ELEVENTH HOUR: Hope and optimism through youth-led local climate solutions


Last month, we received another wake-up call from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change through its latest assessment report. The report highlighted that climate change is undoubtedly caused by human activity, and its impacts are already happening and will become more severe with every additional increment of temperature. It holds no room for uncertainty.

The possible reality detailed in the 4,000-page report might drain every bit of hope one has, while others might be infuriated or enraged by the inaction that led to this. We must not be paralyzed by fear and anger.

You might ask, “Where can we find hope during the pandemic while facing the climate crisis?”

Our answer is simple: the youth.

Recognizing the role of young people as stakeholders in advancing real climate actions, Climate Reality Philippines Youth Cluster launched the "Niche Campaign" together with youth-led environment group Wavefarers. Initially starting as a simple one-off forum, it grew into a full-blown campaign aiming to help budding young climate advocates find, and eventually, claim their place in the climate space.

Niche: My Place in the Climate Space, organized by Climate Reality Philippines Youth Cluster and the Wavefarers, was participated by hundreds of budding young climate advocates who are eager to find niches in the climate and environmental movement.

We introduced Project Niche Advocacy Pitch where over 20 proposals on community-based actions were submitted to creatively solve local climate and environmental problems. Projects were focused on agriculture, waste, industry, transport, energy, and youth empowerment. Each one recognized the intersectionality, complexity, and nuances of the climate crisis.

The Niche Campaign consisted of several activities—Niche Experts Forum, Niche Youth Forum, and the Project Niche Advocacy Pitch.

From all the teams that participated, five teams were chosen to advance in the project incubator round and will be granted a seed fund courtesy of East-West Center, a US-based education and research organization. They will also receive technical guidance and support for the implementation of their respective projects.

Winning teams of Project Niche: Alpas (Sarah Belgica and Maya Belgica), Climate Learning Kit (Alessandro Capistrano and Patricia Pobre), Green Hydra (Nicole Andres, Humphrey Bago, and Maria Angela Benitez), Plan SYNERGY (Princess Rhea Balinbin, Ryle Jen Bucao, and Estrella Marie Eugenio), and Rio Flitter Collector (Asma Jaafar, Veronica Capin, and Randel Jan Sanson).

Project Green Hydra will roll out a community hydroponic garden project to harness the nexus of waste and urban agriculture. Alpas will tackle waste management by creating a waste collection system in their community.

Plan SYNERGY will introduce a solar-powered irrigation system for local farmers to address the intersection of food, water, and energy problems. Rio Flitter Collection will develop a floating apparatus that will eradicate solid waste-related river pollution. While Climate Learning Kit will develop a K-12 aligned game that will help Filipino high school students to understand the local context of climate change.

The teams shared their motivations in starting their climate journeys—childhood memories, calamities, families, and their communities. Some shared that they just “fell” into the advocacy and embraced it. Others mentioned that they are still discerning where they belong in the climate movement.

Their journeys are not without hurdles—some experienced little to no support from people around them, lack of resources, the pandemic, or stigma on environmental and climate activism.

These young individuals are just a few of the millions who have seen and experienced the impacts that come with climate change. They, too, have felt anxious from the enormity of the problem, but they have courageously stepped up and have taken on the challenge of bringing climate action to their communities. They have found and claimed their place—their niche—in the climate space and have become leaders of the climate movement.

Christiana Figueres, one of the architects of the Paris Agreement, said, “In the face of the climate crisis, we all have to be optimistic, not because success is guaranteed but because failure is unthinkable.”

It is difficult to be optimistic in our current reality. But whenever we feel like we’re losing hope in humanity, just look at the young people creating a better reality for everyone. We know that despair is not an option. We are guided by a determination that things must and will change. We have started a global revolution to secure a just and habitable Earth, for the present and future generations.

We challenge you to join the youth in our fight—the fight for a better reality.

About the authors

Keith Sigfred Ancheta is a Youth Cluster coordinator of Climate Reality Philippines. He is also a director of the Klimatotohanan webcast and the project coordinator of the Niche Campaign. He is a licensed teacher and a full-time MSc Microbiology student. His advocacies include transformative climate education, meaningful youth participation, and inclusive climate policymaking.

Mia Niña Maria Catipon is a youth facilitator, student-leader, and stubborn climate optimist. She is the Youth Representative to the Knowledge and Capacity Development Cluster of Climate Reality Philippines and co-lead of Project Niche. Her advocacies include storytelling for climate action, finding community-based solutions to environmental issues, and recognizing indigenous knowledge in conservation.