The Benedict XVI Endowed Chair of Religious, Cultural and Philosophical Studies at the Faculty of Humanities (FH), Notre Dame University-Louaize (NDU), organized on November 2, 2017, a conference titled, “OUR COMMON HOME: Sustaining a Green and “Clean” Campus.”
This conference aims to introduce an innovative environmental sustainability model that brings together national and international partnerships and initiatives in the light of Pope Francis’s encyclical letter: Laudato si’.
In attendance were: Dr. Joseph Asmar, advisor to the Minister of Environment H.E. Tarek El Khatib, Dr. Joseph Asad, advisor to the Minister of Energy and Water H.E. Cesar Abi Khalil, NDU President Fr. Pierre Najem, Vice-President for Administration Fr. Samir Ghsoub, Vice-President for Academic Affairs Dr. Elie Badr, and a host of environmental activists and NGO representatives.
Dr. Edward J. Alam, holder of the Benedict XVI Endowed Chair, initiated the seminar by highlighting the importance of the conference. He said, “Although the Pope emphasizes the natural hierarchy of living things, giving priority to human life and human dignity, he strongly reminds us that neither our lives nor the earth in which we live out our lives are entirely ours.”
For his part, Fr. Najem said, “Our world is torn between opposing forces of contrasting cultures and relationships (…) A culture of dominion versus a culture of serving and protecting beauty and goodness.” He continued, “In the name of everyone at NDU, we accept to renew our commitment toward God and the mission of taking care of our garden.”
In a prerecorded video release, El-Khatib said that it is necessary to create an environmental culture among the Lebanese youth; thus, transforming Environmental Knowledge at NDU into action while serving as a distinctive model. Also speaking via a prerecorded video, Khalil discussed the importance of renewable energy and environmentally-friendly projects. He stressed the importance of cooperating with NDU to graduate specialists in sustainable development, since renewable energy is the key to a better future.
Dr. Sophia Ghanimeh, assistant professor at the Faculty of Engineering (FE) at NDU, presented an action plan for NDU to adopt regarding waste recycling. She said, “It is essential to give researchers their due role and our aim is to one day establish a zero-waste campus.”
The Key-note speakers, Dr. Victoria Charles, professor and sustainability practitioner at Santa Monica College, California, USA, said, “The environment, the plight of our planet, is the single most important topic of our time; how we manage its resources as well as our own associated human actions will largely determine the quality of life to be enjoyed by our children and the generations beyond.”
She added, “I respect the challenges you are taking to mitigate climate change through your sustainability planning, your academic curriculum, and best, your passion.”
The first panel of the conference focused on “Partnerships for Sustainable Development,” as voluntary, multi-stakeholder initiatives that can contribute to the implementation of sustainable development goals. With the following panelists, Dr. Joseph Asmar, advisor to the Minister of Environment, Mr. José Luis Vinuesa-Santamaria, head of Section, Economy and Local Development at the European Union, and Mr. Juan Hbeish, head of the Federation of Municipalities in Keserwan.
The second panel emphasized on enhancing the contributions of University-Community partnerships to be more involved as well as to climate change adaptation. The real key would be engaging students with the challenges currently facing the University and the world at large. The participating panelists were Dr. Joseph Asad, representing the Ministry of Energy and Water, Mr. Edgard Chehab, assistant resident representative to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Mrs. Hasmig Khoury, head of Corporate Social Responsibility at Bank Audi, and Mr. Rabih Osta, Phoenix area general manager.
The last two panels shed light on project presentations of NDU students and the role of faculty members toward a sustainable campus. Dr. Eugene Sensenig, associate professor at the Faculty of Law and Political Science (FLPS) at NDU, said, “As a Catholic University we have to invest in the future of our region. That’s what makes us unique.” He used practical examples to promote fair-trade products.