Author: Renee Karunungan

Climate change in the year of Duterte

In his State of the Nation Address this year, President Duterte seemingly put importance on environmental issues, mentioning climate change, mining, adaptation, and disasters in his more than two-hour long speech. The President specifically mentioned “drought and long dry spells affecting food production in Mindanao” and asked “all agencies involved in food production to look into this and act accordingly.” He also said, “Responsible, regulated and sustainable development is what we advocate and require. The protection of the environment must be made a priority..” and called on Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management to work on undertaking disaster measures. To be fair, this is the first in many years that environment and climate change was mentioned more than just in passing. Former Department of Energy and Natural Resources Secretary Gina Lopez might have done a good job in giving more importance to environmental issues than any of her predecessors. It was during Lopez’s brief stint as environment secretary that climate change and mining issues were put forward as urgent and important. While Duterte claims …

Climate change threatens centuries’ old Indigenous cultures and traditions

Climate change has been known for its impacts such as extreme weather events, melting glaciers, sea level rise, and even health risks. However, not much has been said about the impacts of climate change on cultures and traditions.  As lands start to sink and as people start to migrate, as weather patterns continue to change, cultures and traditions of people are also under threat of disappearing. People have lived in the same geographic locations for thousands of years, and have built their lives, including their cultures and traditions, based on the land they live in. In the Maldives, there is an Indigenous calendar called nakaiy, which follows the changes in weather and the rising and the setting of the stars. For centuries it has determined the best time to fish, travel, plant crops, build a house, or even get married. However, because of climate change, this traditional method is no longer reliable for the Maldivians.  In Peru, the Huacapunco dance at the foot of their lagoon. Dressed in typical costumes to the beat of a …

The Danger of Allowing Polluters Inside the UN Climate Talks

The involvement of polluting companies inside the UN Climate Negotiations through organisations such as the United States Chamber of Commerce, the National Mining Association, Fuels Europe, and the Business Council of Australia has long been a contentious issue. During the Conference of Parties (COP) 21 in Paris held last 2015, companies such as Engie, a European electric utility company that is the continent’s largest importer of natural gas and EDF, a French electric utility that operates several major coal-fired power plants, sponsored the biggest COP of the UN Climate Talks to date. Civil society organisations as well as many developing countries such as Ecuador, Guatemala, and Bolivia have called this “greenwashing” and have led to discussions with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) secretariat on whether or not these companies should be allowed inside the negotiations in the first place. These companies, according to civil society and the many countries that oppose their participation in the UNFCCC, poses a conflict of interest between what the negotiations aim to do and the nature …

On the current martial law in Mindanao

When I was in 7th grade studying in a very conservative Catholic school, I clearly remember one of my teachers telling our class, “Martial Law is good, it disciplines people. I would love to have Martial Law again to instil discipline in Filipinos.” I remember getting home that day and telling my parents the same. I remember getting a scolding from my parents who gave me a lecture on why Martial Law, especially because they were there to fight against the dictatorship of Marcos. But I was lucky, because not everyone would have people to correct these wrong views. Not everyone would have parents who are socially aware, when teachers fail to teach history lessons, or vice versa. Why am I saying this? Because in this whole discourse about the current imposition of Martial Law in Mindanao, the president himself said that he would be like Marcos. A statement, which, without any creative interpretation, means exactly what it is — an abuse of power. But what is scary, what is concerning, is the fact that …

Why even 1°C of global warming matters

The planet has already warmed 1°C from the pre-industrial period. But the question many people still ask is why does it matter? Isn’t 1 degree just small a number to be worried about? “The scales of the planet is different from the temperature scales we experience on a daily basis,” said Gavin Schmidt, director for NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, at the Congress International de Cambio Climatico (International Congress on Climate Change) held in Huelva, Spain last May 10-12. “One degree of warming matters. It is similar to one quarter of the ice age of 20,000 years ago to pre-industrial change,” Schmidt added. The difference of global temperature between the pre-industrial period and the last ice age is about 4-5 degrees celsius. However, 20,000 years ago, in the last quarter of the ice age, ice thawed because of an increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which warmed the planet. This is according to a paper published in Nature. This warming caused the last deglaciation and within a few hundred years, seas have risen …

CLIMATE SCIENCE, SUSTAINABILITY, GOVERNANCE: FINDING SOLUTIONS TO CLIMATE CHANGE

The Congreso Internacional de Cambio Climatico (International Congress on Climate Change) took place in Huelva, Spain last May 10-12, with the theme “Finding Solutions.” There were many sessions tackling different topics on how we can all find solutions to climate change. Here are 5 things I have learned from the conference:    We need to redesign our systems  Leyla Acaroglu, sociologist and designer, talked about the importance of disruptive design. “Destruction is about intent,” she said.  Design is the powerful silent social scripter that influences the world — from architecture, to urban spaces. But along with design, we need to remember that everything is interconnected and that we move in systems. “We either change the system or reinforce the system by the choices we make,” Leyla said. Leyla stressed the importance of our everyday decisions and choices, reminding us that the market is only as powerful as what the public consumes. Making conscious decisions can create ripples of change. One system we need to change is our linear model of economy, where we take, make, …

Will climate change bring about a zombie apocalypse?

If there’s anything we’ve learned about zombie apocalypse movies, it’s that it usually starts with a disease or a virus that affects the brain. Remember Resident Evil, 28 Days Later, and World War Z? One thing they have in common? A virus that started infecting people and turned them into zombies. And despite Brad Pitt’s disturbing moment at the vending machine drinking Pepsi while trying to save the world, we all thought if a zombie apocalypse actually happen in real life. After all, these apocalyptic movies begin merely with a virus. There have been many news reports of an increasing number of diseases linked to climate change — diseases and viruses rising from the dead and infecting people, an increase in brain invading parasites. Can climate change actually be the beginning of a zombie apocalypse? Just last week, news of a brain invading parasite, the rat lungworm infection, has reported to be spreading in Hawaii. Scientists fear that this is just another consequence of climate change. Last year, an anthrax outbreak in Northern Russia occurred …