Environmental advocacy is closest to my heart. Every time I travel, I cringe on the wanton destruction I witness in some places of the Philippines and wasteful practices people do. The feeling of helplessness not being able to set things right gnaws inside me. What’s worse, I sometimes succumb to this system; defeated, and losing hope.
Good thing we have advocacy groups that consolidate people’s effort on protecting the environment. Not only that, there are groups such as the School of the SEAs (Sea and Earth Advocates) that teach individuals, groups, other NGOs, LGUs, and other stakeholders how to be a sustainable environmentalist – not only limited to a single action of planting trees, but also in thoughts, in a paradigm of an earth advocate.
The School of SEAs is one of the projects of Law of Nature Foundation, an NGO headed by Ramon Magsaysay awardee and international environment lawyer Atty. Antonio Oposa Jr. Plenty of NGOs, fisher-folks, LGUs, people from the academe, and other individuals have been taught by sustainable fishing methods, environment conservation, and pertinent laws on environment and rights that can be asserted.
Atty. Oposa Jr.’s way of getting things done is by approaching the ACTUAL people who are responsible for a task getting done. He doesn’t confront perceived enemies and neither does he consider anybody as enemy. The paradigm he uses is the very inspiration that changed me and became the turning point of my life.
Here’s the paradigm. Assess what you have, and use your resources and knowledge to your advantage. Never consider things as problems, but rather as opportunities for improvement. Don’t look for faults, but rather look for who can provide solutions.
An example: beach resorts in Bantayan putting up concrete fence less than 20 meters from the shoreline. It is common practice across the country for resorts to fence off their properties, regardless of whatever the law says. It becomes “normal” to them. In a society, there will always be people who will cooperate, and people who don’t. The very task of the government is to ensure that people DO cooperate. So in this case, Atty. Oposa who is an expert of environmental law (utilization of knowledge) filed a case against DENR and other concerned agencies for being lax on enforcing the 20 meter clearance. There’s no other way to compel the DENR to act on the law, but sue them (look for who can provide solutions). The issue wasn’t considered a problem, but an opportunity to restore the shorelines of Bantayan – restoring a public domain.
Of course, nothing happens overnight. People resist change, much less participate in it. Everything is hard work. People from the School of the SEAs have spent countless nights guarding the protected marine areas from illegal fisher-folks. They’ve spent countless of hours educating stakeholders for a sustainable fishing methods and marine conservation. Atty. Oposa Jr. has been criticized, threatened, and some of his people got killed. He knows, along with his people, the dangers of opposing individuals/groups whose source of profit they threatened. However, change is always a sacrifice. It always comes with a price.
There is really no apathy, but only no avenue to express our desire to help. There are plenty of ways to get involved. Read more, to learn more.
If you’re interested with the School of the SEAs project, head out to the Law of Nature website and apply. Also, if you are really a lover of the sea, we have a more popular online movement called Save the Philippine Seas. You might be interested if you’re a blogger, a beach bum, a scuba diver, or a traveler, or any combination of that.
Try to inquire from your local government units too where you can help, and perhaps involve the company you work for.
You can also try to reach me at diva at lakbaydiva dhot com and I can try to facilitate what environmental advocacy you’d like to get involved in.
There is something that YOU can do. Get involved! Be an environmentalist advocate!