Biology was my favorite subject in high school and I think that made me decide to take up Environmental Science as a course in the university. But I feel like it’s in my blood. I belong to the Ibaloi indigenous ethnic group and as most indigenous people are, they are more connected to the earth. Or maybe I just like trees and mountains, and the natural world. And we’re supposed to be stewards of God’s creation anyway, right?
“Oh, that is so nice of you, trying to protect the environment.” That’s what I usually hear. It’s such a noble cause, they say. But I also remember someone saying, environmentalism is a hopeless idealism. It can seemingly be like that because people have a tendency to self-destruct or perhaps it’s humanity’s plain stupidity. We’re polluting the air and the water, using up all our natural resources, killing animals, cutting down trees, all in the name of development, of feeding society’s insatiable need to consume, and keeping the pockets of corporations fat as ever.
In school, I got to learn more about natural resource management and environmentalism. I had fun climbing mountains, exploring caves, and counting plants and trees. I began volunteering for a local environmental NGO. As a campus journalist, I was able to write about different environmental issues.
Being an environmentalist was not a career but more of a lifestyle for me. It was difficult to look for environmental jobs to begin with. I didn’t want to work for the government and the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) because I didn’t want to lose my idealism early on. So I took jobs unrelated to my course but I always tried to influence people to be more environment-friendly. I encouraged my co-workers to segregate waste. I gave talks on climate change. I urged my friends to volunteer and plant trees.
Now, I work for a solar energy company and I volunteer for Greenpeace Philippines and Climate Reality Project giving me more opportunities for environmental advocacy work. It surprises me how there aren’t a lot of environmentalists around considering the urgency of solving environmental problems. Those who claim to care for the environment don’t do a lot. Don’t get me wrong, every little contribution counts but at the rate of how fast we are destroying the planet, we should be more aggressive in taking action.
Last week, I joined Chikapihan with Yeb Sano, an informal environmental discussion event with the Executive Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia and I asked him this question: “Reducing consumption is one way of helping the planet but how can we effectively do this when the very system requires us to consume?” Yeb admits that this is a challenge but the key is balance. He said there’s no single solution. That reducing consumption should be in a cultural or massive scale in order to make an impact. He added that the best way to change the system is to replace it with a new one.
Today is Environment Day and June is Environment Month in the Philippines. Once again, this is a reminder to take positive environmental action to protect nature and the planet Earth. In the words of Bob Marley which is one of Yeb’s favorite quotes, “The people who were trying to make this world worse are not taking the day off, how can I?”
So hopeless idealism this may be, it’s worth the shot. Let’s care a little bit more for the sake of the planet, our future, and ourselves.