Rachel Belvedere ’20, Environmental Studies

Posted on July 24th, 2017 by

Environmental science has been part of Rachel Belvedere’s life since long before college. When she was growing up, her parents instilled in her the need to “be conscious of the environment” through recycling and other household actions. Additionally, her environmental conscientiousness has been influenced by her brother, who is currently studying geology and environmental studies in Duluth, Minnesota. Rachel remembers listening, and being intrigued, when her brother would tell her about the environment-related classes he was taking in high school. She believes that being surrounded by family who are passionate about the environment has helped her discover that same passion in herself, which led her to pursue environmental studies at Gustavus.

Rachel hopes to “make a change for climate justice” through pursuing environmental studies. She’s currently working with the Climate Justice Coalition on campus, made up of faculty and students, to help create local and national change. Rachel doesn’t know exactly what career she’ll end up with after college, but she wants to continue to work for change and for climate justice. She thinks that a big part of helping the environment is to educate people on how their actions affect the world around them. Rachel is Christian, and her faith informs her concern about other people. She says that she “tries to see everyone and everything in a positive light, because there is good in all situations even though there are big challenges, both in this world and in individual lives”, and believes that the most important message she gets from her faith is the importance of love. Rachel is also very energetic, and wants to “do things!” and get involved to make a difference. Her strengths overlap in many ways with her deep concern for climate justice.

There are many people who Rachel considers extremely influential in her life. In addition to helping her become interested in the environment, she says that her family raised her “with love and respect”, which she highly values. Her church leader from her hometown is also a role model for Rachel. She says that seeing how her church leader “lives out her faith in her life” and “how kind and loving she is” helps inspire her to emulate those qualities. While there are many more people who have impacted Rachel’s life, another big one is her aunt. Rachel’s aunt is very active in the business world, and Rachel says that “recently we’ve been able to connect on more adult issues and topics”. This relationship with her aunt has helped inspire Rachel to have goals and work to achieve them.

Belief in the severity of climate change is common in the environmental studies discipline. Rachel describes the way that humans are treating the Earth as “biting the hand that feeds you”, and unsustainable and irrational. She says that this is a core teaching in her discipline. Additionally, Rachel believes that there are steps we can and should be taking to take care of the Earth and the living things on it is very important in environmental studies, and she hopes to be able to communicate this message to people. Her interest in environmental studies and climate justice is rooted in her love and concern for the world and its inhabitants.

Rachel’s faith informs her passion in environmental science. She’s been reading Pope Francis’s encyclical on climate change and equality, and she says it’s been very powerful “to see a huge religious figure speaking directly about our society and how our practices are harming our common home”. Rachel thinks that there is a widespread belief that religion is completely human-centered, or that “humans are superior to the rest of creation”, but she doesn’t agree with this view. Instead, she believes that we are called “to be stewards of the Earth and to use our talents and gifts in positive ways”. Rachel doesn’t believe that science can necessarily explain all faith-related questions, but she does interpret biblical teachings in ways that allow her to be confident in scientific knowledge while still religious. Her faith encourages her to respect all living beings, and because of this her faith encourages her to pursue climate justice.

While Rachel is still trying to figure out what she is specifically called to do, she is confident that her faith “fuels my passion for the environment”. Rachel sees climate change and its effects as an injustice and “something I want to make right”, and believes that she is called to take action because of the values of “love and caring for other life” that her religion teaches her. She says that her drive to help achieve climate justice is deeply influenced by her faith. Rachel’s story is one of personal faith enormously impacting her calling and vocation in environmental studies.


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