Back in my grade school Science class, lessons on weather ran with the usual enumeration of the general kinds of weather such as sunny, windy, cloudy, and rainy weather. Then we would classify people’s activities depending on the type of weather. For example, children play outdoor games while it’s a perfect time for mothers to do the laundry during a sunny weather. In a windy weather, kite flying and bicycle riding are the usual activities. However, during a rainy weather, people just stay indoors while the frustrated kids sing the familiar rhyme “Rain, rain, go away. Come again another day. Little children, little children, little children want to play”. My innocent mind at those times led me to believe that it was just as simple as that – knowing what weather we have on a day and doing the activity appropriate to it. When I was in high school, the talks became more serious. The correct definition of weather echoed in my mind. I was introduced to Earth’s dynamics that operate on its complex system which then explains the different weather conditions occurring at any given time. I learned how clouds are formed, and how they become droplets of water that fall to the ground. It was also the time when I encountered concepts such as greenhouse effect, global warming, and climate change. I found myself becoming aware already of the impact of weather and climate on our lives along with our everyday activities; however the threat of global warming and climate change wasn’t clearly significant to me. The hype of having no classes due to typhoon or heavy rains was still in me. I used to be very complacent during my stay at the warmth of our house, worrying about nothing and letting the storm pass until I could get back to my normal routine again. Maybe because at that time environmental disasters brought about by climate change was nothing more than the theme of sci-fi movies like The Day After Tomorrow.
Everything changed when typhoon Ondoy struck our country. The supposed amount of rainfall for an entire month was poured down in a span of six hours. On our way home, me and my dad were nearly trapped by the fast rising floodwater. That traumatic experience became an awakening moment for me. I saw in the news different pictures of despair and devastation – people crying out for rescue, some forced to stay on the roof of their houses, while others unfortunate to be carried by the fast current of flood water. The aftermath scenarios are even worse – subdivisions became ghost towns, many lives became casualties, a lot of people were left homeless, with their livelihood being devastated. I realized how ignorant I was of the environmental disasters that struck our country. Having ample knowledge about climate change and its threat to our society is good, but using that awareness to save lives is another thing. Year after year, I saw the same faces of catastrophe laying waste on my homeland; the only difference is that the weather disturbances are becoming stronger and more destructive. Torrential rains brought about by Habagat (Southwest Monsoon) submerged many cities and municipalities both here in Metro Manila and in the nearby provinces. The call for involvement became much louder: I must do something, at least in my own little way.
The Aquino Administration, seeing the need to address the issue on climate change and its impact on our weather systems, formed the Climate Change Commission which is an independent agency of the government tasked to coordinate and monitor all programs and action plans of the government on climate change. There was also a call for a convergence of all programs for disaster risk reduction and management of different government agencies into an accurate, integrated and responsive system, thus the Project NOAH (Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards) was born. This Project utilizes all the existing technologies and resources from these government agencies for disaster risk prevention and mitigation. In fact, CCC and Project Noah go hand in hand on mitigating the impact of monstrous weather disturbances brought about by climate change. CCC is the action plan formulation and recommendation body, while the Project NOAH is the implementing body. Indeed, the government has taken steps to combat this environmental threat. The question is, where are we in all of these?
Yes, typhoons really come and go whether we like it or not. We can’t build walls reaching the sky, nor do we have super powers to prevent these natural disasters from happening. Everytime it rains hard, I think of Amegakure, the Hidden Village of Rain and how I wish I have that power of Nagato (from the anime Naruto) to control the rain on his village at will. At the first onset of flooding, I will immediately stop the rain so that Marikina River need not be an ocean anymore, nor EDSA to be a long stretch of parking lot. But we are not completely helpless after all. We are the MILLENIALS, remember? We are equipped with information and communications technologies which can spare the difference between life and death before the onslaught of a calamity. Just as Dr. Mahar Lagmay reiterated in our forum, “knowledge is power”. And that power is readily available to us – in apps, in the Internet, and in social media. I really admire how Project NOAH is tapping digital avenues such as social media in to disseminate information such as rainfall advisories, flood warnings, and gale warnings that is accurate and real time. As netizens, we can use the same medium in mobilizing collective action during critical times. We can spread the word to those living in high risk areas to evacuate immediately before disaster hits. There are so many ways of making use of all these information bombarded to us. And Project NOAH has yet to reach its full potential. The challenge and responsibility is now on our shoulders – to live up to our brand as the “millenials” and as “tatak UP” and develop this system so that one day we can peg the disaster casualties to zero.
Our government has already taken the lead. Are you going to be left behind?
– Feljune C. Pangilinan