Chatten Bion Abrera is a boy on a mission — a mission to save the environment.
As one of the four learners across the Philippines invited to speak about their environmental advocacy on the 4th National Climate Change Conference last Nov. 19, Abrera had no difficulty figuring out what he wanted to share with the public, sticking close to the conference’s theme “Alpas: Channeling Youth Eco-anxiety to Climate Action.”
“I grew up as an environmentally-aware kid. I always had questions in my mind as to why people care more about money than our environment,” he said in a contemplative tone, “And up to now, this remains a question.”
The Grade 9 student from Passi National High School in the Division of Iloilo City is a representative of the Regional Sub-Committee for the Welfare of Children (RSCWC) Western Visayas and a Batang Empowered and Resilient Team (BERT) facilitator from Save the Children.
As a child, Abrera used to join programs that allowed him to reconnect with the earth and feel the presence of nature. However, he only became an active climate advocate in Grade 5 when he became a BERT facilitator.
During his elementary school days, he was able to teach his peers about what he had learned in the organization which is a children’s movement focused on the empowerment of youth in disaster preparedness. Abrera happily recalled one of their biggest achievements, talking about their efforts to educate the Supreme Pupil Government officers of Passi City just last year.
He then paused before saying, “But despite that, it is still not enough because there are still a lot of children that we are not able to reach out [to].”
Much like the organizations that he is affiliated with, Abrera is extremely passionate about the role of youth in shaping and influencing the world around them. Now 15 years old, he has been a lifelong champion of Mother Earth and wants to inspire others to take action through his own experiences.
Building off his lessons at BERT, Abrera continued his journey as a climate advocate and student leader when Save the Children sent him to join the Regional Children’s Congress in 2018. He was also selected to be a representative of RSCWC VI, subsequently attending various conferences in Iloilo in that capacity along with the 5th Philippine National Children’s Conference.
“In every conference that I joined, I always tried to raise the issues with the environment because I think it is one of the biggest problems that we are facing right now but at the same time, one of the least concerned of many people,” Abrera stated, emphasizing one of his main motivations for attending the conferences in the first place.
As a member of the RSCWC and Inter-Agency Committee for the Welfare of Children, he has done his best to walk the talk and ensure that he is truly practicing what he preaches. To be more eco-friendly, he and his fellow members implemented changes such as a ban on plastic and an end to the release of balloons. They also carried out clean-up drives and tree-planting events in their desire to help the community.
However, what Abrera is proudest of his involvement is the Red Alert Campaign which raises awareness of the urgency of the climate crisis and pushes for immediate government action. Started by children around the world with the help of Save the Children, he was able to take part in discussions with other student leaders before then sharing their messages all over Asia during World Environment Day and World Sustainability Day celebrations.
“As a child leader, it further expands my knowledge and perspective of what is going on around the whole world, how they are addressing climate change, [and] how they are fighting climate change,” Abrera said. “These kinds of conferences exercise the rights of every child to participate, particularly in decision-making.”
Like many climate advocates, Abrera is a true believer in the power that the younger generation holds in using their voice to fight climate change. Toward the end of his speech, he fought back against people who dismiss children as being “just children,” commenting that they are aware for the very reason that they are the most affected group, leading to their opinions being colored by this insight.
“You know, the saddest thing is that children are the most affected. Despite being the least contributors to climate change, we are affected in many ways, not just in our mental health, but we are also the most vulnerable, especially in times of crisis,” he remarked.
In his own life, Abrera has been no stranger to the effects of climate change as a resident of Barangay Sarapan in Passi City. He has witnessed changes in his community as a result of global warming and is disoriented by how fast things have deteriorated with typhoons getting worse each year.
“Right now, I don’t know what is happening to the world,” he declared. “My locality is experiencing abnormal weather patterns that are hard to explain…Everything seems to shift because of climate change.”
Despite his uncertainty though, Abrera has not lost hope. He dreams of a better world with enough resources to support every living being — a world where the environment no longer needs to be protected. Abrera has faith that it is his generation that will bring about a just and sustainable world.
“It is us, the youth, that can make a change. It is in every one of us,” he said simply. “The future of our environment lies within. We can still make the environment grow and prosper like it was as new and beautiful as before.”
This article was written and prepared by Miranda Autor (Student-Journalist) and Ma. Isabel Cruz (School Paper Adviser) from Marcelo H. del Pilar National High School, Division of Malolos City, who are graduates of DepEd-DRRMS and AYEJ.org’s Green Beat Initiative: An Online Environmental Journalism Training.