By Kristia Niña G. Daymiel | November 16, 2023
November marks the Philippines’ National Environmental Awareness Month. In line with Republic Act No. 9512 or the “Environmental Awareness and Education Act of 2008,” this celebration promotes awareness of safeguarding nature and its natural resources.
For many years, this celebration has been a pinnacle for environmentalism. However, in our attempts to save the world, is awareness truly all we have to offer?
Under white clouds drifting across the blue sky, a loud car rushing past interrupts one’s pace—exhausting from its pipe a thick, black smoke. Although passing by for only a second, the sulfuric smell tingles for minutes and the footprints of its toxic gas leave traces on the environment for 50,000 years.
Sometimes in little, seemingly irrelevant inconveniences, the world is reminded of the existence of highly relevant problems. Likewise, from car rides and emails to coffee in plastic cups, we’ve seen how simple daily segments of our lives have led to ecological issues—yet they remain tied to our present day.
Being the nation’s primary agency preserving the environment, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has tried different strategies to combat these environmental issues, such as solid waste management and greening programs. The most common, even in many schools, are environmental lectures, which attempt to educate students by organizing various seminars and trainings.
An array of environmental awareness programs were set before our eyes—even to the visually impaired—but the recurring efforts of spreading awareness, seemingly have not yet halted the havoc wreaked upon nature.
How far can awareness go?
While it is apparent that the world is warming, sea levels are rising, and the climate is changing, reiterating awareness of environmental degradation seemingly can no longer stand alone at this point in the battle. Recall the year 2022 when scientists all over the world protested in hopes the human race would realize the dire urgency of standing up against large corporations. In the same year, 16 environmental activists were killed in Asia, 11 coming from the Philippines.
News of such alarm caused positive impacts on the majority for a while, with environmental activism given further attention. The moment stirred emphasis on deleting emails, walking, and cleaning up one’s digital footprint—tweets, Instagram stories, and the like, which have gone a long way to disseminate factual information—raising awareness of our dire situation.
People were taking a stand to help keep the planet alive, if only for a brief while. So, what went wrong? Why have we still not solved climate change by now?
Redirecting awareness to action
Activism does not always involve bloodshed. It may look different from one to another. As for Greta Thunberg, one renowned environmental activist, it was going vegan and avoiding air travel, calling out world leaders to take immediate action for climate mitigation. From the might of her thought to deter climate change, she fearlessly took initiative.
But together with courage, both environmental consciousness and collective action also make up environmental activism—and, ultimately, change. While raising banners and megaphones along a stretch of road is the most common picture of protests, environmental activism doesn’t only end with that. Aside from the chaotic revolts on the streets or online, It can also be a form of consciousness transcending into action.
As we go along our days with the tingling heat of the sun and honking vehicles down the road, we are reminded of the factors ushering downfall in the world. As much as we know these factors exist, simply knowing cannot take us far enough to successfully mitigate environmental issues. As stewards of this planet, we must also make a difference out of what is known to us.
“Knowledge is knowing, but wisdom is making a sound out of knowledge.” National Environmental Awareness Month, reminding us to be concerned with nature, is one step of environmental mitigation. However, we must remember mitigating doesn’t only end with having the concern, but necessitates a sense of urgency and action.