Anna Velas-Suarin

Watching out for intellectual elitism: Climate action is not a monopoly of science

The right dose of anger is sometimes necessary if we want to effect change in the society. With anger, one begins to ask questions. And questions-–if correctly and wisely asked—leads to solutions.

However, if the aim is to point fingers and join the blame game, it does more harm than good. Climate change is not the fault of this administration nor the previous ones.’ If we’re going to point fingers, we might as well point fingers to ourselves.

Because the truth is, it’s all our fault. Everyone contributed to climate change.

When I reformatted this website, I intended to focus more on our ascension journey because I felt that I could serve the collective more through more personal posts. Nevertheless, the recent catastrophic floods from typhoon Ulysses (Vamco) necessitate a contribution to the climate change and governance discourses, with the hope that this serves as a gentle appeal for solidarity especially at this time.

Anger is sometimes necessary; but anger alone prevents us from tackling climate change as a community. Note: My website is now using the URL, Annasuarin[dot]com so please note that Meilbox[dot]net is no longer connected to me or this site. Thank you for the visit! [Image by Anna Velas-Suarin]

It is unfortunate that we come across well-meaning campaigners and philanthropists (generosity is much appreciated, a big thank you!) but who are still using using the line, “the Philippines (or Country n) is among the most affected country by climate risks and yet among the smallest contributor to global emissions.” Then the usual statements of the campaign, leading to accusation of climate injustice and about how the government is not listening to scientists.

I may be guilty and likely have said this also in the past in the context of my work or research. BUT. I hope I have always taken extra care in not talking or acting as if I hold the monopoly to the truth and science of climate change. (I do apologize if I did at some point.) I eventually realized it doesn’t work that way. We need to value the work of LGU executives, politicians and legislators, DENR secretaries and their officials and staff, and all our field workers (then and now and of the future) because science alone cannot solve the world’s problems. (Let’s also not forget, many DENR officials and staff, LGUs, and many other organizations and individuals, have science background, too. But that’s not the main point here, right?)

Sure, we owe the Theory of Relativity to Albert Einstein but he did not go around town saying he was the savior. I definitely agree that we need to put more money in science and research but that also, we need to value the contribution of everyone. Climate change is not about creating more walls and telling the world that, “I am a scientist, you should listen to me.” Well, if we behave that way, the more that people will NOT listen to us.

“Tayo naman” (“it’s our turn”) 2022 – a sample of a divisive campaign

I saw this online campaign, “Tayo naman” (loose translation: “This time, it’s our turn”) about 2022 elections. It’s their right but it’s likely unproductive because it may be divisive? It’s as if we (“the other side”, the ones who support governments, no matter who are the ruling parties) deprived them of their chance. Dear collective (all over the world, not just here in the Philippines), let us respect our institutions, the rule of law, and sanctity of the vote. That is the true meaning of democracy. No matter who the leaders are and the ruling parties are, we only have one world, each with one country. Let’s at least least minimize the highly divisive mentality post-elections–that we are the “better voters”. That our candidates are “better.”

Definitely, we need to vote wisely. Our vote is sacred.

We can agree to disagree during the election periods but when the winners had already been declared, let’s get back to work and support our countries (and governments). Let’s allow the winning team/s to work in peace. Otherwise, we will never ever progress. All our energies are used up being angry and throwing rants and tantrums at every step of the way. Or igniting people to rally against duly-elected governments. Or blaming governments for everything. Or worse, nitpicking.

It is truly unfortunate that we have come to this. It’s necessary to be vigilant and critical but it’s not ok to simply become naysayers. To keep on finding faults instead of encouraging the good to become better. Instead of helping governments (no matter how imperfect they are) improve or implement laws or, even, in simple things such as planting of trees. Whether these winners are good or bad—people already voted for them and that’s what democracy is. It’s not perfect but it helps put everything in order. Remember—it is their (the winners’) conscience that they are facing EVERY single day. And don’t forget, there are laws and institutions that can address complaints or correct misdeeds, ultimately leading to transformation.

It’s called respect. It’s also about respecting the integrity of the vote. We may not agree as to who are the better leaders but one thing’s for sure—we agree that we only have one world (one country in the national context) and that we can try again in the next elections. If we think our candidates are truly “the Better Ones”, then let’s work harder so that they will win the next time around. (This is why voters’ education in important.)

However, I hope we will not always use the next 3 to 6 years simply complaining and ranting. When the candidates already won—let’s stop the senseless nagging and telling everyone that we have the better answers or the better candidates. Otherwise, let’s not hold elections anymore. Should we just promote anarchy? (lol!) Seriously, we waste so much energies that could otherwise go to positive action. It’s necessary to be vigilant and critical–questioning what is not going well including corruption–but along with the vigilance is the need for positive action.

Climate action needs every one—not just scientists

Seriously, climate action, in order to be effective, needs everyone. Once we begin talking as if we’re “the Better Ones” and “governments are not listening to scientists”, the more we are alienating those who could truly help us including the power-wielders and influentials. And even this piece—I hope this will not cause alienation between science-based environmental groups and activists on one side and the non-science groups and activists on the other. I am with you–on both sides. We’re on the same boats. I have science background, too. But I’m also a simple ‘lay person’, hoping to contribute to less divisive and more collective action.

I’m knocking on everyone’s doors, appealing that we be more inclusive and less high-brow. Otherwise, even with good intents, brandishing “science-based” solutions (with much condescension) will only appear as intellectual elitism.

Science is necessary; but science must not create walls. Note: My website is now using the URL, Annasuarin[dot]com so please note that Meilbox[dot]net is no longer connected to me or this site. Thank you for the visit! [Image by Anna Velas-Suarin. Note on child protection: Permission of the child and her guardian had been sought before taking this picture. Her face was also intentionally darkened to protect her privacy.]

Moreover, while it is true that the Philippines is among the least contributors to global emissions, we cannot go around town telling everyone that. We do not live in a vacuum. We are One World. And at the practical level, we cannot totally “disown” a portion of the carbon emissions, from, say, PRC or the US because we are importing and using products from them. It’s difficult if not downright impossible and counter-productive to calculate the carbon emissions that had been emitted by every piece of product or service that we need or regularly import from other countries. Look at your phone, for example. Is it an iPhone, Samsung, or Huawei? We do see the drift, right? Our homes could not function without gadgets and appliances from countries all over the world.

We cannot cry “climate injustice” yet continue using iPhone, Samsung, or Huawei. Or even if we do buy a local brand—we know that most of the electronic components inside it will still be manufactured in countries such as PRC, Viet Nam, or India.

Unless we live in caves, eat grass, and drink rainwater, we cannot cry “climate injustice” forever. Otherwise, it’s called hypocrisy.

Climate change is everyone’s problem and while other countries definitely emit more—the path toward solutions is going to be less tenable if we continue behaving from the “you against me” mindset. Worse, we do it even among ourselves, right in our own backyard.

The Manila Bay’s dolomite issue and our “I’m better than you” mentality

This brings to mind a recent example, which became a highly divisive issue. No, I do not completely agree with the dolomite solution in Manila Bay but I’d like to give it a chance. If it were just me as the consultant and DENR tells me they want to provide a space for tourism and recreation (as part of rehabilitation efforts), I would likely concentrate on the local ecosystem including using Manila Bay’s own stones and sand (as against importing from another location).

However, dolomite is being used in other countries and there are good results. I will rather be pragmatic and weigh both sides. We can task DENR to monitor. If it will prove to be a mistake here, we can stop, then do better. But for the 5-6 years that it were there (assuming that it will take that time for the sand to be completely washed off assuming zero replenishment)—I think it’s already a good investment if we think of the local tourism and psychological enjoyment it generated.

I will not be an apologist for DENR nor will I personally and professionally promote such an approach BUT I trust DENR people, pure and simple. If they say that it is just the first step and part of a long-term rehab plan, I will wait and see. Great strategies and inventions oftentimes come from a long journey (including mistakes). We can let DENR do their job. I had worked in DENR before and know that most if not all personnel there are smart, sensible, and truly care for the environment. A column by Andrew J. Masigan is a worthy read. It reminds us to be part of the dialogue rather than become willing or unwilling pawns for ruthless politicking.

To end, let me lift from a blog by Joshua M.A. Stough titled, Science Has an Intellectual Elitism Problem.

“Public distrust of science is at a high water mark. While significant portions of the populace deny the scientific consensus on the origins of life on Earth and climate change, others reject the safety and efficacy of vaccines, and still others even reject that the earth is round. Some in the scientific community have responded with mocking and open hostility, potentially closing the doors of science for people watching, be they students, parents, staff, social media users, or politicians. Make no mistake, this is a diversity issue every bit as much as a public approval issue. Science needs to be open to people from all walks of life for its own sake as well as that of others, and we all need to recognize that changing hearts and minds is a process that takes time, not a single event. Our words and actions either contribute to, or detract from that change. Act wisely.” [Emphasis mine]

– Joshua M.A. Stough

Gently, we are invited to heal and work together as One World (One Mama Earth) and as One Nation. To be united if we truly want effective climate action. We cannot do if we keep on disrespecting, unnecessarily criticizing, shaming, and bullying our duly-elected and appointed leaders and the institutions that they represent–who will always be lacking and imperfect–but whom, like you and me, are also simply trying to do their best.

Let them finish their mandates and maybe, just maybe, we can all find it in our hearts to look beyond politics and remember that each nation-state, in this beautiful Gaia, each has only One Flag to raise.

I am sending you love, peace, and hope. Namaste!


Mama Earth loves you: This is not a paid blog. I do not request for donation to maintain this blog but please make our tribe and Mama Earth happy by planting a tree (or trees!) on your birthday/s!

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