Star profile
Sustainable Dreams – Chin-Chin Gutierrez



Onscreen, Chin-Chin Gutierrez, one of the Philippines’ most celebrated film stars, has recently played a sophisticated villain in a popular national soap opera. In real life, she spends a third of her time campaigning for sustainable development – from warning against climate change to digging holes and composting rubbish – and has been hailed by TIME magazine as a hero for it.

The winner of both ‘best actress’ and ‘best supporting actress’ in the Asian Television awards, among other prizes – and with an extraordinary versatility of roles, including heroines and dramatic leads – she doubles as a leading activist of the Mother Earth Foundation, a Filipino non-governmental organization which has successfully campaigned for a national Clean Air Act and waste legislation. Earlier this year she appeared on the cover of the international news magazine as a ‘hero of Asia’, for ‘using her fame to spread a message often ignored ... that there are natural resources aside from beauty and talent’.

‘I am an actress and I traffic in dreams,’ says the 29-year-old Gutierrez, who broke new ground by playing her first anti-hero in the soap, Habang Kapiling Ka. ‘A dream can be a vision of tomorrow’s reality. I think it is the duty of every citizen of the Earth to dream of a sustainable future for their country.’

She was, in a sense, born into environmental concern. Her father was a botanist. Her paternal grandfather, a pharmacologist, used to walk in the fields in his bare feet, so as not to disturb wildlife. And one of the first modern environmental books – Our Plundered Planet by Fairfield Osborn, published in 1948 – was dedicated by the author to her maternal grandfather, Solomon Arnaldo, an early director of UNESCO’s office in New York.

But it was a typhoon that first sparked her activism. Six years ago she went to a sacred mountain, Mount Banahaw, south of Manila, to research a role before playing the head of a religious sect that lived there. The typhoon delayed the arrival of the television crew and the week she spent there changed her life.

She returned to the mountain again and again – eventually spending every weekend there – to work with the local people, planting trees and cleaning up the rubbish left by tourists, ‘reminding people of the sacredness of the mountain by protecting and restoring its ecological balance’. It became a focus for the Mother Earth Foundation, where she serves as chairperson for projects.

Earlier this year she took part in a UNEP workshop on sustainable development in Bangkok. ‘It really helped me a lot,’ she says. ‘It clarified and strengthened my ideas and beliefs on sustainable development.’ And she draws extensively on UNEP’s GEO3 report for educational work, visiting local communities to explain the concept of ecological footprints.

Global warming
For example she uses facts on the shrinking of the world’s glaciers to introduce climate change. ‘The indicators of climate change tell us that we human beings have no choice but to grow up. The Earth can live another one and a half billion years, but maybe the human species will not survive global warming. We have enough information, but do we have enough will to do what is needed?

‘I dream of the curse of poverty being lifted from the majority of Filipinos. Poverty is the biggest obstacle to sustainable development. The tragedy of environmental deterioration in the Philippines is compounded by the realization that it is the majority of the population that lives below the poverty line that depends on biodiversity for food and shelter. Thus – to adapt a thought by Paul Hawken, one of the writers who has most influenced me – the environmental movement in the Philippines must transform itself from a struggle to save the Earth to a struggle to defend human rights: the right to food, the right to livelihood, the rights to culture, community and self-sufficiency’


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PHOTOGRAPH: Olivier Laude


This issue:
Contents | Editorial | Key to development | The energy challenge | Plant power | Bioenergy: doing well while doing right | New energy for development | People | Delivering Change | Benign growth | Green energy | At a glance: Energy | Sustainable Dreams | Brightening the future | Greening oil | Blue-sky thinking | Books & products | New energy to assault poverty | New energy entrepreneurs | Time to get serious | Breaking the ice | In my lifetime – 100% renewable| Slimming the waste

Complementary issues:
WSSD, 2002
Poverty Health and the Environment, 2001
Climate and Action, 1998
Climate Change, 1997


AAAS Atlas of Population and Environment:
Natural Resources
Air Pollution
Climate Change