Manila, Philippines: Earth Hour isn’t just about conserving energy and turning off the lights for one hour. Sixty minutes in the dark may open our eyes to the environmental issues we are facing and get us to commit to doing sustainable solutions to preserve our planet.
On March 30, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Philippines led the #EarthHourPH2019 main switch-off event which was held at the Global Circuit Event Grounds in Makati City. Now in its twelfth year and with Earth Hour using the same theme as last year’s (#Connect2Earth), Philippines joined over 180 countries and over 17,000 landmarks in observing the global Earth Hour campaign.
I arrived pretty early at the scene and the crowd hadn’t picked up yet, but the atmosphere was already charged with possibilities. It was pretty exciting. I walked around the open field and observed people working at their booths or setting the stage for the event’s musical act. Talahib People’s Music caught my attention through the intoxicating rhythm of their song and the lyrics that just struck a chord in me. It went, ‘Lalaban sa lansangan. Hahadlangan ang pagwasak ng sanlibutan’ which loosely translates to ‘I will be out on the streets ready to fight and protect anything that will destroy our world.’ It was inspiring and fit in with the overall message of Earth Hour. As I went from booth to booth with that tune as my personal soundtrack, I was all the more amazed with the efforts of those involved to include everyone in the movement.
WWF-Philippines teamed up with Old Manila Eco Market to show Filipinos that going plastic-free or switching to a sustainable lifestyle is possible. Aside from the #Connect2Earth theme, Earth Hour also used this opportunity to educate us about plastic pollution and urged each one of us to participate in the #AyokoNgPlastic movement (which loosely translates to #IDon’tWantPlastic).
Many of us in modern society grew up in a throwaway culture where we consume and dispose without giving it much thought. However, around the world ways on how we can avoid the use of plastic are on the rise, environmental problems and climate change pushing us all into shifting to a zero-waste lifestyle.
The vendors at the #EarthHourPH2019 Eco Market offered an array of earth-friendly alternatives that we can use to live sustainably. These products included compostable dish brushes in place of the common dish sponges made of polyurethane and polyethylene that discharge microplastics when washing the dishes. Another product available was the gugo bark strips, actual parts of a bark from the gugo tree that was widely used by our Filipino ancestors for washing their scalp and hair. Just soak the bark in warm water then rub with your hands to release its active principle called saponin.
Gugo pressed bark was used by our ancestors for washing their hair
I was born in the disposable culture where we have become accustomed to an economy that is linear which means that after we are done with a product, we toss it in the trash. For our planet to survive, we need to shift to a circular economy avoiding resources and materials from being thrown in landfill by being reused, up-cycled and composted. An economy that requires us to follow zero-waste living and abandon our wasteful tendencies.
We can see the generational shift in embracing these changes. A lot of the younger generations are getting involved in the environmental movement and are more willing to take part in saving the planet. Many of the groups who observed the switch-off event were youth groups, each taking a pledge in helping the environment beyond Earth Hour. These youngsters (many seemed to fit into generation Z) were environment activists, WWF-Philippines ambassadors, Earth Hour ambassadors or volunteers. It was a relief to see how many young people are in-the-know and are willing to implement zero-waste lifestyle changes.
A lot of the speakers that went onstage gave inspiring messages; one such speaker was Earth Hour Ambassador and actress, Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworksi. She talked about the importance of informing, inspiring and empowering people to make changes to help the planet endure for future generations. She reminded attendees that any act, big or small, makes a positive difference and that there is tremendous power in insisting that lawmakers enforce environmental laws against the use of plastic.
President Rodrigo Duterte aka President Digong also contributed a message which was read by the National Director of Earth Hour Philippines, Atty. Gia Ibay. President Digong mentioned the significance of Earth Hour and its sixty minutes of darkness. How it may awaken our sense of responsibility to our home and begin to understand what we need to sacrifice for our planet.
Most of these speakers gave one underlying message – be a part of the solution, not part of the pollution. No matter how much we see in social media or the news about how the planet’s health is declining, we still must bring everything to the surface and do what we can to shed a light to this problem so more people become aware. Instead of escaping from our responsibilities, we need to face the problem. By facing it only then can we begin to realize how we should move through it. Through this process begins our planet’s healing. If many of us take part, we can expand the ‘earth’ frequency.
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All images supplied by author.