Allyn May Canja is a law student and freelance writer. This year she was part of a Climate Tracker fellowship in the Philippines, as part of which she is writing a four-part series on energy democracy for the Ilo Ilo Metropolitan Times.
When Typhoon Haiyan happened, the roof of Allyn May Canja’s family house was torn off.
“Everyone was on lockdown, and everyone is still scared that Haiyan will happen again. If you’ve ever been in a category five storm, you’ll know how big and scary it is. The winds are howling. You’re scared because tomorrow you might not have a house,” she told me.
But the experience left a huge mark on Allyn’s ambitions. After having grown up in a rural area where she developed a love for nature, Allyn saw how environmental destruction was causing the earth to fight back.
“It’s why I want to write more about climate change,” she said.
In high school and college, Allyn devoted herself to student journalism. She had a column at a local paper where she wrote about environmental issues from a youth perspective. She named it “All the Green Things,” and sheepishly admits it was inspired inspired by the Green Day song.
Still, the column was far from juvenile. Although she did include many pop culture references, Allyn wrote about issues such as the greenest candidate in elections and national pollution.
When she went to college, she started to get involved with organising and campaigning. She helped organise protests against a coal plant, as well as volunteer projects such as coastal cleanups, tree planting, and mangrove planting. Allyn continued to apply her skills in writing, and took up many of the communications responsibilities. She wrote the press releases, drafted publication materials, and did the graphic design.
But Allyn wanted to do more. Realising that the way she could affect change was through law and policy, the young climate activist decided to pursue law in Central Philippine University, where she is currently a student.
“I want to be an environmental lawyer,” she told me. “In five years I hope I will have passed the bar and contributing to the climate debate at that point.”
Now, Allyn balances her interests in the law, activism, and writing. After being accepted to the Philippines Fellowship, Allyn has been writing a four-part series on energy democracy for the Ilo Ilo Metropolitan Times.
“I talked about the electric bill and how people here in the Philippines do not know what they are being charged for. Right now, I am working on the economics of it. Can everyone afford electricity?”
The Climate Tracker training gave her the tools to place the Philippines’ climate and energy situation in a global context. One of the best things about training was that it taught her what is happening globally in climate policy, practices, and programs.
The training also taught her how to make climate journalism more appealing to her audience.
“It’s about visualisations, presentations, and making things interactive now. It’s a fresh take on news. In the Philippines, not everyone does that yet,” she said.
Allyn says that young people who want to be climate journalists and activists need to be involved on the ground.
“In order for you to be a good journalist, you have to experience the stories first-hand. You have to be on the field, talk to people, and listen to the stories that people have to share,” she said.
For all the complex policies, laws, and science involved with tackling climate change, it is ultimately people’s lives that are being affected.
“You can help them be heard by sharing their stories,” said Allyn.