Transformative education and social engagement have great synergy

How we manage our natural resources on this planet, and do so in an inclusive way, is the challenge of present and coming generations.  A three-day conference on Transformative Land and Water Governance held in the Philippines in May sought to address this challenge.

The conference discussed the importance of scientific methods and the critical challenge of addressing human and environmental needs, the questions of sustainability, vulnerability and risk.  This clearly engages the values and capacities of the youth today and their perception, which is diminishing with increasing youth unemployment. The learnings and experiences of different stakeholders to transform land and water governance were highlighted, emphasizing the need for values along with science in addressing the concerns in our environment.

The conference, which was held from May 21 to 23, drew 100 participants.  It builds on previous conferences co-organized by the Jesuit institutions Ateneo de Davao University, Ateneo de Cagayan-Xavier University, University of Namur, Gembloux Agro Tech and Environmental Science for Social Change talking through topics related to vulnerability to resilience, migration and soil fertility assessment.

There was considerable Jesuit presence, with representatives from Environmental Science for Social Change, Manila Observatory, Ateneo de Davao University, Ateneo de Cagayan-Xavier University, Loyola House of Studies, Arrupe International Residence (Philippines); University of Namur (Belgium); St Xavier’s College Kolkata (India); Jesuit Social Services (Australia); Jesuit Province Australia; Jesuit Social Services (Timor Leste); Jesuit Service (Cambodia); Jesuit Refugees Service (Indonesia); Social Apostolate-Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific; and  Jesuit European Social Service (Brussels, Belgium)).

Andreas Carlgren, former Environment Minister of Sweden and now with the Newman Institute, the first Jesuit University in Sweden, was the keynote speaker.  He presented facts showing the impact of humanity on earth such as rising temperatures, and species of plants and animals becoming extinct at least 1,000 times faster than they did before humans arrived on the scene, putting the world on the brink of a sixth great extinction.  Mr Carlgren said we are heading towards a global population of nine billion with six billion living in industrial conditions, giving a new situation to our earth. He emphasised the need to face reality and build a system that can evolve and adapt rapidly.

Professors Sabine Henry and Jean-Marie Baland of University of Namur are seeking with the assistance the Commission Universitaire pour le Devéloppement, Belgium, to study migration and vulnerability, and the susceptibility of small farmers to agribusiness and the impact on sustainability. The University of Namur, a Jesuit University in Belgium has been engaging in transformative research and science with Jesuit institutions in the Philippines for nearly two decades.

Fr Pedro Walpole SJ, Coordinator for Reconciliation with Creation for the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific synthesized the engagement saying, “We are not always sure how things are going to the work out. All the more we need systems. These systems have to remain deeply human, deeply appreciative of the human condition. Values are important in defining sustainability. Sometimes the works become too much, which often dilute their meaning. The challenge is to give our work and engagement new meaning that also gives us hope. We need to sharpen our methodology in context with people who are not scientists; a science that works for the people for greater human development.”

This dialogue is an initial step for the Global Ignatian Advocacy Network (GIAN) Ecology group as they prepare for the Stockholm Water Dialogue in September 2015.