By Kparobo Ehvwubare-Lagos
Network of Young Catholic Carers for the Environment in Nigeria (NYCCEN) in collaboration with the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) commemorated 2020 World Environment Day (WED) and 5th anniversary of ‘Laudato Si’ on Thursday, 11th June 2020 through a webinar.
In her welcome address, Dame Marie Fatayi-Williams, NYCCEN Initiator, expressed displeasure at the rate humans activities continue to pose great threat to the environment. She said “This is a time to be sorry for our cruelty to creation for our plundering and overexploitation of her riches, consumption habits and lifestyle that has led to the loss of biodiversity, pollution, climate change, disease and poverty; making the earth one huge dumpsite which has become an existential threat for all.”
She applauded Pope’s Laudato Si’ initiative which has spurred interest and participation from the youths; especially the plastic recycling to bricks, which will help put money in the hands of the poor and unemployed youths.
His Grace, Most Revd. (Dr). Adewale Martins, Archbishop, Metropolitan See of Lagos and Grand Patron NYCCEN expressed his appreciation in the collaboration between NYCCEN and NCF in mobilizing the teeming youth to care for the environment that is on the verge of collapse.
He said that more than ever before the youth should be engaged to achieve conservation of the environment that nurtures the life of all of creation.
“It will be more encouraging when we see more organisations taking up the challenge to work with the youth to restore what we have lost in the environment just like what NYCCEN and NCF are doing” he urged.
In his presentation titled ‘All Hands on Deck: Building an Inter-faith Youth Movement for the Environment in Nigeria’, the Director General of NCF, Dr. Muhtari Aminu-Kano revealed how NCF engaged Nigerian Youths in 2019 to combat climate change. He said: “In 2019, NCF embarked on a nationwide youth advocacy on climate action which involved over 1000 youths to call on urgent action from government, business, individual etc.”
He said further that youth comprising the secondary school pupils, tertiary students, religious groups and CSOs are constantly being engaged in environmental education, awareness campaign, waste management and beach clean-up exercises, tree planting, recycling & upcycling of plastics waste and many others.
“NCF is developing Youth Action Manual on Climate Change for the youth between ages 5-25yrs to guide their effort.” He added.
Prof. Rosemary Egonmwan, Head, Conservation Unit, Dept. of Zoology, UNILAG in her presentation; ‘Creating Awareness of Nigeria’s Dwindling Biodiversity Among Young Catholics in Nigeria’ stated that robust biodiversity and healthy ecosystems are essential in any country for sustainable development and human well-being. It is therefore very important to conserve biodiversity and use its components in a sustainable manner in order to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
“Apart from serving as a source of inspiration, information, tourism and recreation, Nigeria’s biodiversity also satisfies scientific and educational pursuits.” She added.
She said “Humans have moral and ethical responsibility to care for life on planet earth. Therefore, deliberate loss of biodiversity is an indication that we are not using the planet or our portion of the planet sustainably.”
She concluded that the endemic species such as Ibadan Malimbe, Niger Delta red colobus, Nigeria-Cameroun Chimpanzee and other wildlife will go into extinction if not conserved. This means that the upcoming generations will only see them on the pages of history textbooks and not in reality.
Revd. Fr. Joshtrom Kureethadam, Coordinator, Ecology and creation, Vatican Dicastery for Integral Human Development who shared a 7-year action plan of ‘Laudato Si’ Initiative revealed that actions will commence from families and runs through primary and secondary schools, universities, Catholic churches, hospitals, businesses, farms and religious groups.
“The essence of the action plan is to make communities around the world to be totally sustainable in the spirit of the integral ecology of ‘Laudato Si’. He affirmed.
The Minister of State for Environment, Chief (Mrs.) Sharon Ikeazor remarked that faith–based organisations have an unparalleled reach and mobilization power because of the sheer numbers of their devotees in every corner of Nigeria. She believed that faith-based organisations have enormous potentials to influence national and global policy and tip the scales positively on the global movement that is needed to address environmental challenges.
She added that young people also are socially conscious active agents of change, responsible idealists and well versed in technology to combat environmental crises Nigeria is facing. She said youth activism and engagement can bring about important social and environmental change that could sustain the earth.
“The Federal Ministry of Environment is working, and will continue to work with the youth in our efforts to restore, protect and conserve Mother Nature. Most of our ecological interventions are community based.” She concluded.
NYCCEN was established by catholic youths who are passionate about the environment. They engage other young Catholics in using available means and platforms to campaign for restoration of harmony between man and earth.
‘Laudato Si’ is the second encyclical of Pope Francis that calls all people of the world to take swift and unified global action against consumerism and irresponsible development, environmental degradation and global warming.
Other participants include Rev. Fr. Maduabuchi Leo, Administrator, St. Francis Catholic Secondary School, Idimu, Lagos; Mrs Ngozi Iwere, Trustee, NYCCEN; Mr. Augustine Orji, President, Catholic Youth Organisation of Nigeria (CYON), Ave Maria Parish, Lekki among others.