My key takeaways at IUCN Global Youth Summit 2021
Today is 16th April 2021, I can’t barely imagine that it’s the last day of IUCN Global Youth Summit (GYS), and it’s been two weeks of interactive dialogues and networking sessions with my fellow young people across the globe. And of course, I should reward myself for grappling with my lack of sleep from April 5 to 16, since I have to adjust with the event’s time zone, that’s a gruesome 6:00pm to 5:00am in my country.
I can’t believe I became a nocturnal human-being meeting strangers and forging alliances for my co-founded youth organization virtually. All I can say, it was tough, took all my energy, but definitely worth it.
Why I joined IUCN GYS?
As a young environmental professional, I have limited time to join such youth events, however I made an exception for IUCN GYS because of experiencing the worst typhoons last year, and I refuse to stay silent. I realized that I should start living my life with a purpose, because I suddenly pictured my future grandchildren asking me what did I do to help others survive these Climate, COVID-19, and Conflict catastrophes?
“When the rainbow comes after the rain,” I realized that youth leaders and young professionals around the world have to know our story being at the forefront of anthropogenic climate disasters, biodiversity loss and zoonotic disease outbreaks, and the lack of global action to mitigate the risks of all these crises.
Like many other people in my country, we choose not to speak with the damages, trauma, and lost. We often end up dealing with our own recovery and move on with our lives as if the disasters are not severe.
Typhoon Ulysses on the midnight of November 12th
But I can still remember vividly, how we stayed awake all midnight with our white dog named “Snow”, while Typhoon Ulysses (Vamco) devastated our neighborhood. It was a nightmare of strong winds, torrential rain and thunderstorms. We ended up with no water, electricity and internet connections for a week. And the pandemic made everything worst due to the lack of food supply and transportation.
God is still good to us because we still have our house, but other communities were severely flooded that they have to evacuate or stay on their roofs to stay alive. And these people were pleading for help in darkness.
As my college friend narrates her ordeal, “I’ve grown up experiencing typhoons but Ulysses was by far the scariest I’ve been through. This is the first time we’ve evacuated as a family. Normally, we can manage to stay at home throughout the ordeal. But the water that comes in is not a joke, considering the heavy and prolonged downpour of rains.
Bicol river overflowed, even the railway on steep slope was flooded. All houses were submerged in floodwaters. Other people set-up their tents along the railway and stayed there overnight. Others climbed on their rooftops. While others evacuated in the nearby towns. Everyone was experiencing the lack of sleep, tiredness, fear and anxiety for the safety of their families and friends.”
She reminisces, “I hope this is the last one this year. I couldn’t hold back my tears when we were riding the motorboat away from home. Almost all our things were gone. The day after tomorrow, we will start rebuilding again. Please pray for our recovery and all our fellows who were repeatedly destructed by typhoons.”
Ladies and gentlemen, not unless you experience the brunt of climate crisis would you realized how we neglect our Planet, how we took the capacity of those vulnerable people to stand on their own in this crucial time of a pandemic, and how we speak about climate adaptation and mitigation without making a bolder step to call on our leaders, or taking actions in our own community to stop carbon emissions, or even practicing a zero-plastics lifestyle.
Like many Filipinas in science, who are future mothers or leaders of our country, I refuse to let our experience be another story of resilience, I don’t want my future children to experience these ordeals, and repeat the cycle of being typhoon victims all over again.
Because if we continue romanticizing “resilience” as smiling despite the calamities we are experiencing, or media portraying politicians giving relief goods and monetary donations to relatives of typhoon casualties, or even showing fake solidarity, we have to remember that we are taking the true meaning of resilience –the ability to recover from setbacks, adapt well to change, and keep going in the face of adversity.
On one hand, real-time disaster coverage should start reporting on the destruction of livelihoods and infrastructures and demand urgent action from national leaders instead of stories of “so-called-resilience.” This gap in narrative gives the impression that Filipinos can easily recover from the world’s strongest typhoons.
On the other hand, if major country emitters will be more responsible to finance technology like early-warning systems, localized IEC materials on disaster preparedness not only at the national or community level but also to each and every marginalized households, then maybe that would be “resilience.”
What I look forward after IUCN GYS?
Vulnerable sectors such as farmers, fisherfolks, indigenous people, rural poor living in remote island communities were the least covered by mainstream media and social welfare support. They were often left to fend on their own relief and rescue operations during disasters, and yet they are the stewards and defenders of our forests and biodiversity, making sure that these resources will be sustainable for the future generations.
Developing Island nations like my country, the Philippines has not been resilient. Like the rest of us with pride and dignity, when the worsened impacts of climate change strike, we were helpless no matter who we are, even those first responders during typhoons were affected.
It was a matter of learning how to be independent because we only have ourselves to rely on.
Therefore, I look forward that each and everyone of us who participated in this summit will practice what we preach. May we not turn a blind eye on those people who needed our help during a crisis. May we be that agent of change who will find innovative solutions to mitigate and adapt to climate change through climate-smart and disaster resilient scalable technologies. And to halt the rapid extinction rate of endemic and indigenous species of plants and animals through science-based conservation and protection management.
This is my personal experience and my own decision to open-up and do my best to bring our voice in the global community and making the most of my participation at IUCN GYS as my platform; I know that we may have different perspectives and you may not agree with me. But let me put things into rest, I am a nobody nor sure if I will succeed, but at least I tried to let those marginalized voices be heard.
My key takeaway at IUCN GYS?
My key takeaway is it’s time for governments and other stakeholders to take biodiversity loss as seriously as climate change. We need strong collective and transformative actions in order to achieve a green economic recovery, beginning with ambitious global biodiversity targets supported by strong Fintech commitments.
We as youth have to elevate public awareness of the biodiversity crisis, we have to heed science as it is revealed that we are losing one million plant and animal species to extinction. This led us to realized that all living things have vital role in our ecosystems. For example, the decline of pollinator species like bats and bees threaten our food security.
The loss of biodiversity further exposes the challenges we are currently experiencing, from zoonotic disease spillover and pandemics. This includes the deforestation of mangrove forests that act as buffers against the impacts of storms.
Furthermore, everyone has to know that megadiverse counties lie in tropical islands, these are often low-income countries with already depleting resources due to COVID-19. These island nations must contend with the drain on natural resources from unsustainable trade and consumption of developed countries.
Successful IUCN GYS therefore depend on proactive commitments of youth and young professionals to encourage and lobby resolutions to protect our global biodiversity and SDG inclusions in our recovery plans, especially conserving and restoring those countries considered as the world’s hottest of the hotspots like the Philippines.
May the positive change starts from us and let it transcends within our homes, within our communities, and societies. And hopefully someday, we will all achieve our common vision of the “Future We Want.”
Lastly, conserving and protecting our world’s last remaining forest ecosystems will help us conform the looming biodiversity crisis while also tackling the threat of climate change and the pandemic.
At the end of the day, when the future generations asked us about what we did to save humanity and combat these catastrophes, we can proudly say that we did our best in solidarity to achieve #OneNatureOneFuture.