Chuck Baclagon

Two weeks after the Global Climate Strikes last month, I think it is worthwhile to pause and reflect about the overwhelming work and emotions put into the whole project that were not entirely captured in the news or social media.

Because what looked like a spontaneous week of climate actions was the product of months of campaign, organising and logistical work. Here in the Philippines, it was months of meetings, multitasking, preparations, balancing organizational interests and negotiating consensus among the various actors and organizations within the movement.

It has been a long time since I’ve been involved with the youth movement, and it was only now that I became immersed in it through the climate strike organizing in Manila. I found myself in awe of the vitality and potential of the sector that is currently bearing the brunt of this oppressive regime’s attacks on civil liberties.

This realization first came when we helped convene the initial organizing meeting with a broad network of youth organizations that was so well-attended, the venue we rented couldn’t fit all of us who came.

We started by collectively struggling to define what it meant to hold a climate strike in the concrete conditions of the Philippine campaign landscape. This was important especially since unlike for our counterparts in Europe and the US, education in the country is a privilege. We were careful to avoid the impression that we were holding the climate strike as an excuse to skip school for leisure.

Our discussions led us to articulate our stake in terms of understanding the climate crisis as an intergenerational struggle that has an intersectional face that came as the result of the unsustainable, wasteful and profit-oriented global economy that continues to treat the planet and people as disposable commodities.

It was from there that we understood that the task of organizing from the vantage point of the youth, and of those most affected by the crisis, was also about stepping back and enabling them to speak out using their own voice. Of abiding to the consensus of the broader group; of demonstrating grace under fire; of seeing beauty amidst chaos; of being eloquent enough to be accessible yet nuanced in communicating the complexity of the climate crisis to different audiences; of striving to overcome our own human limitations and frailties; of totally owning up to my privilege and being content in the fact that I don’t have all the answers; and of having the vision to see beyond the present to that of what is possible.

These are not the things that make the news nor are these the things captured in video or photographs. But these are among a myriad of things that make up the struggle for the long haul, and these are the experiences needed to help concerned citizens become committed activists.

The sense of urgency in acting on the climate crisis has never been higher than it is now. Our task is to continue to fan and deepen the collective love and rage that has been awoken in the hearts and minds of the youth, to support them as they mobilize (and lead) the climate movement. The rapid growth of the climate strikes shows how much young people care, and how much they are willing to act on it.

It’s time for the rest of us to heed the deeply moving voice of the youth by empowering them to rise and play their vital role in ushering in a fossil-free future.

Click here to organize for what comes after the strikes