Rongo University College is one of the public universities in Homabay County. It offers diversified courses inclusive of environmental studies. Many young people do not understand the implications of environmental studies to the needs and interests of their local communities. Environmental problems have become increasingly difficult to understand and evaluate due to evolving social and technological systems like human settlement systems as well as changes in production and consumption mechanisms. During a workshop with young Catholic Christians at Rongo Parish, CYNESA members were invited by one of the student leaders, Alphonse Muia to give a talk on religious perspective of environmental education based on the encyclical Laudato Si.
The theme of the workshop was Integration of Social-Ecological Issues and Religious Teachings, particularly the Catholic social teachings. Young people should be empowered to represent vulnerable members of the community in environmental issues and establish capacity to develop a sustainable response to current social-ecological injustices.
Professor Peter Kisinyo: Dean, School of Agriculture, Natural Resources & Environmental Studies was invited by the student leader to give an introductory speech. Talking to the students he emphasized on the critical environmental problems affecting the daily lives of each person living on this planet. Speaking on issues of climate change he pointed out the local environmental changes that had taken place in the recent past especially within the locality of the institution like deforestation that results to the destruction of water catchment areas, and plastic pollution especially along the water channels. He also mentioned the ongoing projects and the numerous opportunities young people have to develop a climate resilient community.
A brief introduction about CYNESA was presented by CYNESA Board member Miss Hellen Mugo, including its history and objectives. She discussed the need for young people to engage in sustainable environmental projects and commit to simple daily routines of conserving the available basic resources like water and energy.
In his opening remarks, the Programs Manager of CYNESA, Mr. David Munene said, ‘As young people of the current generation, we are the world, we are the resources, we are nature, and we are the life that nature lives upon’. A major part of a civil society is made up of the youth who are capable of developing integrated response models to environmental tragedies as the Holy Father says in his encyclical, ‘Young people have a new ecological sensitivity and a generous spirit, and some of them are making admirable efforts to protect the environment’ [Laudato Si 209].
Fr. Charles Odira from the Catholic University of East Africa focused on simplicity as a common value upon which the lifestyle of every faith community is based. He said that global change from social-ecological problems highly depends on individuals change in attitude towards ecological resources as well as social relations and identification. Therefore the current generation needs to understand that the earth’s natural resources are not inherited from the ancestors, but are borrowed for future generations.
Intern, CYNESA Secretariat, Nairobi, Kenya.