An environmental activist from Cordillera is one of the United Nations (UN) Environment Champions of the Earth Awardees for 2018.
Joan Carling, a staunch advocate of indigenous peoples’ land rights, joins five other prominent figures and companies across the world in receiving the UN’s highest environmental honor this year.
Carling works as an indigenous expert for the UN Economic and Social Council, and was also a member of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues between 2014 and 2016. Additionally, Carling took part in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and REDD+. She has served as both the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) Secretary-General and the Cordillera People’s Alliance Chairperson.
A fighting Filipina
For over two decades, Carling has been championing the rights of indigenous peoples in Cordillera.
Carling identifies as a member of the Kankanaey tribe that resides in northern Cordillera. She has actively opposed mining companies and developers seeking to acquire and use the resources within the area.
“The environment is part of our life,” explains Carling in a UN video. “When our lands and our resources are taken away for mining, for dams, for agribusiness, our reaction is, of course, to defend this.”
According to Carling, mining applications for their region have been waiting for approval since July 2000. “We are trying to protect the environment, not just for ourselves,” Carling said. “We are protecting it for humanity, for the rest of the world.”
Carling was one of over 600 Filipinos branded as “terrorists” by the Department of Justice (DOJ) last February. She was mentioned in the DOJ’s list of alleged leaders and members of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA). Carling was also included in a memorandum issued by the Philippine National Police (PNP) Intelligence Group last May 28 concerning alleged NPA leaders.
Forces for nature
Other awardees include French President Emmanuel Macron and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, both recognized for their strong environmental policy leadership (specifically in championing the International Solar Alliance); food companies Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat for developing a plant-based beef substitute; China’s Zhejiang’s Green Rural Revival Program, the eco-restoration of polluted streams and rivers in Zheijang; and the fully solar-powered Cochin International Airport, which makes full use of sustainable energy in its day-to-day operations.
“The Champions of the Earth Award and Young Champions of the Earth Prize recognize those not afraid to chart unknown waters or be the voice of the voiceless,” according to Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment. “These people are changing our world today for a better tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, Carling believes that her victory is a win for environmental advocates across the country. “I share this award with every environmental activist, in recognition that there is hope that justice will prevail for our people and the planet.”
Cover photo from Joan Carling’s Facebook profile
Author: Mikael Angelo Francisco
Bitten by the science writing bug, Mikael has years of writing and editorial experience under his belt. As the editor-in-chief of FlipScience, Mikael has sworn to help make science more fun and interesting for geeky readers and casual audiences alike.