Art by Mika Bacani
I am Jefferson Estela, a student, youth leader, environmental and climate activist and I speak on behalf of one of the most vulnerable individuals in the Philippines who are affected by the climate crisis — the Filipino youth.
Many people say that the Philippines is a country wherein traditions are set in stone, and that progress is not achievable because there is no collective action coming from different sectors of society to drive the country forward. But I’ve come to realize that I, as an individual, have a significant role in fighting for our future, and I acknowledge that there are others like me whose potential has yet to be fully utilized.
In recent years, the Philippines has suffered from many catastrophic climate events. But this is nothing compared to what may happen to our future if the climate crisis is not resolved. Even if I am not a scientist, and there are no accessible reports specific to the Philippines, regarding our possible last years on earth if climate change is not addressed, it is safe to assume that we must do our part in ensuring that our environment is protected at all costs. The real effects of the crisis are only a decade away — well within the lifespan of most people alive today.
According to the 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Philippines is the third most vulnerable country to the adverse impacts of climate change.
According to the 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Philippines is the third most vulnerable country to the adverse impacts of climate change. The 2018 IPCC Report emphasizes the necessity to maintain global temperatures well below 1.5o C to prevent irreversible impacts on various aspects, namely the environment and biodiversity, economics, and most importantly, human activities, while the Global Peace Index 2019 says that the effects of climate hazard are high.
With increasing temperature, scientists predict heightened incidence and intensity, and possibly prevalence, of droughts and typhoons during El Niño and La Niña, respectively. Coral reefs, vegetation, trees and animals will be unable to successfully adapt to sudden drastic temperature changes. Rice grain yields will decrease even more. Several plant and animal species will die off. There will exist an extinction domino effect between the pollinators and vegetation. All these will contribute to less viable food sources.
These will then have serious consequences on the national economy, especially since the Philippines is an agricultural country. The livelihoods of farmers and fisherfolk will be affected by the climate crisis. Other occupations have been affected as well. There is a reported decrease in labor productivity due to increasing temperatures from climate change-induced heat. Due to a lack of food sources, the Philippines will be forced to import even more food products while exporting less. A significant portion of the national budget will be allocated to address food insecurity.
Families, especially those nearest or under the poverty line, will experience extreme hunger. These individuals are the least responsible for the crisis, and they have benefited the least from various unsustainable practices such as fossil fuel production and consumption, and yet they are the most affected by this. “In consequence its impact further exacerbates already existing inequities in a society where rights, access, opportunities and privilege are also not evenly distributed,” says Chuck Baclagon, the Philippine Country Coordinator for 350.org.
350.org is an international organization that aims to build a global climate movement while promoting divestment of all kinds of businesses from fossil fuel industry, and transforming the current systems that thrive on unsustainable practices such as this to help maintain global temperatures from rising below 1.5o C. It is just one of the several NGOs that combats the climate crisis.
There are also some government agencies that tackle the issue. One is the Climate Change Commission that creates policies and is tasked to coordinate, monitor and evaluate programs and action plans tackling the impacts of climate change in the Philippines. Recently, CCC had a six-day workshop wherein the attendees were presented multi-sectorial insights to climate change.
Still, NGOs and government agencies are not the sole contributors to end the climate crisis. We are lucky to have youthled and college/university-based organizations who are part of the climate movement, one of which is the #CoalFreeNegros headed by Krishna Ariola, which, together with fellow environmental advocates in the province, has successfully stopped the proposed power plant from encroaching on their land. This proves that there are avenues the youth can further utilize to advocate for environmental sustainability. This was also evident in the global scale through Greta Thunberg.
“The youth have the capacity to lead in the behavioral revolution in the country. In any movement, leadership, more so youth leadership, is necessary to set the direction and the objectives. Every individual contribution, once done collectively, will greatly contribute in our fight to make this planet more livable, more habitable and more sustainable. The youth have in their power to change climate change.”
A year ago, this 16-year-old activist walked out from her classes to protest in front of the Swedish Parliament to fight against climate change through her #FridaysForFuture movement. Through her own actions and privilege speeches in international conferences, policymakers, heads of governments and other officials have been more aware of the dangers and risks associated with climate change. After a year, this movement has been replicated by youth many times over throughout Europe and the US.
The Philippines has not shied away from this. Youth leaders throughout the country convened together and held protests in various locations last March 15 and May 24, with the latter date gaining support from a congresswoman, Sarah Elago, who drafted a House Resolution urging the Congress to support the Youth Strike for Climate Philippines. And now, these youth are planning to hold a bigger and bolder protest this Sept. 20. We will intensify our campaigns, especially since President Duterte emphasized in his most recent July 22 SONA that transition to Renewable Energy should be prioritized.
Ludwig Federigan, executive director of Young Environmental Forum, once told me, “The youth have the capacity to lead in the behavioral revolution in the country. In any movement, leadership, more so youth leadership, is necessary to set the direction and the objectives. Every individual contribution, once done collectively, will greatly contribute in our fight to make this planet more livable, more habitable and more sustainable. The youth have in their power to change climate change.”
With that in mind, I am hoping that you will be one with our collective movement towards a sustainable future for all generations to come.