Young people in the Philippines and elsewhere conducted a vast protest on Friday, demanding that political and business leaders act on the issue of climate change.
Global Climate Strikes is a youth-led movement inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, and seeks to remind adults all over the world that through their action or inaction, they will determine the kind of life that the young and the succeeding generations will come to know as normal.
Scientists say that if current global warming activities are not kept to below 1.5 degrees Celsius, climate change will bring catastrophic results. We are starting to feel these, already, in the form of rising sea levels, more violent and more frequent storms, protracted forest fires from the Amazon to Indonesia, and the resulting drought, famine and displacement.
Here in the Philippines, young people are leading rallies, workshops and related events in at least 28 locations for the next seven days, primarily demanding that the government declare a climate emergency.
In support of the strikes, the Department of Education, through a memorandum, ordered teachers and school heads to excuse students who would take part in the action provided they present proof of consent of their parents and legal guardians. It also encouraged schools to document their participation and post it on social media to help spread the word.
The youth strikers amassed in several locations Friday, reminding decision makers in government to not just talk about climate change but to do something concrete about it.
Studies have shown the Philippines is the third country most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The archipelago’s physical make up and location make it prone to weather patterns, made more extreme and frequent by the heat trapped in the atmosphere.
Other demands include the phaseout of coal and other fossil fuels, a transition to renewable energy while securing the livelihood of workers, the safeguarding of the rights of indigenous people and environmental defenders, the strengthening of climate change mitigation and adaptation policies, and enhancement of support for the creation of sustainable cities and communities.
One location in Friday’s strike was the Commission on Human Rights compound in Quezon City, where Commissioner Chito Gascon spoke before the strikers. He emphasized the link between climate change and human rights, saying that the global tragedy would affect the dignity and life choices of ordinary people.
Gascon also expressed his wish that the Duterte administration rethink an earlier pronouncement that it would stop sending official delegates to climate change conferences, where the Philippines has been an active, vocal participant over the past two decades.
Climate change is not an opinion, Gascon said, echoing Thunberg. It is a fact, and the only question remaining is how today’s decision makers will respond to a threat whose effects they are not likely to live to see. It is the youth of today and tomorrow who stand to lose their homes and livelihoods, security and safety, and their human rights and dignity in the event the grownups are not persuaded to do more than what is already being done.