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Cultivating Sustainable Relationships: A Seton Hall Garden is a Study of the Marriage Between Humans and the Environment

4-4-13

Courtesy of NJ Arts News

At the center of Seton Hall University is a hill that was underutilized until Julianne Aiello, director of marketing and sustainable development planted a garden.

“This hill has a great location between several dorms, the dining hall right here, the theater,” she said. “What I really love about this project is that we’ve been able to pull students into the garden that would’ve never been in a garden before, gotten them excited about growing food, connecting with nature right here on their campus.”

The garden provides a campus focus for sustainability.

“Sustainability means that we are thinking about our actions and what we’re doing in relation to the environment every day,” Aiello said. “How are we eating? Where are we getting our food from? Sustainability is local, it’s composting.”

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Biology Professor Dr. Marian Glenn says compost is nature’s way of recycling. “You can take the food that you’re not eating on your plate, take it outside and let nature do its recycling. If you put it in a landfill, then it’s mixed up with plastic and metal,” she said. “So why not separate it and use it to build soil?”

But it’s not only Seton Hall scientists that teach sustainability. Philosophy Professor Dr. Judith Stark is co-director of the environmental studies program. “New Jersey is the perfect place to study the environment because everything that every other jurisdiction is going to have to deal with in the next 20 years is already happening here in New Jersey,” she said.

Both Stark and Glenn link environmental issues with ethics and humanities.

“What is the relationship that we currently have with nature and what should that relationship be?” Stark asked. “Any time you’re asking the question of should and ought and norms, that’s the area of ethics.”

“Scientists are worried about how things work. The humanities can ask those questions of ‘is this the way it should work?’” Glenn said.

For Glenn, the relationship between humans and our environment needs help from both sides.

“Scientists and humanists need to talk together. Somehow the human race is married to the earth and we need some counseling to make this marriage sustainable,” she said. “Humanities, the sciences can come together and figure out how we can have a sustainable relationship between the human race and this planet that we live on.”

At Seton Hall, strengthening that key relationship starts with a campus garden.