At the airport, I was enjoying the sight of people chatting, some making use of free WiFi and texting. Some were checking their bags, making sure everything they needed were inside like passports, seaman’s book, letter of guarantee, certificates and other important documents while waiting to board on their respective planes.
I imagined where their next destination would be. These hardworking Filipinos, whose main mission is to work and toil in foreign lands, want to make sure that the loved ones they left behind can feel safe and secure. As for me, I was flying to go sailing. I was headed to join the Greenpeace crew, a great group of people to be at sea with.
I brought an old book with me, for unlike others who had modern gadgets trying to occupy their minds, I had none. After a while, I turned my attention to the person sitting beside me who was talking to his wife. At the end of his conversation I heard him remind his wife to make sure they moved to a relative’s house for shelter if a typhoon comes. It struck me how the average Filipino has been personally affected by storms and super typhoons.
Now I’m at sea. I am steering the African Queen, an inflatable rubber boat of the Greenpeace ship M/V Esperanza, trying to maintain a steady heading towards the heavy lift that contains the Polar Pioneer. This is an oil rig that is now en route to explore and drill the Alaskan Arctic. With me are my two fellow crew members braving the cold winds, the chilly North Pacific Waters and a 3-4 meter swell on my starboard.
My team was headed towards the 38,000 tonnes oil rig to provide supplies to my fellow Greenpeace activists Johno and Aliyah. They were part of a team who fearlessly climbed aboard the Polar Express on April 6, 2015 to shed light on the dangers of oil drilling operations in the Arctic. The team camped in the oil rig for six days and posted regular updates online while in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Once oil drilling begins in the Arctic region, the situation will worsen at a quicker pace. As for my task of resupplying their provisions, I accomplished it within minutes. So I blew a kiss to Aliyah and Johno and sped off. I left with a grin. Despite the difficulty, everything was worth it.
I’m doing this for the climate and for my family’s future.
Climate experts have concluded that the Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the globe and is experiencing some of the most severe climate impacts on Earth. One of the most notable signs is the rapid decline in the thickness and extent of sea ice. Further melting of the ice is just plain bad news especially for countries like the Philippines.
You see, the Arctic — dubbed the ‘air conditioner of the world’ — is responsible for regulating the planet’s temperatures. The melting of the ice would contribute to rising sea levels, disrupt global weather patterns, and make warming happen faster.
As a country of 7,641 islands, with millions living along shorelines, we are gravely exposed to extreme weather events like super typhoons and intense droughts. Because of this climate urgency, Greenpeace Philippines launched its Climate Justice campaign last year, on the first anniversary of the epic landfall of Super Typhoon Haiyan. Greenpeace is calling on the big polluters — fossil fuel companies — to end their dirty trade that has contributed to climate change due to global warming. Or to be specific: 914 billion tons of carbon and methane emissions since 150 years ago.
These companies, along with international governments, should stop contributing to the climate crisis and listen to the worldwide clamour of keeping fossil fuels buried deep under the ground. For justice to be served, these companies must be held accountable by the communities that are suffering the impacts of extreme weather events linked to climate change.
There is strength in numbers. There are almost 7 million people who are backing us on this high seas action in the Pacific, along with 18,000 Filipinos who have signed our Save the Arctic Petition. While we don’t know how this Arctic action ends, I know that the world appreciates what we are doing.
After all, nature is on our side.
About the Author
Eric Bangad is a Filipino environmentalist who is now in the middle of the Pacific Ocean as a crew member of the Greenpeace ship M/V Esperanza. From Asia, their team chased a giant oil rig that is on its way to the Arctic region in Alaska to drill oil.