The Jesuit zeal of spreading knowledge has often been likened to the flickering of a candle. When a candle lights another, it does not diminish its luminosity, on the contrary, it helps dispel the darkness with greater vigor. We Jesuits, have been holding the candles of enlightenment for close to six centuries now, helping mankind to combat ignorance by helping spread the light of knowledge.
I draw on this analogy here, now, for a reason. The reason being that in our long journey as preachers we have seldom met an adversary as strong and as potent as Climate Change – a foe that can be vanquished only through the study of and the espousal of the tenets of Ecology. It is, like they say, the “need of the hour” and it is my honour and pleasure to be here today, as a part of Mankind’s Response to the evils unleashed by the Anthropocene Age.
The study of ecology, therefore, is no necessary evil – to be eaten and digested. The study of Ecology is the raison d’etre – for it is in its knowledge that lie our deliverance.
At St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata, we realised this Cardinal Truth a long time back. And walking the talk, we already generate our own clean energy, practice rainwater harvesting, constantly work towards the reduction of our carbon footprint. We have graduated to being a plastic free campus and encourage the adoption of eco-friendliness through the active usage of jute products. We are quite literally, against conspicuous consumption and instant gratification choosing to be sustainable, eco-friendly and climate neutral.
The SXC Earth Summit too has been our conscious endeavor towards this end. It has been the litmus that has turned many a young and impressionable mind in its earlier chapters and I am extremely happy with the way it has evolved into what it is today. Thanks to it, to a very great extent, Xaverians at least, take a lot of pride as they “go green” – whatever its medieval connotations may have been.
The greatest achievement of the Earth Summits has been its contribution in taking ecology from out of the text books and helping our students embrace it in the truest spirit. Its success has been in converting ecology from being an afterthought to making it central in all our actions, a life force of sustenance.
And it is here that I must underscore the need to drastically rethink the way we create our curriculum – instead to relegating ecology to being just another subject that students must take to reach the goal of their coveted degrees, we must make ecology the fulcrum around which the entire process of knowledge dissemination will work.
Yes I am talking about the:
- science behind ecology,
- costing / accounting of sustainability,
- economics of environmentalism,
- The chemistry of climate change,
- The physics and dynamics of ecological motion,
- management of ecological integration,
- communication of green initiatives
Simultaneously, there should be a greater stress on a more open-hearted and inclusive industry-academia interface so that the seeds we breathe life into, may pass on to the fertile grounds of the corporate / industrial world and reach fruition. Only then will ecology be able to deliver what it promises – a Sustainable lifestyle for a cleaner and greener Planet Earth.
However, on a different level, this initiative must also be fostered in innumerable other campuses so that successive batches of students become aware of the threats facing mankind and how they too can be a part of the change. Educational Institutions need to embrace ecology so that they too may become:
- carbon neutral
- water positive
- initiators of social forestry
- conservators of water, power and energy
- spokespersons for sustainable lifestyles
- incubators of change
At St. Xavier’s we are proud to have initiated the first steps – to ensure that the knowledge of ecology turn into faith and dispel the darkness of climate change. As the Principal of the college, an academician and a Jesuit preacher, I too have a dream – that one day this little wave that we have started in St. Xavier’s will turn into a tsunami of change in a million other campuses from where will rise an army of tomorrow’s ecologically conscious change agents.
God Speed and Best Wishes.
(Rev. Fr. Dr. John Felix Raj,SJ is the Principal, St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata)
* as prepared for delivery