"The poor will be hardest hit by weather-related disasters and by soaring price inflation for staple foods, but even the richest nations face the prospect of economic recession and a world in conflict over diminishing resources. Mitigating climate change, eradicating poverty and promoting economic and political stability all demand the same solution: we must kick the carbon habit!" -Ban Ki Moon, United Nations Secretary General

Today’s world Environment Day and what better way to celebrate it than to open a ‘Climate Defenders Camp’. Under the clear blue skies we’ve set up camp right outside the Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral, we’re here because there’s an ongoing struggle between some business groups and government officials on one hand, and the Roman Catholic Church & environmental groups on the other, over a proposal to build a “clean coal” 165MW coal-fired power plant in the province. The location of the coal plant is beside an existing diesel plant located within the city itself, and within 300 meters from densely populated low-income residential neighborhoods.

The NGO Germanwatch, has ranked the Philippines as the top nation to be hit by climate-related disasters in 2006. Yet despite being ravaged by some of the most powerful storms, floods and mudslides in recent years, yet the Philippine government is embarking on one of the most aggressive coal expansion plans in Asia.

It is in response to this myopic perspective of development that we’ve set camp in one of the city’s busiest areas we want to engage people into looking at the long-term benefits of opposing the plant and while at the same time pushing for a dramatic shift of our energy dependence from coal to renewable energy.

As we set camp youth members of Solar Generation launched a solar café that runs on solar energy derived from the solar panels that we’ve also installed on site, we’re hoping that the people of Iloilo would share our vision of a greener future that’s no longer dependent on fossil fuels, echoing the sentiments stated by UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon on his World Environment Day Speech.

A few hours after we’ve put up the entire camp along with the exhibit, rain suddenly gushed and what seemed like an afternoon drizzle suddenly became a relentless downpour that flooded the entire camp area and we were forced to take down all the stuff that might get damaged from the water that's speedily engulfing our camp.

By the time the rain has stopped it was almost dusk and we were forced to regroup and rebuild. Hopefully tomorrow's another day...

The whole experience candidly reminded me of James Taylor’s, Fire & Rain where there’s a line that goes: “I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain…” and that best explains how we all felt we put up camp under the scorching heat of the sun up until noontime when suddenly the rain poured. On hindsight, our experience during the first day of the camp best illustrates the sudden unpredictability of weather patterns that we are all experiencing now, due to climate change. All over the world there’s a debate on whether or not we should kick the carbon habit.
Hopefully this camp will in its own little way help turn the tide in the debate.

you can also read the web story on the Greenpeace website

Chuck Baclagon