Discourses on environment and climate justice: Stories of resilience and community-powered solutions toward a safe, clean, and just future for everyone

Jesuit Worldwide Learning (JWL) programs with APC empower students to share and engage in global conversations – APC students share their stories and learnings on the youth synodality experience at Balay Laudato Si’ during the launch of a booklet detailing their journey of hope, love, and faith amid the contemporary challenges they face.

Pedro Walpole SJ

I was honored to speak about the Pulangiyēn, an Indigenous community in the uplands of Northern Mindanao and the deep respect of their elders and their profound relationships with their ancestral domain, the gaup.

For generations, the Pulangiyēn lived in harmony with the forests, cultivating diverse crops, and regenerating the forest patch back to kagulangan, a practice that is often misunderstood as slash-and-burn. The traditional practice of uma (farm patch) is a humble celebration of life in the forest, and it aligns with the concept of kaing from the North, which means a big basket filled during harvest time. However, due to economic encroachment, traditional families are now forced to grow more monoculture crops and are given minimal economic returns for their labor.

The presentation highlighted four points on how to understand and support the Pulangiyēn and learn from their way of life.

Local climate change in Upper Pulangi

The upland context is experiencing local climate change, resulting in the loss of seasons and difficulty for farmers to adapt their agriculture for local food security. The agroeconomic system is overrun by unjust financial and trading schemes, leaving farmers with only 5% of the financial economy they generate, leading to debt and poverty. Climate change disproportionately affects the most vulnerable, and climate justice is needed to address these issues through local compensation, respectful land use policies, disaster preparedness, and forest restoration measures. These issues are shared experiences in different parts of the world, and society needs to take action to address them.

APC-FFLM youth maintain the integrity of the forest and farm lines – Forests play an essential role in agroecology by providing ecosystem services that support sustainable agriculture. Forests provide shade, regulate water flow, prevent soil erosion, and support pollinators, all of which are essential for sustainable and productive agriculture. Assisted natural regeneration (ANR) work by the youth maintains the forest line which plays a significant role in acting as a buffer zone, protecting the forest from external factors such as erosion and the invasion of exotic species. Maintaining forest edges or lines also sustains biodiversity by providing habitat for wildlife and promoting the dispersal of seed.

Indigenous People guarding ecological services through culture-based solutions

Indigenous communities view their ancestral lands as a gift and have a deep respect for their environment. They face ecological crises due to land use change, infrastructure expansion, and mining, which threaten their livelihood and rights. The true nature-based solutions are culture-based responses, which are rooted in Indigenous practices that naturally care for the land, forests, water, and biodiversity. Indigenous youth learn from their elders and the Apu Palamguwan Cultural Education Center about natural resource management, forest regeneration, sustaining clean water, and securing food.

The mother tongue-based multilingual education (MTB-MLE) is integral to the youth’s cultural identity and appreciation for traditional knowledge. Abolishing the MTB-MLE for the sole purpose of enhancing a student’s capacity to learn the English language better is a betrayal of cultural identity. This is a national challenge for policy frameworks and measures to respond to local needs to ensure the preservation of cultural identity.

Accompanying the youth in identity, self-reflection, and vision

Upper Pulangi youth find solace in Laudato Si’ as it affirms the importance of Indigenous communities and traditions. They are taking the lead in natural resource management and forest regeneration efforts in their ancestral domain and striving to better understand their roles in the community. The Bukidnon local government is recognizing the importance of Indigenous people in forest and water protection. The youth are now learning English through Jesuit Worldwide Learning programs and participating in global spaces to share their stories and vision for a better future for all.

Global context: A sign of the times

There is a great need to work together and listen to the voices of youth and Indigenous People in tackling ecological and social challenges. By organizing social spaces, their voices can be heard in negotiation processes and amplified in calls for change. There is also a need to shift our understanding of the term “environmental preservation” and instead acknowledge the integral way of living with the land and sea by Indigenous People and learn from their relationships of care and respect.

This is a summary of the presentation delivered at the 2023 Conference-Workshop on Indigenous Languages and the Sustainable Development Goals: Carrying out the Global Action Plan and the 2030 Agenda at the University of the Philippines Visayas, Iloilo City Campus on 21 to 22 February 2023.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Subscribe to the APC newsletter