2030 is nearing, the point of no turning back. For the past 3 sessions and today, the facts and evidences were presented and explained to us. Indeed, we are already in the middle of a climate crisis and the earth has been groaning in pain caused by the hands of those, of us, who are supposedly its keepers and sustainers. When did we reach this crossroad? When are we crossing the road to action? The answer, as we conclude, is that the time to act is now.
In these trying times, the Philippines, more than ever, has been continuously experiencing nationwide emergencies mainly because of the global pandemic but also greatly of the numerous climate disasters. We are witnesses to these especially in the year 2020. We have seen lives put into risk, especially those climate vulnerable communities, the poor, and the marginalized sectors. Many lost their properties, land, and livelihoods, one of the main reasons for having the fullness of life and yet being taken away. It is therefore evident, that the issue of environment is not separate from other development issues, the institutional gaps which are widening and left not being addressed.
But what are the roots of this crisis? Humanity. When we look back to the creation story which was also imparted to us, spirituality is the core value of defending life and creation since God has commanded us to be co-creators. This responsibility is a duty given to us. However, instead of being co-creators, humanity as being the most destructive creatures, became destroyers of the creation. According to the environmental principles, humans are at the center and are the most important part of environmental conservation. Consequently, humans are in constant conflict and relationship with nature – this relationship changes based on the human needs and desires. The behavior of humans towards the environment highly contribute to what its condition and state will be. Furthermore, the relationship among people determines the relationship of people with nature. And this relationship with nature worsened due to greed and profit-driven mindset of people. The powerful feeding onto the powerless. One of the vivid indications of this are the policies and laws made by the government which are anti-people and anti-environment, vastly biased towards the big corporations and businesses who are the biggest contributors to the climate crisis.
Undoubtedly, climate change is real and accelerating. It is extremely connected with societal problems and it should be immediately addressed. And since it is multifaceted, we can address it through various means or points of intervention.
The Face of Climate Crisis in the Philippines
Due to globalization, an extensive expansion of influence is undertaken by the first world countries to the third world countries in order to gain more profit. Hence, the concentration of wealth. This results to the weakening of regulations towards “the few” specifically on their environmental processes and favoring them in terms of laws and policies which are apparent in the Philippines. Adding to this, is the fascistic government we have which favors only “the few” and blatantly neglecting its people. And worse, denying that the climate crisis is here. The outcomes are manifested and felt by those in the peripheries, we can attest to that based on the testimonies and stories shared to us. Rich people are getting richer, and poor people are getting much poorer because of the massive wealth inequality. For the reason that, discernibly, we are in continuous subversion to the foreign dictates – all developments are leaning towards the benefit of the developed countries, laws are blocked or disregarded in the legislation, and instead putting in the face of violence to stop climate grievances. It is accurate, “Hindi napoprotektahan ang mga nagpoprotekta sa kalikasan.”.
In turn, there is no genuine climate action, no move in the improvement of the Filipinos’ quality of life and no pro-people and pro-environment policies. As the natural resources lose its vitality, where we live is becoming less inhabitable and justice for the most vulnerable to climate change are becoming out of reach. But as Jesus’ followers, it is imperative for us to revisit our faith and spirituality and our commitment to obliterate injustices. And must stop saying, “Filipinos are resilient” because the best form of resilience is livelihood.
Climate Justice is Social Justice
Through the voices of different sectors – fisherfolks, farmers, indigenous peoples, migrants, and workers, we have deeply understood the intersectional impacts of climate change in the Philippines. These sectors who are the forefront defenders of our environment, as well as, the backbone of our society, have been greatly affected from issues of reclamation, food security, land grabbing, unemployment and exportation, higher population density in the city due to unequal opportunities in the provinces, precarious working conditions for the workers, systemic violence against women, and a lot more. But the most devastating is when these defenders speak out and demand justice, they are instead killed or slain, a testament to the fact that the Philippines is the 2nd deadliest country in the world for land and environment defenders. A rank we should never be proud of. Therefore, we can state that climate crisis is political as how political the issues of our sectors.
Given that the problem of climate crisis is intersectional, the solution is, equally intersectional. Address the disparity between grass roots and the government, drive for a systemic change, and make individual change accessible through system change. Henceforth, as these different sectors address these impacts and engage in the fight for the environment, climate justice and dignity of life amidst all these experiences, we, the present-day advocates must walk with them faithfully.
And as we are in solidary with them, we must likewise carry their calls, climate justice is life and livelihood, protection of national sovereignty, genuine agrarian reform, rehabilitation and not reclamation, health and long-term climate action. For us, the church people should remember that faith without work is dead – therefore, continue the work of Jesus through the ministry of advocating for climate justice because climate justice is social justice and a healthy environment is a fundamental human rights. This advocacy training is a call to struggle. But as Ms. Tetet said, we should struggle big time.
What can the youth do? What do we look forward?
Who then is the answer for the crisis? Us, humanity. We forgot who we are, so we must go back, go back to Oikos. As part of our prophetic witnessing, God has chosen and appointed young people to respond to the ministries, and one of these calls is for climate justice. We are not invited here, or we did not participate to this training for us to seat in the back and stay silent. We are called to advocate and act, for we are the inheritors. We owe it to the future. Jeremiah, who is a young prophet, was called by God in time where there is a great need for restoration (The Jeremiah Project – KKKP-NCCP Youth Development Program). With the tools given to us, we can initiate and lead alongside other youth and other institutions. This is struggling collectively; we are not alone. We should continue to inform ourselves, so we can inform others. We should cross the bridge from awareness to organizing. We should work with faith and science hand and hand, so that we can act and mobilize.
There are initiatives from our church organizations or youth organizations for climate justice. We should aim to continue these and deepen it through advocating for sustainable projects and long-term climate advocacies. We can create mechanisms and projects which are anchored for instance with the Jeremiah Project of KKKP and NCCP, the NCCP’s Environmental Ministry. The direct service support and initiatives can amplify the voices of the marginalized and vulnerable communities from climate crisis. We, the youth, can be the start of opening opportunities for churches and organizations to prioritize immediately this advocacy. And since this group becomes a network by now, we must preserve this and create a pool of advocates who can also be tapped for future projects and activities.
We are, Kamanlilikha, Kamanlalakbay, Kabahagi. We are already here; we must strengthen ourselves and the movement for climate justice. Because we are, indeed, the Hope of Oikos. #CLIMATEJUSTICENOW
A Synthesis of the Climate Justice Advocacy Training 2021
Ms. Kay Cathrine Almario
NCCP Vice Chairperson for Youth