The hands of the ruling class are anything but green


Cartoon by MC

In its third year, Fridays for Future launched a global climate strike last September 24. They enjoined different youth groups to participate in mobilizations clamoring for climate action. These groups demand one thing: intersectional climate justice. It is intersectional because it is subsumed in health, economy, culture, and socio-political contexts. The continuing persistence of classism, racism, ethnicism, and elitism in thought and action worsens the climate problem.

Youth climate activists from more than 1,500 locations in four continents staged their protests online and on the streets, ensuring to seize enough attention not directed at them but to the slowly aggravating conditions of the climate due to the outsized culpability of corporations and industrialized countries. The ruling classes’ greed-driven utilization of natural resources jeopardizes the marginalized sectors of society. Thus, we can only have the justice that we deserve if we uproot the system.

The undue actions and criminal negligence of the ruling classes lead us to the issues of today and the unborn generation. A scientific study recently revealed that the Global North (a political term for a region of developed countries) is liable for 92% of excess carbon emissions in the world. It means that high-income countries contribute disproportionately to global warming, worsening the effects of the crisis on developing countries. In a groundbreaking 2017 report, 100 fossil fuel companies were linked to 71% of greenhouse gas emissions since 1988. The industries of food and fast fashion also contribute to the chaos.

The pandemic is linked to human-induced climate change, too. The extensive damage of habitat disruption through deforestation or land reclamation displaces animals from their natural habitats. Such forced migration leads the animals closer to human settlements, thereby increasing the risk of infection spillovers. Excessive demand for meat production also increases spillover and greenhouse gas emissions. In another way, pollution worsens COVID-19 infection and frames death as a likely probability.

In the Philippines, the water levels of Manila Bay would surge to nearly 11 centimeters by 2030; and at least 87 percent or 37.29 square kilometers of Manila will be engulfed by the sea, displacing more than one and a half million residents. The weight of the growing population, massive reclamation projects, and widespread groundwater extraction exacerbate the situation. Ergo, the soon-to-rise aerotropolis in Barangay Taliptip in Bulacan will sink the town further in the blink of an eye. Indeed, the country faces a clear and present danger, as sea-level rise is concluded to be an irreversible impact of human-induced climate change and would continue at a fast and destructive pace.

At any rate, all of us are affected by the crisis. However, we do not experience its consequences to the same degree. To assume otherwise is to embrace our privilege and disregard the plight of the marginalized as a pure hoax. For indigenous peoples (IPs), environmental defenders, and activists in the country, pushing for climate and environmental action is similar to betting with death. IPs are ousted from their ancestral domain, which is often bombed by police and state forces. They are red-tagged or killed because they clash with the private sectors that covet their fertile lands. One hundred sixty-six land and environmental defenders were also killed under President Duterte’s term.

Climate change is virtually everywhere with intensified severity as reported by IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) last August. The report was also definitive in the unequivocal role of humans in the climate crisis. New estimates suggest that the planet will be warm at or beyond 1.5° Celsius in the next 20 years unless immediate and large-scale emissions cuts are to be enacted. If so, we will experience more heatwaves, decreased monsoon precipitation in the subtropics, and stronger flood-inducing storms in the next 20 years.

The solutions needed must be focused on the whole and not solely on individual capacities. Sure, discarding the use of straws is a step forward, but when corporations still put a premium on fossil fuels, coal, and oil as energy sources, doom is within reach.

To jibe with several reports and studies, there must be a sense of urgency in implementing immediate, systemic, and holistic climate action. First, vaccine equity must be guaranteed by governments to ensure that we are, indeed, pursuing a healing and recovery for all. This is vital since intergovernmental, national, or local climate talks would not be effective if different sectors in different countries could not participate or even be heard. Second, legal systems should penalize environmental destruction as a crime against our generation and corporations and industrialized nations must be held accountable. Corporate public relations affairs must be abolished to fast-track this. Third, carbon emissions must be cut for real. Then and again, voluntary net-zero emission pledges do not hold any bearing when governments do not act on it too.

In our country, public service should cease being a populist abstraction. It must establish itself in serving the people and treating them as co-equal in policymaking. A stark example of this is the protection for IPs, environmental defenders, and activists. Hold the government accountable in throwing the cloak of red-tagging to anyone who dissents with their greed. Prevent the red-taggers, the criminally negligent, and the profit-over-people thinking politicians from holding firmly on government positions.

The measures of our government in addressing climate change are still short-term. Worse, the climate crisis is treated as mutually exclusive from other pertinent social issues such as poverty and unemployment when in fact they are not. An evidence-based and scientific approach to urban planning should also be considered. It should treat the country as an organic whole, rather than city-based, where the resulting misproportion of solutions would leave adjacent communities behind. Lastly, the Climate Change Act of 2009 should be enforced and implemented, as only two-fifths of local government units abide by crafting plans for climate action.

At the end of the day, the ruling class does not bear anything green, not even their thumbs, as long as they remain silent and ignorant about these factual numbers and situations. We can only achieve climate justice if we address the roots and consider the whole.