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Traditions with awareness of nature are key to a sustainable global society

Francesca Edralin is a Filipino American and works in the Private Sector Engagement Team of the organization World Wildlife (WWF) USA, that supports cause marketing campaigns that engage the public on environmental conversation and sustainable living.

She has a special bond with sustainability that has defined her everyday life since she was little. The Filipino tradition, which her parents passed on to her and her brother, helped her to develop the attitude and world view she has today.

“Wala nang butil ng kanin maiiwan” means "no more grain of rice". Almost every Filipino child knows this phrase. It means that the plate should always be eaten empty, and nothing should be left behind. Rice is a staple of Filipino dishes. Even in Western countries, this phrase has been heard many times. But not every Western family necessarily imparts these rules and values with the same assertiveness as parents who have experienced food scarcity firsthand and know what it means to live on the limit. And although Francesca grew up in the U.S., she was taught to minimize her food waste and consume only what is eaten. If you were still hungry, you filled your plate again.

Limiting to the minimum to meet basic needs and avoid in surplus, in Filipino cultures is not only limited to food but also repurpose clothing, household items and more. Empty jars and cans, for example, are reused. Old clothes that no longer fit are sent to family back home.

Filipino diaspora sends balikbayan boxes filled with any useful everyday things but also food to their loved ones. A tradition that is almost taken for granted. A society that in many ways lives so modestly and consciously or unconsciously sustainably is on the other hand plagued by so many natural disasters and has to keep recovering from the effects of climate change, tourism and natural disasters.

People who come from such an endangered region as the Philippines with its over 7000 islands and volcanoes and are surrounded by nature and its beauty on a daily basis are more inclined to appreciate and protect it.

Francesca says her Filipino heritage has not only led her to live more sustainably, but has likewise awakened in her a passion for global climate action and justice. To me, one of the biggest injustices of the climate crisis is that the communities that contribute the least to climate change are often the ones who are hit hardest by its consequences.


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