Unlike children who looked forward to bathing under the pouring rain, stomping on puddles, and enjoying the stormy weather to the fullest, a child named Divine Grlcz Dugan crippled in fear and cowered in a corner with the very thought of storms.
In a speech during the opening ceremony of the 4th National Climate Change Conference (NCCC) last Nov. 19, Divine shared how she feared the rain during her childhood, asking herself many questions regarding her whole family’s safety.
“Instead of focusing on my class, I found myself asking questions in my seat whenever it was raining: ‘How high would the flood be this time?’ ‘Will I reach back home safely?’ ‘Is my family okay?’ I could only mute these thoughts when I was inside my house,” she said.
This Grade 12 student from the Sinalhan Integrated High School in Santa Rosa City, Laguna further shared her anxieties when faced with the climate crisis during the Climate Action Story segment, a fitting testimony to this year’s NCCC theme: Alpas: Channeling Youth Eco-anxiety to Climate Action.”
In an interview, Divine shared her unforgettable experience forever marked in her memory. In 6th Grade, she was with her classmates doing their school work amid a warning that a typhoon might make landfall.
“That was a big mistake,” she stressed. “Later that afternoon, heavy rain arrived and it flooded the streets. The way the floodwater rose quickly terrified me.”
But it was this fear that led her to believe that her actions sparked a chain reaction that in turn manifested into a desire to engage and take action for the climate.
Recurring fears from thunderstorms
When she became a high school student, she had engaged in many initiatives to help reverse her bad decisions and eliminate the feeling that disturbed her ever since she was a child.
As a Youth for Environment in Schools – Organization (YES-O) club member, she shared many insights on proper waste segregation and disposal in her school. In their TLE class, Dugan planted trees with her classmates to increase carbon capture. Also, she would always walk to her destination whenever she has the chance to do so to decrease her carbon footprint from transportation.
For a moment, she felt that fear vanishes from her system. “I thought that what I was doing was very significant. Apparently, it is not as remarkable as I thought,” she said.
Thunderstorms and heavy rains bombarded her hometown and floods swept the streets faster than ever before even though she had done her part. She felt fear has come back as the government declared a nationwide lockdown to curb the rising number of cases of COVID-19 in the midst of climate disasters.
Restlessness and worry came rushing in just as the floods invaded the streets, highways, and houses. But she was one of the lucky ones.
Her classmates were part of 864 individuals from 320 families who are residing in evacuation centers as of November 12. “The count has gradually risen since then,” she added.
Taking these all into consideration, she and her family decided to help by providing basic necessities like food and clothing alongside different organizations and the private sector.
“Even though what I have done is helpful, that dreadful feeling tells me that what I am doing is not just enough. It will never be enough. In the midst of experiencing these feelings, I realized something,” said Dugan.
Writing as a means of climate action
With all the things happening simultaneously, she decided to try a different approach: exploring writing as a means of contributing to climate action.
Divine was one of the completers of The Green Beat Initiative: An Online Environmental Journalism Training for campus journalists and school paper advisers. She participated in a 6-week intensive training on environmental journalism through engagement with asynchronous learning materials and synchronous sessions. She, later on, graduated as the Most Outstanding Learner in the said training.
As a writer, she expressed her opinions about the changing climate and how the youth can overturn its effects. She used her uneasiness and fear as fuel for her burning passion for saving the environment.
“I must let others know that nothing will happen in the comfort of denial and silence,” she affirmed.
She then encouraged the youth to take a stand: to tell their story in their own perspective because their silence will not protect them and that change begins when a tiny voice speaks up.
As the fight against climate change continues, Divine is one of the warriors in a battle that will dictate the future of humankind. The once afraid little girl is now armed with her pen and is using her fear as armor. She says she will continue to move forward until she, along with the youth, is declared the victor.
This article was written and prepared by Rinzen Gonzales (Student-Journalist) and Allan Jason Sarmiento (School Paper Adviser) from, San Miguel National High School, Division of Bulacan, who are graduates of DepEd-DRRMS and AYEJ.org’s Green Beat Initiative: An Online Environmental Journalism Training.