Filipino climate change activist tells world: We can do something

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MANILA, Philippines—Too bad many of us in the Philippines missed “24 Hours of Reality,” a day-long live-streamed event highlighting the reality of climate change in 24 locations around the world.

If you had tuned in to the live broadcast on the Internet on Sept. 14 and 15, you would have caught Filipino climate change activist Rodne Galicha’s presentation on the Solomon Islands from New York City, where he shared the limelight with former United States Vice President and Nobel Laureate Al Gore.

Galicha sent a powerful message to the world’s top carbon emitters: Climate change is real but something can be done about it.

Galicha went through the catastrophes that struck the world in the past year or so. There were massive floods in Pakistan, Australia, even Mississippi and North Dakota; mudslides in Korea; droughts in Brazil, Mexico and Syria; intense rains in China, Fiji, Colombia and the Philippines; rising temperatures, increasing water vapor over the  oceans, and growing intensity of rainstorms and snow storms.

Later in the panel discussion with Climate Reality Project leader Maggie Fox, TreeHugger.com founder Graham Hill and American Meteorological Society associate director Paul Higgins, Galicha said Third World countries were bearing the brunt of climate change, and fired off a strong message to the United States.

Climate justice

“From the Pacific islands, from the global South, we don’t need your money. What we need is climate justice.  Decrease your emissions,” he said.

Galicha came online at around 4 a.m. on Sept. 15 in New York (4 p.m. in Manila), hours before Gore capped the 24-hour program with his own presentation on the same stage. His presentation as well as the rest can still be viewed at www.climaterealityproject.org.

“I had goose bumps just thinking about the number of viewers,” said Galicha, 32, who was informed he’d be addressing 2.6 million global online viewers.  Otherwise, it was an exhilarating experience for the activist from Sibuyan Island, which is often compared to Galapagos Island.

After the presentation, Gore complimented Galicha for “doing a great job.”

24 Hours of Reality was the launch pad of Climate Reality Project’s new global campaign to warn the world of the climate crisis. The Climate Reality Project was founded and chaired by Gore.

The online event was held in 24 different locations and different time zones, and 23 activists, including Galicha, were picked by the Project to make the multimedia presentations to “connect the dots between the changing climate and extreme weather.”

First time

It was the first time Galicha shared a stage with Gore. But they met back in 2009 when Galicha became a volunteer of Climate Reality Project. Since then he has been criss-crossing the archipelago to spread Gore’s gospel in “Inconvenient Truth” to audiences in the Philippines.

Galicha, along with three other Filipinos, were trained by scientists at the Project’s summit in Melbourne, Australia, in 2009 to “dissect” the highly acclaimed 2006 documentary. He became the Project’s country district manager in the Philippines.

It was natural then that the Project would pick him to do the segment on the Solomon Islands from New York City.

“It was an opportunity of a lifetime. We had to maximize that opportunity, and tell the people what we wanted to tell them,” said Galicha, who opened with a tribute to indigenous peoples.

Suicide, homicide

He ended with the stern warning: “If we are unable to act, with this phenomenon, we are committing suicide for the next generation; we are committing homicide. Homo sapiens have now become the most critically endangered species of all time.”

Galicha began his advocacy in his hometown.

A Philosophy major from the University of Santo Tomas (2001), he experienced the adverse impact of mining, and of powerful storms right on Sibuyan, an island of Romblon province which, like Solomon Islands in the Pacific, is a biodiversity hotspot. On the map, it’s at the heart of the archipelago.

He grew up near Mt. Guiting-Guiting, a dense, lush forest that is home to many endangered species, and one of the country’s cleanest rivers.

One could imagine his outrage when the government allowed companies to bring in heavy equipment to mine ore and nickel, and to cut a path of destruction through the pristine island. Out of this the Sibuyan Island Sentinels League for Environment Inc. was born, and Galicha became its executive director.

Before long, he linked up with Alyansa Tigil Mina (Alliance to Stop Mining) and led protests against mining operations on Sibuyan and elsewhere.

The killing of an antimining activist by a mining company guard on Sibuyan in 2007 fired his activism further. In 2008, Galicha flew to Australia, the headquarters of one of the largest mining companies in the Philippines, to argue his case.

The same year, in June 2008, Typhoon “Frank” sank the interisland M/V Princess of the Stars off Sibuyan, leaving 800 of its crew and passengers dead and missing and spilling oil and possibly toxic pesticides into the sea.  That was about the time he was invited to volunteer for the Climate Reality Project. He did not have any second thoughts.

After their training in Melbourne in 2009, Galicha and his Filipino colleagues have been active on the ground, educating students, farmers, fisherfolk, and just about anybody about the effects of a warming climate. Bro. Jaazeal Jakosalem joined them as a presenter in 2010, and at least five more Filipinos came aboard in January this year after being trained by Gore in Jakarta.

“Filipinos are a resilient people,” and can easily adapt to extreme weather events,” he said, but conceded that this “adaptation capacity” was hardly enough to deal with extreme weather conditions.

“Sure the Philippines has a very low carbon emission, but the thing is, we need to change attitudes. If you want to solve the climate crisis, you will not say ‘let’s open more coal-fired power plants’ or ‘let’s cut trees in order to mine.’  That’s hypocrisy.”

But the Philippines, which has passed laws such as the Climate Change Act and formed the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council to deal with the effects of a warming climate, can only do so much. First World countries can have a bigger impact, Galicha said.

“In a way the solution for this global problem is global. We should make large countries accountable,” he said.

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  • Anonymous

    Here is something you can do immediately!!! My kids used to take all of my regular sized towels (like those you find at hotels). I got so tired of towel hunting that I resorted to using those smaller towels to dry me up after showers. These towels are around a fifth the size of the regular ones and one thing I realized was that they worked just as well as regular sized towels (in terms of drying you up / but not in protecting your modesty). Now, I bring my clothes to the Bathroom. Oh – and my towels dry up much quicker, don’t use a much water and detergent to wash.  This is a personal change you can ADOPT NOW!

    • Anonymous

      Nice tip Rodger. Thanks

  • Anonymous

    AL GORE HAD TROUBLE WITH HIS BOOK IN GLOBAL WARMING, DIDN’T SELL  MUCH AS EXPECTED IN THE USA, OK? BUT OF COURSE THERE WILL ALWAYS BE CHANGES IN CLIMATE TEMPERATURE IN SOME PLACES ON THE EARTH EVERY DECADES OR SO, AND WOULD RETURN BACK ACCORDING TO RECORDS, HA? THAT’S HOW THE CREATOR GOD DESIGNED THE PLANET, HA, HA, HA! SUCH AS THERE ARE TIMES OF FAMINE, AND TIMES OF ABUNDANT HARVEST, OK?

  • http://joboni96.myopenid.com/ joboni96

    for us pilipinos, we have to

    1. reforest all our denuded mountains
    2. restore all our mangrove swamps
    3. use animal power in all feasible areas, fed with tree forage
    4. use human power for led lighting and battery charging
    5. sustainable nuclear power owned by the people in safe areas
    6. dredge rivers and install run of water electric generation
    7. urban walkways and self powered vehicle roads
    8. sea water temperature gradient generators
    9. agri byproducts to methane, electricity and fertilizer
    10. etc.

    what we must not do is again
    blindly buying western technology
    as the easy way out
    to perdition

    develop our own sustainable capable low-cost effective and efficient solutions

    then we do the exporting to developing countries like us

  • Anonymous

    Eat only locally produced food. Avoid eating top tier fish like Tuna and go for Tilapia which is lower on the food chain. In case you did not know, eating 1 kg of yellow fin tuna is like eating 100 kgs of fish. That tuna fed on that much fish to gain 1 kg. Pinoys neeeeeed to eat more vegetable and less pork, beef or chicken. Stop eating imported fruits like apples, grapes and Kiwi. Go for bananas, mangos, jackfruits, and guavas. Again, these are things that each of us can do IMMEDIATELY.No need for policy chages or legislation to do these things.

  • Anonymous

    We need more Galicha in our midst.  I normally hike up in the mountain whenever i have free time.  I see communities sprung like mushrooms in some of our mountainous regions.  These very people are the same people who cut our forest.  When i asked why did they do so their normal reply is poverty.  They hunt wildlife either for food or to be sold to some wildlife collectors.  They burn forest for charcoal because people in the city like us loves our barbeque while the “sampung kahig isang tuka” sector of our society have turned to charcoal as an alternative for their everyday cooking fuel due to the prohibitive cost of kerosene and LPG’s. 

    After the great flood brought about by Ramon and Quiel we see the realization that our mountains can no longer hold water and the effect is catastrophic. 

    Fact is earths 97.5% of water is salty and the remaining 2.5% is the life giving fresh water.  Of these 2.5% fresh water 8/10 are frozen and the remaining 2 parts is what we have to keep the 7billion people alive.

    No more barbeques for me. I save a tree and i save a forest and i save myself for a possible colon cancer in the future. 

        

  • Anonymous

    “Stop wasting our natural resources” Easy say than done. However, earth population keeps on growing like mushroom. Where are these people going to get the sustenance to live, of course, from what they see in the environment. The oceans, rivers, mountains, lakes, land which is no longer growing and they have to change also in order accommodate the users/abusers. I’d say consider RH Bill together with these measures you identify as alternatives and maybe human will still be around few more centuries.

  • Anonymous

    Stop those mining companies from destructing mountains and forests!

  • Anonymous

     If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. This word of the God is recorded in the book of 2 Chronicles 7:14..the cause of all of these problems in this world is SIN…unless we take hid of God’s word,, we will never attain changes in this life……

  • Anonymous

    with climate change we are noticing some creeping changes ,which will definetely going haunt us as human beings in the near future ,its our turn to reduce the impact we are going to have on our planet ,especially some of us in Africa,the Durban Conference should come up with an agreement on climate change ,lets go there and shout on top of our voices ,it the only chance we have ,before things get worse.

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