With our children’s future on the line, every day should be Earth Day
This April 22, we will celebrate the 53rd Earth Day.
The first was in 1970 when a United States senator arranged a demonstration to bring light to environmental issues.
This brought them the Environmental Protection Agency by the end of the same year.
Fifty-three years later, we still face environmental issues, certainly much worse and more catastrophic than in the 70s.
Extreme weather events are only getting stronger, the sea levels are getting to the point of entire islands disappearing, and the floods are happening more and more. In the Philippines, the typhoons seem to be stronger every year and the heat of our summers is becoming unbearable.
Just last February 28, 2023, the oil spill in Oriental Mindoro from the sinking of MT Princess Empress with 800,000 liters brought about more environmental issues.
According to Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, the damage from the oil spill is about to hit the P1 billion mark.
More than a month later, residents from the most affected areas continue to suffer the consequences.
According to them, even with their income and the aid combined, their money remains insufficient.
Some of them have not been able to earn at all.
As these coastal communities rely on fishing for a living, the impact has been huge, to the point that they are not able to send their kids to school since they cannot provide allowance.
On top of this, they have also had to face health hazards.
In a slightly ironic occurrence, we see the way fossil fuel and their companies impact our environment, not just in the waste they produce, but also in irresponsible and unregulated decisions made such as what led to the oil spill.
On the 53rd Earth Day, it is quite sad to reflect on where the Earth stands now. According to the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “Human activities, principally through emissions of greenhouse gases, have unequivocally caused global warming, with global surface temperature reaching 1.1°C above 1850–1900 in 2011–2020.”
This and climate change have caused extremes in the form of heatwaves, heavy precipitation, droughts, and tropical cyclones.
With this, 3.3-3.6 billion people are highly vulnerable as they live in areas prone to the impacts of climate change.
That is almost half of the entire world’s population.
While climate adaptation and mitigation appear to have positive effects, we do not seem to be doing enough.
Some effective options we have for adaptation being soil moisture conservation, irrigation, agroforestry, community-based adaptation, use of agroecological principles and practices, and other approaches that work with natural processes. The problem is even with the upward trend in global climate finance, the finance for adaptation is becoming more and more insufficient with effects becoming more drastic.
Additionally, most of the climate finance is already put into mitigation, and yet we still fall short on limiting global warming below 2°C or to 1.5°C according to the IPCC report.
If we continue with the same (or higher) greenhouse gas emissions, it will increase global warming with an estimate of 1.5°C and every increment will come with intensified hazards.
Higher global warming would mean more abrupt and irreversible changes.
When we speak of climate change and our future like this, it is very easy to despair.
There’s no challenge in thinking that there is nothing we can do anymore.
That is not true.
The IPCC report enumerates different solutions for different industries that are a part of one whole.
For energy systems, net zero CO2 would demand things such as a big reduction of fossil fuel use, carbon capture and storage technology, and electricity systems free of CO2 emissions.
For industry and transport, mitigation options must be promoted that consider energy and materials efficiency.
Cities also need to develop urban systems that include adaptation and mitigation elements.
Old infrastructures can be reused, and public transport can be prioritized. For land, ocean, food, and water, the biggest call is to save our forests. The restoration of forests promises the highest mitigation potential.
There are many key areas that we can improve on to save our planet, but it is important to call on the government to support projects and initiatives that lead to climate justice.
Government actions in different levels, with civil society and the private sector, are crucial to develop plans that will lead us to sustainability and climate resilience.
They must prioritize risk reduction, equity, and justice when they make decisions for their constituency.
During a time when our home is close to killing us because we killed it first, we must not stop at honoring and fighting for it on Earth Day.
That is not enough.
With our children’s future on the line, every day should be Earth Day.
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