Communicating climate change and biodiversity in coastal areas: A community-based adaptation strategy

R.Z. Guzman, R.V. Ramilo and F.B. Samiano
Philippine Federation for Environmental Concern, Philippines

This paper is a component of a community-based climate change adaptation project that reviews current coastal policies and legislation and identify their weaknesses in addressing impacts of climate change, assess vulnerable areas that are suitable for demonstration of appropriate bio-physical adaptation measures designed to safeguard infrastructures and biodiversity as well as to enhance disaster management at the local level. Climate Change (CC) communication enables the local people to increase knowledge and understanding on climate change and its relations on their day to day activities and long term survival. It emphasizes the urgent need to act in response to the risks of CC-related events by all sectors of society and that small initiatives to address CC can contribute in very significant ways to the bigger picture.

The case study was conducted in two municipalities in the provinces of Sorsogon and Masbate, Philippines. Three major communication strategies were tested in this study, namely: (1) Theatre Play – which was designed to allow the community to feel the effects of climate change in their daily living and when supplemented with training will result to a deeper understanding of CC and may lead them to become CC advocates; (2) Local Climate Change Video – this was designed to  let the community see the effects of CC in their locality thereby developing a deeper understanding of its causes, effects and impacts and at the same time propel them to generate appropriate solutions and remedies to CC problems and issues. From the community at large, it was expected that the video strategy will open avenues to pick potential local resource persons who can be trained to become effective CC advocates; and (3) Film Showing and Game Show – the expected result of this strategy was to initiate the community to start talking about climate change and thus disseminate CC widely within the sphere of influence and reach of the community. Another projected result would be the assimilation of the basic understanding of CC by the community which is primordial in communicating CC.

Results indicated that after the theatre play where the selected members of the community themselves actually played their respective roles,  and the subsequent social interactions thereafter, it became very clear to the community what they can actually do, such as putting a strict halt to all illegal activities that contribute to CC and to start working together as a community. The active participation of the community as main stage actors/actresses made them feel the effects of CC. It has drawn them to mobilize actions as reflected in the turn-out of trainees in the succeeding training on mangrove protection and rehabilitation and have demonstrated interest, attention and participation in planning workshops on CC adaptation and mitigation. It has also attracted participation of two other neighboring barangays. What was evident from them was their realization of the importance of collective efforts and working as a community in addressing CC. A film documentation of the theatre plays generated by the communities has attracted the attention of various sectors of society especially of neighboring municipalities in both provinces and form part of this paper.

In the second strategy where prominent citizens from the community detailed their experiences on CC and the overwhelming changes that occurred through the years in their province as a result of CC, captured through video technology, the community realized the changes that have been happening in their area and the gravity of the present situation thus moving them to action. The credibility of the documentation was significantly high since the messages were shared by people whom they know and respect. Members of the community which included a cross-section of the society (local government, business, civil, academe, religious, etc.) who contributed to the documentation process especially the sharers were transformed into prominent CC advocates, leaders and resource persons in the community. Many of them have in fact, volunteered to become the chairman, vice chairman, officers and members of the marine sanctuary management team.

This clearly shows that community efforts and working together is the key to address CC. Two video documentation for the two case communities form part of this paper.

In the third strategy where the community was asked to translate the messages of the film into actions, the people were enabled to broaden their knowledge as they started talking about CC. The discussions provided them the ability and opportunity to distinguish problems and issues prevailing in their respective areas. This has resulted to the possibility of prescribing and recommending local knowledge and skills for CC mitigation and adaptation following the realization that unscrupulous human activities evidently cause CC.

The strategies employed some significant gains in terms of the people’s knowledge on climate change and biodiversity, realization of the causes and effects of changes in their environment, and mobilizing actions towards solving environmental problems. Of utmost significance is the learning of the value of working together as a community to reduce their vulnerability and minimize the devastating effects of climate change on their lives.

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