MANILA

Algo: From streets to screens: The anatomy of an online climate strike

CLIMATE advocates have been campaigning for years against a "new normal" that would be created by more extreme climate change in the next few decades. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought on a different type of "new normal" that has changed how we conduct daily operations and activities.

Yet for both crises, the mechanism seems to be the same: individuals and organizations alike are adapting to the different conditions presented to them.

For Youth Strike 4 Climate Philippines (YS4C PH), expressing its calls has now shifted to the digital world.

"Platforms may be changed but the fight for the climate crisis still remains," said Jefferson Estela, co-founder of YS4C PH.

Has it been effective?

Filipino youth strikers have been standing in solidarity with millions of protesters worldwide as they express their frustration with the lack of progress in climate action. While the strikes have yet to trigger immediate transformative decision-making, Estela believes that it has succeeded in raising more awareness in the Philippines and mobilizing more people into calling for stronger measures.

"It's great to see that communities are starting to realize the importance of solidarity in terms of action like local climate strikes being done, protest against development aggression-related projects or protest against a coal power plant," he added.

Estela also assessed that the national government has not established a "just and green" recovery plan from Covid-19 that would also steer national development towards a low-carbon path.

"We can see that the Covid-19 pandemic exposed negligence, broken systems, and misplaced priorities of the government," he stated.

Opportunities for scaling up climate action must be maximized, per Estela. One such avenue is the commencement of a just energy transition towards the development of indigenous renewable energy (RE) sources. The ongoing pandemic has proven the resilience of RE to shocks to systems worldwide, as other fuels have seen a decline in demand with economic restrictions.

Despite this development, current long-term policies continue to place the Philippines's future on coal, an expensive energy source.

The formulation of the country's Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) was also identified as another opportunity for enhancing climate action. This document, serving as the Philippines's voluntary commitment to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, is still being finalized for submission at the end of 2020. It specifically contains how emissions will be reduced from the agriculture, waste, industry, transport, forestry, and energy sectors, and how these sectors plan to adapt to climate change impacts.

Finding ways

As part of its activities in joining global strikes in commemorating the Global Day of Climate Action, YS4C PH will host a live online press conference on 23 September and conducting a live protest two days after.

Per Estela, these activities aim to provide a "check of moral compass" for policymakers, as "it is them who have the power to change the course of the laws, in which will benefit the present generations and seem to stand in conflict with the rights of future generations."

They also plan to present a national youth declaration for climate justice, which contains demands for meeting the needs of the Filipino people in the face of both the pandemic and the climate emergency. One of the calls also involve the protection of environmental defenders, as the Philippines has been considered one of the most dangerous countries for them.

Transferring the climate strikes from the streets to the screens has come with challenges, from a lack of face-to-face interactions among collaborators to logistical concerns associated with online connectivity.

"Instead of meeting physically, we shifted most of our communication line online in a lot of different messaging applications," Estela said.

To better adapt to the current environment, YS4C PH is taking advantage of social media to maximize the reach of their calls to millions of Filipinos, a nation known for its fondness for such platforms. The group also aims for creative engagements such as using memes "to raise awareness with the recent issues that surfaced in the country and how it is connected with the climate crisis."

"We encourage people to submit entries for campaigns such as digital strike, shoe strike and video messages," he added.

The shoe strike has emerged as a unique form of protest worldwide in recent months. Originating in Sweden, shoes are displayed on the streets and screens to represent climate strikers calling for climate justice and stronger climate governance, while avoiding risks of exposure to the coronavirus.

Aside from joining climate strikes in any shape or form, Estela emphasized that the pandemic should not prevent the Filipino youth in inspiring change against climate change within their households and communities. He pointed out that the youth should attend webinars and listen to podcasts to improve their knowledge and enhance their capacities in addressing climate and environmental issues.

"We can also engage in climate action by practicing sustainable ways at home such as producing your own food, less use of plastics and being mindful of your consumption and of course supporting calls, protests and petition calling for immediate climate action and sharing information to other people," he said.

***

John Leo is the Program Manager of Living Laudato Si Philippines and Climate Action for Sustainability Initiative (Kasali). He has been a citizen journalist and feature writer since 2016.


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