Climate action is alive and well in peoples’ struggles

November 17, 2021

by EJ Honorica

From October 31 until November 12, 2021, the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) was held in Glasgow, United Kingdom. Officials from different political parties and representatives of observer organizations across the world convened and put forward strategies and positions in fighting climate change and its adverse ecological, economic, and social impacts especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Critical environmental defenders, however, warn that international conferences like the COP26—being dominated by powerful countries with vast economic interests—might not provide the space for the civil society’s democratic alternatives.

Leon Dulce, National Coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, reminded that the people and the planet must be put first over profit in a speech delivered at the ‘People’s Struggles and Priorities on the Road to COP26’ webinar last month.

To amplify the critical voices fighting the climate crisis and calling for systemic change, environment defenders together with sectoral organizations took to the streets and held the Philippine expression of the World Climate March themed “#KliMalaya”. Led by the Youth Advocate for Climate Action – Philippines, they emphasized the role of the youth in calling for people and planet-centered alternatives over business interests in combating climate change for the generations to come.

Damned dams

“Development projects” like dams have long been blamed for adverse environmental effects that can lead to massive disasters. Under the Build Build Build program of the Duterte administration, several dams are to be constructed for alleged public benefit. Scores of indigenous and farmer communities are now under threat of displacement.

Lapat Apayao: Movement Against Apayao Dams, a newly-formed network of organizations campaigning against the construction of dams along the Apayao-Abulug River, is drumming the indigenous Isnag people’s call in light of recent incidents.

Gened 1 dam, which is to be built in Kabugao, Apayao, earned public condemnation as it was railroaded by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples or NCIP without securing a Free Prior Informed Consent from the inhabitants. The railroading of three (3) other dams—the Gened 2, Calanasan, and Aoan, all proposed by the Pan Pacific Renewable Power Corporation (PPRPC)—is imminent.

On November 21, Lapat Apayao will hold a solidarity event themed “Ta’deran! A Day of Solidarity Against Apayao Dams” at the Episcopal Church of the Philippines. It aims to gather support and raise public awareness on the dangers that these dams can bring to the people of Apayao.

Tyrone Beyer of the Philippine Task Force for Indigenous People’s Rights earlier reminded that development projects, even though beneficial, should not be an agent of massive environmental destruction, displacement and ethnocide.

Indeed, public interest should not be invoked to push programs that benefit a few at the expense of the marginalized sectors.

Against the (genetically-modified) grain

Relatedly, Filipino agroecologists were part of a global manifestation by hundreds of food sovereignty, environmental conservation, and rights groups for a just, equitable, and people-centered food system against imperialist control. The AgroecologyX Network led the National People’s Food System Summit (NPFSS) themed “land to the tiller, food for all”. A year-long campaign, the Summit was held in parallel with the United Nations Food Summit.

The NPFSS served as the local counterpart of the Global People’s Summit on Food Systems, where food sovereignty advocates exposed and registered indignation against the proliferating control of a few food and agrochemical transnational corporations (TNCs). The global summit asserted that there is an urgent need to “radically transform food systems” to alleviate global hunger and rise from the triple planetary crisis worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The people’s summit proponents said that if left to continue, TNC control of local food systems that heavily rely on pollutive and chemical-intensive neoliberal agriculture will plunge nations into a deeper and irreversible global health and environmental crisis.

Reclaiming action through struggle

The global mass movement demands an urgent paradigm shift in confronting the climate crisis and its underlying problems aggravated by the global capitalist system’s pursuit of superprofits. Tokenistic and “greenwashed” programs that prioritize profit over people’s well-being and the sustainable use of the environment and resources can not ensure the protection of the people and the planet.

Peasant organizations and land rights advocates have been pushing for agroecological policy and the implementation of genuine agrarian reform. Green groups call for the rehabilitation of coastlines against reclamation and the regulation of extractive industries such as mining and logging. Community-based sustainable water and energy services, instead of large dams, are being implemented by non-government organizations (NGOs) in far-flung countryside communities. Indigenous peoples, through their native traditions and practices, show the world how to truly take care and protect the environment.

The neoliberal orientation of governments, as dictated by the global capitalist system however, hinders these initiatives. Thus, the struggle goes on despite setbacks brought by increased and intensifying multi-frontal attacks against the people and the environment. It only proves that the alternative proposed and advanced by different sectors, the civil society, and grassroots movements is the only path towards a democratic and progressive climate justice. #