Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004


@mongster is a manila-based activist, former philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of asia-pacific affairs.

Speech delivered during the First Green Jobs Conference, SMX Convention Center. My topic was “GREENerations: Leading the Path to a Greener Future.”

Unknown to many, it was Joseph Estrada who provided the simplest if not original definition of global warming when he was still president in 1998. Responding to the allegation that he has been appointing close associates in juicy government posts, he said: “Weather Weather lang yan.” And like politics, global warming is ‘Weather Weather lang yan.”

In 1998, climate change was still an esoteric term in the academe and only the geeks and scientists used it in everyday conversations. But in the past decade, it became mainstream because of numerous extreme weather events like Milenyo, Ondoy, Pepeng, Frank, Reming, and El Nino. Ondoy, if we recall, triggered the worst flooding in Mega Manila in four decades while Reming remains to this day the strongest super typhoon that ever hit the country. In popular culture, it was a subject of several Hollywood blockbusters like The Day After Tomorrow, Simpsons, and Ice Age. Al Gore won a Nobel Prize for lecturing about it. So it’s correct to assume that the new generation acknowledges that global warming is real (unlike some U.S. politicians) and young people are more or less aware of the obvious harsh impact of changing climate patterns.

Who are the members of the Greeneration? They are sometimes called the Post Edsa generation, digital natives, networked generation, Strawberry Generation. The muggles who grew up with Harry Potter. Kung may Marcos Babies noon, may Arroyo Babies ngayon. My generation, the Generation X, is most certainly still part of the Greeneration.

As students, we were bombarded with homilies reminding us to save the environment. If Miriam Santiago eats death threats for breakfast when she was still the country’s top Immigration chief, our generation has been fed with, well, aside from nutri ban during the Marcos era, green doctrines that made us aware about the fragile state of our environment and the urgency of action to reverse the deteriorating quality of life and living in this planet.

Our formative years, 1980s and 1990s, were influenced by great political events (like Edsa, coup d’etat, and the introduction of cono English by Kris Aquino) and destructive environment disasters (like Ormoc and lahar). When we were growing up, Pasig was already filthy and Manila Bay was already a dangerous and dirty place for swimming (sabi nga ni Villar, dagat ng basura). The symbol of Manila was Smokey Mountain (the dumpsite ha, hindi yung singing group. Oh yung ngumiti ibig sabihin kasing-edad ko), then it was closed down but the dumping of garbage was merely transferred to Payatas (which is symbolically close to Batasan).

The common indicators of environment degradation are denuded forests and polluted rivers; and their visible impact in the urban is the popularity of bottled drinking water. Until elementary, I was drinking water from the faucet. Today, it’s no longer safe to drink Nawasa juice hence the ubiquitous use of bottled water. And this modern lifestyle is a direct consequence of 1) unclean environment; 2) bad governance. Isn’t it odd that a nation surrounded by waters and blessed with abundant natural resources is suffering from a shortage of clean drinking water sources? Maybe we should copy what resource-poor Singapore is doing like building desalinization plants and recycling wastewater.

The Greeneration is our new breed of eco-warriors who can be easily persuaded to support green initiatives like green living and green jobs. But being kind to Mother Earth doesn’t necessarily translate into successful and sustainable green campaigns. There is a disconnect between what individuals think and feel about the environment and the practical, everyday solutions to help clean the environment. Environment advocacy to many people is just a habit and hobby, and not something that can lead to a successful career.

Why is it that despite the rise of green consciousness in society, there is a dearth of course offerings in the academe that would generate and support green industries? Why is it that despite the emergence of environmentalism as a safe and approved advocacy in campuses, there is a seeming lack of programs that would instill and enhance the green skills of our young?

The blame lies in the backward orientation of many of our schools. We produce college graduates to fill up the manpower shortages of other countries and not the needs of our domestic industries. The priority of profit oriented school, and they compose the majority of schools in the country, is to offer popular courses. The result is the oversubscription of some courses like nursing and under enrolment in the essential courses like agriculture, geology, and marine science.

To promote green jobs, we have to engage our schools, overhaul our curriculum, and subsidize the teaching of green skills. I suspect that colleges continue to operate conservatively because of a failure to imagine the opportunities to be gained if they offer green courses. We should tap the Commission on Higher Education to begin the review of higher education programs and consider the inclusion of green subjects that would lead to the establishment of green industries using green technologies in the future. We should ask TESDA to integrate more green industries in their training programs. We should ask the Department of Education to include green jobs and green entrepreneurship topics in the new curriculum which is being prepared for the K-12 program.

Why is ‘green jobs’ a bright alternative? Because it teaches the youth that saving the environment is more than just planting trees (look, we have green highways but we have brown mountains) and segregating our garbage (look, we carefully and dutifully separate the biodegradable and non-biodegradable trash but they are all dumped anyway in the dumpsite). We can be more than just green consumers who buy green bags (actually, an environmentalist will not entice you to buy green. Instead, he will encourage you to reduce your consumption of non-essential goods).

The ‘green jobs’ alternative is similar to other innovative approaches that aim to address the negative impact of global warming. Let’s learn from our initial experience with Renewable Energy – it’s a term which has gone almost mainstream and it has become a favorite slogan of many people including business leaders and politicians, but it’s mostly a grand dream with lofty objectives. It remains a very appealing idea whose widespread application would have benefited many people. But nobody is investing in Renewable Energy since most companies prefer clean coal and mining and besides, government budget support is negligible.

The success of Green Jobs requires political will, commitment from the private sector, and sustained public support. Political will means funding support, synergy in national and local policies, and serious mobilization of public resources and institutions. Commitment from the private sector involves the rethinking of business practices that harm the environment (you can’t preach Corporate Social Responsibility while your core business method requires the wanton plunder and destruction of precious, finite natural resources) and willingness to invest in green industries. Sustained public support means the active participation of the people – civil society, people’s organizations, media, church, civic groups – in the conversations and campaign to promote green jobs.

Tapping the idealism and passion of the youth is a step in the right direction. Yesterday, Paris Hilton arrived in the country and she immediately became the top trending topic in the local virtual space. I refuse to believe that young people today are only interested in gossip, leisure, and entertainment. Green jobs and saving the environment are way way cooler than Paris Hilton.

4 Responses to “Greeneration”

  1. Mahusay at matalas na pagtukoy ng ugnayan ng estado ng edukasyon sa atrasadong praxis sa adbokasiya ng kalikasan at kapaligiran!

    Leon Dulce

  2. “Tapping the idealism and passion of the youth is a step in the right direction.”

    In this light, we would like you to take part in our Leadership Training Program. We have already sent a letter in I have personally talked to Ms. Gly. I was asked to call everyday, but still I was not able to receive a confirmation. We are requesting sir that you share to us in this event, to talk about what is leadership and what characteristics must a leader possess?

    When: August 29, 2011, 7am-5pm.
    (time for your talk is at 8:45)
    Where:1632 Adriatico Hotel
    Participants: about 100 UP Manila students in the medical field.
    Organization: UP Sandigan (UP College of Pharmacy)

    I was hoping this time I could get your attention. I was able to be a part of the NUSP seminar for running candidates as part of ASAP-KATIPUNAN, held in UP DIliman years ago.

    Diane Aninon

  3. I know that you are aware of the high migration rate of the students from the medical field, may it be from nursing, pharmacy, or medicine.

    I believe that you are the best person to talk to us youth, to stress our role towards nation building.

    Sabi nga ni Dr. Sobritchea, UP tayo. We have a responsibility to do our part towards national development. So we would really appreciate it Sir if you grace our event with your knowledge and presence. Thank you.

    Diane Aninon

  4. […] madumi na ang Pasig River. Umiinom tayo sa bottled water dahil wala tayong tiwala sa kalinisan ng tubig gripo sa Metro Manila. Kaya kailangan ng aksiyon. Kailangang kumilos para ipagtanggol ang kalikasan. […]

    Mong Palatino » Blog Archive » It’s More Fun If Clean And Green

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