• Panelists: Joanne Pope Melish, Keith Stokes, and Brent Leggs

    Memorializing our Conflicted Past: Historic Preservation and Slavery in New England

    The Pell Center had the privilege of hosting four excellent speakers on November 1, 2016. The lecture centered around the question: how do we as a nation memorialize the slavery and injustice of our past?  Each speaker focused on answering this question in regards to slavery in New England.

    Audience members at the Pell CenterJoanne Pope Melish spoke first, describing the immensity of the slave trade in New England and describing how New England began as a national leader in slavery.  Melish offered examples of current memorials to New England slaves, such as the painting featured on the lecture pamphlet, entitled The Economic Activities of the Narragansett Planters by Ernest Hamlin Baker.  Despite the title, the painting does not display “economic activities,” but several shirtless black slaves and a fully clothed white man on a horse.

    Melish also described a memorial in Barrington, Rhode Island from 1903 dedicated “to the faithful slaves.”  She concluded her lecture with the question, what do these exemplary memorials do to the image of slavery/ of slaves and slave owners?

    Keith Stokes, the Vice president of the 1696 Heritage Group spoke next.  Stokes offered his clear opinion of the appropriate memorialization of slavery in the United States.  Stokes shared a video created to memorialize the African children of the God’s Little Acre graveyard in Newport.  The graves date from the 18th century and every child buried there was either born or died a slave.  The video features names and information from individual graves as well as a picture of a child of matching age and ethnic decent.

    Stokes described two different kinds of memorials to slavery in the United States.  Brown University’s campus features a memorial of a ball and chain.  This type of memorial focuses on the slave trade and objectifies slavery.  In contrast, memorials such as the Phillis Wheatley statue in Boston Massachusetts remember the individuals and honor the people, families, and their achievements.  Both types of memorials have their appropriate place, Stokes says, but for him, it’s the human memory that matters.

    Brent Leggs followed, beginning with the idea that a nation’s identity resides in the places and stories that are honored andBrett Leggs speaking at the Pell Center.  preserved.  White history, names, and stories are most often memorialized whereas black history, names, and stories are often lost.  Leggs focused largely on the recent upsurge of University effort to acknowledge their own history of slavery.  Leggs listed several Universities, including Yale University, which renamed a building after Polly Mary.  Penny Outlaw followed Brent Leggs as the last speaker.

    Penny Outlaw works as the co-president of the Royall House and Slave Quarters historical landmark and museum in Medford Massachusetts.  In her work, she memorializes the past by presenting the lives of the salves of the Royall family home.  She gives tours and educates the public on the living condition of slaves in New England.  She told the story of her experience with a group of people, each connected by their common ancestry to American slaves.  The group spent the night in the slave quarters and shared what they knew of their family history.  Similar to Keith Stoke’s approach, Outlaw memorializes the past through the memory of the people, focusing more on the day to day life of the adults and children in the Royall home.

    The speakers gave unique and personal accounts of the history of slavery in the United States.  Some shared examples of failed or counter productive memorials, others described and shared touching and powerful memorials.  Despite the abolition of slavery, America’s past clearly has some hold over American society today.  A meaningful memorial, then, does not just remember and recall, but brings awareness to the trauma and triumphs of not a the trade, but the people.


    – Julia Morisi

  • Mercy Leadership Conference

    Every other year, the Sisters of Mercy host their International Mercy Leadership Conference in the original home of Catherine McAuley on Bagot Street in Dublin.  This year, Salve Regina sent several students to the conference, advertising the opportunity to those involved in Mercy activities such as Mercy in Motion and Sigma Phi Sigma.  Sarah Johnson, 17, Gabrielle Kubba, 18, Caroline Kelley, 18, Campus Minister Mathew Kelly and I traveled to Dublin this past August.

    The conference ran for one week and focused heavily on addressing the five critical concerns of Mercy.  Each day, attendees partook in workshops.  Sisters and involved citizens led discussions on trafficking of young women, Mercy Volunteer Corps involvement, UN Environmental initiatives, and more.  The Sisters also shared their personal experiences in living out the Mercy Mission.

    One Sister gave a detailed account of the years she spent living in Peru.  Her recount of her time abroad was both inspiring and entertaining to hear.  Though her travels were immensely exploratory, she did not travel to Peru for the adventure.  She and her Sisters travel abroad and around Ireland as service leaders, a tradition that is honored at Salve Regina University and has not changed since the example of Catherine McAuley.

    During her life, Catherine McAuley educated 200 young girls in need of an education in the main room of her home each day, a room today used for the conference.  The room adjacent to this renovated classroom is one that remains in its original form and with its original furnishings: the bedroom of Catherine McAuley, the room in which she eventually passed away.  She lived where she worked.  She saw to no distinction in her personal and professional life.  Her life and her legacy is service leadership.

    Service leadership sits at the core of the Mercy mission, and it is a mission of service that has grown and expanded since its foundation.  Interactive world maps line the walls of the conference room on Bagot Street.  A dot marks each location that the Sisters of Mercy have programs, send volunteers, and do service work.  These locations number over 40 countries, including North America, South and Central America, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Australia.  The Sisters’ candid recounts of their service across these continents and regions reinforced their adaptive commitment to global mission and inspired attendees towards involvement in local and global communities.

    More than simply a pilgrimage to the home of Catherine McAuley in Dublin, Ireland, the conference instilled a better academic understanding of the critical concerns of Mercy, inspired activism, and revealed the Mercy mission as a strong, global effort.  My colleagues and I attended the conference at the perfect time, during the Jubilee year of Mercy.  After the caseation of the Jubilee year of Mercy this November, the need for a Mercy agenda to continue will be just as strong going into the start of the New Year.

    – Julia Morisi

  • Mario DiNunzio, professor emeritus at Providence College, stands at the Salve Regina podium.

    Who Stole Conservatism?

    The American political system has always cycled through periods of progress and conservatism. As voters grapple with just which course they favor in 2016, Mario DiNunzio, professor emeritus of history at Providence College, kicked off the Pell Center’s 2016-2017 lecture series with a discussion of his new book, Who Stole Conservatism?

    DiNunzio outlined a history of conservatism from the 18th century to today, crediting the structure of classic conservatism to political theorist Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France. Characteristics of this conservatism included concern for order, respect for institutions, regard for tradition, reverence of religion, and attention to practical reform.dinunzio-audience

    DiNunzio traced the evolution of American conservative political thinking from the revolution to today. In his remarks and in his book, he drew special attention to the Gilded Age–the period at the end of the 19th century when American capitalism produced vast fortunes that dwarfed even the budget of the United States. Big business, in that era, began to take precedence over government and conservative politics began to adopt a more materialistic concern.  Conservative politics increasingly became synonymous with being “business-friendly.”

    “Mario DiNunzio was my undergraduate advisor when I was a student at Providence College,” said Pell Center Executive Director Jim Ludes.  “When I first entered the classroom as a professor, I did my best impersonation of him,” Ludes continued.  “But the truth is, there is only one Mario DiNunzio and we were fortunate to kick-off the start of the Pell Center’s 2016-2017 programming with him.”


  • Students file through the gates and into the building of Ochre Court with candles in hand after attending the gate-opening ceremony for the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

    An Extraordinary Year

    Pope Francis recently declared an extraordinary Jubilee year to take place December 8, 2015 until November 20, 2016.  He declared the Jubilee in the name of the Mary, the Mother of Mercy.  Pope Francis said, “I am convinced that the whole Church will be able to find in this Jubilee the joy of rediscovering and making fruitful the mercy of God, with which we are all called to give consolation to every man and every woman of our time.” Salve Regina University will join in this Jubilee year celebration.

    Celebration of the Jubilee year dates back to law of early biblical antiquity.  Stated in Leviticus, “A jubilee shall that fiftieth year be unto you: ye shall not sow, neither reap that which groweth of itself in it, nor gather the grapes in it of thy vine undressed.”(Lev25:11)  The Jubilee year occurs after seven sets of seven years, in the fiftieth year.

    Jewish tradition prioritizes the Sabbath and rest, not only for humanity, but for the land and animals as well.  The word jubilee comes from the Hebrew word yovel, meaning ram’s horn, or a shofar, which typically announces the arrival of an important dates, such as Rosh Hashanah.  The sounding of the yovel would most likely be used to announce the year of rest—the Jubilee year.

    The Catholic tradition of the Jubilee year differs slightly from the Jewish tradition.  In the Catholic tradition, the Pope announces the Jubilee year, which can be either ordinary or extraordinary.  An ordinary Jubilee falls on the prescribed Jubilee year; an extraordinary Jubilee does not, and is called for a specific reason or need. The years in between each Catholic Jubilee year also differs from Judaism as the Catholic version has fluctuated throughout church history and can occur whenever declared.

    On December 8, to herald in the Jubilee year, Salve Regina University celebrated with the “Opening of the Gates.”  The celebration commenced at 4 p.m. in front of Ochre Court at the gates.  Dr. Zeman spoke first on the Jubilee year, followed by Salve Regina student Andy Cirioli, ‘17.  Michael McNamara, ‘16, and GinaMarie Tonini, ‘17, read the Psalm of Mercy to the audience.  Dr. Hennessy then spoke of the mercy heritage of Salve Regina University, and its beginnings as a women’s college in a time when women had little options for higher education.  She spoke on the “gateway” of mercy, which should be open to all.

    Finally, Sister Jane concluded Salve Regina University’s initiation of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, saying, “I open the symbolic gates of Salve Regina University, and proclaim this year a holy year of mercy.”  Sister Jane continued by saying, “I pray that all of us at Salve Regina will never tire of extending mercy,” and proceeded to cut the ribbon that stretched across the gateway.

    Members of the University’s chorus sang Salve Regina as the crowd made its way toward Ochre Court, where a reception followed inside.  The event drew a large crowd, and all who attended served as witnesses and evidence of the mercy mission, which continues to be held and beloved at Salve Regina University.

    Watch the “Opening of the Gates” at Salve Regina University here.

  • Dr. William Issel, the John E. McGinty chair in History delivers his lecture on peace and justice in the 1960s from the podium in Bazarsky Lecture Hall.

    Peace With Justice – Bishop Mark J Hurley, the Black Power Movement, & Radical Justice in the Sixties

    “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.”(Pope Paul VI) Dr. William Issel is not only a teacher in Salve Regina University’s History department, but also a witness of the Civil Rights Movement himself.  At the November 18th Pell Center lecture Peace with Justice —Bishop Mark J Hurley, the Black Power Movement, and Radical Justice in the Sixties, Issel touched on his own experiences as well as the work of Bishop Mark J Hurley during the Civil Rights Movement.
    B24B0477Bishop Hurley served as a Bishop in California for 17 years and allied himself in the fight against racial injustice during the Civil Rights Movement.  Hurley centered his religious work on the fight for social justice, and he traveled from the United States to the Vatican to participate in Vatican II, a renovation in the Catholic Church that opened the church to a more egalitarian and just global conversation.

    Shortly after Vatican II, during the Papacy of Pope John XXIII, the Pope published the encyclical Pachem en Terrace in 1963, saying “truth calls for the elimination of every trace of racial discrimination.”  Leaders such as Bishop Hurley had begun to make real changes in powerful ways – changes on the grounds of social justice, specifically racial discrimination.  1963, however, marked just the beginning of the movement.

    The death of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 pushed a large number of people toward the opposition of racial inequality.  The new push also intensified the movement.  Hurley continued his participation in strikes, and demonstrations, despite the growing tension and violence. Issel participated as well, recalling his involvement in a campus strike that broke out in violence.  Issel said he spent that day bailing students out of jail.B24B0435

    Issel posed several questions to the audience as a call for critical thought and action for today’s world.  As a nation and as a global community, he asks, are we willing to work toward a moral economy? Are we willing to work for a democratic constitutional order that supports individual and group rights?  Are we willing to work for a global culture of civil friendship and cooperation?

    According to Issel, this is what it takes to achieve the improved society that many people spend their lives striving for.  He asks these questions and undoubtedly proposes these changes not just as a history teacher, but also as a witness. – Julia Morisi

  • Pope Francis in America

    Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Philadelphia on September 27, 2015 to see Pope Francis deliver his World Meeting of Families.  Salve Regina University’s Mercy Center sent eight students and two faculty members, Dr. Anna Mae Mayer and Dr. Jayme Hennessy, into the thick of the excitement. I was lucky enough to join the pilgrimage as one of those ten.

    The group departed Salve Regina University at 6:00 am on Saturday morning and arrived at Gwynedd Mercy University later that afternoon. Six schools in total gathered at Gwynedd for a night of Mercy education and, of course, for the Pope’s visit.

    The events commenced on Saturday afternoon and continued into the evening. The 150 or so students were split into groups to discuss critical social concerns, including racism, women, immigration, nonviolence, and the environment. I chose the women’s group.

    Our group, a group of all women, discussed issues ranging from women’s education, to double standards, to the patriarch of the Catholic Church. We put together a poster and a presentation recapping as much of our conversation as possible, as well as offering advice for everyday action to support women. It seemed as though each group enjoyed and benefited from the conversations and presentations.

    That evening, the Pope spoke in front of Independence Hall. The students staying at Gwynedd watched from an auditorium on campus, and engaged in discussion directly afterwards. In anticipation of the following day in Philadelphia, Gwynedd laid out an array of Philadelphia foods. Some students engaged in a game of flashlight tag on campus, and others, including myself, enjoyed a trip to the popularly acclaimed “Wawa” for a hoggie.

    Sunday was the day everyone had made the trip for, so we headed out early for Philadelphia. The bus arrived at a parking lot about four miles away from the site of the Mass. We walked amongst thousands of others making the pilgrimage. Streets closer to the Mass were closed off to traffic, and they were instead jammed with a river of people all swiftly moving in the same direction.

    We arrived to groups of people dancing and singing. No one sat down because of the lack of room; most stood on the tips of their toes for the following six hours. At 4:00, the Pope drove through the streets toward the site of the Mass. He did not drive down the street that most of the students from the Mercy Center were standing on, but he was visible when passing by a parallel street.

    The Mass lasted for about an hour and a half. It included several different languages. The readings were in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese. The Pope gave some of the Mass in Latin, some in English, and delivered his homily in Spanish.

    Despite the immensity of the crowd and the large ground to cover, Eucharistic Ministers made their way out to the people. The crowds parted for those in the back to come forward and receive the Eucharist. Those in the front who received broke off a piece and passed it back. The sight was the most unified and caring I have ever seen from a massive, tired, and excited crowd of people.

    Pope Francis ended his final mass in his U.S. visit with humble words, “I ask you to pray for me.  Don’t forget!”  His closing words not only induced some laughs, but also emphasized an important point.  Millions of people around the world adore Pope Francis, and wish to get a glance at him, or hope that he kisses their babies or offers them a blessing. However, like all of those millions, Pope Francis is human.

    The Mass concluded and the streets of people quickly thinned to streets of crushed water bottles and lost or forgotten knickknacks. Everyone headed back through an even more congested and tired rush.  Four miles later, we finally sat down on the bus and returned to Gwynedd Mercy University.

    The weekend concluded. We had walked over nine miles, stood for seven hours, eaten about a dozen on-the-go granola bars, driven over 275 miles, gotten no more than ten hours of sleep and two hours of homework in, and had seen one Pope. In total, the experience is counted as once in a lifetime.


  • Pell Center Executive Director Jim Ludes moderates the lecture about Pope Francis' encyclical letter as panelists Craig Condella, Deb Curtis, Jayme Hennessy, Susan Meschwitz and Chad Raymond look out upon a crowd of Salve students and Newport community members

    Laudato Si’: Pope Francis and the Challenge of the Environment

    The Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy held a panel discussion in response to the Pope’s latest encyclical Laudato Si’, coinciding with Pope Francis’ arrival in the United States.

    The event, entitled Pope Francis and the Challenge of the Environment, took place on September 23, 2015 at 7 p.m. in Bazarsky Lecture Hall.  The lecture featured five Salve Regina University professors, each hailing from a different academic area.

    Dr. Craig Condella represented the department of Philosophy, Dr. Debra Curtis the department of Sociology and Anthropology, Dr. Jayme Hennessy the department of Religious and Theological Studies, Dr. Susan Meschwitz the department of Chemistry, and Dr. Chad Raymond the department of Political Science and International Relations.  Dr. Jim Ludes, the executive director at the Pell Center, moderated the discussion.

    Each professor provided insight into what the encyclical means to them, and its correlation to their academic field.  Dr. Condella spoke first, remarking that “it’s a work of morality, what we are called to do – not only as Christians or Catholics, but as a global community.”  The encyclical reminds humanity that the earth is a common home amongst all peoples, and that all humans inhabiting the earth are called to be responsible for the earth’s present condition.

    The encyclical focuses largely on ecological issues such as the relationship between the environment and the groups inhabiting it.  Therefore, it went deeper than just the conservation of and respect for the environment.  It included the broader picture of human dignity.  A major aspect of ecological responsibility involves caring for the poor, disadvantaged, excluded and vulnerable.

    Dr. Curtis provided an anthropological view of the encyclical in addition to her personal view.  She describes the document as “One long prayer, so beautiful, so tragic,” she says, “but so beautiful.”  Curtis concluded that for the progress that Pope Francis calls for to occur, environmental awareness and action must intervene at sub-state levels in local communities.

    Dr. Hennessy built upon the discussion, providing a religious and theological view of the encyclical.  By nature of the document and its author, religion relates most directly to the encyclical.  Hennessy presented a unique and touching reflection.

    Hennessy described the encyclical as a vocation – a call to be better keepers of the earth, a call for worldwide care for the environment and for all of the vulnerable life, including people.

    The call, she says, is also for people to have a deeper human spirit, to remember human dignity, and to not turn away and be indifferent to that human dignity.  Hennessy noted that, “the degradation of the environment cannot be separated from the degradation of humanity.” This correlation requires constant attention.

    Hennessy said that the earth is a common home and a common good, and that humanity consists of common neighbors.  The care and love of the vulnerable should be no different, and no less vital than the care and love freely given to our own home and our own family.

    Clearly, Pope Francis viewed the issues of the environment through a faithful lens, but they can be interpreted through different lenses. Dr. Meschwitz focused on the science in the document.  Pope Francis has an eye for science and even received a degree in chemistry according to Meschwitz. The pope’s encyclical also has the support of the pontifical scientific society.

    The climate conversation is a large part of modern dialogue, and Meschwitz noted that Pope Francis “added a new dimension to the dialogue—that’s a moral dimension.”  The moral component is a strong motivator in personal changes.

    Dr. Raymond regarded the encyclical as an “ecumenical statement,” and acknowledged that Pope Francis did not address the encyclical only to Catholics, but addressed it to all the people of the world.

    Pope Francis’ call to action puts a complex set of issues into simple terms.  Emphasis is placed on personal transformation in order to further the connectedness of all people.  In everyday decisions, it is important to realize these connections and take into consideration the effects of actions on others.

    Following the panelist’s final remarks on the encyclical, Dr. Ludes opened the conversation to the audience.  As expected, the document produced considerable discussion.

    The next morning, the Pell Center broadcasted the pope’s address to Congress in Antone.  If the encyclical accomplishes what Pope Francis intended it to, the discussion and dialogue regarding the environment will not cease outside of lecture halls, and the continued discussion will produce effective, merciful, and heartfelt action.

  • Sonia Nazario

    Pulitzer Prize-winning author, journalist discusses “Enrique’s Journey”

    On Monday, April 13, the annual lecture sponsored by the Pell Center and Mosaic, Salve Regina University’s student newspaper,  featured journalist Sonia Nazario, who recently published her non-fiction novel, Enrique’s Journey.  The story of Enrique’s journey and Nazario’s journey spoke to the interests and curiosities of the many Salve Regina University students and community members in attendance. The lecture was also sponsored by the Office of Mission Integration.

    Enrique’s Journey tells the true story of a young Honduran boy who travels to America in search of his mother.  Nazario describes the immense struggles Enrique faces: violence, starvation and thirst, and homelessness.  Nazario made this journey herself, traveling on top of trains and across rivers, facing many similar and terrifying challenges as Enrique.  Her discussion lead the audience through not only her and Enrique’s journey, but through the overwhelmingly perilous and often unsuccessful journey of thousands of people, mostly children, on their way to America.

    Nazario began by revisiting her childhood and describing her family history.  Her mother and father both separately immigrated to Argentina, where they met, settled and started a family.  After the death of her father, Nazario and her family moved to America, and she described how she became interested in the oppressed and underprivileged.  Nazario attended Williams College, and soon became the youngest employee of the New York Times, where she began her work as a journalist.

    After settling into her job, Nazario hired a housekeeper.  When Nazario asked her housekeeper about her children, she told Nazario the story of her family. The house keeper, originally from Central America, came to the United States had left three children back home in the hopes She hoped that in coming to America, she could send money back to her children and provide them with a better, more financially stable lifeshe had not seen her children in twelve years. The story touched Nazario deeply and inspired her to channel her focus on immigration, which would ultimately lead her on her journey through Central America and Mexico alongside of children in search of their mothers.

    Nazario’s housekeeper’s story is not uncommonextreme poverty in countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras often drives single mothers to leave their children with grandparents if possible, make their way to America to work, then send money back to their children.  Although most intend on working for only a short period of one to two years, this can often drag on much longer.  Resultantly, children in such families will make the same trip to the US in search for their mothers.  This has caused a recent surge of unaccompanied children crossing the US border illegally.

    Nazario dedicated herself to the journey that many children have completed, traveling from Tegucigalpa, Honduras to Nueva Laredo toward the US border.  Nazario traveled on top of trains alongside children.  She however, hunkered down in hotels at night, a privilege that other travelers did not have the luxury of and that she felt immensely grateful for.

    Although she enjoyed some luxuries such as a bed at night, Nazario ran into inevitable trouble.  Branches and overhanging forest debris scrape the top of the trains, proving a rather large obstacle for travelers.  Nazario witnessed and experienced this obstacle as she and others endured beatings from low hanging branches, one throwing a young man off the back of the train.

    More painful than the blow of branches, gangs and bandits wait along tracks and walk on top of the trains.  Nazario said that, at one point, she was chased down the train cars by a gang member, before she managed to escape with the help of the train conductor.  The gangs and bandits rob, rape and murder travelers, and in Enrique’s Journey, Enrique encounters similar trouble, receiving a harsh beating.

    As much as there is violence and trouble along the tracks, there is also generosity and love, so much so that Nazario claims to have had it strengthen her faith.  People living along the railway throw bags of food and water bottles to the travelers.  This help often comes from those who suffer from poverty as well.  Despite this, people still give what they can.  Houses that line the tracks offer shelter to travelers at night.  Those without an extra bed or a little spare food come to the tracks as the train passes by and offer encouragement and prayers.

    Travelers battle obstacles on every leg of their journey, and as many successfully make the journey, more do not.  The trains themselves provide an immense obstacle.  The trains kill some and maim many others.  Along her journey, Nazario visited a clinic for those maimed by the trains—many of these people were children.  Others who manage to avoid the treacherous tracks of the train can still be sent home in their attempts to make it to the US.  Nazario mentioned a young girl she met who had attempted the trip eight times and planned to attempt it again.  The determination of these children is amazing.

    Nazario offers possible solutions to the problems of immigration.  She mentions stopping the problem at its source as one option.  The poverty in places such as Honduras and Guatemala cause mothers to search for work in America, which in turn causes children to follow them.  Therefore, attempting to eradicate poverty in these areas might begin to reduce the immigration problem.

    Education of women also might reduce illegal immigration, Nazario says.  If young girls are expected to focus more on education, they will marry and have children at an older age and will likely have less children.  Women will also have qualifications for better jobs.  Less children and better jobs will reduce poverty.

    Of course, every solution is simpler said than it is put into action.  Nazario certainly has an inside understanding of the struggles and experiences of those who make the journey.  Regardless of the nature of the solution, it will take much effort to reverse this problem.  Ultimately, it will be a victory and a blessing if adults and children no longer have to make Enrique’s journey.

  • Panelists Discuss the Public’s Perception of Science

    The Pell Center’s presentation earlier this month, “Science Under Attack: Politics, Policy, and Science in America” discussed the public’s perception of science, and focused mainly on global warming.  The presentation featured Suzanne Shaw, director of communications at the Union of Concerned Scientists and Todd Anthony Bianco, principal policy associate at the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission.

    Shaw started off by discussing the public’s beliefs and mentioned that most Americans trust scientists, and therefore, most Americans trust science.  Despite this, many still believe in ESP, ghosts, and astrology.  Clearly there is a mix, or a conflict of beliefs for many Americans.

    This conflict reaches beyond personal and private choices and into the political arena. Shaw mentioned that both Democrats and Republicans deny science in some policies.  For example, most Republicans do not accept the idea of global warming, and Democrats tend to reject vaccines and health amenities such as fluoride in water.

    Individuals, as well as political parties, often neglect scientific fact in decisions for several reasons.  Shaw brought up how tobacco companies hide scientific facts from the public in order to make a profit off their merchandise.  The public was unaware of the truth about tobacco for a significant amount of time, and therefore their choice to indulge in the product was not an informed decision.  Because of profit or lack of education, science often gets pushed aside.

    In this vein, Bianco outlined why people might ignore science.  Bianco relayed to the audience that ignoring science is often a choice, because people incorporate their opinions and feelings into their decision.

    To illustrate this idea, Bianco used the following example:

    On a game show that includes participants choosing a door with the hope of finding the prize, participants will most likely remain with their first choice door instead of switching to another door when offered the chance to switch. 

    Bianco insists that most would remain with their first choice, even if encouraged to switch because of an increased mathematical probability of success.

    People are more likely to trust their first instinct and follow their gut, often making change difficult.  Bianco related this to global warming, saying how a change in lifestyle is necessary to counter act this problem, but extremely difficult.  As a result, persuading people to believe in global warming is also problematic.   The doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere produces about an increase of 1o F change in the climate.  Although one degree (Fahrenheit?) does not pose horrific consequences, Bianco warned that a two or three degree raise is the beginning of dangerous territory.

    Both Shaw and Bianco clearly advocated for a change in lifestyle to accept the scientifically proven facts.  The attendance at the panel presentation proves that there are people who are willing to listen and to learn the science—rusting in choosing “the other door” might be the start of a brighter day in the reversal of not just the public’s opinion of global warming, but also their stances on other significant policy issues.

  • “Farm to Table” Panel Discussion Kicks Off Pell Center’s Spring 2015 Lecture Series

    The Pell Center’s opening panel discussion for the 2015 Spring Lecture Series, “Farm to Table: Farming, Food Production and Their Consequences,” emphasized how all American citizens are involved in the national food system and offered several different perspectives as to why its important for the public to be more aware of their choices, and their impacts, when it comes to food. Regardless of the various dietary restrictions Americans abide by–vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, or none–every citizen is a stakeholder in the American food system.

    Dr. Joseph Grady, Senior Fellow for Public Policy



    Before introducing the panelists, Senior Fellow for Public Policy Dr. Joseph Grady provided a background on the six components of the food system–production, processing, distribution/transportation, preparation, consumption and waste return. In turn, Dr. Grady explained how this elaborate system affects areas such as health, climate, communities, economy and the environment.



    The first speaker, Dr. Jameson Chace, Associate Professor in the Department of Biology and Biomedical Sciences at Salve Regina University, posed the challenge of food to the audience.  He mentioned the growing population and the evident need for a growing food supply.  According to Dr. Chace, agriculture has a great effect on the land, and the growing need for food naturally requires more land space to grow this food.  The amount of land needed to supply a population with food often is not available.  This creates the challenge of producing more food in smaller spaces.  Chace also mentioned a concerning and surprising statistic—that Rhode Island only grows one to two percent of its food.  As a result, almost all of Rhode Island’s food must be transported from other areas of the country and the world.

    Dr. Chace described his idea of the “Three Ps”: People, Policy, and Paradigm. The first “P,” “People,” asks the question, where do people spend their money?  Ideally, every dollar spent on food would go to farmers markets, local food, organic food, and humanly produced food products.  These options most always cost more than big company food products, thus, people spend money on the cheaper option and problems within the food system continue.  The second “P,” “Policy,” takes on a similar problem.  Tax dollars fund big companies, allowing them to continue producing food.  Farms and smaller, more local companies receive little to no funding and struggle to financially continue.  The third “P” encourages awareness of the workings of the food system and its affect, and is “paradigm.”  Dr. Chace warned the audience that “we must be mindful of our carbon footprint when it comes to the environment.”


    Courtney Bourns, Henry P. Kendall Foundation


    The lecture continued on with Courtney Bourns, Senior Program Officer for the Henry P. Kendall Foundation in Boston, M.A.  Bourns reiterated the foundation’s concerns: conservation, climate change, and food systems in New England.  The foundation’s goal is for New England to produce fifty percent of its food, a lofty goal considering that New England only produces seven to ten percent currently.  Bourns mentioned that New England’s current state of food production is problematic because it “leaves us vulnerable.”  In order to fix the problem, Bourns said that farms must become like thriving businesses, and six million acres of land in New England must become farm land.  In order for this to happen, our current food system must change.  Bourns mentioned how people must first dedicate more money to food, and to better food.

    Chuck Allott, Aquidneck Land Trust

    Focusing more on land usage and farms, speaker Chuck Allott, Executive Director of the Aquidneck Land Trust discussed the historical and current zoning system, and its effect on the food system.  The zoning system dictates areas of land as purely residential, industrial, school, or farms, etc.  Since the 1940s, eighty percent of what used to be farm land is no longer farm land and is now homes or schools.  Allott suggested a solution that would aid in the Henry P. Kendall Foundation’s goal of six million acres of farm land presented by Courtney Bourns: mixed uses in zoning districts.  Allott proposed that if school zones and residential areas, for example, could include farms, there would inevitably be more farms.  This proposal speaks personally to the final speaker, a Vermont farmer.


    Chuck Wooster, Sunrise Farm


    The final speaker, Chuck Wooster, a farmer from Vermont, pointed out that there are more farms in New England now than there have been in the past half century.  Wooster’s farm, Sunrise Farm, has been a farm since the 1800s, but has been within his possession since the 1990s.  The farm grows vegetables and supplies lamb, chicken, pork, maple syrup, logs, and biomass chips.  Wooster discussed modern farming and how farms benefit communities.  Sunrise Farm is a community supplied agriculture (CSA) farm, meaning that it allows people to receive fresh food directly from the farm through a “farm share” type of program.  The farm uses Hoop Houses and Row Covers, which cover the crops and protect them from bugs and weather.  The farm also has electric fences to protect the animals against predators.  In accordance with all that the previous speakers discussed about food production and farming, Wooster and his farm exemplify a part of the solution to the many challenges within the food system.