By Dean Keiffer Pulumbarit

Cartoon by Alexia Macatuno

Scrolling through social media these past few weeks has become greener than usual. Following the protests of scientists against fossil fuel funding around the world, everyone heeds a massive call on Twitter, Facebook, or any online community to raise environmental awareness. Concerned netizens posted threads containing news articles of our global deadline to slow down the irreversible effects of climate change. People on the internet have listed sustainable ways to avoid plastics (the objects), while others urged everyone to delete their spam emails. One thing, however, there are bigger issues that the public seems to see. Considering the proposed steps to save nature, most individuals forget the element that matters most: human nature. 

Growing up, I’ve been accustomed to “be the change I want to see in this world.” While I agree with this quote, I always wonder how one might change the lives of billions. Sure, metal straws would prevent plastic ones from polluting our oceans, searching with Ecosia would support reforestation, planting a tree would reduce flooding, and donating to organizations would protect our wild animals. Still, we fail to recognize the elephant in the room— corporations who choose to be non-eco-friendly for their own gain. In a study by Ekwurzel et al. (2017), it was reported that 90 companies around the world have been responsible for two-thirds of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for 30 years. These include oil and cement manufacturing companies such as Saudi Aramco, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and National Iranian Oil Company.  

In the Philippines, most of the largest banks continue to fund coal plant projects and coal developer companies despite stating that they will divest from them. With the BPI, PNB, and BDO ranking as the top coal financiers in the country based on the 2021 Scorecard Report of Withdraw from Coal (WFC), the country’s GHG will not decrease any time soon. This might impact us even worse as the world continues to get warmer every year, according to an analysis by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) (Greene & Jacobs, 2022).

We tend to put the pressure on consumers to reduce their carbon footprints but despite all these, our shortcomings are only the tip of the iceberg. In fact, we are left with no choice but to buy products in plastic packages as corporations choose them due to their cheapness and durability. Meanwhile, the government has poor regulations regarding these and invests too much in roads that citizens have limited options but to buy their own vehicles or commute to work. These hinder human beings from the values innate in us such as fostering growth and adopting what’s morally right. 

There are a lot of things one can’t control by simply doing their part especially when the power doesn’t rest with them. To cite an example, before the pandemic started, Rizal National Science High School implemented policies to contribute to reducing plastic waste. Instead of the previous practice of selling plastic utensils in the canteen, students and faculty were encouraged to provide their own reusables such as tupperwares and stainless cutleries. For the plastic cups, they were replaced with self-owned tumblers and fortunately, everyone did their part diligently. As these policies made great improvements to the school’s waste reduction, other schools followed suit as well. 

Meanwhile, the student council initiated projects such as the “Basketbote.” What’s alarming, however, is that while students are dunking bottles at the recycling bin made with a basketball hoop, smoke from burning dry leaves can still be inevitably inhaled sometimes in the morning. 

Although measures have been taken like the COP26 which companies have signed up to reduce climate change contributions to net-zero by 2050, I’m afraid that there will be no much time to save what’s left. Accountability and initiatives must be strengthened so that real changes are put into place. Corporations should adopt studies that introduce good alternatives to plastics and the people in power should invest in bike lanes and green spaces. With this, people will be encouraged to ride a bike that uses minimal fossil fuels and conserves roadways, hence opportunities for plant life in urban areas will increase.

Moreover, institutions should fully commit to their plans for divestment with the government holding them accountable if they fail to do so. On the other hand, the new administration should push for renewable energy as our primary source instead of depending on coal. These issues may be complex but if we start to look at things through the lens of a child, we may come to a single perspective: to love and treasure everything that’s around us.

In the fight against the worsening climate change, we must acknowledge the privilege of living the ‘green’ life. Putting first the upholding of our environmental responsibilities would be easier only if everyone has the luxury to use eco-friendly products. It should be every consumer’s call to action to destroy these privileges and instead, be beneficial of the right to a clean environment. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dean Keiffer Pulumbarit, 18, is a grade 12 student taking up Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) at Rizal National Science High School.

Explained By The People is a collaboration between Explained Opinion Desk and Explained Community that aims to give campus journalists, youth leaders, and other advocates a platform to let their voices be heard on the country’s current issues.

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