The question isn’t, “what can you do?” but rather, “what can we do?”
One of the recurring statements we hear nowadays is the call to end climate change. We feel the effects of climate change every year when we feel an increase in temperature, register a higher heat index, witness the uncontrollable effects of pollution, and similar occurences. On a local level, the Philippines is frequently forced to greet devastating storms, powerful enough to destroy houses and livelihoods of different people. These storms and other natural and man-made calamities never fail to spell out fear among many.
Thankfully, technological advancements available to us now seem to spark hope to many, but purely relying on technology will never be enough for us to live without fear. I believe the real key that would help humanity remove fear, solve problems or at least appease ourselves does not involve tools, machines, or Wi-Fi. The answer is intangible and timeless. It is boundless in its limitations, strengthens relationships over time, and fosters the potential of many. Simply put, it is practicing solidarity.
All of us want to leave a mark in the world in our own way, no matter how small. We, in our own minds, constantly think about the question, “what can I do?” Despite this, I have realized that we cannot survive this conquest alone, we need a team who shares the same advocacy and vision for the future to keep us going.
As an intern at WYA Asia Pacific, my co-intern and I were given the opportunity to organize an event that speaks of WYA’s advocacy in nurturing the environment and its people. We decided to mount a photography exhibit, out of our love for art and our dream to organize a creative event for a good cause. Eventually, we called it, Habilin: A Photography Exhibit for the Environment. Habilin is a familiar word in Philippine culture. It simply refers to something that one gives to someone else for safekeeping—a definition that perfectly captures what environmental stewardship is all about.
The main idea of Habilin was to gather artists who share the same beliefs and hopes for the environment. We were able to invite eight renowned nature and travel photographers for the event, and I noticed that despite all of them having different perspectives used and different subjects featured in the photographs, they all drew inspiration from the same sentiment, which is to restore the beauty of the environment. It was only during the event itself that I realized people can share that same intention and hold it close to their heart that it manifests itself in a craft as delicate and technical as photography.
The turnout and reception exceeded the team’s expectation. Witnessing a full house made me realize the power of an advocacy and the importance of being in solidarity with those who share the same passion to turn your ideas into something concrete. It was not what we expected, to be honest. We thought it would be just a simple exhibit but it turned out to be a big hit, with people coming in with a hint of curiosity and leaving with smiles on their faces. It made me realize that regardless of the status we may have in life, we can still experience a sense of unity when we come together for something bigger than all of us.
It is in moments like this that I am reminded we are one family–we live on the same soil, drink the same water and breathe the same air. What better way can we preserve the beauty of our Earth if not through strength of solidarity?
It is beautiful to imagine what we can all contribute to recreating the original masterpiece of nature if we all unite for the environment. Similar to stars, they may be beautiful on their own but their majesty is undeniable when we see millions of them in the sky, shining light unto dark.
Every human person has his or her own potential, but this potential is not fully realized if we do not work with others. The main idea I want to highlight is that through recognizing our differences, we are able to create a greater picture. Yes, working through differences can be challenging but it pushes us to become better persons. That is how the event became possible. We all accepted each other’s differences, opened our minds to new ideas, grabbed every opportunity, and (confidently) faced every challenge we encountered. Being in solidarity with one another helped all of us realize the potential of what we can achieve as human beings.
This is why over time, I have learned to appreciate the underlying cause of this project. Because despite the many different things that we have to accomplish, we must always remember to give back to the community so that we may leave behind a better society and a better world. We are able to do this because World Youth Alliance gave us a reason to celebrate the arts while also raising awareness for the state of our environment.
Together, in the spirit of solidarity, we will continue to create a more vivid picture of the environment with humanity at its center.
Written by Ayame Santos, a current Batch 2 2016 intern at the Asia Pacific office in the Philippines.