It could be said that Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng served as a wake-up call to a nation long indifferent to the issue of climate change, and understandably so, as such an issue is but an abstraction to the general populace: until it hit them right in the face. Before, the issue didn’t even go beyond the academe. But with the impacts finally piercing the heart of Philippine urbanity, the what’s, why’s and the what can we do’s are suddenly popped out in torrents.
Unfortunately, though the Philippines is among the most vulnerable nations to the impacts of climate change, it can do little to actually mitigate it. Its contribution to the world greenhouse gas (ghg) emissions is inconsequential, for it is the industrialized powers such as the US and Australia that have major ghg impact on the climate. These developed nations, who have the resources to shrug off the effects of climate change, refuse to commit to ghg emission cuts necessary to avert irreversible climate change, at the expense of under-developed nations such as ours.
And hasn’t it always been that way in any social issue, where the haves prosper at the expense of the have-nots?
You will see this contradiction between the powerful and the disenfranchised all throughout the issue of climate change, even at the local level. Let us take the recent Ondoy and Pepeng experience as an example. It was the urban poor and the rural communities that suffered the most from the massive floods and landslides, even as the media claim that the eyes of the typhoons didn’t differentiate the poor from the rich. The moneyed definitely have the capacities to overcome the economic setbacks brought by the typhoon, but the poor lost everything as the surging water swept their possessions away.
Big transnational corporations engaged in large-scale mining and logging activities is what aggravated the landslides and flooding. These activities are instrumental to the displacement of rural communities that leads to rapid, mal-development-driven urbanization. This blaming of the urban poor for clogging our drainage systems and other waterways with their shanties and garbage is a manifestation of the bias against the poor in any aspect of climate change, for it is in fact rooted in the profit-driven activities of the rich.
It goes to show that, beyond being a scientific agenda, climate change is an issue inextricably rooted in the economic frameworks of nations. How a particular society is affected by climate change and how they can manage its impacts is dependent on their economic capabilities and the political will and orientation of their government. What we have now is the deadly cocktail of neoliberal states in both the developed and underdeveloped nations seeking profit and self-interest over the general welfare of the people.
We must accept this reality of climate change if we intend to genuinely address it. It’s science is easy enough to understand, but it is the political nature that we need to grasp in order for our actions to be effective accordingly. The moment we begin to understand that climate change is more an issue of social justice than just science is the moment when it will be clear to us why the disaster that is Ondoy and Pepeng is not an “Act of God” but an “Act of Anti-People Politics.”
It is the moment when it will be clear to us that no amount of energy saving, carpooling and other lifestyle changes will ever be contributive enough to rehabilitate the climate, as long as the corporations and governments continue to refuse radical structural reforms. It is the moment when we realize that the struggle for climate justice is the struggle of the have-nots against the rule of the haves. Only in such a moment will our actions start having impact.
Let this day be your moment.
Actions speak louder than Words. The best contribution to the movement for climate justice is to contribute yourself to the movement. Be part of the people’s environmental movement. Here are suggested organizations and networks committed to the protection of the environment and the advancement of climate justice: