TIMES are changing, and the world we live in is undergoing turmoil because of climate change.
Filipinos have seen and felt the wrath of nature several times in the past. Thousands died and millions of families suffered from typhoon Yolanda. We watched in horror as rescuers recovered the bodies of those who perished from this calamity; we wept when we saw images and videos of children, men and women looking for their loved ones.
Even Pope Francis has acknowledged the threat of climate change.
In his encyclical “Laudato Si,” or “Be Praised,” the Pope enumerated the grave implications of climate change. He warned that thousands of plant and animal species disappear each year, and that the “unprecedented destruction of ecosystems” means “serious consequences for all of us” if humanity fails to act.
He lamented that the international community is not doing enough to combat this grave threat.
The Pope’s resounding call for people to be protectors of nature, of one another and of the environment should rouse each of us to take action in our own small way.
True, we puny humans would be hard put to fight nature. But what we can do is prepare for disasters to prevent the loss of lives, and preserve, conserve and protect nature.
Policy makers and government officials should take the lead in implementing programs to inform, educate and train citizens on environmental conservation and protection. Such programs should start where it matters most – in schools.
We have to teach the young ones how to respect and protect nature. And we also have to train them how to serve, protect and rescue people who will become victims of natural disasters.
As we have seen from Yolanda, victims of disasters cannot expect to receive immediate assistance from the national government, especially if the area hit by a calamity is remote, or if roads leading to a stricken community has been blocked or cut off. In times like these, local communities have no choice but to depend on their own home-grown rescuers.
If every community has a trained group of individuals that can be deployed to conduct rescue and relief operations, the number of casualties during a disaster or calamity may be greatly reduced. These rescue groups can be composed of high school or college students who have undergone basic or advanced training on first aid or rescue work.
Because times are changing, training on disaster preparedness should start in high school and continue into college. There is a vast reserve of environment protectors and rescuers in our schools and universities. Years back, these students learned discipline and patriotism through the Civilian Auxiliary Training (CAT) and Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC), which were mandatory.
We should respond to the Pope’s appeal. Let us train the youth to become warriors for the environment and protectors of victims of the wrath of Mother Nature.
(The author is Principal III of Gonzaga North Central School in Gonzaga, Cagayan)