​4 things I learned at The Green Institute’s Speaker Series

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By Oghenekevwe Oghenechovwen

The Opposite of Sense. This was the unusual theme for the inaugural Green Speaker Series and Karaoke Night, hosted by The Green Institute, foremost hybrid institute for training and education in Nigeria, with core in environmental sustainability. 

In the afternoon of June 23, under a darkened sky and fitful downpour, I journeyed to Ode Ondo – the native home of widely respected social critic, Gani Fawehinmi, SAN, and pioneer of world music, the influential King Sunny Adé – for this event, 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. She had a beautiful, sincere smile all through the day. 

En route, and throughout the Green Speaker Series, I was prepared to hear views on accepting new discoveries or innovations normally would have not wanted to hear – and I was willing to learn something from them. Besides experiencing the energy and value of the roughly 50 diverse participants, I wanted to be probing on The Opposite of Sense, albeit in a courteous manner.

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So what did I learn, even after staying an extra night in Ode Ondo, southwestern Nigeria?

1. Location is everything. Far more than on a personal level, I can safely say the venue surpassed the mental checklist of participants. First, the bold banners and green-inspired outer wall designs made it impossible to miss as I and other participants entered Ode Ondo (or Ondo City) from any of the two road points. Inside the Institute, some floors above ground level, the wide working space; bicycles, art pieces and drawings of African heroes hanging from the wall; tie-dyed curtains; hand crafted chairs from tyres and wood; and the light casing made from plastic spoons, gave me a sparkling feeling of creativity, openness and radicalism. The expansive view of an unexplored mountain from the venue added to this feel 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.” 

Still inside, a message on the white wall read, “In this house we are a family, love and respect one another.”

2. Live deliberately. Talk and inaction are cheap. Enwogo is a writer and feminism advocate, maintaining a social media presence where she attracts a critical followership among the millennial generation. During the speaker’s session, she shared a story on how she escaped death, as it was a defining moment for her:

“I realized 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 began acting as a custodian and care taker, especially of our shared environment, and putting 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. From attending engineers, lawyers, high school students, serial entrepreneurs with startups, lecturers, undergraduates, artists, fashion designers, photographers, and so on – each with different backgrounds – saw a need to use themes of sustainability: radical innovation, creativity, business models with purpose more than profit, and 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. The millennial generation are interested in the sustainability framework, all for a cleaner and brighter tomorrow.

4. Identity is also everything. Just before Enwongo started the main conversation, 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; local residents in different regions attached to this invasive weed specie. Unexpectedly, I was struck again 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 messages for relationships between people, while Mahmoud, from Egypt, thrilled participants to 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?

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. 

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