Strathmore University Community recently held a Symposium to analyse and synthesize the message of Pope Francis’ encyclical, ‘Laudato Si’. This encyclical, which many readers have thought to be a departure from his pastoral role; Pope Francis has hinged its core message for man to care for the environment on the creation story and highlights man’s responsibility to ‘ cultivate and keep’ the earth for the future generations. The Symposium’s sessions sought to address the theological, anthropological and legal aspects of the encyclical ‘Laudato Si’.
The Symposium was a good occasion to not only bring together students and staff but also to reflect on the role the University plays in ensuring that environmental sustainability is taught, practiced and lived. While giving opening remarks, the Pro-Chancellor of Strathmore University, Dr. Rev. Silvano Ochuodho, thanked the University management for the initiative of bringing the Holy Father’s writings closer to the University community. He emphasized that caring for the environment is a duty for all mankind and not just environmentalists, while challenging the institution to inculcate this message to its graduates for the common good and society.
Fr. Kinuthia Kinyanjui, an alumnus of the first BBIT class of Strathmore University, gave a theological view of the encyclical and explained that taking care of the environment is a deeply religious duty since man was given mandate to care for creation. Quoting from Pope Francis, Fr. Kinuthia said, ‘Take care of creation, if we do not, it will destroy us’, while emphasizing that man is interconnected with nature and is in constant interaction with it.
Dr. Catherine Dean, in charge of Learning & Teaching in the University gave an anthropological view of the encyclical. She explained that indeed man must change the technocratic paradigm of ‘having absolute power to do as he wishes with the environment’ since this led to the crisis now present in society. She emphasized the view of Pope Francis that man ‘must change his lifestyle and assess the impact of his lifestyle on the world around him’.
On the legal implications of the encyclical, adjunct faculty from SLS Mr. Charles Kanjama, delved into provisions of law in the conservation and management of the environment, highlighting that much as the legal frameworks are in place, the enforceability of laws in actual practice is wanting. Kanjama in his recommendations advocated for a new legal and cultural approach to handling matters that have to do with the common good, as this would rally for more accountability.
Deputy Vice Chancellor & Director of Strathmore Energy Research Centre, Prof Izael Da Silva in his presentation highlighted steps the University has taken in ensuring that matters of environmental sustainability are adhered to. To begin with, the University has a policy on environmental sustainability, and students have formed the Strathmore Environment Club to ensure students involvement in some way on matters environment.
Secondly, during the recent infrastructural expansion, the institution has considered construction of buildings to incorporate environmental friendly designs as seen with Students Centre Building, Strathmore Business School Building & MSB. Furthermore the 600 KW solar installation project to generate solar energy for the campus and sell surplus energy to the grid has indeed saved the institution in electricity bills whilst conserving the environment.
The Symposium was as exciting as it was full of learning with the Q&A session with panelists Prof. Da Silva, Mr. Kanjama, and Dr. Dean answering questions from the audience, and group discussions to deliberate on way the forward. This event was graciously sponsored by Strathmore Energy Research Centre.