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Sustainability through a Catholic Lens

By Margaret Barkley and Olivia Gillingham

Sustainability is not a new concept, though it is very much a part of conversations taking place around the country today. As seen in the materials collected by John S. Stokes Jr., issues surrounding land use and environmentalism were just as important to the Catholic Church decades ago as they are now. Like Pope Francis said, “We received this world as an inheritance from past generations, but also as a loan from future generations, to whom we will have to return it.”

Through diagrams of life cycles and pamphlets he collected about land and water resources, treatment of animals, and organic planting methods, John Stokes’ collection demonstrates that land, water, animals, and humans all contribute to a sustainable whole. Our use of land and water resources and our treatment of animals have lasting consequences in keeping the planet diverse and productive. It also shows the efforts of Catholics over the years in teaching about sustainability and the lasting impact of human activity, all while trying to understand mankind’s place in God’s creation.

In the photo gallery you can see one of the diagrams found in Stokes’ collection. It shows the roles of plants, animals, and humankind as being intrinsically linked in a cycle that includes God and His creation of the universe. Other diagrams in the exhibit demonstrate cycles of soil life and the production of oxygen and carbon dioxide.

You can see some of these cycles at work by visiting the living garden on the first floor of Roesch Library, and learn more about the history of the Catholic Church’s views on sustainability by visiting the second floor for an exhibit featuring materials from Stokes’ collection. Don’t forget to make a trip to the Marian Library on the seventh floor where you can see how Cincinnati artist Holly Schapker captured the beauty of Mary’s life in her original paintings.

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