Rising Above the Storm: Transforming My Super Typhoon Experience Into Action

Damage in Tacloban, Philippines after Super Typhoon Haiyan, 2013

Imagine living in a coastal fishing community with fresh food, unpolluted air, and people sharing their food and resources. Imagine your childhood running around on a beautiful white sand beach, swimming in the ocean whenever you like, and in your free time, collecting seashells from the nearby shore, playing like tomorrow doesn’t matter.

I’m Marinel Ubaldo, a 25-year-old whose idea of a normal life changed after surviving the wrath of super-typhoon Haiyan.

Growing up in a coastal community in the Philippines, I was used to the natural disasters that frequented our area – typhoons were nothing new to me. Our house endured every storm…until Super Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines in 2013. The storm killed thousands of people, including some of my family and friends. It took me three years before I was able to go into the ocean again. The ocean was our childhood friend, but almost ten years after the trauma and fear that came with that experience, my nerves still get the best of me whenever I hear ocean waves crash.

Super Typhoon Haiyan was the strongest typhoon ever recorded. According to climate scientists, if climate change continues, the Philippines can expect to experience more and stronger typhoons. Super typhoons may become a normal phenomenon, putting my future children in danger.

My experience with Super-Typhoon Haiyan motivated me to do more. Sharing has been the key to healing for me.

In 2015, I joined local grassroots organizations in submitting a petition to the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines, calling for an investigation into 47 large companies, or “carbon majors,” for their contributions to human rights violations linked to climate impact. The companies never showed up in any of the hearings, declining to listen to the stories of people who had suffered because of their business practices. In 2022, after seven years of battling with these companies, the Commission found them liable for their role in driving climate change. Our case, the world’s first-ever climate justice petition, is now a basis for future actions.

After this experience, I realized that community engagement is vital to addressing climate change impacts and promoting climate-resilient development. This is why I co-founded the Youth Leaders Environmental Action Federation, a youth-led organization based in Eastern Visayas, Philippines, that partners with youth organizations in communities and schools. We give mentorship and training to youth organizations on how to start advocacy, projects, and programs. We also submitted and lobbied a petition to the City of Tacloban to ban single-use plastics.

My global campaign with Amnesty International’s Write for Rights program called on the Philippine government to give decent relocation to survivors of Super-typhoon Haiyan – and gathered almost 600,000 signatures of support worldwide.

Ultimately, we all want a future where we are not afraid to live, dream, laugh, and love. A future that is safe for everybody, a future that is for everyone and not just for a few. I am happy to have played a small part toward my dream of increasing climate justice for vulnerable communities everywhere.

I am excited to work with EDF’s Beyond Gas and Regulatory Solutions Team as a Climate Corps Fellow this summer. My research will focus on the barriers, and potential opportunities –– to increase diversity in EDF’s clean energy consultant pool and pipeline. More to come about this project!

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One Comment

  1. Posted July 18, 2023 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    thank you for the article