Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Confronting Climate Change: Philippines

Weather these days is becoming worrisome.
Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) bearing down on our Philippines

The typhoons our nation must yearly contend against are becoming unpredictable in number as well as fiercer in intensity. Indeed, we have a new classification per PAGASA for "super typhoon".

Furthermore, our typhoon season seems to be no longer predictably contained in the wet season. As such, seasonal monsoon winds exacerbate a number of these unseasonal storms blowing in from the pacific causing our communities more grief. (I've never heard of those red, orange, and yellow rainfall warning growing up and we didn't have any typhoons at all past November.)

Why is "our weather" becoming worrisome?

Weather is local. 

I say it is local because its effects are local. It is worrisome to us only because it is local. Ask yourself where you were when Yolanda or Ondoy made landfall and you will see: Weather is local.

Those who think much about weather are usually those who are much affected by its effects. 

The very immediacy of weather produces an urgency. 

And this urgency we can feel because the Philippines along with many island nations in the Pacific are at the front line of climate change in the sense that we are the ones who must more or less directly contend against its local effects... as we have with Yolanda and Ondoy.

What is the connection? I want us empowered to handle the local effect of climate change but for now let us look past Yoldanda and Ondoy...

Let us look past weather when we worry about climate for weather is already a consequence of climate and it is climate that is driving the changes in our weather.

What is climate?

Climate is more predictable than weather. These are systems larger and more powerfully integrated to forces and motions that arise from the nature and circumstance of our planet.

One may Google more specific information about climate but for the purpose of this article allow this writer to emphasize this fact: Climate is not local.

Climate is global.

We hear about global warming these days. We hear arguments against it as well as in support of it. We hear of climate summits wherein the leaders of our nations seek to address it. We hear of its advocacy. We hear its many and varied voices.

How come for many of us local Pinoys, it seems difficult to really empower ourselves about any of the issues associated with climate change. Even those of us who are convinced that something has gone awfully wrong with something up in the sky there somewhere find it hard to do anything with that sense of the urgency that is nagging at our convictions. So we hold on to our stories and our beliefs... and wait...

And wait...

For many of us now, it is becoming painful to wait... wait for the next supertyphoon? 

Wait and not know.

You see, the problem (as I see it) is that unlike weather, climate is global.

Many of us really do not do much to affect the climate of the planet even if we wanted to. We Filipinos as a people have small climate footprints. Our Philippine Republic in this same regard do not rank among Countries we may say are primary contributors to either the problem or the solution.

Most of the issues surrounding climate change remain distant to many of us. 

The reality of climate change seem so disjointed from our common experience as a nation that the sense of urgency that should be building up in the spirit of our Republic due to such unprecedented weather phenomenon as Yolanda and Ondoy seem itself unsure.

Actions that truly empower us in this regard seem few and far between.

This is both good and bad.

GOOD: Because we have not yet committed the worst of environmental crimes. The kinds of pollution we ordinarily deal with as a nation are not (yet) highly toxic. Our present day mistakes - if we get a grip - are (still) not costly to fix.

The kinds of pollution we Filipinos endure everyday tainting our land, air, and water are usually brought about by ineffective garbage disposal in our communities oftentimes by our communities themselves.

BAD: Because we, as Filipinos, seem not yet fully aware of the environmental and ecological dimensions innate to our citizenship.

And so in retrospect, we think to ourselves sometimes at the wake of those unseasonal storms: If only we as citizens (or as a nation) have done this or done that so as to enable ourselves to become more involved and more informed about these things...

The problem is, unlike climate, weather is local.

When weather happens, it is already a consequence of climate. 

So we feel helpless. We begin to hate the player not the game. I want us to be able to hate the game and be an effective player in the game (so to speak).

Dealing with climate change does not have to be an exercise in helplessness.

Climate is global. Weather is local. 

The effects of climate change is worrisome because weather is becoming worrisome. We may not have the reach nor the influence to largely affect climate. But we can advocate matters that deal with and help prepare the communities of our nation for the effects of climate change. We can empower their thought by explaining how weather is only a consequence of climate change that they may not feel pitted against something beyond the grasp of their understanding. That the right response is to be prepared.  

Let us allow our LGUs the comfort of being able to believe (by each their own measures) they are doing their best... because they are.

Weather and preparedness are two key words that go hand in hand. As regards weather, preparedness is not only the right thing to do... it is the most we can do. And in this, we can do much.

As regards climate change, we must deal with it decisively as well... by fully reviving in our citizenship, its environmental and ecological dimensions. (Meditate on the 3rd Rupture: Man - Creation.)

The green in our citizenship is gold to our nationhood. 

The good news I think is this revival taking place at the heart of our civics is already happening... Sagip-Ilog, Run for Pasig River, Tree Plantings, Green energies, citizens disposing their garbage responsibly... 

Think about it, my brother and sister Filipinos.

When we think about climate, apart from the weather, let us in our minds think - climate and pollution are the two key words that go together.

For it is pollution that is driving the changes in climate, pollution of a kind we are NOT YET capable of and, if we are a wise people, should not think of being and therefore, developing our capacities in that way... learning from the experiences of our one family of nations.

We can be wiser than the game by playing nature fair... and much shall it profit our peace.

Love of nature after all is a timeless Filipino trait.