Echoing for ecology

October 30, 2022

by Xandra Liza C. Bisenio

Being asked to represent something game-changing and bigger than one’s own self or corner was both humbling and challenging. Becoming Green Action Week (GAW) Ambassador of the East and Asia Pacific region meant fostering connections between Asian GAWers and others from Africa, the Americas and Middle East to promote sustainable consumption and production (SCP).

For those of us in the Philippines, it was a chance to connect with fellow SCP advocates globally. Here at home, we advocate for an economy for the many that creates decent work and livelihoods, provides essential social services, and protects the environment. We do need to unite our voices with those of the rest of the world because we are running out of time as globalization wreaks havoc on the planet.

Those who control and benefit from the system attack those who speak the truth and push for change. As in other parts of the world, this has become more rampant in our country. We’re also battling historical distortion and misinformation meant to warp our perception and beliefs.

GAW, a global campaign to promote sustainable consumption, is a potentially powerful tool for mobilizing communities around the world for change. For some years now it has been calling for action on the themes of “Land to the tiller food for all” and “Sharing communities” which are expressed through each participant’s unique culture and circumstances. These are living examples of our common aspirations. GAW highlights the problem with unsustainable ways and offers workable alternatives based on humankind’s myriad experiences.

This is so important given the various economic and sociocultural challenges our countries, and particularly those in our region, face – food insufficiency, joblessness, poverty, costly social services, lack of representation, product safety issues, natural resource degradation, undemocratic governance, and so much more.

But our work with advocates, civil society organizations, local and national government offices, and communities – most importantly – has shown that we can take meaningful steps to improve ways of thinking, organize our work, and mobilize our communities to benefit rather than harm the people and the planet.

Our region’s featured GAW participants this year are the Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) of Malaysia, Consumer Council of Fiji (CCF) and the Lembaga Konsumen Yogyakarta (LKY) or the Yogyarta Consumers Institute of Indonesia. CAP partnered with schools to bring green action awareness to communities of students and teachers. CCF focused on saving the marine environment with their campaign “Resilient Communities, Sustainable Ecosystems”. LKY explored the use of natural resources for textile printing.

Philippine partners of the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) are also involved in GAW. The EcoWaste Coalition is addressing waste, climate, and chemical safety issues. The Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG or Farmer-Scientist Partnership for the Development of Agriculture, Inc.) develops community farming systems and leads agroecology initiatives. IBON Foundation supports urban farms and promotes sustainable People Economics through advocacy and networking.

All these organizations with over 150 other groups worldwide are crucial for creating ripples and then waves of environmental responsibility and pro-environment consciousness through their continuous efforts.

CAP’s schools networks have been producing videos of teens speaking about sharing, reusing and upcycling materials toward zero waste and sustainable consumption, preventing pollution, and the degradation of the environment. CCF is dialoguing with more communities to look into the encroachment of household, livelihood and commercial activities on marine life.

Meanwhile, LKY’s eco-printing is a cutting-edge campaign that symbolizes Indonesia’s rich biodiversity and cultural landscape. It also features consumers that see nature as a partner in surviving living difficulties. The colorful eco-prints from a collection of readily-available plants make for beautifully- designed fabrics that communities sell for their livelihood. While the country is confronted with poverty and joblessness amid high inflation and the pandemic slowdown, the campaign highlights how communities cope and also how they source from the abundance of the environment to chart their lives collectively to the extent they can.

Indeed, this example from Yogyakarta shows how communities can respond to the lack of livelihoods and poverty, and turn to sustainable practices with support for logistics and capacity-building. Communities execute their plans to improve their current situation and make a difference. We see the same pattern in the urban collective farming corners created in different parts of the Philippines.

Green Action Week brings out the diversity of cultures. It celebrates each partner’s campaign which are always designed according to their country’s concrete conditions. The importance of addressing these with a systemic and holistic perspective is also raised. This touches on national governance and influencing policy to favor sustainable pathways.

I have two experiences with GAW that not only inspired me but to this day remind me to keep trying to shift to and tread this path to sustainability.

One experience was one of our first campaigns with GAW – an album of original compositions themed “Land to the tiller, food for all” by cultural groups representing the Philippines’ many regions. It was titled “Punlaan” or seed bed and was launched with a musical concert at the gymnasium of the agrarian reform department which was one of the sponsors.

The second and most recent experience was the development and publication of the book “Lahutay: Path to Sustainability.” It tells the story of a Lumad school by documenting the experiences and struggles of its teachers, students and community through illustrations, photos and anecdotes. The Lumad are the indigenous people of Mindanao who built schools to nurture and develop their tradition, knowledge, struggles and aspirations in defense of ancestral and organic agricultural lands versus mining giants and other corporate interests.

I was inspired not just by the songs and stories but by the people and communities that were behind each lyric, note, picture or paragraph. They are shining examples of humility and humanity, of deep respect for the planet, its inhabitants and their collective will. They also embody the courage to struggle to be better, stand up for what is right, and fight for our future. 

Sadly, some of them have been silenced by the status quo and others are being attacked to this day.

Even so, I simply hope for GAW to continue to inspire more people to rise up and fight for a better future for all.