29 September 2022

AUN-EEC Conference 2022 “Ecological Education and Culture: Looking Back, Looking Forward”

AUN Writer Team

By: Alexia Anne Suñaz, AUN Intern

The conference entitled “Ecological Education and Culture: Looking Back, Looking Forward” intended to bring together experts from all over ASEAN universities to elucidate discourses on sustainable practices, ecological education, and youth advocacy on climate justice toward the ‘new normal’. The ASEAN University Network on Ecological Education and Culture (AUN-EEC), together with Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) and the University of the Philippine Diliman (UPD), spearheaded the AUN-EEC annual conference via Zoom from 14 to 15 of September 2022. Participants later self-reflected on their ethos, heritage, and relationship with the earth. This compelled them to alter their philosophical perspectives and hone the capacities of educational systems to create viable strategies and pedagogies for contextualizing ecological conscience in learning spaces.

The first day started with the invocation of Bro. Carlo Lacing, S.J, on the 2022 Season of Creation prayer, followed by the welcome remarks of the AUN Executive Director Dr. Choltis Dhirathiti, who appreciated the cross-border project of the organizers this year with gratefulness for harmonizing ASEAN’s goals of togetherness and commitment to changing the region’s sense of ecological attitude even during the pandemic. Afterwards, ADMU University President Fr. Roberto Yap, S.J, gave his opening statement about the current position of human living and the role of Lux in Domino to cultivate the culture of stewardship among youth in using opportunities like this conference to innovate and make a difference tomorrow. UPD Prof. Jeanette Yasol-Naval (Department of Philosophy) gave a lecture on the topic “Looking Back: Sustainable Indigenous Beliefs and Practices.” Her presentation uniquely taps the conceptual underpinnings of indigenous history and cultural ecology by emphasizing the contributions of traditional beliefs and practices to sustainability. The narration of her childhood in Nueva Ecija’s rice paddies and intimate knowledge of supernatural creatures (i.e., Kapre, Nuno sa Punso, and Tikbalang) molded her susceptibilities to environmental conservation, which she believes may also evoke compassion and interest from others.

The first-panel discussion under “Sustainable Practices: Tapping into our History” was presented by the following speakers: 

  • Dr. Sharina Abdul Halim (Deputy Director, The Institute for Environment and Development, National University of Malaysia)
  • Prof. Emeritus Fernando N. Zialcita (Department of Sociology and Anthropology, ADMU)
  • Hon. Teodoro B. Baguilat (Angat Kalikasan and Indigenous People’s and Community Conserved Areas and Territories Consortium)
  • Assoc. Prof. Dr. Zainal Abidin Sanusi (Director, Sejahtera Centre for Sustainability and Humanity, International Islamic University Malaysia) 

Dr. Halim talked about how Geoparks in Southeast Asia tried to manifest the Sustainable Development Goals 11.4 on a bottom-up approach. Prof. Emeritus Zialcita forwarded a call to change lifestyles to employ a ‘just enough value’ in preferences for fast fashion, beef addiction, and air conditioning, among others. Dr. Sanusi discussed the essence and implications of Sejahtera, which strikes a well-balanced method for sharing human heritage and addressing issues for peace and prosperity. Hon. Baguilat shared the role of indigenous knowledge on sustainability as exemplified in the Ifugao biodiversity conservation practice, known as the Muyong System.

The second-panel discussion on “Looking Back at University Best Practices-Sustainability during the Time of COVID-19” consisted of:

  • Prof. Leong Choon Heng (Deputy Director, The Jeffrey Sachs Center on Sustainable Development)
  • Arch. Sadaf Ansari (Senior Lecturer, Ridge View Residential College, National University of Singapore)
  • Assist. Prof. Dr. Vorapat Inkarojrit (Assistant to the President for Special Affairs, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand). 

All attempted to answer the question: what sustainable practices worked during the height of the pandemic, and which of these can we continue to use moving forward? Dr. Heng explained Mission 4.7 in 2020, wherein his findings support curriculum delivery, teacher professional development, and the whole school approach. Arch. Ansari’s presentation preferred nudging urban youth to connect with ecology through immersive experiences and flexible learning concepts, while Asst. Prof. Inkarojrit presented the Chula Change Leader. UPD Chancellor Dr. Fidel Nemenzo gave the closing remarks, wherein he mentioned the 2018 Biodiversity Handbook as a lesson for people and cultures to be more involved in the environment before thanking all the plenary attendees.

This was then followed by three parallel sessions:

  • Workshop #1 My Climate Risk
  • Research Paper Presentations #1: Best Practices in Ecological Education and Culture Part 1
  • Research Paper Presentations #2: Promoting Ecological Education Among the Youth

The EarthEd P.H. and My Climate Risk Hub of ADMU hosted the afternoon workshop as participants had role-playing activities as leaders from Developed Nations, Rapidly Emerging Nations, and Developing Nations. All aimed at reaching a consensus on reducing carbon emissions from 2.5 degree-Celcius to 1.5 using the En-Road Online Simulation tool. The Day-1 event concluded with a realization from Louie Parungao from Miriam College that all sectors must take action to achieve net zero, considering that the three groups only reduced carbon emissions to +2.9o, +2.6 o, and +3.2o, respectively, in the activity.

On September 15, Bro. Chesco Labuntog, S.J led the invocation, while Dr. Maria Luz Vilches (Vice President for the Loyola Schools, ADMU) gave her welcome remarks. Accordingly, Dr. Maria Cynthia Banzon Bautista (the Vice President for Academic Affairs,  ADMU) took over the opening remarks as she spoke on a Laudato Si patterned thinking and nudging the adult’s conscience to change people’s minds. Then, Dr. Nikki Carsi Cruz facilitated the photo session and gave the audience a quick summary of what occurred on the first day before proceeding to the conference overview. The keynote speakers, Mr. Andrew Freiband, Prof. Adriene Jenik, and Prof. Emeritus Michael Tan, enlightened the meeting goers with insights on responding to climate emergency using art revolution and curricula configurations to reverse the flow of knowledge and wisdom possessed by the youth. Both Mr. Freiband and Prof. Jenik discussed Turn It Around as a learning tool that mediates art and environmental advocacy among youth, whose overall purpose was to bridge connections and change how people engage others to be leaders. Prof. Emeritus Tan shared his experiences teaching climate justice and social inequity at Guang Ming College. He took it as an inspiration for educators to appropriate the context of environmental education in their curriculum, mainstream discourse on climate emergency through the accommodation of multiple stories, and shy away from unrealistic beautification solutions and projects.

The third-panel discussion had the theme “Strategies Toward More Sustainable Behavior in the Context of the New Normal.” It consisted of: 

  • Ms. Jenica Dizon (Country Director, Waves for Water)
  • Mr. Rodne Galicha (Executive Director, Living Laudato Si Philippines)
  • Dr. Maxine Mowe (Lecturer, Department of the Biological Sciences National University of Singapore)

To answer the question, “how can we promote sustainability to our circles and the greater community as we face what appears to be the tail-end of the pandemic?”, Ms. Dizon gave a virtual presentation on the mission and initiative of the NGO Waves for water, which focused on bringing clean water to far-off communities and empowering them to be self-sufficient. Mr. Galicha, on the other hand, differentiated the values and aspirations of Laudato Si and the U.N Sustainable Development Goals, which he advocated the former producing a more holistic pathway to addressing climate emergency. Dr. Mowe presented a possibility for educational institutions to explore and experiment with close-nature field trips as part of a student’s practical learning while also venturing into various assignment types that are fun, engaging, and creative. After the brief question-and-answer on getting youth out of the field, the AUN-EEC Executive Director, Dr. Maria Assunta Cuyegkeng, ended the morning session with a closing remark appreciating the speakers for their proficiency and seeing hope for people to behave sustainably in the post-pandemic.
For the afternoon session, the attendees had the opportunity to choose which among the three parallel sessions to join:

  • Workshop #2: Turn It Around Project
  • Research Paper #3: Best Practices in Ecological Education and Culture Part 2
  • Research Paper #4: Intersectionality of Ecological Education and Ecospirituality

The two-day conference concluded with the afternoon workshop on Turn It Around, with Ms. Saiarchana Darira expounding on the flashcards’ aesthetics, which details the power of art and media in opening new eyes and invoking human emotions to cultivate the needed motivations for transformation and policy changes. Through a series of exercises like movement, art perceptions, and fortune telling, participants successfully connected to their inner world as they grappled with the message behind artworks and their position in a global society full of youth searching for their voice and leadership. Entries sent by artists as young as six years old instilled in everyone their focality on shifting existing knowledge and practices to advance inventive actions beyond traditional advocacies. Lastly, all participants parted with immense optimism about disclosing their discernments to their institutions and communities as they share the same sentiment as Dr. Cuyegkeng’s closing remark.