Meet Krishna Ariola, grassroots organiser!
When did you first get involved in environmental activism and why?
The year 2018 was the year I graduated from university. Back then, I would dabble with filmmaking, photography, and poetry. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to be — all I knew was that I wanted to tell stories.
That same year, I started becoming active in the grassroots environmental movement. People were dying, droughts were killing livelihoods, and floods were wiping out entire cities in a single go. The year 2030 was the “climate deadline” — we either keep the global temperature at 1.5 degrees, or the impacts would be irreversible. My friends and I were experiencing climate anxiety. I had just started my first job as a graphic artist and the others were still in school, but suddenly it felt like the entire world was collapsing down on us — did we still have a future to look forward to?
It was terrifying. But we could not let ourselves get paralyzed by fear and helplessness, or else nothing would change. We knew right there and then that to create lasting change, we had to combat fear with persistent courage and hope. That was the point in our lives where our dreams slowly took a different path, and we realized that this is the story we wanted to tell. But we had to live it and struggle through it first.
In what ways do you contribute to the environmental movement?
I write, speak, paint, tell stories, take photographs, but most of all, I try to organize communities from different sectors in the grassroots. Our starting point has been the youth movement, but because of the intersectionality of the climate crisis, we’ve found ourselves deeply involved in anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, and human rights-centric efforts as well. The way I’ve been personally contributing is sharing my creative skills, organizing and empowering my fellow youth and other marginalized sectors, and sharing the story of our community wherever I can. It’s important to tell these stories and give space to both the successes and the failures. It’s vital we learn from whatever is thrown at us and build back better.
What is the greatest challenge you face as an activist?
The greatest challenges I have faced are those rooted in individual struggles, especially as a woman in a male-dominated space.
The bad parts come at a default — spaces for action and intensive community work like this are usually gatekept by men, who hold most of the power even within progressive spaces. Sociopolitical movements, although a bit more welcoming to new ideas than most, still have so much to learn and unlearn. I have had multiple experiences of being underestimated, talked over, and disrespected in a field and space I have been working in for a long time, merely because I am a woman. There is still the pressure of having to prove yourself in order to be respected and heard but I’m glad to have learned how to work around it and not make it detrimental to the work that I do.
There is also the everyday struggle of living in perpetual fear because of our political climate in the Philippines, fearing for the safety and security of my friends and family, while putting our voices out there to call for justice and defend our democratic spaces.
What keeps you motivated?
Working on the ground has opened our eyes to so many things. Realizing that the climate crisis is an issue that cuts across a wider spectrum of social issues means addressing the very roots of the problem — which is the capitalist exploitation of ecological resources for profit. We are in this crisis because of existing social conditions, and fighting for a better world means continuous, relentless resistance. It means uprooting the system that allows the exploitation of the Earth to continue.
But if the story of our province has proven anything, it is that there is hope. The fight of our grandparents and the people before us had proven that the future is not something that is handed down to us, but something we actively shape. I believe that the young people of today have the capacity to reimagine and rebuild a future that includes all, and that’s what keeps us going against all odds.
What is one piece of wisdom that you would give to someone who is interested in participating in collective environmental action for the first time?
I did not grow up wanting to become an activist, but there is little else to do on a dying planet. The thick grey smog cannot be seen behind rose-colored glasses, but that does not mean it’s not poisoning your lungs.
The climate crisis has stolen so many things from us, but nothing else will be left if we retreat from this fight. Clean air, water, and soil means there is a planet to become who we have always wanted to be. The year 2030 is not our deadline — it is the future of our generation, one that we will shape and build together.