‘One Billion Rising’ fights coal
FOR WOMEN advocates here, the fight against coal-fired power plants in Mindanao is not over yet.
Joining the fuschia-themed One Billion Rising (OBR) movement this year, Davao’s women advocates are reviving calls to stop the continued construction of coal-fired power plants in the country, pointing to the risks that coal brings to the environment and health.
Dr. Jean Lindo, health activist and convenor of the group NO to Coal, said coal has been the top contributor to greenhouse gas emissions that heat up the planet, bringing climate catastrophes whose most vulnerable victims are women and children.
Yet despite the fact that this dirty form of energy is being phased out in other parts of the world, new coal-fired power plants are sprouting in different parts of the country, most of them in Mindanao.
“The One Billion Rising Campaign is a campaign to end all forms of violence against women,” said Lindo, a member of the OBR organizing group, and chair of Gabriela Southern Mindanao.
“Coal, a major cause of greenhouse gas emission that contributes to global warming, brought about climate change which kills people, 60 percent of them are women and children,” she said.
She enumerated the many ways emission from coal harms women’s health. “Toxic substances released in the air will increase the number of cases of babies born with neuro-development disorders,” she said.
“Mercury emission will have direct effects on reproductive health and unborn babies,” said Lindo.
“There will be more cases of children with lower IQ because of the presence of lead in the air,” she added.
Along with other environment groups, the group NO to Coal had lobbied against the Aboitiz-owned coal-fired power plant in the boundary area of Binugao in Toril, Davao City, and Inawayan village of Santa Cruz, Davao del Sur, which started commercial operations in January this year.
Despite this, Lindo said, the group is not giving up the fight as there are more coal-fired power plants being built in different parts of Mindanao.
These include the 300-megawatt coal-fired power plant of Conal Holdings Inc. in Maasin town, Sarangani province, another one in Malita, Davao del Sur, and two more in Cagayan de Oro City.
“The fight is not over yet,” said Lindo.
But she admitted “the most that we can do is not to stop exposing the health risks that dirty coal brings to women and children.”
“All issues that contribute to the abuse of women, whether physical, emotional, psychological, financial, health, including plunder of the environment and state violence, are issues that we will continue to raise,” said Lyda Canson, chair emeritus of Gabriela Southern Mindanao.
But even if women, as a vulnerable group, are among the casualties of climate change, they’re also at the forefront of the solution.
Lindo said women are leading survival efforts in evacuation centers.
“It’s always the women who go out looking for solutions even if doing so exposes them to the risks of diseases and other threats,” Lindo said.
“That’s why, confronted with survival issues, it’s always the women who go looking for the right solutions,” Lindo said.
“Because of the direct relationship between dirty energy and climate change, women opt for renewable energy solutions that will not harm people’s health and the environment,” she said.
Lindo said women’s survival instincts in the face of displacement from man-made and natural calamities have been tested.
“They’re at the forefront of the climate solution,” she said. Heeding the call of OBR founder and activist Eve Ensler to rise, dance and disrupt, Davao women advocates declared it won’t be business as usual for new coal-fired power plants in Mindanao, which are also a failure in terms of addressing Mindanao’s power shortage.
“For as long as the violent structures exist and continue to oppress women—state violence or coal-fired plants or mining—we will continue to rise and fight,” said Mae Fe Templa, executive director of group In Peace and a member of the OBR organizing group in Davao.
The OBR campaign called on women around the world to give each rising’s call to action local contexts, focusing on poor communities and calling for justice and systemic change to end all forms of violence against women.
“We believe that reproductive health justice is also climate justice,” said Lindo. “One Billion Rising is about overcoming injustices,” she said.
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