By Mitzi Tan (Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines); Sagarika Bhatta (Power Shift Nepal); Martin Su (350 Taiwan); Joanne Zhong (Taiwan Youth Climate Coalition); Jefferson Estela (Youth Strike 4 Climate Philippines); Ili Nadiah Dzulfakar (Klima Action Malaysia); Nanticha Ocharoenchai (Climate Strike Thailand); Phin Savey (Environment Rights Task Force – Cambodia); Kyaw Ye Htet (Climate Strike Myanmar)
In 2019, we saw hundreds of individuals from Asia participating in local climate strikes to demand more ambitious climate action and climate justice. This just shows how the global climate movement is striking a resonant chord among people all across Asia, one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to the impacts of climate change.
But another crisis is plaguing not just Asia, but the world, as we celebrate Earth Day this year. The COVID-19 pandemic is currently causing a huge strain not just on our public health sector, but across our economies. It has revealed the pitfalls of our broken system, laying bare the precariousness of labor, shortages in food supply, authoritarians silencing critics, and many more.
What we need now more than ever is solidarity and unity within our communities. Just like with the climate crisis, we need to unite behind the science and prioritize marginalized sectors in order to create resilience for future crises.
To celebrate Earth Day today, we climate strikers from all over the region are focusing on digital activities that aim to raise awareness on the importance of building resilience and social security for our communities, especially those most vulnerable both to the COVID-19 crisis and the climate crisis. We are calling on our governments to prioritize a just response and recovery to both crises, as they are deeply embedded within each other and don’t happen in isolation.
We know just how to signal that we need change, as we’ve been doing actions for the better part of last year before and beyond the global climate strikes. Our stories are all around if you look for them: from youth campaigners in South Korea making the bold move of suing their own government to demand more ambitious plans for reducing emissions, to Japan youth groups delivering a video to one of the country’s large coal financiers that featured Japanese students with homemade climate signs at home. In Taiwan, they have a climate joke competition, and in the Philippines, with their storytelling and original song and dance, activists are thinking of creative ways to engage more youth in the movement.
Meanwhile, activists from Nepal have shifted their April 22 plans from a strike in front of their mining department to a social media storm that will tag those in power in order to demand accountability from them. In Malaysia, groups are focusing their energy on giving aid and supporting indigenous communities. Our friends from Myanmar focused their campaigns on a prominent environmental activist charged by the government for his campaign against the industry affecting their local area. In Cambodia, protests were conducted to demand for the freedom of forest defenders that were arrested and harassed for supposed trespassing on the grounds of a foreign company plundering resources from the Prey Lang forest area.
The reality of climate change, illegal wildlife trade and worsening environmental destruction mean that the spread of diseases will be more common as we move along into the future, and that communities on the frontlines will be bearing the brunt unless we do something to stop this. We, the youth of Asia, demand that governments prioritize proactive measures and listen to our campaign calls. We will be the ones inheriting this world from our elders, and we deserve a just, safe and sustainable world.