Last year, in November, Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) wiped out the whole of Tacloban, displacing 4.1 million people, leaving 6,300 dead.
No less than United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon underscored the gravity of the impact Yolanda has not only on Filipinos but the entire world, having stated that the catastrophe is an “urgent warning, an example of changed weather, and how climate change is affecting all of us on Earth.”
Furthermore, this year, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAG-ASA) reported that the country is going to experience El Nino beginning June. This translates to drought, soil degradation, and forest fires; and in the metropolis, a huge shortage in domestic water supply. Manila has had its hottest at 36.8, as of press time, and what’s worse — the temperature is bound to even go higher in the days to come.
Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje has long been appealing for all Filipinos to adapt to climate change, and to accept the “growing intensity of typhoons, as well as the long drought during the dry season, as the new normal.”
Now, given this scenario, how do we empower people on how to behave on this new normal?
Helping the Youth Embrace the New Normal
In a recent Climate Change Communication Planning workshop convened by the DENR Public Affairs Office, the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) revealed the public’s perception towards climate change as being vague – that it is never one’s own fault, problem, and responsibility, but somebody else’s. Prevailing attitude towards climate change is apathy (walang pakialam), with people claiming to have a more pressing concern (bringing food to the table), with them even questioning how relevant climate change is to them, and how relevant are they to the issue, in return.
The call is to inspire cooperation, to foster partnerships, especially with communities, and to weaken public’s apathy – to move from the “bahala na” and “wala akong pakialam” mindset to “I am able, I can, and I will do something” for climate change. And so, educators are called upon to help people become more aware that it is high time to not just care but be involved. By protecting the environment, we protect ourselves
Environmental educators are also encouraged to play a significant role in weakening public apathy to climate change by positioning and engaging the youth as active proponents, forming and reshaping them to value the environment more. By molding the “near future” generation, we ensure a greener, more climate-resilient future for all.
Climate-proofing schools and universities is now a solid priority among all educational institutions in the country. Eco- friendly school finalist Don Salustiano Aquino Memorial National High School, through the Youth for Environment in Schools Organization (YES-O), spearheads tree-planting projects, and conducts symposia on disaster risk reduction management and climate change adaptation and mitigation. The school also organizes cleanup drives and film-showing activities related to disasters and climate change.
Manukan National High School in Zamboanga, for its Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Program, organized a com- mittee on eco-friendly environment. The said committee is assigned to frame-up school policies regarding eco-friendly envi- ronment; coordinate the existing school clubs and organizations in conducting activities and affairs relative to adaptation to climate change; monitor energy-savings and address water scarcity; and supervise proper waste segregation and disposal.
In Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University-North La Union Campus, ‘climate change mitigation and adaptation’ are integrated into the curriculum in almost all of the curricular programs offered by the University to increase the level of aware- ness of the students and to cultivate environmental ethics among constituents on these pressing concerns.
With the ever-changing climate, and the future even more seemingly bleak because of catastrophes, more is the need to act, be a part, and take to our hearts the reality that saving the environment now means saving ourselves.
Nagbabago na ang panahon, panahon na para magbago. There really is no other option.
** I wrote this article as a report on the National Orientation Workshop on Climate Change Advocacy Campaign organized by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, in partnership with the Philippine Information Agency in May 2014, for a unified National Climate Change Advocacy program. Published on the PATLEPAM Newsletter July 2014 issue.
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