Three young women environmentalists shared tips with student leaders from the Visayas on how to adapt to climate change.
At the Greeneration Summit in Mandaue City in Cebu, climate change ambassadors Anna Oposa, Maria Carmela Alvarez and Bianca Gonzalez urged hundreds of college students to take climate change seriously and use it as an opportunity to make a positive change and improve things in their communities.
Climate change refers to a significant and lasting change in weather patterns resulting in more devastating natural disasters, shrinking ice shelves and glaciers, and increasing global temperatures.
Greeneration, a national gathering for youth empowerment on climate change, was organized by the Climate Change Commission (CCC), a policy-making body in the Office of the President that is tasked “to coordinate, monitor and evaluate action plans of the government related to climate change.”
Oposa, chief “mermaid” of the independent movement Save Philippine Seas, told some 900 students about the initiatives she had taken to preserve and protect the rich marine biodiversity of the country, including writing numerous letters to private institutions, government agencies and politicians asking them to take action on environmental issues, especially the preservation of water resources.
“The most alarming environmental issue is [not climate change but] apathy,” Oposa said. “If the Filipino is the problem, then the Filipino is also the solution … [Every one of us should] start with lifestyle changes.”
She said the Philippines is “lucky” to be in the Coral Triangle, the global center of marine biodiversity. And, of all the countries in this area, “the Philippines is the richest,” said Oposa.
“I do what I do because I’m a Filipino and I live in the most beautiful country in the world,” she added.
Celebrity host and model Gonzalez shared 10 ecofriendly things she did to help preserve nature. She said everyone should “be antiplastic” and use eco bags when shopping, “choose tabo” (dipper) when taking a bath, “use less paper” to save trees, “unplug and turn off” appliances (even chargers) when not in use and “invest in LEDs (light emitting diodes) and inverters” to
save on electricity.
She also advised students to “give love in transit” or use mass transport; “support Mother Earth-loving products” like recycled bags, accessories and shirts; “have an edible garden” by planting fruits and vegetables in the backyard; “clean your coolers,” such as air conditioners and electric fans; and “aim for zero [or minimal] waste” through proper and consistent segregation.
Although she admitted finding it hard to do these things sometimes, Gonzalez urged the young audience to be conscious of their actions and to try to do the simple things she mentioned for the protection of the environment.
Alvarez, the young mayor of San Vicente, Palawan, talked about the problems in her town related to climate change adaptation and certain practices of the locals that were harmful to nature.
San Vicente, consisting of 10 barangays, has 165,797 hectares of lush forest and a 165-kilometer coastline. With the help of the CCC, Alvarez is trying to turn the place into an EcoTown, a carefully planned municipality that is sustainable, well-adapted to climate change and has a resilient ecosystem.
“I want San Vicente to be a prime example [of a resilient and carefully planned community],” Alvarez said.
Mary Ann Lucille Sering, CCC vice chair, expressed the view that people still had good reasons to look toward the future despite the devastating effects of climate change that the country was already experiencing.
“Climate change is really about opportunities,” she said. “The government already has a plan. But, like all plans, if [it is] not implemented, it’s nothing… That’s why when we plan we have to be proactive.”
Sering said the Philippines was third on the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction list of countries most vulnerable to climate change. This, she said, was due in part to the country’s growing population, weak infrastructure and the number of typhoons that hit the country every year.
To make Filipinos less vulnerable to natural and human-made disasters, National Youth Commission commissioner for Visayas Erwin Andaya stressed the youth’s role in addressing climate change and proposed three solutions: First, “educate ourselves and others;” second, “engage ourselves in environment-related activities;” and third, “elect political leaders who have a clear environmental agenda” in the May elections.
Alfredo Matugas Coro II, mayor of Del Carmen on Siargao Island, Surigao del Norte, an EcoTown, said that being young did not exempt participants from the impact of climate change and disasters. “In fact, you are most likely to feel all the impact of climate change,” he said.
Other speakers at the summit were Amelia Biglete, director of the Commission on Higher Education-Region VII, and
Dr. Jun Araojo, chief of the Health and Nutrition Center of the Department of Education.