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    Thousands celebrate Earth Hour 2015 at the Quezon City Memorial Circle in the Philippines with a glow-in-the-dark Zumba celebration PHOTO COURTESY OF EARTH HOUR PHILIPPINES

    Thousands celebrate Earth Hour 2015 at the Quezon City Memorial Circle in the Philippines with a glow-in-the-dark Zumba celebration PHOTO COURTESY OF EARTH HOUR PHILIPPINES

    What’s next after Earth Hour
    The Philippines together with over 170 countries turned lights off for an hour in participation of the annual Earth Hour campaign. With the global aim to raise awareness on the devastating effects of climate change and empower individuals to mitigate its effects, this year’s global tagline was “Use Your Power to Change Climate Change.”

    For Haribon Chief Operating Officer Maria Belinda de la Paz, Earth Hour is an advantage in promoting environment conservation and lessening the impact of climate change.

    “This is a good indication that Filipinos are aware and must be therefore willing also to make concrete actions to reduce emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere,” she shares.

    However, de la Paz also believes that the challenge lies after Earth hour. She notes, “Switching off the lights for an hour is a proof of willingness to lessen our carbon footprint, but there’s still a lot of ways on how we can help do this.”

    Climate change can be attributed to several factors. Certain human activities cause the increase of green house gases such as the use of fossil fuels, deforestation, and waste production.

    Ironically, the Philippines’ commitment to Earth Hour doesn’t automatically equate with its commitment to establish mitigation or adaptation measures to address the impacts of climate change.

    “The DENR claims that we have 22.8 percent forest cover left. Yet we need 54 percent forest cover to maintain ecological processes in the country. Aside from energy conservation, there is an urgent need to bring back our forests in order to minimize the effects of climate change,” de la Paz adds.

    As one of the country’s premiere environmental organization, Haribon Foundation strongly pushes for the restoration of the Philippines’ rainforests as its solution to climate change.

    It runs the Rainforest Organizations and Advocates (Road) to 2020 (Road to 2020), an environmental conservation movement committed to restore one million hectares of Philippine rainforests using native tree species by year 2020.

    People can take part in this endeavor by volunteering at tree planting events, or donating to “Adopt a Forest,” or “Nurture a Tree.”

    Haribon also established Buhay Punlaan, a nursery of native tree seedlings at the Caliraya Watershed in Lumban, Laguna to support Road to 2020. This is a living laboratory for native trees and biodiversity conservation.

    Volunteers can visit Buhay Punlaan to help nurture the seedlings, at the same time, learn about the different Philippine native tree species and how these can effectively sequester green house gases and help communities adapt to climate change from an array of other ecological benefits our forests provide.

    Now more than ever, De la Paz stresses the need to take action.

    “Climate change is here and it will take more than 1 hour of “darkness” to reverse this trend. Ultimately, the real challenge lies in our commitment to live an ecologically friendly lifestyle which will be quite a feat given all the conveniences that technology has and can offer. Thus it is imperative that we try even if it’s one hour at a time, everyday of our lives,” she concludes.

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