Social movements develop and grow to match the circumstances they face. For the past two years I’ve witnessed the growth of the anti-coal movement in Atimonan, Quezon, led by the Catholic Church through the work of the  Our Lady of the Angels Parish. From leading mass mobilizations like the Lakad-Dasal para sa Kalikasan (prayer march for the environment) in protest of the proposed coal plant, to educating the people about the true cost of coal; from organizing people to to be involved in the protection of the very environment they are living in, to solarizing their Church, the anti-coal movement in Atimonan is at the forefront of climate action.

Last week the parish initiated an engagement designed for the youth of Quezon – a Youth Camp that focuses on basic ecology and activism to educates the youth about their role in fighting climate change.

Bearing witness and connecting the dots

At the camp, it was stressed how climate change has become the biggest challenge of our time. This was affirmed by some participants having experienced extreme weather events – like Typhoon Glenda in 2014 – events that have, time and again, demonstrated our increasing vulnerability to climate change impacts.

© Greenpeace/Jenny Tuazon

Quezon Province already hosts two coal-fired power plants. The existing 735-MW plant in Pagbilao town facing Tayabas Bay is being extended with an additional 420-MW plant, and in Mauban town, also situated along the shores of the Pacific Ocean, is host to a 1,500-MW plant. The people of Quezon cannot allow another 1,200-MW coal plant to be built in the beautiful province.

Working for a coal-free Quezon Province

According to Fr. Warren Puno, the head of the parish’s environmental desk, it’s truly worrying that Atimonan is still eyed to host the proposed coal plant. People want real and lasting solutions — those that will not expose their lives to harm and will ensure that their rights to a healthy and balanced ecology are not stepped on. They deem climate action is of immense importance for all of us. I couldn’t agree more to that. Fighting climate change requires an initiative against its worsening globally. The first law of ecology rings true: everything is connected to everything else. We have science-based facts accessible to everyone; what we need now is to reflect, analyze, and act holistically while recognizing how interdependent we all have become, in our local communities, and across countries and regions.

© Greenpeace/Jenny Tuazon

The Atimonan Church has deemed it necessary to strengthen their resolve to make their youth well-educated and passionate about protecting not just the town they currently live in but also wherever they get their feet on in the future. And I have promised to help them however I can. This generation inherits the responsibility to protect what’s left of our planet, to fight the complex scientific problems and social quandaries brought about by climate change.

© Greenpeace/Jenny Tuazon

Youth education has always been one of the most effective tools to combat the destructive potential of climate change. There’s a need for us to cultivate an understanding among members of this generation, because this fight is a long-term one. That’s also why we tackled organizing and campaigning in our sessions at the youth camp. The younger generation is tech-savvy, we'd only need to provide them the proper tools, guide them, and make sure their creativity is not restricted – there’s plenty of room to make the climate movement as beautiful and diverse as the things we are fighting to save.

The youth camp is but a step on the path to climate justice. Real solutions start with globally linked, locally grounded social movements mobilizing around what climate change perpetuates: social, racial, environmental degradation, and economic inequities. We're in this for the long haul.

© Greenpeace/Jenny Tuazon