How the climate crisis robs the youth

A young community participant in a recently concluded Greenpeace workshop expresses their climate change story through art. Photo by Alren Beronio

In the Philippines, the echoes of Super Typhoon Yolanda still reverberate through the lives of young individuals like Kathleen Odita and Maria Anita Napoto. Their experiences not only encapsulate the resilience of the Filipino spirit but also underscore the profound impact climate change has on the youth’s future.

Twenty-year-old Kathleen, a resident of Guiuan, Eastern Samar, notes, “After Yolanda… ‘pag may bagyo, lahat ng mga tao nagkukusa nang lumikas. Kasi ‘nung Yolanda hindi naman talaga lahat aware or parang hindi naman talaga sineryoso.” It’s a testament to the lack of preparation and the inadequate response to the looming climate crisis.

The consequences are not merely environmental; they strike at the heart of the quality of life of the Filipinos, affecting livelihood and education among others. Anita, 16, from Quinapondan town, expresses the economic hardships: “Nakabangon na kami sa emosyon, pero pagdating po sa puhunan, parang wala pong nangyari. Mahirap talaga ‘yung kabuhayan namin.”

Year after year, extreme weather events with ever-increasing intensity impact the country’s education sector, taking away access to quality education from millions of Filipino youth. Damages in school architecture, in roads that connect remote communities to learning centers, lengthy class suspensions and disruptions in class cycles, not to mention the trauma and stress experienced by learners and educators–these and more deeply hurt the education of our youth and rob them of opportunities for a stable future.

Anita continues, “Sana makabawi kami sa mga nawala sa amin, hindi lang sa ‘min kundi pati na sa buong barangay. Kasi po ‘yung barangay namin, maganda talaga doon, pero noong kakatapos ng Yolanda parang nawalan na ng kulay.” Beyond emotional recovery, these impacts leave scars, affecting their capacity to rebuild their lives and dimming the once vibrant landscapes they used to call home.

Mataas po talaga ‘yung mga bilihin ngayon, kahit ‘yung mga sibuyas sobrang taas na, saka ‘yung mga bigas,” Anita adds, explaining how the climate crisis makes life even more difficult.

The Filipino youth need to rally together and demand accountability from those primarily responsible for environmental degradation: corporations and governments. Leveraging their collective power, the youth can push for policies prioritizing sustainability while holding industries accountable for their actions.

Unang-una ‘yung mga kabataan– Alam ko naman na aware na sila sa nangyayari sa kapaligiran, sa climate change,” Kathleen says. “At least encourage the people na kahit may mga problema tayo, dapat hindi natin iitsapwera ‘yung mga problema na kinakaharap ng ating environment.”

Advocating for renewable energy sources and promoting sustainable practices are pivotal in combating the climate crisis. Moreover, it’s equally crucial to urge environmentally destructive businesses like oil and gas companies to pay for the losses and damages they cause. Only by holding powerful entities accountable for their environmental footprint–not only on the individual level–can the youth hope to reclaim a future that the climate crisis has robbed from them.

Kathleen and Anita’s experiences serve as a call for Filipino youth to unite and demand transformative action. Their voices, joined with the chorus of impassioned young individuals globally, ring the bells of urgency for systemic changes. It’s time for the youth to step into their roles as catalysts for change, resounding their demands for a sustainable and equitable future.

The challenge lies in breaking away from the historical norms and making authorities answer for their lack of sufficient action. Through persistent and unified demands for change, the youth can instigate a shift in the way governments and corporations address climate issues. The power of the Filipino youth lies not just in their numbers but in their determination to demand accountability. By harnessing collective strength and raising their voices, they can push for transformative changes that are essential in reclaiming the future that the climate crisis has unjustly stolen from them.

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