When will Filipinos listen to the cries around them?

May 20, 2022

The theme “Listening and Journeying Together” for this year’s Laudato Si’ Week holds a deeper meaning, given the current poor state of the Filipino nation.

These words reflect on “bringing the human family together to protect our common home”, in the context of addressing the climate crisis. It aims to highlight how Catholics worldwide must celebrate the progress made in bringing Pope Francis’s landmark encyclical to life, and unite for a stronger commitment for climate and environmental action.

With less than a decade to go before 2030, when the Sustainable Development Goals are intended to be met, the state of our common home remains far from what it should be. Climate change impacts are projected to worsen in the next few decades due to increasing greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. Despite declining cases, the COVID-19 pandemic remains impactful on economies and societies worldwide. 

However, it is impossible to implement effective climate and environmental action without taking into account social justice, which is a key message within the Laudato Si’. Development is meaningless if planetary and public health is compromised for the sake of maximizing profits and increasing existing vulnerabilities. When acts of deceit, corruption, and shamelessness are being tolerated, even accepted as an inescapable norm, the cycles of poverty, inequality, and injustice would never end.

This is something that Filipinos need to seriously reflect on, especially after the recent national and local elections exposed just how divided the nation has become. Instead of dealing with fossil fuel industries that have been proven to conduct misinformation campaigns to avoid being held liable for causing the climate crisis, they have to deal with traditional politicians and their supporters spreading misinformation not only to avoid accountability, but also to retain or regain political power.

It is clear that many Filipino voters still cling to outdated ideas that would harm our pursuit of the right kind of development. Despite best efforts of advocacy groups, the green agenda was once again barely highlighted during the campaign season. Even though debates and other platforms were presented for candidates to answer how to address national issues, many voters still chose to ignore all of that and prefer personalities, the catchiness of jingles, vague soundbites, and perceived popularity.

At some point, Filipinos have to learn from their mistakes. You can only do the same thing so many times over and over again, and expect a different result. Choosing the same type of candidates, even literally the same candidates repeatedly has not led to ending the same issues we have been enduring for decades. If the Philippines would move forward to achieving sustainable development, the electorate stopping from voting these people into power would be an important step.

And it all starts with listening by all sides. Voters need to stop listening to fake news peddlers, biased bloggers, and politicians of proven poor performances and moral character. On the other hand, credible experts must improve their communication strategies to make the public understand the need to learn from the mistakes of our history and make better choices, and combat misinformation.

In a similar way, we cannot expect that the same strategies we are using now to address climate and environmental issues would produce the results we need. If we want to prevent more loss and damage, stop plastic pollution, protect biodiversity and ecosystems, and uphold environment-related human rights, we need to listen to what the cries of the earth and the poor are clearly telling us. 

Just because it is not happening to you, that does not mean it never happened. Just because one example of some trend happened in one area, that does not mean that trend applies to all other places. Just because someone in a powerful, influential position says something, that does not mean it is actually true. That applies in politics as much as the green agenda.

Climate and environmental issues cannot be solved by a single individual, nation, or any other entity. It would take all of humankind to work together towards the same vision of ecologically-sound sustainable development. To make the right choices, all of us have to start listening to each other. As a predominantly Catholic nation, these statements hold even more significance. Filipinos simply have no more excuses.

John Leo is the Deputy Executive Director for Programs and Campaigns of Living Laudato Si’ Philippines and a member of the interim Secretariat of Aksyon Klima Pilipinas. He has been representing Philippine civil society in global and regional UN conferences on climate and the environment since 2017. He is also a climate and environment journalist. 

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