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2023 University Theme: Caring for our Common Home - A reflection on building a sustainable future

The grand challenge of our generation is deeply rooted and interconnected in the social and ecological crises affecting our world. There are rising levels of inequality in our societies, extreme poverty, unpredictable weather patterns and food insecurity to mention but some of the pressing problems we experience each passing year. The Africa Development Bank (AfDB) estimates that the effects caused by shifting weather patterns in Africa cause an annual loss of 5%-15% of Africa’s GDP per capita. These challenges are indeed overwhelming, but, they present us an opportunity to transform our world.

In his Encyclical Letter Laudato Si (“Praised Be”), Pope Francis appeals to people from all cultures, races and religious backgrounds to move collectively towards sustainable development, i.e. a development that meets the needs of the present time without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. He says, “The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek sustainable and integral development…. Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home.”

The theme of 2023 challenges us to collectively and individually reflect on our own contributions to support our immediate environment, and the communities we work in and interact with. Where then can we start? Climate activist Greta Thunberg often talks about understanding science. We can immerse ourselves into the global dialogues on climate change such as the deliberations that take place during the annual Conference of Parties (COP), and similarly, strive to understand the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Some in the Strathmore family have already started to raise our awareness. For example, Strathmore’s Environmental Club has, through a number of projects, encouraged staff and students to adopt sustainable ideals. The Club has planted 1000 trees around our campus environment; they ran the Bring Your Own Bottle’ campaign on social media to discourage the use of plastics, and even organized a single-use to sustainable awareness week to inform Stratizens on negative effects of using plastics on health, the environment, and human rights.

At an individual level, we cannot underestimate the impact of small changes implemented in one’s daily life; e.g. recycling to lessen garbage; carpooling, reduce the use of plastics; opting for energy efficient lightbulbs, using a refillable water bottle, plant a tree in your neighbourhood, or even organize a planting drive.

The 2023 theme seeks to challenge us in schools and departments to creatively reflect on what each department/individual/family can do in caring for our common home under our strategic pillars. Some examples:

 

Teaching and Learning

Transformative Student experience

Transformative Staff experience

Service to Society

Subject curricula can be more deliberate to increase awareness of caring for our common home. E.g. including sustainability topics within taught courses. Community activities ran by student clubs can be selected if they touch on sustainability.  E.g. debates, donations, visits to the less privileged, no littering etc. SU departments can adopt one aspect of sustainability e.g.  bring your own water bottle, walk to work day – where practical etc. From the many communities supported by the activities of Strathmore’s Community Service, more students and staff can get involved in such activities E.g. mentoring young people.
Research conducted by staff and students can address pertinent and diverse issues on sustainability themes e.g. food security, inequality, etc. When choosing where to carry out SBL, one can deliberately choose an organisation working actively in contributing to sustainability e.g. social enterprises Staff can choose an aspect of sustainability as their departmental focus e.g. – zero printing of documents (where possible) Initiatives such as cleaning the Madaraka environment would benefit from more students and staff participating in them

 

Dr. Vincent Ogutu,

Vice-Chancellor,

Strathmore University.

Past Themes