The world will cease to be as we know it. But in our hearts, hope resides that the human family has the ability to save itself and strive for dignity for every being on Earth. Climate change is not some grand phenomenon that we marvel about nor is it some fascinating problem that we have the luxury of time to solve. Climate change represents a serious crisis — one that offers the human species a very narrow window to address it. Thus, the climate change challenge is the defining issue of our generation and our response to it will make or break the world. Likewise, we will be measured by future generations based on this response.
The climate crisis is upon us and already, millions of people are being profoundly affected as a result. It is a clear and present danger. Disturbingly however, the actions and commitments of political and industry leaders from around the world remain profoundly inadequate and fail to secure a safe and just future for all.
It was with this deep sense of frustration that I found myself struggling with as I addressed governments and world leaders on November 11, 2013 during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties in Warsaw, Poland. It would be recalled that three days before I spoke for my country, Super Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), the strongest storm that has ever made landfall in the history of humanity, had struck the Philippines with all its might and left a massive swathe of heart-wrenching devastation. Thousands lost their lives and millions lost their homes and livelihoods. My own family was caught in the disaster. My brother spent days helping to gather lifeless bodies. For us, climate change is already a matter of life and death.
As I tried to keep the tears at bay, I addressed the dignitaries and my fellow delegates on this opening day of the summit. The situation got the better of me and I could not help but be overwhelmed with emotion, and with all the courage I can muster I appealed to the whole world to take urgent action on climate change. In the same breath, I declared in front of the delegates of all nations that I would fast for the whole duration of the conference, in solidarity with my people and to push the negotiations toward a meaningful outcome. Thousands of people in Warsaw, as well as around the world, joined this fast for the climate. Today, the Fast for the Climate movement has grown far and wide, and in over 100 countries, people fast in solidarity with those who confront the vagaries of climate change and offer prayers so that the world can open its eyes to this reality.
It was through the fasting movement that I got the honor of knowing Alan Burns, who championed climate action in Charlotte and organized more fasting actions in his town to rally people towards a profound awakening on this crucial issue. Alan had been also an instrument of the power of fasting against nuclear arms when he was in his younger years.
Early in 2014, when we hatched the idea of paying homage to those who have been affected by Super Typhoon Haiyan by walking from Manila to Tacloban, it was therefore of no surprise to me when Alan intimated that he would want to join the walk.
For over 1,000 kilometers through valleys and rivers, gulfs and streams, highways and footpaths, bridges and sidewalks, mountains and hills, through searing heat and torrential rains, together with all the climate walkers, I had the distinct honor of walking with Alan Burns on this journey.
Climate Walk was envisioned as a movement borne out of a deep sense of duty to pay homage to communities that confront the realities of climate change, disaster risk, poverty, and environmental and economic injustice. It is a way of reminding the whole world that we have this reality—this madness—to confront. The walk, which started from Kilometer Zero in the heart of Manila and culminated at Ground Zero of Super Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban, can be likened to a pilgrimage to a sacred place, with the disasters wrought on these communities revealing the sacred in them in much the same manner as those who suffered from those disasters or even those who witnessed their suffering with empathy are revealed as pilgrims in search of the sacred. Commemorating the first anniversary of Super Typhoon Haiyan, thousands of Climate Walkers crossed San Juanico bridge into Tacloban City and it was a moment that will forever be etched in our hearts.
The Climate Walk was also organized to inspire people around the world and to encourage world leaders to take urgent, ambitious actions to confront the climate crisis, highlighting the impacts of climate change on vulnerable countries like the Philippines. It underscores the principle that the fight against climate change is about people’s lives and dignity, and a better future for all. The strength of the call lies in the collective strength of voices around the world crying out for climate justice. The vision of the Walk is a more just, equitable, and caring world.
Climate Walk had created a movement comprised of artists, activists, environmentalists, students, youth, faith communities, farmers, government leaders, and advocates for social and environmental justice.
As we have always emphasized, Climate Walk had completed the Manila to Tacloban trail, but the journey does not stop there. Our common aim, our ultimate destination, is to reach the hearts and minds of the people all over the world.
Armed with the spiritual message of stewardship and caring from all over the world, we carry both in our hands and our hearts this message and march on. As long as there are people who suffer from injustice, the Climate Walkers will walk on.
But the climate walk is not just our journey. It is everybody’s journey. This is exactly how Alan narrates this story, through his eyes but also through the eyes of people he had encountered on this walk.
I thank Alan for his friendship, for his courage and leadership. I thank Alan for inspiring us and others. The climate walk is a story that needs to be told. And Alan Burns has just given justice to this amazing journey.
Changing the world always starts with the first step. And the shape of the future depends on what we do now. As we receive this gift of the climate walk chronicled by Alan Burns, our good friend, hero and brother, we remind ourselves that the journey lives on and that another world is possible.
To our own loved ones and friends who stood with us, walked with us, and continue to stand with us, our deepest gratitude.
It gives me great honor to be able to advocate for this volume to what I hope will be a swarm of readers and future pilgrims. I have had the pleasure of being part of this story. Through this book, may you be blessed and be likewise part of this amazing pilgrimage.
Leader, The People’s Pilgrimage
Spiritual Ambassador, Our Voices