When we talk about environmental activism, what usually comes to our mind? Do we see tree-huggers garbed with barks and leaves and what nature basically provides them? Raging against the machine in response to the environmental impacts of modern technology and industry? Prioritizing the rights of tarsiers and Philippine eagles over the rights of indigenous communities because, hey, they are but men and do nothing but exploit nature?
When I came to the Envicore, an intensive training course for environmental cadres organized by the Center for Environmental Concerns – Philippines (CEC-Phils), it was as an Information/Communications Technology (ICT) activist. In fact, a lot of the participants weren’t necessarily poster children of tree-hugging: there were students, professional scientists, indigenous peoples, political activists and NGOs who served as both student and teacher to all the participants and resource speakers about different topics of environmental advocacy.
Apparently the stereotype has long been broken. And why should it not be, when the concerns on the environment should exactly be the concerns of the people?
The Envicore training seeked to mainstream ecological concepts and environmental advocacy in the different plans and campaigns to a multi-sectoral spectrum of social movers. Aside from learning basic ecological processes and principles and the environmental situation both in the national and international level, participants were given capacity-building in legal work, networking, research and campaigning. A comprehensive package, if you will.
This should especially be the case in the underdeveloped world, where any form of environmental degradation can severely affect major basic economic activities as agriculture, fisheries, and other extractive industries. The livelihood of millions of Filipinos are reliant on the natural wealth that is fast being depleted by large-scale plunder and abuse of transnational corporations. Even environmental impacts on a global scale, such as climate change, have poor nations as the main victims despite not being the major culprits.
Let’s apply environmental education to the ICT sector. The manufacturing component of the industry, like other medium and heavy industries, are reliant on the natural resources as the economic base of industrialization. Natural resources that are actually the starting point of any industrial supply chain.
Whatever will happen to our dream of a genuine, Filipino-owned electronics and software industry if we do not have the necessary raw materials as a prerequisite to the production of finished products, computers and machineries? Taking care of our national patrimony is a legitimate call for the sector if we want to realize the creation of industries that will absorb our software and computer engineers.
How then do we address these problems? This begins with the identification of the roots of the problem. A deep understanding of the political dynamics in environmental issues will reveal that the problem, far from being the folly of individual culture, is largely due to the organized and large-scale extraction of resources and dump of pollution. And if you talk about the Philippines, an economy that has no genuine industry, the main culprit actually hails from foreign-owned multinational corporations in collusion with the local, profit-oriented government.
It is in this analysis that CPU has integrated environmental activism in its advocacy that is strongly linked to the Filipino mass movement, which remains to be the most integral and powerful driving force of history and change in society. Year 2010 saw CPU’s launching of Project Greenbot Philippines, which is its umbrella project for green technology and bridging the ICT sector and the environmental movement.
CPU’s first foray into green technology is the online environmental cases aggregator using the online mapping technology of Ushahidi to map different case studies on environmental issues in the Philippines. To involve the expertise of computer professionals in environmental concerns, it has joined the Good Electronics network in the Philippines under the auspices of exploring the dumping of hazardous E-Waste in nations incapable of properly disposing e-waste such as the Philippines.
Prior to Greenbot Philippines, it has already extensively provided ICT and New Media trainings for grassroots organizations — including environmental organizations such as Kalikasan-PNE and the CEC-Phils. It is also among the pioneers in the advocacy of Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) in the Philippines, where the democratic and accessible nature of FOSS actually reduces the excessive production and consumption entailed by commercial software industries.
There is no debate to the need to integrate a green perspective in our own struggles. We only need to be creative and ingenuous in applying it to our projects and campaigns. Every activist worth their salt should really take the Envicore course to develop this active marriage of the struggle for the people and the struggle for the environment — we owe this much to the people we serve.