Acceptance speech at the Goldman Awards ceremony

Background - 16 April, 2003
On behalf of all communities fighting incinerators worldwide, I thank the Goldman Foundation for this recognition. It is a welcome change from the countless insults that our victory has provoked.

Greenpeace climbers unfurl a banner on the smoke stack of the Cementa cement factory

While the battle against incineration has been won in the Philippines, our war on waste is far from over. Incinerator proponents have not stopped campaigning for a repeal of the ban. International funding institutions continue to dangle the carrot of soft loans for the construction of modern incinerators disguised as sustainable waste management solutions.

Meanwhile, more and more communities in the Philippines are demonstrating the wisdom and superiority of zero waste programs for managing society's discards. For us, these communities epitomise the enduring triumph of common sense and public participation over ignorance, greed and apathy, which dumpsites like Payatas and Smokey Mountain have come to represent.

These modern-day museums of corporate irresponsibility are burning reminders of everything that is wrong with our throw-away society, and with the corrupt system that bedevils the life-blood of our nation. While Filipinos have made a tradition of mounting bloodless revolutions to depose corrupt presidents, the power of our people has yet to bring about a true process of positive renewal against the culture of corruption, inefficiency and incompetence in government.

As such, we will endeavour to cleanse our society by making waste a key issue in next year's presidential elections. Now more than ever, we need leaders who possess the vision, the creativity, and the will to transform a festering problem into an opportunity that will energise our communities and free ourselves from the misery and hopelessness symbolised by our notorious mountains of waste.

Paradoxically, amid poverty and squalor lie hope and redemption. In a community in Smokey Mountain you will find good old-fashioned hope in the efforts of a priest organising women, youth and the jobless into a recycling cooperative. In the middle of a garbage dump, a community garden comes to life. The people who make this happen are the real heroes in the war for sustainability. Their vision and boldness inspire people like myself to work for the greater ideals of life, community, governance, nationhood and the environment.

The war on waste is a war against greed, ignorance, incompetence, and apathy. This is the war that needs to be waged. It is also a war that needs to be won if we are to liberate our societies from the treadmill of over-consumption. If ever there was a just and moral war that needs to be fought and won, this is it. The wastefulness of our societies is compromising the ability of nature to sustain our needs and those of future generations. The war on waste reminds us that the general direction of rescue and redemption for our planet lies in better humanity more than better technology.

Thank you and let's all work together to build a better world for our children.

Von Hernandez Co-Coordinator, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives/Global Anti-Incinerator Alliance (GAIA) Asian Toxics Campaigner, Greenpeace International