Italy was a memorable and fulfilling destination for research. During my time in country, I attended and presented at a conference focused on spirituality and sustainability in both Rome and Assisi. This conferences purpose was to bring together visionary people from a range of ecological and/or spiritual perspectives, centers, and movements. Attendees participated in dialogue on transformative global change based on spirituality and sustainability. The conference explored strategies to deepen and implement the United Nations new development agenda and to protect and nurture sacred places. The conference hosted dialogue on how individuals can work together on the way forward toward a just, sustainable, and peaceful future that will support human development. Much of the dialogue overlapped with my studies on globalized trade policy and its effects on small farms. I also had the privilege to meet many experts knowledgeable on these topics.
I was honored to be asked to present on the Earth Charter panel as well as a panel focusing on youth perspectives on spirituality and sustainability. The Earth Charter is an ethical framework for building a just, sustainable, and peaceful global society in the 21st century. It seeks to inspire in all people a new sense of global interdependence and shared responsibility for the well-being of the human family, the greater community of life, and future generations. It is a vision of hope and a call to action. Some of its guiding principles are respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, social and economic justice, democracy, and nonviolence. If you would like to read the Earth Charter, I have attached a PDF in English: http://earthcharter.org/invent/images/uploads/echarter_english.pdf
During my portion of the panel, I was able to discuss some of the incredible work my home institution Florida Gulf Coast University (an Earth Charter Affiliate) is doing in terms of environmental and sustainability education. I also discussed how I have woven teachings from the Earth Charter into my own independent research both last summer in Geneva, Switzerland and this summer with the Circumnavigators Foundation Grant studying trade and agriculture. I was even privileged enough to meet some of the writers of the Earth Charter, all inspiring and dedicated individuals. I learned more about the development of this document and its meaning to those who spent countless hours creating it.
In Rome, I was able to attend a Papal Audience where Pope Francis hosted a ceremony to introduce five new Catholic cardinals to the Vatican. The Popes speech addressed inequality, poverty, and other social issues plaguing our world today. It was very interesting to hear this speech and relate it to my research on empowerment based regional policy and global governance. People gathered from all around the world, some making pilgrimage many miles to attend this event. I was able to include it in my research and to learn about the Popes role in international agenda setting.
Moving from Rome to Assisi, Italy I was truly in awe – Assisi is a gem of a city that holds so much wonder. The home of Saint Frances and Saint Clare, much religious history is embedded into the region. Also evident in Assisi is a history that includes environmental stewardship (as Saint Frances was known for his deep connections to ecology). Assisi is gifted with small agriculture, olive groves and olive oil production being very important.
During my time at the conference in Assisi, the Mayor Stefania Proietti attended. Being a woman interested in public service myself, it was great to meet her and discuss her role in the government of Assisi. As a professor of Engineering at Guglielmo Marconi University, Stefania is integrating energy systems and environmental sustainability into her work as mayor. It was an honor to visit with her and learn more about her inspiring work.
Many other panels took place during the conference such as:
- Current Expressions of Ecological Spirituality and their Indigenous Roots
- Great Transition: Earth Charter, Ecological Civilization, United Nations Development Agenda, and New Paradigms of Science, Economics, & Law
- Transformative Paths: Education, Policy Advocacy, Movement Building, Life-styles, & Sustainable Communities
The overall experience was a transformative one for me as a young scholar. I was able to get in touch with many helpful people working in Rome with the Food and Agriculture Organization as well as countless international scholars who attended the conference. I was also able to share ideas with a community of individuals dedicated to making lasting positive change in the world and gained valuable mentors in the process.
If you or anyone you know is willing to donate to my research experience, please see my go fund me page linked below. Travel based research is costly, and any help is greatly appreciated.