The clock strikes noon. I’m walking along a pavement sprinkled with lush greenery and carefully placed blocks of stone and tiny lamps. I pass by a building covered with vines from top to bottom—a commune with nature I rarely see in city buildings. Within a hallway, I’m led to a bigger space with shoots of bamboo dangling from the ceiling. Towards the corner, a mural depicting Mother Nature’s beauty and charm captivates my eyes. When finally reaching my destination, I’m greeted by smiles and welcoming hands as we begin the day’s activities.
I was fortunate to co-facilitate a workshop with MakeSense Philippines in Foundation University, Dumaguete City that teaches college and senior high school students how to create their own social initiatives. After the workshop, the students had brilliant ideas on plastic waste solutions, solid waste management, and solving unintended teen pregnancy, among many others.
The workshop also came in at the right time for the students as they are beginning to be more aware and proactive with the issues facing their local communities. As Dumaguete City becomes more urbanized, they experience the same issues as other cities, ranging from air pollution to the improper disposal of plastic and other wastes.
The role of schools
One thing I learned in the workshop was that schools should be among the forefront of providing opportunities to the youth to engage in social initiatives. These are not only limited to community engagement requirements, but also to the core curriculum and basic classroom activities.
When speaking with the youth of today, I can confidently say that they are more aware and creative than any of the previous generations. Schools just have to give them the chance and the right environment to unleash their creative potential—not just their academic aptitude.
Gone are the days of pure classroom instruction, paperwork, or recitation—the youth of today need to move, and they need to be taught how to move fast. It is not enough anymore that schools teach the youth how to articulate themselves and engage in intellectual discourse. In the world of forms that we live in, action and engagement reign supreme.
The youth and tomorrow
The protection and restoration of the environment is the defining issue of today’s generation. Across the world, the youth are getting more and more involved with movements going against inaction and passivity on environmental issues. The likes of Autumn Peltier, Isra Hirsi, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, and Greta Thunberg—all youth below 20 years of age—have already jump-started global movements of their own. They are inspiring the youth like me to create ripples of positive change, wherever we are and however simple or complex it may be. No one is ever too small to make a difference.
In FU, the youth have the same sentiments. They hunger for change and they want it fast. They are taking matters into their own hands and are starting to create initiatives in their local communities. One group of students I talked to wanted to create a machine that would recycle plastic bottles as well as incentivize with cash those who donate the plastic bottles. Initiatives like these are something that schools need to support—and it needs to be done fast. The students need to be exposed and engaged with the innovation ecosystem within their local communities and beyond.
I recently watched a documentary by social and economic theorist Jeremy Rifkin where he says that the world is now entering a state of ‘biosphere consciousness’ or simply put, a spike in the increase of environmental awareness across the world.
If schools—among many other actors in the ecosystem—could provide more opportunities for students to engage with this changing world order, then we can have better chances of supporting and advancing it.
One way this can be done is by teaching the youth how to create their own social initiatives. It does not have to be only for the environment, because when we refer to the planet’s biosphere, everything under it is involved, from politics, culture, economics, and technology, to name a few.
While the clock is ticking for the environment, together we will need to move faster than ever. Schools and the youth are among the pedestals for such change.
This article was originally published in Manila Standard – Green Light.