[OPINION] Dreaming on a dying planet: A letter from a young climate activist
Dear friend –
If I had my way completely, I would not have been an environmentalist.
I would have been an astronaut, a scientist, or an artist. Call it childish, but that’s because it was. The 7-year old me wanted to be those things, but the world has changed since. The forests have stopped thriving, the oceans are acidifying, and the people – dying. The Earth has called to us, and we cannot pretend to be deaf to its cries.
I had never imagined myself as an environmental advocate; I did not notice that I was until I was already in the thick of things. Stories of our home, the province of Negros, were too beautiful and tragic to keep to ourselves.
We brought the fight to the streets.
It’s been more than a year since I gave myself to the advocacy completely, and the internal battles are as complex as the campaigns we put out for the world to see. To suddenly become someone else in such a short amount of time, and to be able to keep up with the fast-paced world of campaigning, had left me wondering about my dreams, still so vivid amidst the crisis. Do they have to be left behind in order to pursue the fight?
My dreams have faded to the background. Every single day after leaving university, I wake up an activist. You will not find me in spaceships, nor in laboratories. I will be out in the streets, rallying against coal-fired power plants and calling for climate justice. (READ: Leading a Philippine youth climate strike)
No mothers and fathers dream of seeing their children leading rallies, staying up late to pore over ordinances, and calling out authorities. My parents would never have foreseen their 7-year old artist grow up to frequent provincial halls, write out joint statements, and gatecrash committee hearings. (READ: IN PHOTOS: Filipino youth call for urgent action as global climate strike begins)
I’m pretty sure they did not send me to school to see me hold up a megaphone.
I did not grow up wanting to become an activist, but there is little else to do on a dying planet. The thick grey smog cannot be seen behind rose-colored glasses, but that does not mean it’s not poisoning your lungs.
The climate crisis has stolen so many things from us, but nothing else will be left if we retreat from the battle. Having clean air, water, and soil means that we can become who we have always wanted to be. We need a safe, livable space for watering the seeds of hope and giving ourselves a chance to see them grow. (READ: 'Activism works': Greta Thunberg rallies UK school strikers)
Young activist, the world may have taken so much already, but you do not have to let go of your dreams. These dreams will remind you to stand back up, despite the scrapes on your knees. When you forget why you fight, they will remember. They will tell you that the only way is forward, and you will follow.
Because really, there is nowhere else to go.
Krishna Ariola is one of the fellows of DAKILA’s Heroes Hub Youth Fellowship Program. Currently, she is the Negros Coordinator for the Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development. At the same time, she is the lead convenor for the Youth for Climate Hope and the Youth Strike for Climate.
This piece is part of a series by youth leaders from #WeTheFuturePH, a nonpartisan movement of Filipino youth standing up for rights, freedom, and democracy.