Climate activism with Hope – Interview with Rodne Galicha


Rodne Galicha – picture Ellen Teague

Rodne Galicha studied for the priesthood in his native Philippines for six years, but his calling as a lay Catholic has brought him to protect God’s creation. I was so excited to meet this inspiring Filipino environmental and human rights activist.

I first heard of him in 2008 when he was leading a team of environmental and human rights experts from the UK on a fact-finding mission to the Philippines to investigate the negative impact of large-scale mining on food production. He walked 930 miles from Rome to Paris as part of the People’s Pilgrimage in 2015 to raise awareness of climate change at the landmark UN conference COP21. He has worked for Nobel Prize winner Al Gore on climate issues and is currently a board member of Greenpeace Philippines. And a few weeks ago Rodne was in Glasgow at COP26 and represented Living Laudato Si Philippines.

When Rodne went down the stairs to meet me at Columban Missionaries House in West London, he had the big smile I remember. I last met him in 2015 in Paris, at the first meeting of the Global Catholic Climate Movement, after his momentous walk to hand over huge packages of signatures collected in the Philippines to the UN Climate Change Conference. We missed each other in Glasgow mainly because masks hid identity,

He has spent much of his adult life responding to “the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor,” as Pope Francis put it in Laudato Si ‘. He is the chief convener of the civil society network Aksyon Klima Pilipinas in his country and has campaigned for environmental protection on his beautiful home island of Sibuyan. He fought against the nickel mining giant BHP Billiton, who operated there. When Typhoon Frank hit the Philippines in June 2008 and a liner carrying toxic materials sank near Sibuyan Island, Rodne highlighted the chemical and bunker fuel contamination of the island, which “affects the lives and livelihoods of our people, mainly from Abundance of the sea. “

As a climate leader and advocate, Rodne served as a manager for the Philippines of the Climate Reality Project, a global movement founded by Nobel Prize winner and former US Vice President Al Gore. He reached more than 50,000 people in more than 100 events in the Philippines, and several million more with online events.

Rodne has campaigned against the destruction caused by mining in important biodiversity areas of the country, critical water catchment areas, agricultural areas, tourist locations and island ecosystems.

He successfully campaigned against the construction of a national road that would lead through the Mount Guiting-guiting Natural Park in 2018, fearing that the huge project would affect the mountain, which is classified as a protected area in the Philippines. He commemorates the death of more than 6,000 people in Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines and describes the catastrophic event as a climate crime. “We must not forget climate justice,” said his banner on the eighth anniversary in Glasgow.

In 2018, the Filipino Tatler added him to the Generation T list as one of the 50 smartest connectors, creative visionaries, influential innovators and disruptive talents in the Philippines. He encourages climate and environmental actions within religious communities and advises the Filipino bishops on environmental statements and policies.

How did he feel about the COP26 meeting in Glasgow? “Disappointing,” he said, “despite all of the new commitments made at COP26, global warming is still expected to exceed the 1.5 degrees Celsius target, making it difficult for vulnerable countries like the Philippines to address Adapt the effects of climate change. ”On the subject of“ Losses and Damages ”, he lamented the failure to set up a funding mechanism for the victims of climate disasters and said the official Philippine delegation“ did not pay much attention to this issue or consulted stakeholders ”. Rodne and more than 20 other Filipino nongovernmental attorneys represented the voices of their partner organizations and communities in Glasgow. “We want to hold governments accountable for what they have done,” he said.

As a true activist, Rodne has already turned to the future, particularly the strategy leading up to COP27 in Egypt in a year’s time. At 42, he knows that he is young enough to experience the increasingly threatening effects of climate change in two – three – four decades. He identified issues to be addressed with the COP presidency, which is still Britain. Also, to liaise with the leadership of the Laudato Si Movement – formerly the Global Catholic Climate Movement – to maximize Catholic and faith campaigns. He thinks that “Stories are really important and I want them to be told on all levels.” These include the stories of communities threatened by mining and typhoon survivors. For sustainable living, Rodne created the Rs that can be followed at home and in communities: reduce, reuse, recycle, repair, deny, rethink, rainforest and remember.

‘Living Laudato Si’ Philippines ‘is one of the youth organizations that animates the Laudato Si’ platform, the instrument of action launched by the Dicastery for the Promotion of Holistic Human Development immediately after COP26 to promote ecological conversion. Rodne explains that the organization is “focused on the divestment campaign because we need to look at how we are spending our financial resources, and that is because we are spending our money and supporting industries and activities that can harm our homes together.” he adds. In addition, adolescents and adults are encouraged by “little tokens of love” to “be eco-citizens anywhere, anytime, at school, at home or at work”.

The Philippines are regularly named the deadliest country for land and environmental conservationists in Asia, according to the environmental agency Global Witness. Despite knowing some of those killed, Rodne refuses to give in to the threats and dangers. He says, “The risks associated with this advocacy are inevitable. Being an environmentalist is a lifelong commitment. We are all called to discover for ourselves the amazing connection our lives have with nature.” He says, “The first step to being environmentally friendly is to change your mindset. We have to recognize and admit that we are, our bodies and everything that we come from nature. As soon as we destroy the source of our life, life and livelihood, we kill ourselves. ”

Rodne is a person of deep faith. After about an hour I noticed that he had sneaked a peek at the watch and realized that he hoped to be ready in time to attend the daily Colombian mass. “It was an honor to meet a front defender of God’s creation,” I said, and he laughed. But I really meant it.

Keywords: COP26, Rodne Galicha, Climate, Hope, Environment, Ellen Teague, Philippines, Laudato si

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