The Institute for Environmental Stewardship was initiated in 2010 through a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. This three-year grant supported:
- the design and installation of an experimental vegetative roof system on the Science Center to provide performance data on how different drainage systems affect stormwater retention, how different plant species grow, spread and compete in the southeastern Pennsylvania area, and how the vegetative roof system directly impacts the building in terms of heating and cooling loads.
- research by Dr. Clint Springer (Department of Biology) on the impact of changes in precipitation, temperature and carbon dioxide levels on the growth and development of switch grass, a candidate plant for use as a renewable energy source
- educational outreach efforts to the local community regarding stormwater management and related issues
With the conclusion of the DOE grant support in June, 2013, Saint Joseph's University is evaluating making the IES a permanent part of the univeristy. During this review period, the Institute will continue to operate as per the vision and mission statements from the original grant proposal, which are included here below:
The overarching mission of the Institute is to promote socially, economically, and ethically responsible environmental stewardship. While the Institute's foundation is within the Natural Sciences, it is broadly interdisciplinary in nature. Such interdisciplinarity is essential in addressing the complex scientific, societal, business, political, moral and ethical issues that fall within the realm of environmental stewardship.
The Institute’s vision is to be a leader in the Northeast region in advancing a multidisciplinary understanding of the complex mechanisms at work within environmental systems and developing ecologically sustainable and ethically appropriate economic and social policies.
Housed within the Natural Sciences, the institute will draw broadly upon the strong and distinctive human and institutional resources of Saint Joseph’s University, which include an interdisciplinary Environmental Sciences Program; strong natural science departments including the Biology Department, which has been recognized for excellence; strong and sustained faculty expertise in ethics; institutional commitment to promoting policies of social justice; existing programs relating to environmental protection and policy issues in areas such as political science, sociology, and history. Moreover, SJU is both urban and suburban, straddling Philadelphia and Lower Merion, PA. The institute will therefore be ideally situated to engage in educational outreach and research activities relevant to urban and suburban environmental stewardship issues.
The Institute will fulfill its mission through research relating to environmental stewardship issues, exploration of ethical decision-making processes relating to stewardship, educating the local and broader community concerning environmental stewardship, and engaging members of the community in activities to address these issues, especially as they impact the poor and marginalized members of society.
The central goals of the Institute are:
1) Investigating the complex mechanisms at work within environmental systems and developing an understanding of the ways in which human, social, political, and economic structures, organizations, and activities impact the environment in both positive and negative ways.
This goal will be achieved through multidisciplinary research and policy analysis.
2) Exploring the complex moral and ethical issues relating to environmental stewardship.
The focus will be to foster the ability of individuals to make morally discerning decisions relating to human activities and their impact on the environment as well as develop their ability to assess public policy decisions related to the environment from an informed ethical perspective.
This aspect of the mission will be achieved by an analysis of ways morally discerning decisions can be made concerning human activities and their impact on the environment.
A variety of ethical frameworks, philosophical, religious, and professional, will be examined for their appropriateness in developing both personal moral discernment and viable public policy.
This aspect of the Institute will examine a variety of ethical, philosophical, religious, and professional frameworks for their appropriateness in developing both personal moral discernment and viable public policy on issues regarding environmental stewardship.
3) Developing educational initiatives that integrate the scientific, policy, and ethical research outcomes related to environmental stewardship.
This goal will be achieved by enhancing the existing Environmental Sciences Program through addition of a complimentary Environmental Studies major that will engage students in the consideration of environmental stewardship issues, moral and ethical decision-making, and the formulation of public and corporate policy. As well as hosting conferences and other events focused on issues relating to environmental stewardship, especially as they relate to colleges and universities similar to SJU.
4) Fostering the development of a transforming commitment to social justice relating to environmental stewardship within and beyond SJU.This goal will be achieved by engaging the university and broader constituencies in activities that alleviate the negative impact of environmental decisions upon the poor and the marginalized.