Environmental Youth Conference (EnviCon) 2023, igniting climate awareness and bold action among youth leaders in some schools in Rizal.

“Everything that exists ceases to be a gift for which we should be thankful,
esteem and cherish, and instead becomes a slave,
prey to any whim of the human mind and its capacities.”
–          Pope Francis in Laudate Deum, 22

To heed the call of Pope Francis to be bolder in our actions in being stewards of our common home, Assumption Antipolo, in collaboration with Forest Foundation Philippines, marked the conclusion of its month-long celebration of the Season of Creation 2023, themed “Let Justice and Peace Flow,” with an empowering Environmental Conference on September 30, 2023.

One hundred seventy-four (174) student leaders of seventeen (17) schools from different private and public high schools in Antipolo City and nearby towns attended the conference. The participants answered this year’s call to join the river of justice and peace and take up climate and ecological justice on the loss of biodiversity.

The conference aimed to foster awareness among participants regarding the current state of our biodiversity.  It gave an opportunity for reflection on the human actions that have contributed to the damages and harm inflicted upon it, as emphasized in Pope Francis’ recent apostolic exhortation, “Laudate Deum.” The exhortation states, “We need to rethink among other things the question of human power, its meaning and its limits. For our power has frenetically increased in a few decades. We have made impressive and awesome technological advances, and we have not realized that at the same time, we have turned into highly dangerous beings, capable of threatening the lives of many beings and our own survival.”  (Laudate Deum, 28)

This message was cascaded throughout the various parts of the talk of the speakers, highlighting the important role of rich biodiversity in our lives, how it affects us, and how we affect it.  The discussions aligned with the United Nation’s Sustainable Goal #13: Climate Action and the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration, with a particular focus on forests.

Harnessing the power of technology, the students were able to listen and engage in the talk of our esteemed speaker, Mr. Mario Soriano, a hydrologist and Princeton University fellow, who discussed the inter-relationship of forests, water, and climate change. They were also amazed at the richness of our forests through the talk of Ms. Cel Tungol, an advocate for Philippine Native Trees enthusiasts. The comprehensive discussions extended through the valuable insights shared by the other speakers from notable organizations.  Ms. Francia Andrea Abe from Masungi Geo Reserve highlighted the importance of the preservation of forests.  Ms. Remelyn Napay of World Wide Fund for Nature shed light on sustainable agriculture practices. Additionally, the government initiatives in protecting the forests and biodiversity of Calabazon Region, presented by DENR Regional Director Nilo Tamoria, opened the eyes of the participants on the different efforts of private groups and our government to protect our environment and combat the far-reaching effects of climate change.

The day ended on a happy and hopeful note. The participants pledged to bring their rich experience of EnviCon 2023 back to their respective schools and engage their schoolmates in concretizing their plans.  To ensure the completion of their projects, a Facebook page has been set up for sharing and collaboration. Another opportunity for the continuation of the rich exchange is an invitation to join PACEM  ECOLOGY YOUTH CAMP 2024 which is set to take place in May.

What an inspiring day! Each segment of the conference was like a fire that fueled the passion and commitment of every student leader present.  Their action plans, the thoughtful questions posed to the speakers, and the insights shared during the round table discussion are testaments to their growing passion as responsible stewards which Mother Earth needs and deserves. Truly, when given the right opportunity and inspiration, the young people of today can be the game changers who will make a win in this seemingly bleak future of our planet.

Written by: 
Khitz Mayuga
EnviCon Core Group Head
Alay Kapwa at Kalikasan Team Leader

Kate Bohol
EnviCon Core Group Member
CLE Team Leader