Last October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change, reported that the planet is already experiencing the consequences of global warming. Among these are rising sea levels, the diminishing Arctic sea ice, and extreme weather—realities that when not addressed, could increase the risk of irreversible changes in ecosystems and threaten human life.
At the pace the planet is changing, it has become every person’s responsibility to do their share in limiting global warming. Building awareness on how individuals contribute to climate change is not always a priority of national governments or business corporations, despite being key players in responding to climate change. It is in these cases where non-governmental organizations like Greenpeace have a crucial role. They are able to focus on issues and instigate action to promote change.
Greenpeace has been guided by its goal of protecting and conserving the environment and promoting peace since it was established in 1971. According to the organization’s official page, it seeks to change attitudes and behavior of people in support of a sustainable future for the planet.
An estimated 2.8 million people from all over the world support the organization financially; it does not accept donations from governments or corporations—a decision that is aligned with its core values of quiet diplomacy, and pursuing the level and quality of public debate about society’s environmental choices.
Greenpeace Philippines is part of a global network in 55 countries, where the group mobilizes its operations. In the field, it has three sailing vessels: the Rainbow Warrior, which has been active since 1989 in Asia; the Arctic Sunrise ice breaker, which joined the cause in 1997; and the Esperanza, which has been sailing since 2002. The NGO’s causes may seem distant and too wide in scope to affect anyone directly—but the details tell it all.
A buyer of the global retail brand Uniqlo should know that the fashion brand “committed to eliminate all release of hazardous chemicals throughout its entire global chain and products by 2020, in response to Greenpeace’s Global Detox Campaign” in 2013. Other retail companies also sealed a similar commitment, including Levi’s, Marks and Spencer, Adidas, and Zara.
Greenpeace Southeast Asia has been instrumental in numerous wins for the environment in the Philippines. This includes the declaration of the Philippine Rice Terraces in Ifugao Province, a UNESCO Living Cultural Heritage site, as a genetically-modified organism (GMO)-free zone in March 2009. A year prior, the Renewable Energy Law was confirmed in December 2008, making the country’s goal of accelerating the development and utilization of renewable energy sources locally official. Earlier that year, the Philippine Senate passed the Renewable Energy bill. According to the www. greenpeace.org, it paved “the way for the enactment of a law that will allow massive uptake of renewable energy, such as wind and solar power, to ensure energy security and to combat climate change.”
Greenpeace Southeast Asia was formally founded in March 2000, a move that strengthened the group’s aim to promote global environmental security. Some areas of its activities include “stopping hazardous waste imports, opposing radioactive shipments, campaigning against forest destruction, lobbying governments on sustainable energy issues, and drawing attention to the dangers of waste incineration,” among others.
One of the group’s current campaigns calls attention to the growing plastic crisis in the country. In a recent email sent to its subscribers, it reported that one of the activities involved trailing two garbage disposal barges carrying tons of plastic waste through Manila Bay. The move sought to protest the broken system of production and pollution. As part of its advocacy to change behavior, the group calls awareness to every individual’s contribution to the “monstrous amount” of garbage the country produces as a result of unsustainable practices like the use of single-use plastic. “Plastics have choked our country long enough,” an email from the group declared. “But now we are standing up, and showing the world that we are part of the solution.” In line with its #BreakFreeFromPlastic campaign, it also participated in a clean-up drive and brand audit in Cebu’s Lahug River, where it bravely called out brands that are the top single-use plastic polluters in the Philippines.
Greenpeace Philippines is also counting on the power of social media in its campaign to spread awareness. It has even involved celebrities to spread their cause and influence younger generations to understand the problems and acknowledge that they are part of the solution.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent on things that matter,” a quote from the great Martin Luther King featured on the Instagram page of Greenpeace Philippines reads. This is why Greenpeace speaks out. Because everyone, it says, has the right to know and express himself or herself freely to enable the positive change our country needs to happen. — JOYCE REYES-AGUILA