I’m probably one of a handful of Filipinos to ever make it to the Arctic. What struck me the most during my trip are the similarities that could be drawn between the Arctic and the Philippines despite being 8,500 kilometers apart. For instance, both my country and the Arctic are at the forefront in terms of climate change impacts. The astounding beauty of the Arctic’s ecosystem disguises the danger that we will lose it forever. In the same way, the resilience of Filipinos, the capacity to give a big smile despite the suffering, hides the difficulties the country is reeling from in the face of extreme weather events.
I was onboard the MV Esperanza’s ship tour as part of the Save the Arctic campaign. The campaign aims to emphasize and draw attention to the Arctic’s ice cover disappearing rapidly because of the warming planet.
Onboard the ship tour were different esteemed personalities from across the world. Emma Thompson told Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott that “climate change is real” while onboard. Philippine Climate Change Commissioner, Yeb Sano made an appeal that the “Arctic is worth saving”. President Anote Tong connected the dots between the melting ice and the threat of sea level rise to Kiribati.
The ship tour has produced stunning images of the Arctic as well as images that seek to draw attention to its plight.
One such image is that of the heads of states on floating sea ice.
As the crew and activists step into the inflatables to look for ice floes where we could take pictures of the papier-mache heads of states, I couldn’t stop myself from daydreaming that we are putting the real heads of states onto the ice floes. They need to agree on ambitious climate action and a transition towards a 100% renewable energy future with the melting ice under their feet counting down to zero. This will certainly inject an apparently missing sense of urgency and reality.
This is indeed the intention of the image. Heads of states cannot continue to deny (i.e. Abbott), ignore (i.e. Harper) or sweet-talk their way out of ambitious climate action (Obama et al). The ice represents the diminishing margin that we have for ambitious climate action before we cross over to the irreversible impacts threshold.
Today, these politicians will deliver their prepared speeches at the New York Climate Summit. We all know what they are going to say. Some of these speeches will admire what they are doing at home despite glaring evidence that they are not doing enough. It will hide the fact that they are protecting the interests of the polluters more than the people. The eloquent deceit by some will continue despite the appeals by vulnerable countries on the same stage for them to do more to combat the increase warming of our planet.
This, however, is not the real story of the summit. At best, these politicians are a sideshow. The biggest story is the biggest climate march in history – the hundreds of thousands in the streets of New York and across cities all over the world demanding climate action.
To our dear politicians, please commit this to your memories:
Remember the six million people that pledged support against oil drilling in the Arctic…
The more than two million that signed the petition a few days ago calling for a transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050…
The hundreds of thousands marching in the streets of New York and cities all over the world demanding climate action…
The intensified uprising against coal and other fossil fuel projects in your home country?
Resistance against polluters, my dear politicians, is the new normal. Listen to the people, an energy revolution is coming.
Jasper Inventor is a Climate and Energy Campaigner with Greenpeace International.