives that our communities and in our world more broadly

well I guess can I say something about that because I think that you've selected the five areas

of sustainability that you've selected for YonEarth are very important because people oftentimes

think you know if I make a change is it really going to matter it's going to be like a drop in the

ocean or a you know a greatest sand on the beach but in fact it does make an enormous difference when

each individual makes a commitment to being more sustainable to consuming less and producing less

waste and to just being conscientious about the food and water and drink that we consume and where

it comes from and how far it travels so you know I've read a lot about this and studied a lot

about this and what keeps coming up in the data is that the one biggest impact that we can have

as individuals is to not eat meat and even if you just you know sort of reduce meat in your diet

once a day if you're used to eating meat at all three meals and you go down to two meals a day

that's you know that's an enormous that's a third of the meat that you would be otherwise consuming

but you know growing livestock has just such an enormous impact on on our landscape and that is

one really big thing that people can do you know there's lots of others as well I mean certainly

our consumption of energy which wasn't in your five but that's something that kind of goes along

with health and well-being if you're riding a bike or walking more than just always taking

taking your car for example so anyway I wanted to just pull out that those are very good

areas of sustainability that you're focusing on yeah absolutely thank you for mentioning that

and sharing that and you know we have friends we're working in communities really all over very

diverse communities we have friends who are devoutly vegan for for these reasons you're

describing we we have friends who you know maybe grew up maybe Midwest kind of meat and potatoes

culture who are now beginning to think you know instead of consuming the industrial meats I'm

going to focus on some of the other regenerative grass fed beef for example which is part of that

soil building carbon sequestration process and you know we try really hard with the work we're

doing with YonEarth not to necessarily create divisions where people are at different points

in that spectrum but to to invite folks that to say you know look wherever you are right now

what what are a few things you can do today tomorrow just like you're suggesting perhaps

one-third less of something one-third more of something that might be beneficial where where

are those levers currently that you can start pulling in your own life that are going to actually

not only probably enhance your health your experience day-to-day but also help move this big

needle that we all share in our broader society that's right absolutely and you know you I'm sure

that in your in your work Aaron that you you're working with families and you probably have young

people and children as well those are the ones that are so eager to make a change and they find

it so easy to do and they oftentimes teach us adults that you know giving something up or changing

or have it really isn't that big of a deal and that we can do it that's absolutely right it's so

great well let me let me ask kind of a big question as as a way of maybe wrapping up our discussion

today with all the work you're doing and with your colleagues the amazing institution and institutions

that you're a part of and connected to if you were to pause and think about a big hairy audacious

goal or something that we could stretch for as university campuses or even society more broadly

thinking out a number of years what comes to mind for you what what do you think Nancy is something

we could all be working toward and not necessarily that we'll prove to one another that we're

definitely going to make this happen but that perhaps we just might I love that thinking yeah

that's very exciting one direction that we're working with the the Jesuit colleges and universities

worldwide is you know they've got the higher ed directorate the second and direct the secondary

ed directorate but then they also have a social justice and ecology directorate and those three

groups of people working in the society of Jesus don't always work across directorates very

well but think of the work that we could get done if the people that are conducting research in

universities could be doing research on the field sites where the social justice centers are

working with the poor and working in these areas that have had devastation from drought and flood

and hurricane damage you know from climate change if the researchers could help inform the people

that are in the social justice centers on you know sort of what's coming or how how to respond

I think we could we can leverage one another in a very impactful way and if we think about this

you know just bringing it into our own lives in our own communities if we're not affiliated with

universities I think working in community is a very very important thing because we tend to get so

isolated I know I have friends who come to work every day and they do their work and then they

rush home and they make dinner and they do their stuff with their family and they come back to work

and they don't even really know their neighbors because everybody's doing the same thing their

neighbors are also you know taking off and going to work and coming back home and it's kind of a

rat race but the more we're in place thinking about the soils that are in our shared you know space

in our neighborhoods we went through a process like this in my own neighborhood where I

people hated my yard because it's filled with a lot of native plants and it also has a lot of

dandelions and it because dandelions are very good you know for for B forage honey B forage

so but anyway just talking to people and getting out there and and and pretty soon people

slowly started not using all the herbicides and pesticides in their yards anymore and you

sort of see a lot more diversity people's lawns they're not just perfect you know green

monocultures but actually you know they're starting to see that all these decisions that we make

and sometimes we've just been sort of socialized into thinking that perfect green grass is what we

all need to have but the more diversity that people are getting in their yards it's helped to build

the soil you know and it's it's helped to you know make homes for different types of birds and

insects and things so just those kinds of changes that you can make in your own community not only

help the the landscape and the soil and the water drainage and the diversity and the diversity of

insects and birds and mammals that you can support in your neighborhood but really it's the

social part of connecting with your neighbors and and really having a fuller life that's more

sustainable and more about community I find that really gratifying well that is so beautiful to

hear Nancy and you hadn't shared that with me before it just brings a big smile to my face knowing

that you're also having this kind of impact in your neighborhood and we love the dandelions

they're they're so important one of the early food sources for the bees as they're waking up in

the spring and that is actually wonderful it's you know it's really one of the reasons we're

deliberately growing this network of ambassadors all around the country we're in fact now starting to

get international a little bit with that and turns out we get a lot of benefit from doing this kind

of work this kind of community building it it is actually something that enhances our quality of

life and what a joy that that's part of the work we get to do in these times it's right and as

we get to know our neighbors better we can share things so that not everybody has to buy a lawnmower

one lawnmower and you can have five people sharing it or you can have one ladder that all five

families can share and that kind of shared economy is so much more sustainable but it's also just

more rich it's just a wonderful you know way to live absolutely you know this coming weekend

Sunday afternoon we're going to be meeting at a friend's home building soil doing some biodynamic

soil prep and biochar activation and planting some plants getting together and enjoying some

sun tea with folks and you know it's it's not glamorous necessarily but it's it's really a lot of

fun and we're in the process actually really starting to enhance soil activity in communities all

around that's fabulous my son is a biodynamic farmer and beekeeper well no kidding okay well Nancy

we're we're gonna probably have more to talk about it sounds like and I really appreciate you

taking this time out of your busy day to wrap up I just want to say Nancy thank you I've been

speaking with Nancy Tuckman from University Loyola Chicago where she is the founding director of

the Institute of Environmental Sustainability and is doing so much great work in her own neighborhood

as well as all around the world through the universities and the Jesuit network and Nancy thank

you so much for being with us today thank you Aaron and keep up your great work we'll do you

but talk to you soon okay bye bye bye

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Stewardship & Sustainability Series
Episode 01 - Nancy Tuchman - Loyola U. - Inst. Enviro. Sustainability
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