Background on CUSA’s Sustainability Lecture Series

While its roots may be traced back decades and even centuries, the concept of sustainable development only became a prominent and perennial feature of world affairs in the late 1980s with the publication of the Brundtland Commission’s landmark 1987 report, Our Common Future. Although critics have assailed the concept for being an oxymoron, redundant or vague, it has nonetheless been widely endorsed by political, business and community leaders, and embraced by different cultures and socio-economic classes around the world. Proponents have represented sustainable development as an invaluable approach to designing unified solutions to linked challenges.

The concept of sustainable development acknowledges the urgency of global problems, recognized critical connections between them, and sought to devise a framework for thinking about how they could be jointly addressed. The core elements of this framework are often understood to be economics, environment and equity, and the goal is to balance the requirements of each in a way that satisfies the needs of the present generation without compromising the prospects of future generations. While there is general agreement on the value of the goals of sustainable development, demographic, economic and environmental trends present considerable challenges to particular efforts aimed at improving sustainability.

Creating more sustainable societies will require addressing challenges and will require involving multiple perspective`s from the social and natural sciences, as well as political, community and business leaders. Our sustainability seminar series brings together scholars, researchers, experts, and business leaders to consider a variety of perspectives on choices and challenges related to improving the sustainability of water, energy, food, transportation and security systems.

The Power of Promoting Women’s Entrepreneurship

Katy Leakey


Katy Leakey is an artist and designer of The Leakey Collection and has been living and working alongside the Maasai women in the Rift Valley of Kenya for over a decade. Through her work building a sustainable, environmentally-friendly Zulugrass jewelry line, Katy has witnessed the women earn money for the first time, build and refine their skills, and invest deeply into their families and community — all while preserving the traditional culture of the Maasai. Katy will offer her perspective on the power of promoting women’s entrepreneurship to create flourishing communities and wide-ranging stability.

To learn more about Katy Leakey, go to:

Jay Famiglietti

Jay Famiglietti is a hydrologist, a professor of Earth System Science and of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of California, Irvine, and the Senior Water Scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology. He was appointed by California Governor Jerry Brown to the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board, and he was the Founding Director of the UC Center for Hydrologic Modeling (UCCHM) at UC Irvine. He authored the recent LA Times Op-Ed “California has about one year of water stored. Will you ration now?”


Failed Sustainability

bruce_laurieApril 29, 2015

Bruce Lourie

Lourie is one of Canada’s leading environmental thinkers and co-author of the international best-selling book, Slow Death by Rubber Duck. He is President of Ivey Foundation, a private charitable foundation in Canada, a Director of the Ontario Power Authority, and a Director of the San Francisco-based Consultative Group on Biological Diversity. He is an honorary director of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment and a member of World Wildlife Fund’s Climate Advisory Committee. Lourie may be best known for his work in connecting environmental issues to human health through his research on mercury pollution and for initiating the campaign to shut down coal-fired power plants in Ontario. Bruce is a founder of a number of for profit and non-profit organizations including Summerhill Group, the Sustainability Network, and the Canadian Environmental Grantmakers’ Network. He has acted on numerous international, federal, provincial and municipal bodies advising on environmental, health and energy policy matters. Lourie has degrees in Geology and Environmental Studies.

The Psychology of Sustainability

Beth Karlin

There is growing consensus that environmental, social, and economic sustainability are not possible given current trends and that understanding human interactions with the environment is a key aspect of ameliorating many of these issues. Psychology, as the science of human behavior, is in a prime position to assist with this task. Human interactions with sustainability include human drivers of un-sustainability (e.g. over-use of limited resources), human consequences of instability (e.g. natural and technological disasters), and human responses to a changing environment (e.g. mitigation and adaptation). Although progress is being made in the natural and physical sciences towards technological solutions and in political circles towards more sustainable policies, an understanding of individuals is vital for these new technologies to be adopted and policies supported. This talk will include a discussion of current and pressing issues in the psychology of sustainability and share recent insights in areas such as social norms, risk perception, message framing, and positive psychology that highlight some of the ways that psychology is contributing to these issues.

Religion and Sustainability

Date TBA

Nora Davis

Researchers do not commonly characterize the relationship between sustainability and religion as particularly positive; however, closer study reveals a far more complicated relationship between the two. As the specific goal of achieving environmental sustainability is often addressed purely by technological, economic, and efficiency-oriented solutions, this lecture will focus on an area given comparatively little attention: the overlap between religious experiences and environmental sustainability. In solutions-based discussions, this overlap plays are surprisingly small role, especially given the common action item that concludes nearly every environmental conversation: “we need to change people’s values; we need to change culture.” When paired alongside the similarly-common narrative that value-based institutions (religions) are incompatible with environmentalism, we are left with quite a gap to close. This lecture will explore the relationship between sustainability and the history, practices, and sacred texts of major world religions to ask the question: How can these theologies, concepts, and experiences be leveraged to strengthen the relationship between religion and sustainability?

Special Thanks

CUSA would like to thank the the following organizations for their generous support of this seminar series: