We’ve been repeatedly warned
“Pag nawawala ’yung agila, ibig sabihin nawawala ’yung gubat. Pag nawawala ’yung gubat, ibig sabihin n’yan, pag umuulan, bumabagsak ’yung tubig sa bundok na kalbo, sumasama sa lupa na pababa….”
You can’t get any more commonsensical than that. I remembered the Filipino musician Joey Ayala’s explanation of our inextricable link to the Philippine Eagle when I read about the recent flooding in Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands. But while Ayala’s explanation ends with some of our fishermen venturing further into the high seas where they resort to dynamite fishing and eventually, out of desperation, sending their children to the cities to take on odd jobs or become OFWs, the recent news about the European floods ends with experts pointing to climate change as the cause of the disaster that has so far killed hundreds.
Like many other countries around the world in recent years, our country has had its share of climate disasters. Supertyphoon “Yolanda” claimed the lives of 6,300 Filipinos in 2013, Typhoon “Ondoy” killed 464 in 2009.
Against such backdrop, Pope Francis minced no words in his 2015 encyclical “Laudato Si’” about what we should all confront as the problem of our time: “A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system… Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming…”
Early this year, Nobel Prize recipients and experts from leading universities like Harvard, MIT, Cornell, Princeton, Stanford, and Kyoto reinforced Pope Francis’s admonition when they issued “Our Planet, Our Future: An Urgent Call for Action.” Among the Nobel Prize signatories were Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo, Mairead Corrigan Maguire, the Dalai Lama, Alice Munro, José Ramos-Horta, Wole Soyinka, Jody Williams, and Muhammad Yunus.
“Rapid urbanization, agricultural intensification, overexploitation, and habitat loss of large wildlife,” they warned, will force more animals to move to areas populated by humans, thereby increasing the risk of transmitting new viruses. COVID-19 may not be the last pandemic in our lifetime if we fail to act together. At the same time, our steady march to industrialization “has taken us to 1.2 degrees Celsius warming so far—the warmest temperature on Earth since we left the ice age…” Climate scientists have been pointing to this as the cause of extreme flooding and record droughts in various parts of the world.
Good for you if you are part of the 1 percent of the world’s wealthiest population. Perhaps like some of New York City’s wealthiest during the pandemic, you can afford to hie off to your own version of the Hamptons. But for most of us who are not part of the 1 percent, it is not that easy to find a new home and start anew, as I was once advised when our house in Pasig was inundated by Ondoy.
As if the above were not bad enough, some of our recent technological innovations hardly contribute to reversing climate change. We only need to go online to see the continuing proliferation of fake news and trolls denying the crisis, amplified by the algorithms of social media.
Hence, the 2021 urgent call to action at the level of governments, corporations, and the academe.
But leaving the effort of reversing climate change to institutions would be a mistake, because institutions are not the only ones who generate carbon footprints. We all do. By visiting carbonfootprint.com and similar sites, we can identify our respective households’ unwelcome contribution to the crisis. We can use the information to undertake meaningful carbon-reducing actionables—from revisiting the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) and applying it to our daily lives, to eating less meat, planting more, and driving less. We can also support organizations like the World Wide Fund for Nature Philippines and Greenpeace Philippines. Not to forget, in the coming elections, we can vote for candidates with authentic climate change advocacies.
Sixteen years before Joey Ayala’s explanation, the Pinoy folk-rock band Asin exhorted us: “Ingatan natin at ’wag nang sirain pa, ’pagkat pag kanyang binawi, tayo’y mawawala na.” God forbid that we have another Ondoy; we can’t say we’ve not been repeatedly warned.
Von Katindoy is a college teacher, an instructional designer, and a graduate student.
He plans to use “Laudato Si’” and “Our Planet, Our Future: An Urgent Call for Action” in his syllabus for the coming school year.
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