Last September was the most hopeful I’ve felt in a long, long time.
The month didn’t start out that way though. Both the United Nations General Assembly and the UN Climate Change Summit had descended upon New York, where this Filipina now lives. Although I was once a big believer in the top-down approach to governance, the only remaining thing the General Assembly did for me was generally make life miserable; and the climate summit stirred up old traumas I was still trying to bury.
I used to work in the climate space, but left it disillusioned with the slow pace of action. Presented with an opportunity to do something completely different, I opened a hair salon in Makati and thought: “We’re all going to burn up anyway. I might as well go out coiffed.”
As a small business owner, my climate disillusion sank to dejection. Bad weather is so bad for business. Although I had said this many times in my previous life as a climate researcher, I felt its blow first-hand as an entrepreneur. Whenever the rains came, staff, customers, and revenue evaporated.
But beyond this, I found it hardest to witness its impact on individual lives – more glaring in the Philippines than in any other country I’ve lived in. During typhoons, one of my team members had to bring her family of 6 to a makeshift second floor in their home where they shared a cushion that had a mosquito net tightly wrapped around it while they slept, to protect them from the snakes that came with the floods that entered their home. Another regularly waded through floods filled with garbage, corpses, and disease to get to work. (READ: [OPINION] Why the Philippines should declare a climate emergency)
Climate change dragged the indignity of poverty down to a new low.
As the global political context worsened under the likes of Trump and Duterte, whenever I heard talk related to the environment, I tuned out in hopelessness.
Climate coverage so dominated mainstream news that it forced me to peek out from under my mental blanket. Climate events littered New York. And around the world, 6 million people joined climate strikes in their respective countries to highlight the urgency of the issue. (READ: WATCH: Climate change, explained by a kid)
As someone who once struggled to find climate news and who was accustomed to seeing only tree-huggers at climate events, the groundswell of ordinary citizens from all walks of life that engaged with the summit jolted me.
It made me realize that in my wallowing, I had missed signs that the global citizenry was supplanting national governments and taking climate action into its own hands. And the signs were many.
In the Philippines, select public-private partnerships have done impressive work to clean up the Pasig River, and LGUs like that of Makati have banned plastic bags – a major environmental problem for us. In America, in spite of Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, many states have enacted legislation to decrease their carbon emissions and decouple their economies from fossil fuels. People all over the world were doing their part and if I hadn’t been sidetracked by sulking, I could have been contributing my bit too. (READ: [OPINION] It's time to stop investing in climate change)
If your situation sounds even remotely similar to mine, its time to wake up! We’ve all languished through record-breaking heat waves. We’ve all suffered through repentance-inducing floods. We all have skin in this game.
So let’s dispose of our garbage mindfully; let’s care about how mining companies are affecting our environment and communities; let’s teach our children to take care of Mother Earth. The past years prove to us that individual effort and collective hope eventually overcome. – Rappler.com
Based in New York, Leticia Labre is a writing enthusiast using this space as a good excuse to embark on some adventures, gain wisdom, and make friends along the way. Follow her on Twitter: @beingleticia.