by Michael P. Cañares | IFP Alumnus, Philippines
Conversations with other people have been very important to my life as a person and a scholar. They make me learn new things. They make me understand the world and other people better. They let me see that far beyond the arena of my advocacies and passions are realities that I oftentimes neglect because I become too confined to my own world.
The Indonesia Social Justice Network, the alumni association of IFP in Indonesia, invited me and three other Filipinos to the event, to share best practices in responding to climate change and managing disasters, develop deeper commitment and a plan of action for Asian alumni in responding to these challenges, and publish and spread the work and voices of IFP alumni in Asia.
It was the first time that I attended a gathering of IFP fellows from other countries since I graduated from the London School of Economics in 2007. While I have attended several conferences in the past, what made this conference
memorable was the fact that I was with a group of people -- more than thirty, in fact -- who share the same IFP experience I had, and the same passion and dream that I hold dear: that of building a socially just world.
The conversations were overwhelming. I shared a room with Cyprianus Jehan Paju Dale, an environmentalist who advocates strongly for the rights to self-determination of indigenous peoples in Indonesia. In the panel where I presented a paper, I sat together with Dr. Irwansha, who analyzes how Indonesian media frames climate change discourse. I shared bus seats with lawyer Faisal Akbaruing Taqwa and got inspired by how he struggled to maintain his integrity as a judge, and the integrity of his institution. I met Yang Haiyu from China who went to the same school as I did and sees children and their welfare in every context – disasters, poverty programs, or macroeconomic policies. I marveled at how Elis Anis
, together with her team, was able to organize a conference of this scale.
One of the highlights of the conference was a visit to two sites which provided us an opportunity to reflect deeply on the conference presentations the previous days. We went to an area affected by the recent eruption of Mt. Merapi, one of Indonesia’s most active volcanoes.
There, we were confronted with how environmental disasters can change not only landscapes, but also people’s lives and livelihoods, and how the tension between economic survival and safety confronts people on a daily basis.
We also went to a farming community where we saw how changes in climatic conditions adversely affected farm produce and the resiliency of farming communities. In these site visits, I became increasingly aware that IFP scholars face the same sets of challenges, wherever they are situated - highlighting the need for more collaboration in our works and advocacies.
On the last night of the conference, I headed a team that was tasked with drafting the statement that will be our inspiration as scholars, scientists, and advocates in the area of climate change, disaster management, and social justice. I went to the room earlier than the others.
When I left the room, Susan Salosa, an Indonesian environmentalist was still singing; Bui Phuoc Chuong, a Vietnamese conservation scientist was still dancing; while my fellow alumnus and environmental lawyer, attorney Danny Valenzuela, was exchanging cards with Pannee Samerpak, a Thai organic agriculture expert.
I wrote the final draft statement, later released publicly as “Our Unified Statement on Social Justice in an Era of Climate Change” after two hours of rigorous debate. Deeply touched by the conversations I had with fellow IFP alumni, I began to realize I am not alone. As I write, I am accompanied by a hundred voices of people like me who have seen the world and want it to be a better place for all.
Photos, top to bottom:
IFP Conference attendees talk to local farmer about the adverse effects of climate change on local crops; Michael (2nd from right) at the Conference with other IFP Alumni; village affected by the recent eruption of Mt. Merapi; IFP alumna delivering supplies to a farmer; lively musical celebration closes out the conference.
IFP Alumnus Michael P. Cañares earned a master's degree in Development Studies from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). An expert in development finance, research, and poverty reduction, he is an assistant professor at Holy Name University in Bohol, where he teaches financial management and business development. In recognition of his dedication as a teacher, Mr. Cañares received the Citi Group's "Most Outstanding Finance Educator in the Philippines" for 2009. He was recently published in The Journal of the Canadian Council for Small Business and Entrepreneurship.