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Watching the climate crisis from two ends of the world


Illustration by BESOMEONE.WORLD


I grew up in the Philippines. There was nothing unusual about me spending a huge part of my childhood in nature, but it was unusual that what I was learning about at school didn’t add up with what I was seeing in my own surroundings.

At school, environment and climate change were mentioned but only as very abstract concepts. I didn’t see how it related to myself and to the world around me. I was taught I needed to reduce, reuse, and recycle, that animal populations were decreasing at a rapid pace, that greenhouse gases were being released into the atmosphere. But I wasn’t taught that recycling was—and still is—inaccessible to most Filipino communities, that indigenous communities are the ones who protect up to 80 percent of our remaining wildlife, and that greenhouse gases aren’t the only things being released into the atmosphere as a result of human activity.

Most education systems teach along the lines of humans being separate from nature when in fact this couldn’t be further from the truth.

I was lucky because my mom taught me about the relationship between humans and nature at a young age. I grew up with a lot of animals and I had the privilege of being able to snorkel and dive around coral reefs in various parts of the country. In time, I started to notice that corals were turning white, schools of fish were disappearing, and an increasing amount of plastic was turning up on shores and in the water.

Angry yet determined, I set out on a mission. My climate activism started out small. Later I gained a deeper understanding of what solving the climate crisis really meant. It was a lot bigger than just reducing my meat and plastic consumption—it required fighting against bigger systems of modern-day colonialism and consumerism that continue to perpetuate the concept of humans being separate from nature. At university, I learned that the leading conglomerates continue to exploit natural resources and people for profit and that countries like the US and Canada continue to send their plastic waste to countries in the Global South like the Philippines for our own people and environment to deal with.

Beyond the classroom setting, I realized I needed to take systematic change if I really wanted to do something about the climate crisis, so I joined the Extinction Rebellion (XR).

My university’s chapter announced a climate action demanding the decarbonization, decolonization, and democratization of education institutions in the US. I had the amazing opportunity to strike alongside other youth climate activists in front of New York’s City Hall. Later, I attended meetings for our next big action, the 50th celebration of Earth Day. During one of these meetings, I met the founder of XR Athens, who somehow managed to persuade me to start my own chapter in the Philippines.

It was daunting at first, but with the encouragement and training from other rebels, I decided to become the National Coordinator of XR Philippines.

Rebel alliance

Despite my excitement, my initial plans to represent XR Philippines on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day changed when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. It was difficult to be constantly exposed to media that failed to recognize how the pandemic was related to the climate crisis, especially because it felt like doing climate actions were impossible from home.

When my friend Ayisha Sidiqqa invited XR Philippines to join We The Planet, a youth-led digital Earth Day Campaign, I found it incredible to see that other youth climate activists weren’t stopping just because it felt like everything else in the world had come to a pause. We are inviting everyone to join We The Planet’s digital strike today, April 22, asking the youth to post a video or photo on their socials detailing one individual and one systematic action that they are going to commit to for the year.

Support other climate organizations like YACAP, This Is Zero Hour PH, and Youth Strike 4 Climate, and learn about the initiatives being done by organizations like Fund the Forest and Bye Bye Plastic Bags PH.

Try to be aware of your plastic consumption. Stay informed and continue to educate yourself about the climate crisis, while being aware of the sources you are reading. Spread awareness by talking to friends, family, and your local community about the climate crisis and how it could affect them.

Remember, climate activism looks different for everyone, but every action, big or small, counts!

Tara Santos is a 22-year-old climate activist currently studying The New School in New York. She is the national coordinator for Extinction Rebellion’s Philippines chapter and is deeply committed to environmental causes.

Source: Manila Bulletin (

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