The Opposite of Sense. This was the unusual theme for the inaugural Green Speaker Series and Karaoke Night, hosted by The Green Institute- the foremost hybrid institute for training and education in Nigeria, with core in environmental sustainability.
On the afternoon of June 23, under a darkened sky and fitful downpour, I journeyed to Ode Ondo – the native home of widely respected late social critic, Gani Fawehinmi, SAN; and pioneer of world music, the influential King Sunny Adé – for the event. I expected to have fun and participate in radical intellectual conversations shaped by both Psalm Oluwaseyi David of CreatvColony and Enwongo Christopher Cleopas, the keynote speaker who, though a Barrister and Solicitor at Nigeria's Supreme Court, surprisingly has growing interests in nature photography and African arts.
En route, and throughout the Green Speaker Series, I was resolved to hear about new discoveries and innovations I normally would not have wanted to. As I experienced the energy and interest of the roughly 50 diverse participants, I expected a fun and engaging event.
So what did I learn, even after staying an extra night in Ode Ondo, southwestern Nigeria?
1. Location is everything. Personally, the venue surpassed the mental image I had. First, the bold banners and green-inspired exterior wall designs were impossible to miss as other participants and I entered Ode Ondo (or Ondo City) from both of the two road points. The Institute had a wide working space with bicycles, art pieces and drawings of African heroes hanging from the wall; tie-dyed curtains; handcrafted chairs from tyres and wood; and the light casing made from plastic spoons, gave me an intense feeling of creativity and openness. The expansive view of an unexplored mountain from the venue added to this feeling too. Enwongo posted on Facebook, "I noticed something about the clouds in Ondo. They are really close to Earth (closer than any other place I've seen), and I kept having these thoughts that I could actually touch it if I stretched my hands out."
Something else I internalized was the message on the white wall that read, "In this house, we are a family, love and respect one another."
2. Live deliberately. Talk and inaction are cheap. Enwogo, a writer and feminist, maintains a social media presence where she attracts a critical followership among millennials. During the speaker's session, she shared a heart wrenching story of how she escaped death, as it was a defining moment for her. She remarked:
"I realised that I own nothing on earth and that everything I do or have is entrusted into my care and custody. It changed the way I approached everything."
Since then, she has acted as a custodian and caretaker, especially of our shared environment, and put her gifts, ideas, and time to positive action. She now lives intentionally. "And that’s nothing but sense,” Enwogo concluded.
To me, the message was simple: Once you identify what you want to do, start doing it. Take action and commit to the future.
3. Green is still the new black. And young people are jumping on it. The unifying factor in the room was sustainability and social good. The diverse attendees included engineers, lawyers, high school students, serial entrepreneurs with startups, lecturers, undergraduates, artists, fashion designers, photographers; and each saw a need to use themes of sustainability, radical innovation, creativity, business models with purposes more than profit. The shared commitment; to solve environmental challenges and enable economic growth.
The UN estimates that the market for “green trade” will grow to $2.2 trillion by 2020. Millennials need to take advantage of this development to effect a cleaner and brighter tomorrow.
4. Identity defines you. Just before Enwongo began her dialogue, we were showed the TED video talk of green entrepreneur Achenyo Idachaba, where she shared her journey of turning water hyacinths, threatening socioeconomic life in parts of Nigeria into woven wonders. I was struck by the strong cultural and historical references residents in different regions attached to this invasive weed species. I was also struck when two interns of the Institute, Janvier Kamundala and Mahmoud Mohamed, sang during the Karaoke. Janvier from the Democratic Republic of Congo performed a popular Rumba Lingala that had a theme of relationships between people, while Mahmoud, from Egypt, thrilled participants with a powerful Arabic song that has become a source of strength to Egyptians. In his greatest and most influential novel, The History Man, writer and academic critic Sir Malcolm Bradbury wrote, "Culture is a way of coping with the world by defining it in detail." Green events only get better with enough colourful tapestry.
Well, need I say more?
About the Author: Oghenechovwen, Oghenekevwe Christopher previously interned at The Green Institute. Now, he is an undergraduate of Meteorology and Climate Science at the Federal University of Technology Akure. Kevwe tweets @c_chovwen, and loves both board games and group travels.