Around the world, government responses to climate disasters continue to praise the survivability of their people instead of combating the conditions that diminish their livelihood. While the Atlantic experienced a record-breaking hurricane season, the Pacific is slightly below average in Typhoon development. However, the storms that did form greatly impacted the same regions repeatedly, causing widespread flooding and unprecedented conditions.
During the 2020 Typhoon season, the island of Luzon in the Philippines experienced its worst flooding in more than 40 years – with a rising death toll and nearly 400,000 homes damaged or destroyed (Aljazeera). Multiple typhoons have impacted the archipelago in a span of six weeks, complicating the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some regions had flood levels up to 22 meters (72 feet) high (Inquirer.net). As of November 22, damage estimates for the most recent storm stood at P12.9 Billion Pesos ($268.2 Million USD) (Phil Star). This amount is much higher when combined with the damages from the previous storms. Examining what went wrong with the country’s disaster prevention procedures tells a familiar story.
The lack of unified leadership from government officials, the ill-advised engineered release of water from the Magat Dam, and the continued building of communities in disaster-prone areas all exacerbated the storm's impact on the people (Rappler). At a time when policymakers and leaders should be focused on providing support, aid, and taking accountability, they instead chose to praise the resilience of the Filipino spirit (Rappler). The President even resorted to sexist jokes to help him cope with the country’s mounting adversities (Rappler). On average, about 20 typhoons hit the Philippines each year. Citizens have been calling for leadership to step up and create a better system that lessens the devastation experienced during times of disaster (Rappler).
According to USAID, the Philippines is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, including its exposure to natural hazards, dependence on climate-sensitive natural resources, and vast coastlines where all major cities and the majority of the population reside (USAID). Understanding the impact that climate change and the pandemic has on the future of their country, youth-led organizations have been taking the lead in organizing mutual aid efforts and advocating for the most vulnerable.
Organizations like Kids For Kids and For The Future empower the youth to take action towards building community and offering support to one another. Although they have experienced “discouragement and disappointment from older generations that look down on the power of young people, lack drive for the future, and are ignorant to the systematic changes needed,” they refuse to give up hope (Kids For Kids). This form of resilience makes them wonder why adults are not taking responsibility for their actions that negatively impact the environment. World Wide Fund Youth Council Member, Gab Mejia, poised a question simply asking, “why is the burden all placed on the younger ones?” (Gab Mejia)
“The problem is not our resilience but a world that constantly requires our resilience, and a world that has come to learn that our resilience is permission for our continued oppression.”
E.J. Ramos David, Ph. D., Professor of Psychology and Author
The Philippines face mounting adversities as they recover from the devastating back-to-back typhoons and the far-reaching effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of people going hungry, experiencing poverty, and displacement from their homes is reaching record highs (Manila Bulletin). According to Kids For Kids, they are still receiving details from on-the-ground teams that a month after the storms, there are whole communities who have not received aid (Kids For Kids).
The Bayanihan spirit, (pronounced buy-uh-nee-hun), is a Tagalog saying that means to be in a community and with the spirit of communal unity, work, and cooperation in achieving a particular goal (The Mixed Culture). This type of resiliency is often invoked out of necessity because of the ongoing failures of government officials lacking the leadership in providing the Filipino people with adequate support, care, and access to basic essentials. This is a familiar story that can be found throughout forgotten communities right here in the United States.
It’s critical we look after our communities. Whether they are in our immediate vicinity or across oceans, we need to understand just how interconnected our struggles are. The resilience from marginalized identities should not be glorified but rather supported through actions and commitments that aim to prevent the need for resiliency in the first place.
🔑 Key Takeaways:
Reject the glorification of resilience by questioning and challenging the conditions that create the need for it.
Hold officials accountable to implement community-developed policies that support and ensure the safety and well-being of the most vulnerable.
Stand with and actively support youth-led initiatives and community organizations that are committed to creating a better tomorrow.
⚡️ Take Action:
Spread awareness and share the message across social media, your networks, and on platforms to bring visibility to support relief aid.
[Art by Willa via @HighlyHuman]