Global Climate Strike held by students, environmentalists to fight ‘global tragedy’

Heavy downpour did not stop students and environmental advocates from rallying in the vicinity of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Building in University of the Philippines Diliman last September 20. 

As they marched toward the front of the building, participants sounded off their alarms at 2 pm in order to “pressure” the government to declare a local and national climate emergency for the country, as stated by Youth Strike 4 Climate Philippines representative Patrick Ryan Bello.

The Global Climate Strike, which will last from September 20 to 27, follows the same objective of emphasizing climate justice and preventing further environmental degradation through simultaneous protests around the world.

Cries of the Filipinos

“We are unstoppable; a better world is possible,” the participants chanted as they punctuated the importance of climate emergency—which is when the concern for the state of the climate is stressed due to factors such as pollution, carbon emissions, and other environmental injustices.

Several points were raised during the strike. Andre Fallaria from the Youth Strike 4 Climate Philippines shared his insights on the importance of sustainable mass transport systems, which are vehicles that have smaller carbon footprints than their regular counterparts. Citing examples such as electric cars, Fallaria pushed for the utilization of such vehicles, which would be beneficial to the environment.

Having attained a staggering 132.18 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2018—a 3.79 percent increase from 2017—the Philippines is among numerous developing countries that have exponentially increased their aggregate amount of greenhouse gas production, otherwise known as carbon footprint, in the last decade.

Additionally, he also stressed the importance of reducing coal as a source of energy, and stated, “‘Pag nabawasan ang ating [pag-gamit ng] mga fossil fuels, parang na ring mababawasan yung emissions natin ng carbon [at greenhouse gases].”

(If we reduce the use of fossil fuels, we will also reduce emissions of carbon and greenhouse gases that affect the global climate.)

Greenhouse gases essentially consist of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and other gases—all of which are effective contributors to the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect is a process caused by the presence of radioactive gases in the earth’s lower atmosphere, trapping heat energy from the sun and warming the planet’s surface. While it is a natural event intended for maintaining global temperatures, an enhanced greenhouse effect caused by an increased amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere raises the planet’s surface temperature way beyond its current threshold. 

A solidarity message was also given by Akbayan Youth member Charisse Flores, who observed how ordinary individuals in society often refuse to listen to anything about climate change. Flores even highlighted how some would go as far as denying the existence of such a phenomenon. 

Faced with such problems, she declared, ”Nandito tayo ngayon [para] ipatunay lalo nating totoo ang climate change.”

(We are here to testify and prove that climate change is real.)

Representing University of the Philippines Alyansa, Joshua Dy also delivered a solidarity message for the advocates on what they can do to address the injustices done to the environment. “Kailangan natin tingnan [ang climate change] sa iba’t ibang lente na mayroon tayo, mula sa loob ng pamantasan hanggang sa labas,” he proposed.

(We need to look at climate change from different viewpoints in order to have a better grasp of its scope, from inside the university to outside.)

From communities being displaced due to strong floods, to increased chances of acquiring leptospirosis due to heavy rainfall, Dy expected threatening issues such as these to serve as a wake-up call for all citizens to realize that climate change is something to be concerned about.

Mula sa ating mga magsasaka hanggang sa mga katutubo, lahat tayo ay apektado ng ating lugarlahat tayo ay apektado ng ating kalikasan,” he stressed, adding that no one can escape from the effects of climate change.

(From farmers to indigenous people, we are all affected by our environment—we are all affected by nature and its phenomena.)

Apart from advocates affiliated with their respective organizations, the climate strike was also attended by concerned members of Philippine society. 

“The main point of this whole thing is to act now—climate change is not an opinion; it is a fact,” asserted Rojinie Cortes, a mother who accompanied her daughter to the rally to jointly demand the government to acknowledge the climate emergency crisis and take action. Cortes emphasized the importance of overlooked and seemingly inconsequential practices such as the responsible usage of water and electricity, noting that these activities collectively bear a significant impact on the environment. 

Acting for the future

Early last year, 47 “carbon majors”, or the energy companies whose products significantly contribute to the total amount of carbon emissions in the Philippines was another issue raised at the protest, were summoned by the CHR to appear before the department and defend their side, but failed to address the issues presented to them.

Despite that, CHR Chairperson José Luis Martin “Chito” Gascon assured that the companies’ refusal did not stop his department from proceeding to probe their activities and continuing assessments on how these companies are linked to the failure of minimizing greenhouse gas emissions.

Citing disasters such as droughts, floods, and wildfires, Gascon declared that the world is experiencing a “global tragedy”, with the youth caught in the crosshairs. Stating how the Philippine government had failed to participate in this year’s Conference of the Parties—an event that evaluates the current state of the world and gathers national leaders to come up with steps to address climate change—he urged the youth to take their own stand instead. 

He applauded the youth’s determination to be involved during the global climate strike, declaring the event a “national movement”, and emphasized the importance of giving the youth a voice to be heard by the larger society.

Assuring that his department is in solidarity with the youth’s advocacy to save the environment and the planet’s future, Gascon ended, “If our leaders do not listen, you (the youth) will make them listen. If our leaders do not act, then the youth will act for the future.”

Kent Regalado

By Kent Regalado

Enrico Sebastian Salazar

By Enrico Sebastian Salazar

Contributor of University and Vanguard since TLS 58. Internal Development Manager in TLS 59. Currently designing the new website.

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