by Ma. Czarinna de Cadiz

It comes as no surprise that the generation projected to confront the catastrophic effects of climate change has expressed significant concerns about its impacts on their lives and future. A key study that surveyed the youth population from 10 countries has shown that 84 percent of respondents from the Philippines expressed emotional distress over climate change—the highest among all surveyed countries. Amidst this prevailing fear, the Filipino youth find ways to harness this emotion to champion locally-driven and youth-led climate action, to mitigate the impending impacts of climate change.

In the town of Salcedo in Eastern Samar, an organization was formed by the youth inclined to do something to mitigate the drastic changes they observed in their immediate environment. Since its establishment in 2019, the Sudao G.R.E.E.N. (Generation Ready for Environmental Education and actioN) Minds youth organization has grown to 50 members, all of whom advocate for the importance of environmental awareness and local climate action.

The organization envisions an ecologically sustainable Salcedo by initiating and advocating for climate action at the local level: “We wanted to help spread environmental awareness and start ripples of change – no matter how little, starting from our municipality until the farthest place we could reach.” Through the USAID’s Investing in Sustainability and Partnerships for Inclusive Growth and Regenerative Ecosystems (INSPIRE) Project, ICSC has formed a partnership with Sudao G.R.E.E.N. Minds to further empower the local youth to advance their advocacy.

Some of the organization’s members have integrated the advocacy of a youth-led climate action into their professional career paths: Jann Nezika Berongoy, one of Sudao G.R.E.E.N Minds’ founding members, currently works as a community organizer for the Sentro para sa Ikauunlad ng Katutubong Agham at Teknolohiya Inc. (SIKAT) Eastern Samar Field Office. Nezika continues to amplify the importance of the youth’s involvement in local climate action by leading camps that aim to harness the capacity of the youth towards action. “We have the strength, we have the stamina, and we have the eagerness to do something about this climate crisis, as we bear the brunt of the effect of this crisis, we should also be at the forefront along with the others fighting for climate justice,” she commented. 

Current initiatives of Sudao G.R.E.E.N. Minds include the support for the protection and maintenance of the Salcedo Municipality’s Watershed and Youth Center Camp (YOCENCA). Aside from conducting regular coastal cleanups and tree planting activities, the youth group likewise serves as a pioneer advocate for climate action through the conduct of information drive initiatives, not just in different schools but also in other local communities. MAP-ELCA aims to support this cause by further capacitating the members in advocating for climate action at a larger scale through a Training of Trainers Program that will contribute to the organization’s vision of creating ripples of change. 

Despite the challenges faced by the organization, including the lack of funding and members’ engagement to sustain its initiatives, Sudao G.R.E.E.N. Minds continues to uphold its targets as a pioneer of youth-led local climate action in the region. Moving forward, the organization aims to forge collaborative partnerships with private and non-government organizations to enhance its members’ capacities and boost the impacts of its local initiatives.

Editor’s Note: Czarinna is the Community Development Officer of ICSC, who is based in Tacloban City. This story was produced to feature community experiences as part of ICSC’s Multi-Actor Partnership Towards Enhanced Local Climate Action (MAP-ELCA) project, which aims to champion successful local climate action and biodiversity protection cases through multi-sectoral collaboration in Paranas, Samar; Guiuan, Eastern Samar; and Salcedo, Eastern Samar.

MAP-ELCA is a three-year project under Investing in Sustainability and Partnership for Inclusive Growth and Regenerative Ecosystems (INSPIRE), which is implemented by the Gerry Roxas Foundation (GRF) and funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)

Featured photo by Sudao G.R.E.E.N. Minds