More than one billion people from all over the world observed and participated in the celebration of Earth Day last April 22, 2019. This is the 49th year of Earth Day’s observance after its initial start on April 22, 1970.
Earth Day is a call to action that aims to change human behavior and provokes policy change towards a healthy sustainable environment. This call for change is more urgent these days due to the increasing destruction brought about by climate change around the world.
I wonder how the progressive environmental and political movements in the Philippines observed Earth Day and its message amidst the election fever in the country these days— the national election takes place on May 13, 2019.
As reported in surveys, the top tier of issues that the Filipino people are concerned about are economic in nature— wages, inflation, poverty, and jobs (employment), while having a clean and sustainable environment is at the bottom of their list, together with the issues that deal with territorial integrity, population growth, and charter change. The people are concerned about their immediate and basic needs, which is more short-term, with little awareness or knowledge about the strategic or long-term importance of protecting and preserving the environment.
It is also sad that the leaders and candidates running for elected positions trivialize the seriousness of the election by not offering or tackling worthwhile issues like environmental protection and preservation. Instead, and as usual, these candidates are feeding the people with fiesta-like entertainment and tacky jokes during their campaign programs, public appearances, and talks.
The birth and the history of Earth Day celebration is about doing collective effort and action that will lead to changes in behavior and mindsets with the hope of influencing and provoking policy change.
Earth Day events in the Philippines have not gained significant momentum that will help tilt the balance of power and influence positive results in the May 2019 election, judging from the news feeds and coverage from social and mainstream media.
But with the movement of the earth (and this is not a figurative statement) during the 6.1 magnitude earthquake that hit Central Luzon on Earth Day this year, we are reminded that climate change and taking care of the environment should be everybody’s concern and business. The jolt was felt by many on the island of Luzon and news reports about the death toll, damaged and destroyed buildings and infrastructures, including historic old churches and landmarks, must bear notice.
There were reported earthquakes and aftershocks in different corners of the world as well, in Mexico and in the Visayas in the Philippines, a day after the Luzon earthquake and these are warning signs that people should be concerned about.
Natural occurrences (super typhoons, prolonged dry spells and droughts, red tides, tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and flash floods) that have recently led to disasters are not at all foreign or new to many Filipinos. But the fact that environmental concerns and their impact are the least of the Filipino people’s worries presents a huge and a challenging problem.
How can one lobby elected officials about a concern that is not on his or her radar of worries? How prepared are the Filipino people and their government in dealing with natural disasters? Judging from past disasters, the response is pretty obvious.
Earth Day, just like the celebration of Easter and our own birthdays and birth anniversaries, is about making a deep reflection, a renewal, and an effort to make a commitment about taking care of our environment and our surroundings. It is about appreciating the blessings of life brought about by nature and the environment. We should take care and love our environment just like how we treat and love ourselves.
It is election time in the Philippines once more. Earth Day’s call to action is also for people to vote for leaders who can promote and foster a healthy and a sustainable environment for the country.
Jojo Liangco is an attorney with the Law Offices of Amancio M. Liangco Jr. in San Francisco, California. His practice is in the areas of immigration, family law, personal injury, civil litigation, business law, bankruptcy, DUI cases, criminal defense and traffic court cases. Please send your comments to Jojo Liangco, c/o Law Offices of Amancio “Jojo” Liangco, 605 Market Street, Suite 605, San Francisco, CA 94105 or you can call him (415) 974-5336. You can also visit Jojo Liangco’s website at www.liangcolaw.com.