EVERY time Lope goes out to fish, he says a prayer, knowing the increasingly precarious conditions that he faces out at sea. “Lead us, Lord, to the place where we can have a better catch. Lead us to a place of safety.”
With the Philippines battered by storms and reliant on the unpredictable seas, his prayer could be a desperate plea, but Lope and his wife, Eva, have been rising up against climate change and taking action to protect their island in the Philippines. When the couple head out to fish at dawn, they look to the new day with hope for an abundant catch.
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They have reasons for hope. Members of the community have rebuilt their island, creating an artificial undersea reef, planting mangroves to regenerate marine life, and patrolling the seas for illegal fishermen. They now benefit from a bigger catch, while still preserving marine life.
But there is only so much one community can do. On these small remote, neglected islands, fisherfolk such as Eva and Lope bear the brunt of climate-related disasters. The country is hit by about 20 typhoons a year; so they have learnt to be resilient and live in hope. The fishing community here describe the changing environment through their senses — the taste, smell, and feel of the water — and face daily visual reminders of Typhoon Haiyan (News, 8 November 2013): remnants of wooden boats and skeletons of houses.
Lope says: “During Haiyan, the wind blew so strong. In those moments, many people came to our house and shared our food. Through our wholehearted prayers, we were safe until the typhoon ceased.
“There is no justice; so we rallied as one to create a force to be listened to. Patrolling the seas and creating a reef with jackstones has enabled the return of fish. I don’t want money and wealth: I just want enough for my family, and to serve the community.”
Besides providing training, Christian Aid and partner organisations are supporting solar-energy initiatives on these islands, while campaigning at a global level for banks to move away from fossil-fuel investment.
“As humans, we are supposed to be equal; so I appeal to richer nations to stop activities which are destroying the environment and violating the human rights of the poorer nations. It’s us, on this island, who are suffering,” Eva says.