Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about my mother. Her name is Jocelyn, she is 65 years. She has been stuck at home since March due to COVID-19 lockdown measures in the Philippines. They have been in lockdown for five months now. She’s not allowed to go out, and she is scared to do so anyway. She’s sad, anxious and helpless.
Finding a way to cheer her up these days is not an easy feat. Things are probably better for us if she’s here with us in Canada and not 7,000 miles away. I decided to find her a gift online. As I was browsing the internet, a pop-up notification tells me that I am running out of computer space. I guess it’s time to move some files somewhere. As I was moving my files, I found several photos taken from our many vacation trips. There’s a photo of my mother wearing a pretty floral dress at my garden wedding in Edmonton. There’s also a few from our trips to Jasper, Banff, Victoria, Vancouver, Winnipeg, and various places in the Philippines. My mom looked so pretty and happy in these photos. These places were amazing too. Looking at these photos made me smile. And then it dawned on me that these places might be gone someday. Their beauty is being threatened by the effects of climate change. Somehow I feel thankful that we were able to visit these places and create fond memories.
But, what’s happening in Canada? The forests of Clayoquot Sound located on the west coast of Vancouver Island are still being logged. Alberta’s oil sands continue to cause growing levels of acid rain consequentially leading to an increase in water contamination in the area.
For the first time since I moved to Winnipeg 13 years ago, the famous skating trail was closed in winter due to record-breaking water levels. Many other Canadian cities are submerged in floodwaters. And in the North, Canada’s last remaining intact ice shelf – the Milne Ice Shelf in Nunavut – collapses.
Meanwhile, the Philippines has its fair share of bad luck: rising waters, typhoons, flooding, droughts, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, illegal loggings, extrajudicial killings and a corrupt government. The independent watchdog Global Witness named the Philippines as the most dangerous place for land and environmental defenders in 2019.
My mom, just like all other Filipino mothers, is a green influencer, yet she doesn’t know it. But how exactly is she a green influencer?
She taught us to eat vegetables at a younger age. “Kumain ka ng gulay. Hindi tayo mayaman!” (You have to eat vegetables. We’re not rich!)
She hates food waste. “Pag ‘di mo inubos yang pagkain mo, lagot ka sa akin!” (If you don’t finish your food, you’re in a big trouble!)
She recycles things. “Wag mong itapon yang lalagyan ng Sky Flakes ha. Paglalagyan ko yan ng tirang ulam.” (Don’t throw the biscuit container out. I will use it for leftovers.)
She knows how to refuse. “Ang mahal-mahal ng gown na yan! Isang beses lang susuotin. Mag-rent ka na lang!” (That’s a very expensive gown. You’ll only use it once. Just rent one!)
She supports thrift shops. “Anak, binilhan kita ng damit galing ukay-ukay. Mura na, maganda pa!” (Here, I bought you some clothes from the thrift shop. So cheap but they look great!)
She knows how to conserve energy. “Hatinggabi na, gising pa kayo! Patayin nyo na ang ilaw, magastos sa kuryente!” (Why are you still up? Turn off the lights, you’re wasting energy!)
WOMEN AS WORLD-CHANGERS
Women, by nature, are caretakers and nurturers – of their families, their communities, and the earth. The role is passive and reactive, but gender stereotyping aside, I find these qualities to be our strongest asset. Our caring and nurturing nature inspires us to analyze and protect everything around us.
Women have a unique responsibility and ability to rapidly move our community in a healthier direction on climate change. As pandemics become more common and as the earth continues to deteriorate, more women are speaking out and marching on the streets to expose and oppose social and climate injustices in their communities.
Erin Brockovich, a former law clerk, didn’t turn a blind eye to Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s (PG&E) contamination of groundwater in Hinckley, California. Erin, who has no formal education in law, started an investigation that resulted in a $333 million settlement in 1996.
The indigenous women in Ecuador didn’t just fight for their home, the Amazon. They fought the capitalist oil drilling and forest destruction for all – and won.
Greta Thunberg proved that you’re never too small to make a difference. Thunberg is the Swedish teenager who skipped school and inspired an international movement to fight climate change. She has become a leading voice, inspiring millions to join protests around the world.
Joan Carling, an indigenous Filipino human rights activist and environmentalist, has been defending the rights of indigenous and marginalized peoples for over two decades. In September 2018, she received the Champions of the Earth Lifetime Achievement Award from the United Nations Environment Programme in recognition of her work as an environmentalist and a defender of human rights.
Finding the time to fit climate action around the demands of work and home life can be challenging. Perfection is never the goal. But small steps do add up. Maybe it’s time to choose a plant-rich diet for the entire family. Or create less waste in food, clothing and energy. You can vote with your dollar by supporting ethical and sustainable products. You can also pick an environmental cause you’re passionate about and advocate for it. Or talk to your family, friends and colleagues about sustainability and climate action.
In the end, my motivation for fighting climate change comes down to two reasons: my mother and Mother Earth, who both nurture us all.