Catholic Earthcare Youth Eco-Summit: Climate Clever Schools

16 Sep 2021

By Eric Leslie Martin

Only two weeks after the Perth launch of the 2021 Social Justice Statement, Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor, Bishop Donald Sproxton joined students from nearly a dozen Catholic schools around the state for the 2021 WA Earthcare Youth Eco-Summit, held at Aquinas College, Salter Point, on Friday 3 September.

“It is wonderful that I can be here today and encourage you and support you in the best way that we can, as a Church, in this very important role of responding to the environmental issues that we are all facing,” Bishop Sproxton said in his introduction.

“Young people can foresee some of the problems that lie ahead, some of the difficulties, the issues that will impact on their lives – on your lives. It’s so important for us to be engaged in these issues as Christians, as Catholics, as people of faith.”

“We have an obligation to look after the environment, our faith calls for it,” he said. “We’re here today to listen to the ideas and strategies of others, to take in what you are given so you can add this to your own knowledge and your school’s. It is so great to see so many people from so many different schools… Today is about youth working in a youth summit… your role is to draw inspiration from this event,”

Following a heartfelt production by the Aquinas College Indigenous Dance Group, who performed the Kangaroo Dance to welcome delegates and guests, some 50 student representatives from Aquinas, Newman, Trinity, Aranmore Catholic, Corpus Christi, Santa Maria, Irene McCormack, Mazenod and St Norbert’s colleges were joined by their rural Catholic counterparts, tuning in online from St Mary’s College in Broome and St Joseph’s College, Albany.

The students were treated to a pre-recorded video by celebrity green-thumb, Costa Georgiadis from Gardening Australia, who congratulated the students for their commitment to making real change to their school’s environmental impact.

“I am really excited and proud of each and every one of you for being part of the Earthcare Summit: caring for the Earth is everyone’s business – and when you turn up, when you show up, just by being at the Summit is making a statement that has an impact,” Costa said.

“It is one thing to want change, to know what you think about caring for the Earth – but this is calling you to act, to be agents of change, putting what you hear into action. You, as the youth of today are the people to bring about the change… you are the stars of the day, your ideas, your passion, your hopes, your actions and advocacy and your commitments.”

The delegates met in discussion groups throughout the day, attending 12 sessions, covering topics such as Our Carbon Footprint and Managing Waste to Our School Strategies – What are we Brewing, interspersed with special online presentations on topics such as Pope Francis’ Laudato Si and the Climate Clever App, developed for Australian schools.

Two student hosts, Tobias, from Aquinas College and Sascha, from Santa Maria College emceed the event with assistance from Mr Richard Mavros, the Director of Justice, Advocacy and Formation at Aquinas College.

Tobias explained that he had a shared experience with many of the students, growing up in the beautiful natural environment near the college (located on the banks of the River at Salter Point), but was “really challenged on the issue of environmental conservation by Sir David Attenborough,” after watching his documentaries on anthropogenic climate change and natural habitat destruction.

Catholic Earthcare Australia (a program of Caritas Australia) is the ecological agency established by the Australian Catholic Bishop’s Conference (ACBC) and the 2021 Youth Eco-Summit was a collaboration between this agency and students from Santa Maria and Aquinas colleges.