Turned off from switching off?

It all began in Australia in 2007 in a lights off event. Now, dubbed as “Earth Hour,” it became an annual worldwide movement organized by WWF encouraging people to switch off their lights for an hour as a support for climate change action.

But is this simply another feel-good event that doesn’t really have any significant impact?

Critics say that the reduction in power consumption is negligible. Well, that’s true. And Earth Hour events when not managed well actually contribute to a lot of waste generated and more energy consumed.

But the whole point of Earth Hour is raising awareness on climate change and other environmental issues. Because frankly, there are still climate deniers, people who are oblivious to how we are destroying our planet, and those who need a little nudging to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle.

So I say switch off the lights. As you go beyond the hour and be more proactive in conserving energy.

Switch off the lights and let this be your vote in support for cleaner sources of energy.

Switch off the lights and continue doing something to combat climate change by reducing the stuff you buy, by being a responsible consumer, by re-using and recycling, and by lessening waste.

Switch off the lights and be part of this collective environmental movement.

Let the naysayers be for at the end of the day, taking action is better than inaction.

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Climate change could ruin Valentine’s Day forever

I have always thought that romantic love is overrated but that won’t stop capitalists and corporations from taking advantage of so-called “heart’s day.” Valentine’s Day originated from a Roman fertility festival, became Christianized in honor of St. Valentine, and now is a major marketing ploy for those selling flowers, chocolates, stuffed toys, cards, and other gifts. Since we’re at it, we might as well talk about a much more important issue that could be the end of Valentine’s Day as we know it – climate change.

You see all those flowers you love to receive on Valentine’s, they could go instinct. Why? Because bees and other pollinators which contribute to the growth of fruits, vegetables, and flowering plants are disappearing. Thanks to climate change, the destruction of their habitat, and other factors.

For chocolates, another staple for Valentine’s, we could run out of these because climate change and poverty are driving cocoa farmers to produce other crops.

And how about those romantic getaway destinations? They could be destroyed by climate change induced typhoons, floods, and droughts.

So while you’re preoccupied today to be as romantic as you can to your sweetheart, I hope you could also spare a little love for the earth. Check out these Green Valentine’s Gift Ideas.

Renewables in the Philippines

Here’s the lowdown on climate change. It is real. You may deny it all you want but it won’t simply go away. The increase of global temperatures leads to catastrophic weather disasters. Greenhouse gas emissions are the culprit. Around 50% of which come from the energy sector powered mainly by coal and other fossil fuels. Thus the campaign to shift to renewables.

The energy mix of the Philippines is composed of 30% renewable energy (RE) installed capacity, 30% natural gas, 30% coal, and 10% oil. According to Atty. Jay Layug, Chairman of National Renewable Energy Board, the target for 2030 is to increase RE installed capacity from 30% to 50%. This is possible as the country has a lot of potential for renewables namely biomass, geothermal, solar, hydro, and wind.

However, as explained by Atty. Layug in a forum, there are challenges and mostly it’s the cost. Coal with its Php 3 to Php 4 generation rate is ideal for base load (minimum level of demand on an electrical grid over 24 hours). Hydro and geothermal could compete with coal cost-wise but it’s not easy to build dams plus there are also NCIP (National Commission on Indigenous Peoples) issues to deal with. For geothermal, we have already tapped most of our reservoir.

How about solar? We can use this energy source at daytime. It can be stored but the price of battery is prohibitive. Nevertheless, solar can replace the more expensive diesel.

We should understand that the low cost of coal is because the negative impacts to health and the environment are not captured in the price. Carbon pricing, putting cost to carbon pollution, can give us a clearer picture of how costly coal really is.

We can still develop as a nation if we stop using coal and other fossil fuels. If we think long-term, in the context of sustainable development, it can be done.

Ratifying the Paris Agreement

Climate change is real. I suppose we have already established that. And the Paris Agreement, though not perfect, is a welcome attempt to combat climate change.

One key point of the Paris Agreement, as summarized by The Guardian, is limiting the temperature rise to 1.5C. The layman may not understand how that is important but let’s just say that a mere 0.85C increase of temperature spells death through catastrophic weather occurrences so we could imagine how worse it could get. We have, however, already reached 1C and according to data, this would continue on.

There are commitments of reducing carbon emissions, the culprit of climate change, but they are simply promises. Reduction of emissions would in a sense, stymie our development as claimed by President Duterte although the agreement recognizes that peaking will take longer for developing countries. So I guess that allows us to continue trashing the planet? Well there is also a provision on financial support expected to help developing countries adapt to climate change and transition to clean energy.

The Philippines is one of the 197 nations which signed the Paris Agreement. However, we haven’t ratified it yet. To date, 92 parties already did. For a vulnerable developing country such as ours, ratifying the Paris Agreement would let us fully engage and negotiate with other parties so that gaps in the treaty may be addressed.

Again, the Paris Agreement is far from perfect but it’s better than nothing. At the end of the day, curbing climate change is dependent on humanity’s collective political will. We either wallow in the blame game or we can choose to take action. We decide.

 

Take action now and sign the petition asking for the Philippines to ratify the Paris Agreement.

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Being an environmentalist

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.

#IAmHampasLupa Youth Campaigners in Action

We, the #IAmHampasLupa Youth Campaigners wish to change the way people see food and farming. Hampas-Lupa, usually used as a derogatory term referring to people in poverty, translates to “tilling the land” and there’s nothing wrong about that.

We call on the next president to include food security, nutrition, and ecological agriculture in their political agenda.

We want concrete action on issues of food security exacerbated by the effects of climate change and El Nino.

Join us in pushing for a safe, sustainable, and climate resilient way of farming.

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#IAmHampasLupa Youth Campaigners join the Tinig ng 10 Milyon para sa Kalikasan Green Thumb Coalition Earth Day March on April 22, 2016. (c) Marvin Almonte
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“If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make the change.” The campaigners dancing to Man in the Mirror on Earth Day. (c) Virginia Benosa
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We are one with the fisher folks on their call for presidential candidates to address issues involving coastal communities and deteriorating fishing grounds (April 24, 2016). (c) Marvin Almonte
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Unity bike for Kidapawan farmers on April 23, 2016, organized by campaigners in Mindanao.
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Silent protest asking the presidentiables what they can do to address food security issues (April 24, 2016). (c) Manila Bulletin
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Join us this 27th of April for the National Solidarity Dance Mob for food security, farmers, and ecological agriculture happening simultaneously in Baguio, Manila, Bacolod, Cebu, and Davao.

 

 

It’s April Fools Day but the Food Crisis in Mindanao is No Joke!

Climate change is real. Al Gore has been talking about it for years now. We didn’t listen or we just didn’t care.

As early as November 2014, PAGASA has already released dry condition advisory in the Philippines. We didn’t listen or we just didn’t care.

Several cities in Mindanao are now under state of calamity due to El Nino. People are going hungry. Farmers protested. Chaos. Injury. Death. Are we listening? Do we even care?

Government office candidates are campaigning for the nearing election. Promising to address issues, to help the poor, to feed the hungry. We know they don’t really listen and a lot of them don’t care.

It’s our call. We have to start listening to the cries of nature. We wouldn’t be where we are now if only we cared more for the environment.