This was written for Agham Youth on October 23, 2009, for our participation in http://www.350.org ‘s international day of climate action on October 24, 2009.
I am writing this ahead of time, for on the International Day of Climate Action, I will be free from technology and knee-deep in nature at the League of Youth for the Environment or LYFE’s third environmental advocacy youth camp to be held in Bulacan province. With the theme of sustainable agriculture, camp participants seek to learn about the practices of the host peasant community in organic farming, their current economic, social and environmental situation, and how climate change affects them.
Understanding this is of special importance in the Philippines, where agriculture is the backbone of the economy, and where 75% of the population is engaged in agricultural activity. In just the recent typhoon Ketsana and Parma experiences, the Department of Agriculture has pegged the total damage to crops, livestock and infrastructure to have reached P18.4 billion. This is bound to increase with the fast-approaching typhoon Lupit (which can be roughly translated in Filipino as “harsh”) already ravaging Northern Luzon as I type.
Climate Change, however, is just the icing on top of the peasants’ cake of woes, for it only amplifies the problems already inherent in the Philippines’ long history of agricultural backwardness. We should recall the Green Revolution in the 60’s that aimed to develop farming technologies such as High-Yield Varieties (HYVs) of crops to improve production. Such implements, however, were expensive and detrimental to the soil and crops, for it was dependent on imported fertilizer and pesticide chemicals.
Then there’s the centuries-old landlordism that continues to rule the countryside, where a small number of families own the majority of arable lands and the resultant produce and profits. Would you call it a sustainable practice if the working force exposed to the harsh impacts of climate change such as diseases, dwindling agricultural production, and extreme climate events, remain to have no economic capacity to overcome these problems?
The consequences are dire and fast approaching realization. No longer a mere topic of debate for the scientific community and the academe, climate change has gained a massive political character, and is especially so in the Philippines where the impacts strike deep into the heart of economy and society. Already we have a government that has more bark than bite when it comes to implementing and enforcing laws on disaster and the environment. The challenge, then, rests upon us.
The need for a deeper shade of green when it comes to government policy and national culture cannot be achieved if we choose to stay in our comfort zones. Any social movement can only be successful if the Filipino people will rally behind it. Climate Justice then can only be realized if we commit ourselves as climate activists, and integrate ourselves with the broad ranks of masses who are the most vulnerable to climate change. Justice, after all, is the realization of the democratic rights not only of the individual, but of the multitudes. As Desmond Tutu said, “… [W]e showed that if we act on the side of justice, we have the power to turn tides. Worldwide, we have a chance to start turning the tide of climate change with just such a concerted effort today.”