Here at the COP22 our main mission has been to listen to various people’s stories, from Indigenous people from around the globe, to corporate representatives here to share their company’s innovations, and to the everyday people affected by climate injustices and the helping during these crises. We have heard stories from all around the world and it has been a journey trying to process all of them. It has brought up a lot of emotions ranging from despair to hope. It is this process that is one of the most important at conferences and forums like these. Not only does this spread the message to other people but it can even bring up stories that other people have inside of themselves; stories that they may have forgotten.
This is something that happened to me. Listening to all the stories of people being displaced by climate change it brought back a memory that had slipped through my fingers into an unexplored part of my brain – “The Forgotten.” It came to me in the form of an epiphany; my very own jump out of the bathtub running through the streets naked ‘eureka’ moment. Except, of course, I didn’t do any of that. I instead opted to go downstairs and ask Sarita if I could write an article about it. Luckily she liked my idea and here we are.
The memory that I had dug up came from when I was 11. I was at the time living in the Philippines and my mother was strongly involved with an alternative community called Maia. It was a raw food, vegan, sustainable community on the island of Palawan in the Philippines, a short flight and trek ride away from my home island. It was probably the ‘hippiest’ thing I’ve ever been a part of but it was the reason I ended up at Green School so I’m insanely thankful for the time I spent there, the lessons I learned, and the people I met.
It was 2011 and Typhoon Sendong had just hit the island of Mindanao. The north had taken the worst of the storm and the death toll was reported to be 1,268–2,546. Days after the storm hit, me, my mother and a whole group from Maia traveled to Cagayan De Oro -one of the area’s that was most affected- to help. This was something that was completely new to me, when you hear of typhoons or tropical storms or other natural disasters you always feel horrified but rarely do everyday people travel to areas affected. I had never been part of anything like this before.
We went to what used to a school but was now being used as a refuge site for the hundreds of people that were displaced. The main part of this makeshift camp was the basketball court in the middle of the school yard, it was the common space, storage space and ‘kitchen’ . There were piled of cardboard boxes lining the walls, filled with plastic wrapped and ridiculously unhealthy food, powdered juice and other things large companies had sent as aid relief. Now not to say that their help wasn’t appreciated, it’s great that companies want to help but this constant stream of sending limited resources had created a dependence. And as many boxes as there were, it wasn’t enough. People were still going hungry with not enough to go around of these necessities.
We were there with one mission in mind, show the people that you don’t need to rely on these big corporations for food, there is food all around us. We were in the middle of the Philippines, a place where soil was rich and fertile and fruit and vegetable trees grew everywhere with not much effort even needed to maintain them. We were there to show them how to get nutritious and filling meals from simple ingredients that could be found everywhere. We wanted to show the people there that waiting around for food rather than making your own is pointless.
We went there with our simple mission and our simple blenders as small gifts for the people there. I was young so I wasn’t as much part of the process of the actual classes that happened but rather I was there to interact with the people. I was playing with the other young kids there, speaking with the little bit of broken Tagalog that I knew and the little bit of broken English that they knew and we could have whole conversations. This wasn’t us ‘foreigners’ or ‘outsiders’ come to sneer at the people there who were in need -most of out group were Filipino anyways- we just wanted to come there to show that there were alternative options to waiting for big corporations. And these alternative solutions are very important today as the every changing climate is going to displace more and more people as more natural disasters are going to occur.
It was an amazing experience to have as a kid because it really opens up your eyes about what’s happening in the world. It was one of the first things that got me into learning more about the environment and why things like this typhoon Sendong happen and how it can be prevented. The things I learned are the reason I wanted to come to Green School and learn more, and I’m very fortunate to have heard about it, in fact it was a member of Maia that first introduced me and my mother to Green School. I owe a lot to that experience and I hope that by sharing my story it can inspire more people to share their stories and the experiences they have had because you never know, it might cause someone else to have their own jump out of the bathtub naked running through the streets moment.
Written by Aleria Mačiulytė