June 5 was designated as World Environment Day by the United Nations back in 1972 to raise awareness about the challenges our environment is currently facing. Nearly 50 years later, we are celebrating World Environment Day in unprecedented times — in the face of a global pandemic and widespread socio-political turmoil. Now more than ever, we environment and climate advocates must link arms with other sectors of society to fight for a better future together.
Issues of the environment and the climate do not exist in a vacuum; they are influenced by economic and political decisions of world leaders. In turn, these issues impact the day-to-day lives of billions around the world, affecting socioeconomic status, physical health, and various other aspects of people’s lives. If we are genuine about our advocacy for the climate and the environment, we must understand how these various issues are interconnected and why we must take a stand against these problems as well.
In the Philippines, this intersectional crisis is becoming more apparent by the day. For example, our already-poor response to the current COVID-19 pandemic has only been exacerbated by the climate crisis, with our testing capacity affected by the recent Typhoon Ambo. The freedom of expression that is essential to our climate and social activism has been thrown into jeopardy with the imminent passage of the Anti-Terrorism Bill. In the middle of the lockdown caused by the pandemic, our frontline environmental and land rights defenders are still experiencing human rights violations and killings in their line of work. Our duty as climate and environment activists here in the Philippines is to see past the seemingly disparate nature of all these issues, to see how they are all connected, and to work towards addressing the root causes of the problems we face today, be it climate change, state fascism, or structural violence.
The environmental struggle cannot be separated from the different struggles happening today. There can be no climate or environmental justice without social justice. Let us continue to stand united in the face of the challenges of our times and reclaim our democratic spaces so we can all take part in building a system that puts people over profit and defends our environment defenders; a society where climate justice is the new normal.