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Philippines

When we hurt our planet, we hurt ourselves

The earth is our mother that gave us life and we are its consciousnesses

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When we hurt our planet, we hurt ourselves

An Aeta tribesman sits on the edge of the crater lake of Mount Pinatubo volcano, about 100 kilometers northwest of Manila, in this file photo. (AFP photo)

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Many students have taken to the streets, waving banners, banging drums, singing, chanting, and calling for an end to the factors behind climate change, which is wrecking the planet.

They are experiencing global warming on an unprecedented scale as huge amounts of CO2 and methane gases heat up the environment and cause the ice caps to melt at an alarming rate.

They want to shutter coal-fired power plants and have governments install renewable wind and solar power farms and geothermal generators to provide the electricity we need.

They are the voice of the planet; they are its feelings and its cry for help.

The planet is, in many ways, dying, and the human species, a magnificent creation, is a vengeful child killing its parent through savage greed.

The warmer atmosphere is evaporating more water from the oceans, causing more frequent and more powerful rainstorms than ever before.

They, the children, the teenagers, the youth, want and demand a clean planet that is free from poisonous chemicals, pollution, and the burning of fossil fuels.

They say enough is enough. This must be stopped. Give us a clean planet that we can bequeath to our children one day.

They want to stop the acid rain. It is poisoning the fish, the land, and the people who eat the fish. They demand reluctant and skeptical politicians take action to cut CO2 gases and stop all of this damage to the planet.

I saw the damaging impact of climate change on ordinary Filipinos when I visited Aeta indigenous farmers at our Preda fair trade mango project.

They live mostly on the mountains of Zambales, a province in Central Luzon, and were once forest dwellers, hunters and gatherers. They have survived for 30,000 years, anthropologists say, making them one of the oldest inhabitants of the Philippines.

They are an amazing people, with a culture and customs that would put many a Western community to shame.

They have more gender equality — women as tribal leaders, men who carry children on their backs — as well as plant-based medicines that have kept them alive for thousands of years.

But now they are under threat from climate change. They have lost their rain forests, and the climate will never revert to being in a balanced state of harmony unless we put the brakes on global warming.

The greed of the ruling elite and international corporations has devastated rainforests as trees were felled and the logs sent to rebuild Europe and Japan after the Second World War.

Only three percent of forest cover is left in isolated areas around the Philippines. The bare hills were stripped of their topsoil by the increased rainfall, and the brown earth was eroded and washed into the sea.

This soil covered the coral, and smaller fish died out while bigger fish migrated to deeper waters. Coastal fisher families began seeing smaller catches, while in deeper waters, foreign fishing fleets raided the Philippine seas as the Chinese are doing today.

Only rough grass and bushes grow on the bare mountains nowadays. The climate has changed as a result. The rice harvest that should feed millions of people has been lost in recent years. Prices have risen through corruption and mismanagement.

Rural poverty has increased and the poor have abandoned the land and the shores and migrated, like refugees, to the slums of big cities. There they live in squalor, a once proud and self-sufficient people reduced to barely surviving. They squat in the shadows of the rich, who live in luxurious condominiums. They eat leftover scraps to survive.

But the Aetas have not become refugees in their own country. They have struggled to survive by continuing to adapt to climate change by planting and growing their own root crops and vegetables in a natural and organic way.

They produce fair-trade organic mangos, the only such group to do so internationally. They live in poor villages, but eat and produce healthy, nutritious and naturally grown food.

Susan, an Aeta village chief, described to me their experience of climate change. She told me of the unexpected rainstorms that regularly destroy their mango blossoms. There have been no mangoes for three years in their mountains — a rebuke by a wounded and hurt Nature.

Nature feels the pain of neglect and convulses in agony with the death of plants and forest animals driven to extinction. Landslides scar the hills, rivers are polluted, chickens die, children cry and sickness is more frequent.

We are destroying our own habitat and eliminating our role as the planet’s stewards. When we are at war with the earth, we are at war with ourselves. When we hurt our planet, we hurt ourselves, for we are one with it.

We humans have evolved from its soil, its chemistry, and its life forms. The earth is our mother that gave us life, and we are its consciousness.

Through us, the planet and the universe reflect and contemplate its own self, because we are its brain, the thinking being, and the planet is conscious and self-aware through us.

Every one of us has to redeem the failures of the human race that are destroying us as well as the planet.

We must cry out and take to the streets in peaceful protest to claim our right to live in a clean and healthy planet of which we are an intimate part.

 

Irish Father Shay Cullen, SSC, established the Preda Foundation in Olongapo City in 1974 to promote human rights and the rights of children, especially victims of sex abuse.

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