“Sang-ayon po kami sa kaunlaran. ‘Yung kaunlaran po na tinutukoy mo, iba doon sa kaunlaran para sa amin. Ang kaunlaran para sa amin ay pagyamanin namin ang kabundukan at karagatan. ‘Yun po ang gusto namin mangyari.” – Vic, a Dumagat tribesman from the Philippines, as featured in Viewfinder Asia’s The March to Progress in the Philippines

 

[Translation: “We indigenous people also want progress. But your idea of progress is different from our idea of progress. Progress for us means taking care of our lands and our seas.”]

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The neighboring Southeast Asian countries of the Philippines and Indonesia have a lot in common. Both are home to numerous indigenous peoples, the guardians of global biodiversity. Both also share the center of the world’s marine biodiversity – The Coral Triangle, home to 76% of the world’s coral species, six out of the world’s seven marine turtle species, a fifth of the global tuna catch, and the largest fish in the world (the Whale Shark). However, our ecosystems are continuously threatened by the impacts of the climate crisis and exploitative companies. Many of our native wildlife are endangered due to habitat destruction, deforestation, and poaching. Our waters suffer from bleaching, ocean acidification, and the imported excess plastic pollution of developed countries, which can all be traced back to the fossil fuel industry. This, in turn, impacts our people, many of which populate our extensive coastlines or belong to the agricultural sector; and thus rely on the health of our sea and our land for protection, food and income. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has reported, our countries are truly particularly vulnerable to climate change.

We young Climate Reality Leaders from the Philippines and Indonesia are thus working to shed light on and contribute to solving these issues, as we move towards a unified Southeast Asian youth movement to address the climate crisis. If the youth from our two countries can find our vast common ground, then we can surely invite youth from the rest of Southeast Asia to join the fight. We share so much, especially our vulnerabilities, and this should unite us. Climate solutions cannot and should not  be carried out by only one or two countries, but by a handful with committed risk takers in them.

With our partnership, we aim to empower youth coming from all sectors, interests, expertise, and backgrounds to understand where, when and why they need to take climate action and how they can do so. Moreover, we aim to build our collaboration so that it can grow to be a platform for Southeast Asian youth to express their concerns and for us to amplify these to stakeholders. 

The youth have the creativity, passion, and capability to lead on climate. We understand the urgency of the crisis we face and that the consequences will be evident in our lifetime. Increasing numbers of us are realizing that the adults have taken too long to act, and our distress towards decision-makers in business and government are driving us to take matters into our own hands. As we shy away from the conventional norms that have led us to the crisis we’re experiencing today, the community of youth has become the incubation of new ideas and solutions. Youth Strike For Climate Philippines, Young Advocates for Climate Action Philippines, For The Future and Kids for Kids from the Philippines as well as EwasteRJ and Teens Go Green from Indonesia are great examples among many amazing stories on influential and impactful youth-led climate action. These organizations have succeeded in bringing more young people on board, to care about the environment and the climate. They have inspired their fellow youth to affect change, from the day-to-day choices they make to participation in national and global policy-making.

Here at the youth communities of The Climate Reality Project Philippines and Indonesia, we have also begun identifying our initiatives for people and planet, and are now laying a positive and grounded foundation for our partnership. We’ve led Focus Group Discussions on the different crises we experience as nations of Southeast Asia. We’ve hosted networking sessions in which our members are encouraged to build relationships and collaborations at the same time. As a special event for Earth Day 2021, we’ve also worked together for a webcast that featured changemakers from both our countries. Our upcoming projects include a climate camp and a shared podcast amplifying the work of youth leaders and organizations doing the work on the ground. Moving forward, storytelling will play a key role in our efforts to inspire others to create change in their own communities. We also keep in mind that inclusivity and impact must be key components of our events, so young leaders can truly feel the difference they’ve made and stay driven. We are continuously exploring different delivery methods and platforms, including movie nights and game nights, to keep our collaboration engaging, as we intend to sustain this partnership. To sustain means to keep our fire burning, and that lies in the support that all members can give to our shared work and to each other. Fighting the climate crisis takes its toll but having a network of inspired and dedicated individuals to come back to gives us our own form of energy that is always renewable.

We, the youth, are ready to lead on climate. We have been for a long time. We thus implore business and government leaders alike: work with us. We are using our voices to scream at the top of our lungs what it is that we want and that we all need – a sustainable livable planet, and a transition to it that leaves no one behind. There is no money for dead people on a dead planet.

This International Day of Biodiversity, we call on everyone to return to our roots and return home to our Mother. Our world is so beautiful and abundant, if we only use the resources that she gives us properly. We must do what we can to protect what we have and restore what we’ve lost. And we must remember that we can’t do it alone. We, all of us doing our part – from the personal level to the institutional and systemic levels in business and government – are stronger together. We must be for nature, because we are nature.

As Chief Seattle of the Suquamish and Duwamish tribes said, “Man does not weave this web of life. He is merely a strand of it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”