An estimated 7 million people from all over the world joined the global climate strikes on Sept. 20 and 27. Led by the youth, the strike participants called on world leaders to respond to the climate crisis in a way consistent with science. The climate strikes were timed to coincide with the UN Climate Action Summit in New York, where world leaders discussed the climate crisis.
Here in the Philippines, climate strikes were held at dozens of different locations from Ilocos to Tawi-Tawi. Just like in the global climate strikes, young Filipinos led way, calling on the Philippine government to recognize a climate emergency and enforce policies consistent with the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
For the young people who are going to live with the consequences of insufficient action on the climate crisis, and who are already suffering from the legacy of previous inaction, the question now is—what else can they do to help? Anyone who cares about the future of these young people should ask the same question.
This question came up in many forms during “Kalampagin ang Sistema,” a forum organized by Youth Strike 4 Climate Philippines last Sept. 27 to promote awareness about the crisis. One participant put it so simply when she pointed out, “I began realizing that using metal straws was not enough to save the planet, and so I began searching for other ways I could help. That is why I am here.”
Project Drawdown, a research organization that works with scientists and engineers to “review, analyze, and identify the most viable global climate solutions”, compiled a list of some of the most effective ways to address the climate crisis.
What follows are their top ten solutions.
One, refrigeration management. This means replacing the chemicals used in refrigeration and air conditioning from what are known as HFCs, which are currently being used, to alternatives that do not trap heat in the atmosphere. HFCs need to be replaced because they are very potent greenhouse gases.
Two, wind turbines. This is closely related to number eight which is solar farms and number ten which is rooftop solar. Each of these solutions is related to the challenge of generating electricity without releasing a lot of greenhouse gases.
At numbers three and four are plant-based diets and reduced food waste, respectively. Meanwhile at number nine is the use of silvopasture, or the ancient practice of integrating trees in raising livestock. These solutions are effective because industrial animal agriculture and food waste are major sources of greenhouse gases, in particular methane.
At number five is the protection and preservation of tropical rainforests, which serve as storage units for the world’s carbon.
At numbers six and seven are educating girls and providing access to family planning, respectively. These are effective because they help curb exponential population growth.
Their list continues with solutions ranging from regenerative agriculture (number 11) to mass transit (37) to energy storage (77).
Two things should be noted about the effectiveness of these solutions. First, they will have real impact only when applied on a societal, if not global scale. Second, they will be nullified if we fail to stop the further burning of fossil fuels and other activities that release greenhouse gases into the air.
For example, many of us can adopt a plant-based diet, and that would be good. However, if the market continues to reward animal agriculture with skyrocketing profits, the industry will continue to release greenhouse gases.
We can also put up solar panels on our rooftops, but if new coal power plants continue to be built, and if only a few people can afford to put up rooftop solar, then the effectiveness of this solution is compromised.
That is where political and collective action, such as joining strikes for the climate or voting during elections, comes in. By showing leaders that many of us are taking the climate crisis seriously, we can put pressure on them to enact effective solutions on a massive, and therefore effective, scale.
This means that we who care about the future of human life on Earth must organize. By organizing, we can more effectively encourage the majority to take action with us. After all, according to a recent Pew Center Research survey, 72 percent of Filipinos said they are “very concerned” about climate change.
Through collective action, we can form a solid block of politically active citizens that can pressure our public servants to be consistent with the realities of science and to their oath to protect us. In the process, we can also create a world that is simply better for us, one where our cities are walkable and commuter-friendly, where food is healthier, where technology is modern, and where people work together to build a better future.