Eleventh Hour: Defending paradise has never been this challenging

By McRey A. Sario 

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YSince 2019, St. Joseph’s Academy of Las Piñas (SJA) has been the Global Lead School in the collaborative international youth program #Decarbonize organized by the Centre for Global Education and TakingItGlobal based in Canada.

 

#Decarbonize seeks to gather the voices and opinions of youth worldwide on climate change and climate action, with this year’s run focusing on food sustainability and the links between climate change and agriculture. Through the program, young climate advocates will deliver a manifesto during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) or COP27 in Egypt happening this November.

My mentees, Irene Desiree C. Reyes and Vince Alphart O. Pallera, were selected to represent not just the school but the country in COP27. They will present a position paper on behalf of the youth of the Global South, alongside their counterparts from different parts of the world.

In preparation for COP27, our school is doing its best to raise climate change awareness among our students through different learning modalities and a variety of engaging activities. We mold our students to be agents of change who are actively involved in the social, moral, and political issues affecting society and its environment.

To realize this, we collaborated with The Climate Reality Project Philippines, Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, and Living Laudato Si Las Piñas for an impact screening of DELIKADO, a documentary film that tells the story of environmental defenders trying to stop politicians and businessmen from destroying the Philippines’ “last ecological frontier.”

The screening, which was held last Oct. 7 at the SJA Auditorium as part of the culminating activity of the Laudato Si Season of Creation, served as an eye-opener for my students on the realities of environmental conservation in the country:

“Watching the film made me think twice. What is more important? Environment protection or community development? If the advancement cost is environmental degradation, is it beneficial for us? Sometimes, we focus on the short-term goal too much that we neglect the long-term effects of our actions. I believe that community advancement is possible without the need for irresponsible development. Let us spread our knowledge and inspire others to take action to the best of our capabilities. We may be diverse in many ways, but we all yearn for one thing.”

– Marc Jeomil Mendoza, Grade 12 STEM

“I feared for myself as part of the younger generation and for our land, environmental defenders, and activists. As the film depicted the sad and dangerous reality of the Philippines for our local environmentalists, we could see how ecological protection involves the environmental sector and the socioeconomic, cultural, and political spectrums. Furthermore, it motivated me to participate in the climate action movement and hold large institutions accountable for their actions.”

– Christian Joseph Mendoza, Grade 12 STEM

“It was an eye-opening documentary film, making me see and understand the reality of our fellowmen in the provinces, especially in Palawan. The film honestly angered me, and I think that I can use this anger, this passion, to call and advocate for climate action and climate justice in our country, and I know I can start this by being an advocate for climate action in school.” – Vince Alphart Pallera, Grade 12 GAS

- John Doe

“Environmental defenders risking their lives for their land and environment are commendable. It left me wondering what we can do to help these people struggling to find peace with their ongoing uproar with the government. People with money have power. Less fortunate people (remain) powerless and have no right to speak, or they will receive threats.”

Lianna Cayleigh Lopez, Grade 12 STEM

“It was a painful experience as it humanized the statistics I had gotten used to. It showed me just how much pain these defenders go through because of systems of impunity. Delikado highlighted the importance of meaningful participation and how action can be different for everyone.”

- John Doe

“A government that is genuinely concerned with our nature must also be concerned with the people living in it. We must defend (environmental defenders) as they only want what is suitable for the community and what is right for our country.”

– George Allyson Noblejas, Grade 12 STEM

“(The film) awakens people to the need to conserve the environment because it is our home. As a student, I think even small actions can significantly impact the environment. No one will suffer if we all take action to preserve nature, and the following generation will get to experience the beauty of our planet."

– Daphney Herrera, Grade 12 STEM

“My call to action regarding this film is to keep raising more awareness about the environmental crisis through social media. I would create brochures or posters about illegal logging and fishing in Palawan and post them online. Through this, I will be able to share it with my family and friends and encourage them to share it with other people they know until I can encourage many people to help support the Palawan NGO Network Inc. (PNNI) in its mission to protect the environment. It is time that we give more attention to these documentary films because, just like any other film, there is a story and lesson behind it. We can learn so much from it, and it can even inspire us to do our part in caring for our common home, the earth.”

– Christian Edsel EJ Soriano, Grade 12 STEM

The issues showcased in the film, specifically the struggles of environmental defenders in the country, are now included in the position paper that our students will present in COP27.

Truly, defending the environment has never been more challenging. This could not go on any longer. If we want the younger generation—our kids and grandchildren— to experience a healthy life communing with nature, we need to protect our environmental defenders, ensure the implementation of the country’s environmental laws, and deliver climate solutions to the last mile.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
 

McRey A. Sario is the head of the Student Services Department (a former school principal), a Senior High School professor, and a Management Committee member at St. Joseph’s Academy of Las Pinas. He is a Climate Reality Leader and a mentor. He is also the founder and animator of Living Laudato Si’ Las Pinas, where he advocated for his students, faculty, parents, and the community to take good care of the common home, the earth. He is a faculty mentor to COP27 student delegates, ARTIVISTA, and the Asia-Pacific Regional Youth Environment Forum.

ABOUT ELEVENTH HOUR

This article was originally published on The Climate Reality Project Philippines’ weekly column for the Manila Bulletin called Eleventh Hour.

This column serves a digital space to discuss our organization’s work on supporting the country’s just transition into a clean, affordable, and self-sufficient energy system; advancing sustainable urban mobility to highlight the issues of equity and democracy; and raising public awareness about the need to phase out single-use plastics. It also serves as a platform for Pinoy Climate Reality Leaders to share your stories, promote your climate initiatives, and provide critical insights to issues that matter to climate action, environmental protection, and sustainable development.