You look at that river gently flowing by. You notice the leaves rustling with the wind. You hear the birds; you hear the tree frogs. In the distance you hear a cow. You feel the grass. The mud gives a little bit on the river bank. It’s quiet; it’s peaceful. And all of a sudden, it’s a gear shift inside you. And it’s like taking a deep breath and going, “Oh yeah, I forgot about this.”
– Al Gore, “An Inconvenient Truth”
How is it that a brewing tempest such as the threat of climate change, a man-made disaster that has existed ever since the onset of the industrial revolution centuries ago, is treated as nothing but trivia by the common man? Even as the drastic trends of global warming and its aftershocks on climate patterns have been empiricized by various experts, public knowledge regarding this topic remains in the gray, with the reaction of people from hearing of this topic ranging from indifference to outright bewilderment. In fact, the campaign for climate change awareness has only manifested in the mainstream mass media as recently as 2006 with the phenomenon that is Al Gore’s award-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth appearing internationally in cinemas, instigating the entry of environmental films into popular culture, albeit information regarding this issue remains to be alienated from the Filipino masses, as it is only in the summer of 2008 when Philippine mass media started hopping on the climate crisis bandwagon, with corporate media network GMA-7 airing the documentary Signos, showcasing local signs of climate change impacts in the Philippines.
Even more striking are the efforts to discredit the reality of climate change. Multi-national and trans-national companies involved in industrial fuel burning go as far as pouring multi-billion dollars into funding research and propaganda that runs counter to the fact that human activity continues to be the primary catalyst for climate change, or otherwise funding dubious corporate social responsibility schemes intended to pass off as genuine environmental concern, termed by some as Greenwash. It is also the deep-seated politico-economic power of these corporations that effectively lobby for the softening of the impositions of international agreements like the Kyoto Protocol that renders these global efforts ineffective in pushing for the significant reduction of carbon emissions by 2012. Global capital powers, themselves the primary sources of greenhouse gas emissions such as the United States and China, continue in their refusal to sign into the Kyoto Protocol, stubborn even amidst the torrent of criticism they have gotten internationally, allowing their industries to continue to grow unregulated.
With these in consideration, it isn’t puzzling how the common man will likely have a distorted perception (or the lack thereof) of climate change. The problem is even worse in under-developed countries like the Philippines, where the majority of Philippine communities have little or no capability to access concrete and comprehensive information regarding this. And yet it is the greatest irony that these marginalized people and communities, – the grassroots sectors of the peasantry, fisher folk, indigenous people, etc. – are the ones who will bear the brunt of the damage caused by climate change. Given these circumstances, what must be done in order to arm these grassroots people and communities with knowledge that will help them address this global climate crisis?