Climate change is not fair. It is unjust. Those who contribute the least to this problem suffer the most from its impacts. Case in point: young people whose contributions to climate change are almost negligible but are living through intense typhoons, extreme temperatures, and other climate impacts. That is the reality we’re facing and the reality we need to change.
Young people are not sitting idly and letting these things happen to them. Rather, they are actively leading the fight for the present and their future. They are fighting for their survival. They need all the support they can get in their climate journey.
That is why The Climate Reality Project Philippines Youth Cluster and the Rotary Club of Makati San Lorenzo relaunched Project Niche, a program designed to help young change-makers find and claim their place in the climate space. Under this program, youth leaders were mentored to develop their skills in crafting solutions to local climate and environmental problems. They were then tasked to prepare a project proposal that they will pitch in front of a panel of judges.
Last May 28, 2022, 11 groups of budding young climate advocates presented their proposals during the pitching competition of Project Niche 2.0. Out of the 11 competing teams, six stood out.
“Panubliong Lunhaw” aims to further conserve the mangrove ecosystem in the chosen community, recognizing the importance of this ecosystem in the life of those inhabiting the coasts. “Project R&R” tackles the growing problem of marine plastic litter by preventing the transport of these plastic wastes from the river to the sea. Also tackling the plastic problem is “EcoS”, which aims to create bioplastics that can be used as an alternative to single-use plastic products.
On the other hand, “PamaYaman” will help community members establish a sustainable urban garden to address food insecurity. Similarly, “Project AgwaKultura” focuses on solving food insecurity through hydroponics-based urban agriculture using discarded plastic waste as the main material for the system. Lastly, “PuriDrip” aims to design and distribute a portable water filtration system to provide potable water in disaster-stricken communities.
During a roundtable discussion with the winning teams, they shared why they participated in the competition and the story behind their projects. All of them have common motivations in joining Project Niche: (1) to gain experience, as they are just starting their climate journeys; (2) to have their ideas heard; and (3) to help community members who are at the frontline of the problems they aim to solve.
They showed that they have a deep understanding of these local problems, how the community members are affected by these problems, and the possible solutions that can be implemented in the community. It is also evident that the community members are at the heart of their projects. They all made sure that the community would be involved from beginning to the end of implementing their proposed projects.
However, their climate journeys are not without bumps and hurdles. Among the challenges they encountered include the pandemic preventing them from doing on-ground actions, lack of resources to implement their plans, prejudice of adults against young people who are actively involved in societal issues, red-tagging of the youth when voicing out legitimate concerns, comments that they should just focus on studying because they’re still young (“bata pa kayo”), and a lot more. But they are unfazed by these problems. They remained headstrong in their eagerness to help solve the climate and environmental issues faced by the people surrounding them.
These young change-makers are testaments to the famous quote attributed to Dr. Jose Rizal, “Ang kabataan ang pag-asa ng bayan.” Indeed, the youth have the creativity, energy, passion, and heart to solve the problems of our society.
As the youth claim their roles as change-makers, we must stand alongside them, supporting them throughout their climate journey, providing enabling conditions, listening to them, and amplifying their voice. Let these young change-makers and their stories inspire us to drive the societal transformation toward a better reality everyone deserves.
The youth of today is leading the fight for the present and their future. It’s time for everyone to join them in this fight.
About the author:
Keith Sigfred Ancheta is a climate wonderer, budding climate communicator, and stubborn optimist. He currently volunteers as Youth Cluster Coordinator of Climate Reality Philippines, leading the Project Niche Campaign. Outside Climate Reality, he is a licensed teacher and a full-time MSc Microbiology student at the University of the Philippines Diliman. His advocacies include transformative climate education, meaningful youth participation, and inclusive climate policymaking