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A SOJOURNER’S VIEW: Walking the Ecological Talk: Challenge to Youth of Davao City


DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 23 September) — A number of slogans came to mind if one found his/her way to the third floor of the Parish Pastoral Council inside the Redemptorist Compound along J. P. Laurel St., Bajada, Davao City last Saturday and Sunday, September 17-18, 1922.  These include: “Walk the Talk”, “Think Globally, but Act Locally”; “The Future is Now!”; and Youth – Hope of the Motherland!”
The two-day event dubbed KAWSA 2022 had the theme Panaghiusa sa mga Kabatan-onan Amoma sa Kinaiyahan (Unity of the Youth To Protect the Environment) and was organized through the auspices of the Paglaum Ecology Network (PEN), a network of environmentalists based in Davao City constituted by a number of religious congregations, Catholic schools, parishes, youth groups and NGOs with full backing from the Davao Sustainable Movement (including the Interfacing Development Initiatives for Sustainability or IDIS)..
Fifty youth leaders representing public high schools in the Buhangin District, Brokenshire College, Assumption College of Davao, Assumption Polytechnic College of Southern Mindanao, Ateneo de Davao University, John Paul College, University of Southeastern Philippines and Davao City National High School participated in this two-day event. They were chosen on the basis of potential leadership skills that could be mobilized for ecological engagements.
Walk the ecological talk was perhaps the theme that opened up the discursive sessions of this event. In his Welcome Address and Opening Talk, this writer, convenor of PEN, commended the youth for taking time out to participate in these study-workshop sessions. Even if it assumes that some of them still needed to be more familiar with the discourse of ecological engagement owing to the urgency of responding to the challenges of global warming and climate change, he emphasized that the two-day event aimed at empowering them towards participating in concrete action specific to the role of the millennials and Gen-Z generations.
To lead them towards being convinced that they play a very important role in advancing Davao City’s ecological movement – that had began as a nascent movement only after the beginning of the present millennium – but which has considerably advanced in the last two decades owing to the heroic efforts of civil society organizations, various topics were discussed. These were the most urgent environmental problems faced by the citizenry of this city who have been affected by the repercussions of climate change and could even face worse climactic scenarios in the future if left unchecked.
After the writer’s talk on the impact o “COVID-19 on the Youth and the Environment” to provide an overall profile of the current situation faced by the youth in the context of the pandemic and the degradation of our environment, the following issues were then tackled with their respective resource persons. These were: The Waste-to-Energy Incinerator Project (by Jill Banta of the EcoWaste Coalition), On the Watershed Issue of the city (Jhoanna Alilin of IDIS), Bantay Bukid (Peter Mangandam of Bantay Bukid Program via IDIS), the Tampakan Mining case (Atty. Romeo Cabarde, Jr. of APILA), Impact of the Planned Davao-Samal Bridge on Marine Life and Ecosystem (Dr. John Lacson of theSave Paradise Reef ), and Environment Policy Advocacy (Atty. Mark Peňalver of IDIS).
To make sure that the discussions lead to concrete possible actions in the future, there were workshops soliciting the participants’ suggestions on how concretely they can act locally and walk the talk! One immediate follow-up of this Youth Congress as presented by PEN’s Executive Secretary, Christian Lloyd Espinoza, is a training workshop in short video productions that can easily be posted in social media platforms such as YouTube, FaceBook and Tiktok. Like many other youth ecological activists across the globe, it is through social media that consciousness raising can be done with millennials Gen-Z generations if there are climate activists organizing and mobilizing online in the name of a cleaner, healthier future.

This will hopefully be a joint program of IDIS and PEN with the technical assistance of Mr Jon Traya of BauHuas Davao.
As well as online engagement, Youth Congress organizers hope to instill in the minds of each participant that each one of them can play a role in their own homes and communities to reverse climate change, like urban gardening, planting tress collecting recyclables and avoiding the use of plastic bags and bottles). Collectively as a group along with other youth groups they can be mobilized for local cleanups of our public spaces, be more engaged in looking after the issue of the watershed, lobbying against LGU policies and programs that run counter to ecological protection e.g. the incinerator and mining issues.
In the last so many years, the ecological movement has produced high-profile youth leaders who have the capacity to challenge oligarchic capitalist firms (who are the culprit in the continuing increase in carbon emissions with the endless use of fossil fuels) backed up by State agencies easily corrupted by the greed of these firms. At venues such as the World Economic Forum and the yearly UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland UK  in November 2021. a number of them hit the headlines with their pronouncements.
The one youth activist who has captured the world’s imagination is none other than Sweden’s Greta Thunberg. Time and again, in her public speeches, she castigated the adult world that had caused global warming and climate change: Her words: “You lied to us. You gave us false hope. You told us that the future was something to look forward to. And the saddest thing is that most children are not even aware of the fate that awaits us. We will not understand it until it’s too late. And yet we are the lucky ones. Those who will be affected the hardest are already suffering the consequences. But their voices are not heard.”
She then made this challenge to the world leaders: “Adults keep saying: We owe it to the young people to give them hope.” But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire.”
Her powerful voice has been reverberating across the globe leading to more youth activists joining her in this Crusade. Some of the known ones include Sagarika Sriram of Dubai who founded Kids for a Better World, a digital platform that has since brought together nearly 100,000 youths from around the world who want to learn how they, too, can fight climate change. As well as online engagements, Sriram organizes local cleanups on beaches and deserts in the United Arab Emirates, collecting garbage. Nearer to us in the island of Bali Melati Wijsen, pressure government leaders to ban plastic bags. And there are hundreds of examples throughout the planet, showing how the youth are showing the adults that they do care about their future.
The closing ceremonies of the Youth Ecological Congress in the last session of Sunday, September 18, manifested the depth of the participants’ learning and commitment to be engaged in concrete action, through creative outputs. In small groups – even in such a short time – they were able to produce works of art that express their desire to become eco-warriors. Those who joined the closing sessions included members Sr. Flora Secuya m.a., Sr. Cora Torollo m.a.,  Aldrin Dais and Atty. Palaver. There was a lot of singing and cheering, posters with rich symbols were exhibited, poems read with passion, and comical skits to entertain the crowd but clearly with ecological messages.
As a symbolic expression of their desire for a continuing ecological engagements with Davao City’s major environmental issues, they wrote messages on a white board signifying their dreams and wishes for the future while stamping the cloth with a print of their hands covered by multi-colored paint. One message stands out – ‘PADAYON! MGA BATAN-ON, PAGLAUM SA PAG-AMOMA SA KINAIYAHAN!” (Move Forward: Youth – Hope for the Protection of our Environment!)

[MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Redemptorist Brother Karl Gaspar is a professor at St. Alphonsus Theological and Mission Institute in Davao City and until recently, a professor of Anthropology at the Ateneo de Davao University. Gaspar is Mindanao’s most prolific book author. He writes two columns for MindaNews, one in English (A Sojourner’s Views) and the other in Binisaya (Panaw-Lantaw). He is a Datu Bago awardee, the highest honor the Davao City government bestows on its constituents.]

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