Last November 2021, at the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference, world leaders came together to discuss the future of the planet and the target to keep global temperature rise within 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.
Today, the Earth is 1.2 degrees Celsius warmer than it was in the 19th century. By 2030, it could be 2.1 degrees hotter if, beginning last year, big emitters fail to halve their carbon emissions. We now only have nine years to hit our targets and prevent climate catastrophes.
Poorer countries will suffer the most. The Philippines contributes just 0.3 percent to global carbon emissions but, according to the Global Climate Risk Index 2021, is the fourth most vulnerable country in the world to climate risk. Even if the whole country were to shift to renewable energy, it won’t be enough to mitigate climate change. Inevitably, it’s up to big emitters to keep their commitments.
But these numbers are just numbers—abstract, impersonal concepts to many—until we understand what they mean for people, especially the most vulnerable.
What does a 2.1-degree rise in temperature mean for coastal communities? Will the ocean engulf their village? What will become of their homes and livelihoods?
And, after we answer these questions, how can we then tell the world that global warming is an urgent issue placing many Filipino lives at risk? If countries like the Philippines cannot shake the scale by cutting emissions, we must find other means to be heard and to influence world leaders to take serious actions.
This is what the DanTAOn Project, one of 10 teams supported by the Oscar M. Lopez Center’s (OML) Balangay Media Project, hopes to address.
“Hearing about how the term ‘storm surge’ failed to sufficiently convey Typhoon Haiyan’s magnitude to many coastal dwellers opened my eyes to just how important communicating well is. Language matters. Sometimes, it spells the difference between life and death,” shared lead editor Tanya Mariano.
“DanTAOn: Our climate stories as we journey one hundred years from now” aims to humanize the impacts of disasters and move people and nations to action. It seeks to present—through essays, photos, videos, and other formats—the narratives of people directly affected by climate change, and to visualize climate impacts using geographic information system (GIS) maps of sea-level rise projections from Climate Central.
Artistic renditions based on scientific data will also provide a glimpse of what life may look like for at-risk communities 100 years from now.
“I believe that part of our work is to help bring the stories of vulnerable communities into focus. Highlighting these stories, we hope to forge solidarity that can be leveraged to call for change that benefits most of society. But our work is not to speak for these communities; it’s to provide avenues and support so they may speak for themselves,” explained writer Issabelle Therese Baguisi.
From vague numbers and big projections to small communities and concrete lived experiences, the DanTAOn Project hopes to move these stories from the local frontlines to the global limelight.
“If there’s a platform to do something and an opportunity to make a difference, you’ll be surprised how many people will show up and be part of it. Studies and researches are all available. We can make space and help others make space for all of us to do something about the climate emergency,” said writer and researcher Amor Tan Singco.
Help us tell a richer, more human climate change narrative
By linking data and stories and making these accessible online, the DanTAOn Project team hopes to amplify calls for decisive action from those most accountable for climate change.
“As a development worker, I’ve heard recounts of what people thought were their last day on Earth. The trauma from these events remains with the communities, as does the threat,” project team leader Arch. Arlene Christy Lusterio said. “This is what climate change will continue to do to many vulnerable sites in the Philippines. Sharing these stories out with the public will emphasize what’s at stake in the fight against climate change. Though it’s extremely daunting to know that we’re not in control, hope remains. If we pool together our stories, we will have a louder voice,” Lusterio added.
The DanTAOn Project Team is one of the recipients of the Umalohokan Fellowship to the Climate Media Labs and Umalohokan Grants under the Oscar M. Lopez Center’s Balangay Media Project—a program designed to support local media practitioners and climate change advocates by building their capacities for science-based reporting and utilizing traditional, new, and out-of-home media to promote climate change adaptation and resilience-building of communities.
The Climate Reality Project Philippines is a media partner of the 2021 Balangay Media Project.
About the authors
Tanya L. Mariano is a writer, editor, content strategist, and researcher with over a decade of experience. She has a Masters in Communication from the Ateneo de Manila University and is a member of the International Environmental Communication Association.
Ma. Theresa Amor J. Tan Singco has a background in communications research and has worked as a communicator, trainer, and advocate of disaster risk reduction and management, climate change, and sustainable development. She has more than a decade of experience from local news outfits to humanitarian and development organizations.
Issabelle Therese M. Baguisi is a former Secretary General of the National Union of Students of the Philippines, a blogger/influencer, and a staunch advocate for social justice. She has rallied behind various social issues ranging from education, politics, cyber libel, and, more recently, disaster risk reduction and climate change.
Arlene Christy D. Lusterio is an architect and environmental planner with about two decades of experience working with poor communities and vulnerable groups on the issues of security of tenure and sustainable human settlements, disaster risk reduction and management, and climate change. She has been directly involved in post-disaster response to major disasters like Ketsana and Haiyan as a founder and executive director of TAO-Pilipinas, Inc. She has a Master of Architecture in Human Settlements from Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.