By Evangeline B. Razon
PDO I, Youth Formation Program, SDO Butuan City

 BUTUAN CITY – 5/15/19

Evangeline B. Razon, Project Development Officer I, Butuan City Division

 Before  the corona virus struck the physical world to a grinding halt, digital natives – young and old –were  on their normal day-to-day routines –  hooked to their gadgets and social media accounts counting reactions on their Facebook posts such as their Tiktok dance moves and Starmaker cover songs, chatting with friends about their IG posts, listening to music on Spotify, watching movies on Netflix, or tirelessly playing their favorite online games, and finding their supposedly “forever” on dating sites. These digital natives have unknowingly created an alternative universe where internet connectivity seemed to be most essential to flourish in their pseudo-ecosystems called social media where they build farms and empires; and everything could be fixed by pushing the restart button.  

Despite the digital connectivity and influx of information, people in the physical world were caught unaware, unprepared, and flatfooted as the pandemic crawled like a thief in the night. Unfortunately, a restart button is beyond grasp in the physical world. The corona virus did not plague the wireless web, but the people. The physical world came scrambling down and people have been distraught with paranoia, anxiety, and stress while the virtual world rouse in haste and noise being filled with influx of memes, fake news, and misinformation. The physical world has been redirected 360 degrees where social distancing, face masks, community lockdowns, home quarantines have become the new normal.

In the midst of the corona pandemic, breathing arguably seemed to be the most significant activity in life. People forgot their luxuries, titles, and statuses but their desire to at least keep breathing – to live and to be alive until the pandemic is over. They came rushing home leaving the streets almost empty of smoke belching vehicles. Industrial factories closed and for a time stopped emitting hazardous gas to the atmosphere, and wastes to the water systems. And all these allowed the Earth to breathe, too.

Into weeks of lockdown and community quarantine, while the scientific world has been in a hustle in search for vaccine, the digital space has lent platform for people to distress and to appease their paranoia especially those who have experienced “cabin fever” or those who experienced isolation, depression, and anxiety. Photos of clear metropolis skylines, green mountain ranges, magnificent sunsets against distant horizons, and colorful backyard gardens have flooded the social media world for both the digital natives’ and migrants’ delight. For a time, people have shown appreciation for farming and agriculture as potentially the only way of life in the midst of pandemic with most people living in the urban jungles seen growing vegetables in pots and bottles by their porches and windows. Those who have been enjoying the fast-paced city living crammed home to the hinterlands for fresh air and peace of mind –all for the sake of survival– and pretty much all luxuries have been reduced to the barest essential. And the digital world has had all these documented for both the digital natives and migrants to see.

The youngsters today, or the so-called digital natives, may not have stood at the frontlines to combat the dreaded disease, they must have done their part in helping the environment regain its bounty and beauty. It is in this lens that the Schools Division Office of Butuan City Youth Formation Program (YFP) in partnership with the SK Federation of Butuan City anchored its GREENvironment Challenge contest.

This competition encouraged all ButuanON Youth to showcase their values of being Makakalikasan amidst the pandemic. As an initial venture marking the 50th anniversary celebration of Earth Day in April, YFP as part of the City’s Youth Development Council came up with an online environmental contest. The participants chose their preferred platforms in exhibiting their different entries –from originally composed songs and poems to creative videos and infographics, all collectively displaying their innate talents and potentials for love and care of our environment. And this comes with the realization our physical world, the Earth, where we live can not be restored by clicking the reset or restart button.

Such activity aimed to awaken the youngsters’ social and environmental sensibilities and awareness that they too can be significant contributors to the earth’s restoration in every way possible. This competition also aimed to instill in our young digital natives’ deep care and involvement for nature, a critical response to our environment’s call for restoration that long predates the pandemic.

Now as the loss, suffering, and challenges created by the virus slowly vanish, the pandemic remains as an unprecedented wake-up call for everyone to take each day as a real opportunity to do things right especially for the environment. While our lives may not be lived the same old way as we enter the new normal – a brave new world – we can choose to leave a legacy not founded on the idea of a “reset button” but on our greater sense of humanity. We owe this world to the future generations. If we can not sustain it, the least we can do is to NOT destroy it.