Whenever my foregner friends would ask me what is the best time of the year to visit the Philippines, I would tell them to go during the dry season (roughly from mid-November to mid-May) to avoid the typhoons. Lately, however, I find myself having a difficult time answering this question. We experience how typhoons now strike harder and more frequently year round.
In a report titled "Crisis or Opportunity: Climate change impacts and the Philippines," the global environmental organization Greenpeace examines climate change and how it is affecting the Philippines. The report notes increases in:
- Frequency and intensity of tropical cyclones in the last 20 years
- Frequency and intensity of El Nino/La Nina
- Forest fires
- Sea levels
This means a number of things for the Philippines and Filipinos. NASA scientist Josefino Comiso says that the depletion of the country's flora and fauna and the destruction of the coral reefs are consequences of global warming. The decrease in fish can heavily impact the Philippine economy, and it also means a depletion of a main Philippine food source.
What can be done about this? While some argue that the effects of global warming are irreversible and some claim that this climate change is not man-made, the reality of global warming's existence is apparent enough so that actions to alleviate the problem should be necessary.
Many environmentalists emphasize that climate change is a problem that equally affects us all. However, one must acknowledge the fact that some people experience the consequences of climate change more so in order to start solving the problem of climate change, and Filipinos are one such group. Ipat Luna, a teaching fellow at the University of California at Berkeley, argues that the United States uses the Philippines as its "dumping ground for everything from waste products to cars that don't meet American smog standards" and depletes the country of its resources. She claims that this is the cause of an "epidemic of sicknesses in the country, such as children being born with birth defects and girls beginning to menstruate at ages as young as seven years old."
This phenomenon, known as "environmental racism," tends to affect low-income and minority groups. While everyone is affected by climate change, it is Filipinos and other such groups who experience these effects the strongest and most immediately. While the usual advice - such as carpooling, using fluorescent light bulbs, and recycling - is helpful, one of the first and most important steps to helping climate change in the Philippines is to acknowledge this environmental racism faced by Filipinos and collectively work together to address this issue.
Unfortunately, not much research has been done on environmental racism in the Philippines, and there are no large organizations that specifically address climate change in the Philippines. But it's never too late to start. Bring up the issue to any Filipino-American organizations or communities you're involved in. Or, better yet, start an organization that addresses this problem.
Finally, one of the most important things is to educate the community about this issue. Not too many people know about the specific impacts of climate change on the Philippines, and even fewer people know about environmental racism. Inform your fellow Pinoys as well as other members of the community.
Climate Change Could Devastate Philippines: NASA Scientist
Conference Issues Call to Combat Environmental Racism
Crisis or Opportunity: Climate Change Impacts and the Philippines
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