We are the caretakers of this planet
There are just two seasons in the Philippines: the dry and the wet. Dry starts in October and ends in the third week of May, while the wet starts on the last week of May and moves on to the early part of October.
I grew up with these seasons arriving almost on the dot. Ironically, the school year during my time started in June so, oftentimes, I’d find myself drenched in my new school outfit from head to toe until about October when the rains let up. And, my poor parents would find themselves digging into their meagre savings to get me a second pair of footwear to replace the ones I soiled while walking in the rain. In my 40 years away from the old country, the seasons there have gone awry. Some Filipinos observe the change to have started with the 1991 Mt Pinatubo eruption which they felt was to blame for the unusually hot weather as we approached the new millennium. But then again, there were the super typhoons, notably the 2013 Haiyan, known as Yolanda in the Philippines, the fundraising activity of which led to the death of Fast and the Furious actor Paul Walker in California that same year. These days, the Philippines gets visited by typhoons on Christmas weeks, highly unusual when I was living there. And true to its nature, typhoons are followed by floods. With the Greater Manila Area below sea level, once the rains stop, flooding follows, and the waters don’t have any place to go because the sea is higher than the land. Simple gravity. One could say that this is just the way nature is. Maybe. The Philippines is a cluster of islands surrounded by bodies of water. But I couldn’t help but factor in climate change as a player in all these natural catastrophes my old country is experiencing.
When I immigrated to Canada and settled in Toronto, I remember this city to be colder. I invested in warm clothing, even walked around with hand warmers in my pockets. These days, I still wear warm clothes in the winter but have gotten away with wearing just ankle boots, alternating them with my Nike running shoes. Unthinkable yet there it is. And yes, I don’t think it is as cold now as it was when I first settled here or even in the last decades of the previous millennium. Does climate change have something to do with this warming of Canada? Definitely.
This past week, the US invited 40 world leaders to a virtual summit to address the global climate crisis. President Biden committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50% to 52% by 2030. That’s 9 years from now. The Russian and Chinese presidents were in attendance. So was Brazil’s environment minister who was willing to address deforestation and carbon emissions in his country provided he had funds for resources. European Commission president set a goal to make Europe climate-neutral by 2050. Pope Francis appealed to the world “to take care of the biodiversity, take care of nature” in a video message on Earth Day which was the first of the two-day US-led summit on climate change. This April summit was a precursor to the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference which is to take place in Glasgow during the period of November 1st to 12th, 2021. Addressing the summit was UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. He said “we are on the verge of the abyss” adding that Mother Nature has been manifesting herself in scorching temperatures, rising sea levels, super typhoons and epic wildfires.
Mankind has been given the task of taking care of this beautiful planet. That’s you and me and every human being on earth. And we are failing in this simple task.