Climate Change Controversy

Contrary to common notion, science does not always arrive at conclusions as absolute truths. Although concrete empirical evidences are the best proofs, the interpretations of these proofs are subject to consensus. In spite of the rigorous testing, experimentation, data collection, and peer reviews, scientific theories are not always established as facts. There are some scientific issues that remain to be controversial. It seems that scientists are divided into camps when it comes to some important issues. The issue of climate change is one of the hotly debated issues today. Although all scientists agree that there is indeed significant change in the climate, they do not agree on what is causing it.

However, most experts assert that the main cause of global warming can be traced to human activities, particularly the burning of fossil fuel. On the other hand, there are some heretics that oppose this human factor theory. These scientists also have their voluminous pile of confirmable data to support their assertions. They are pointing out to the fact that the earth had already undergone dramatic climate changes in the past, long before humans existed. Some factors that are being examined for periodic and dramatic climate change are the sun’s activity, ocean’s currents, volcanic activities, and cosmic rays. It has also been noted that the correlation between the amount of carbon dioxide and high global temperature and other greenhouse gases may not necessarily have a cause and effect relationship. At worst, the cause and effect relationship might be reverse. The high temperature is causing greenhouse gases from natural sources to be released into the atmosphere.

Since Al Gore and the IPCC have been awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace, the world awareness on climate changed has risen. The efforts of Al Gore to propagate climate change awareness have earned him global recognition as a serious environmental advocate. His most notable work was the film documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth.” Although the film itself has received international awards, there are some critics who pointed out the obvious biases in the way the film documentary was presented. Some critics dismissed the film as an outright propaganda material and money-making venture to further Al Gore’s political agenda. The film documentary fed on the fears of people by presenting a doomsday scenario. The supposedly scientific facts presented were grossly exaggerated and misleading. Some theories and assumptions were even presented as facts. Al Gore might have political agenda under his sleeves but the recognition of his efforts has resulted in global awareness and actions. Al Gore became the high-priest and global preacher of the gospel about climate change. Some politicians are now riding in the bandwagon.

In the Philippines, the politician most notable for riding with the bandwagon of climate change politics is Governor Joey Sarte Salceda of the province of Albay. He even formed an office that will focus on his policies related to climate change. This office is the Center for Initiatives and Research in Climate Change Adaptation (CIRCA). Like Al Gore, Governor Salceda is not an expert on climate change. He is not even a noted environmentalist. He is an expert in economics. Whatever the real intention of Governor Salceda in his present environmental advocacy, it seems that it is benefiting Albay Province. This province is now declared as the pilot province for a national program on climate change adaptation and mitigation. Funds poured in the province as a result. The areas of agriculture, infrastructure, and education are the concerns of the said program. National and international conferences were already held in Albay regarding climate change. Since the devastation of typhoon Reming in 2006, climate change has become a real issue in Albay that is now being addressed. Hopefully, the people of Albay are the ones that will truly benefit from the initiatives of the local government. On the other hand, if Governor Salceda is really serious in proving his sincerity about his environmental cause, perhaps it would not be a very big sacrifice if he will give up his cigarette smoking.

September 20, 2008 at 5:47 pm Leave a comment

Stored Sunlight

For about 100,000 years of existence of the Homo sapien sapien as a species, it only reached its one billion population mark in the last 200 years. For many millennia, human population has stayed below one billion. Since the 1800’s, human population has been steadily increasing in an exponential rate. It is not a mere coincidence that this population growth has reached its sudden explosion alongside with the Industrial Revolution. When humans learned a new way of producing goods in a massive scale, it resulted in product surpluses. Efficient food production and better medicine meant longer lifespan and better opportunity to reproduce. The Industrial Revolution also brought fort the rapid development and expansions of cities.

Greater bulk of products available meant greater population can be supported. On the other hand, the rapidly increasing population meant greater demand for goods. This has become a vicious cycle that resulted to unsustainable growth. Mass production supported the ever increasing population while the population created insatiable demands for products. Although it brought prosperity and comfort, it also resulted in many problems that we are facing today. Mass production and large population require tremendous amount of energy. Somewhere along the process, too much bulk of wastes is produced. Nonrenewable sources of energy are continually being depleted just to maintain this process.

In ancient times, long before the invention of the steam engine and petroleum-powered machines, human population is supported by renewable energy. The radiant energy of the sun is the main source of this renewable energy. Humans were dependent on the daily energy coming from the sun. Humans were not yet capable of exceeding the daily energy quota provided by the sun. For instance, a hectare of wheat field can only produce certain amount of grain based on the sunlight it receives throughout the year. This biomass of wheat grain can only be converted into certain amount of human biomass. The level of production was still within the subsistence level. Surplus products were rare.

However, when civilization learned how to utilize fossil fuel, the efficiency of production dramatically increased. The distribution of these products was also made convenient by the invention of engine-powered vehicles. Hence, products became easily available to the masses. The use of fossil fuel made it possible to produce more food, improve health care, and increase mobility. These paved the way to the creation of cities. All of these resulted in the sudden increase in population. Humans became free from the bondage of daily energy quota of the sun. Humans learned how to utilize ancient stored sunlight.

This stored sunlight is in the form of fossil fuel. The sunlight energy stored by primeval forests, sea creatures, and land fauna became the fossil fuel. Ancient biomass was compacted under tremendous pressure and temperature for millions of years. This biomass turned into hydrocarbons as a result. The sunlight energy stored in this fossil fuel is now sustaining factories, power plants, and automobiles. Every time you turn the ignition key of your car, you are actually burning remnants of extinct biodiversity. The remains of prehistoric forests and fauna are literally being burned. It took millions of years for the fossil fuel to be formed but it only takes a few seconds for it to be burned.

Fossil fuel provided energy surplus to support the exponential population growth. But this energy is not sustainable. Fossil fuel is predicted to be totally depleted within a century. If this happens a sudden crash in the economic and political systems is expected. The world is facing yet another global war. Since industries are dependent on fossil fuel, economic tension will become worse as the supply of fossil fuel continues to be depleted. Petroleum will steadily become a coveted and rare commodity. As fossil fuel becomes rarer, world instability will increase.

August 5, 2008 at 8:08 am 2 comments

Human Society and Consumerism

Human society is a very complex society. It is far more complex and intricate than anything that can be found in nature. It is more complicated than a beehive, an ant colony, coral reef, or a termite community. Unlike other animal societies, human society retains the individuality of its members. It is also a highly flexible society. Although it has highly specialized sectors, its members can easily change roles. Its individual members can even have multiple roles at the same time. Unlike other animal societies, human society is very dynamic. It evolves faster than its individual members. It has evolved to cater not only to mere survival of its members but also to artistic and scientific pursuits. It has become sophisticated enough to appreciate the beauty and grandeur of nature. It is capable of understanding the very fabric of the universe itself. It is capable of reflecting unto itself. It is the only society that has the concept of future. It is capable of learning and passing down its knowledge from one generation to the next.

On the other hand, sophisticated as it is, human society is far from being perfect. It is still striving to achieve utopian ideals. Despite of its wealth, many of its members are still not benefiting from its progress. Its distribution of resources is inefficient. It is ironic that in the midst of plenty, many are still hungry and are barely able to survive. Scarcity is not the problem but the way wealth and resources are distributed. It is a society that is based on consumerism. Only those who have the capacity to buy are the ones that benefit most from the products and services that it produces. Good quality of life is accessible only to a minority. There are even sectors of this society that do not even have access to basic survival needs.

Consumerism as an economic system of the human society is an unjust and inefficient system. It is a system that is not anymore based on actual needs but rather on artificial wants. These are wants created by the mass media. People are not anymore eating merely to satisfy their hunger. They eat to satisfy their palate. People are not anymore wearing clothes as protection against the weather. They are wearing clothes to show-off. The more expensive a piece of clothing, the more desirable it becomes even if it is not anymore practical to wear. Some people are building houses not anymore to serve as shelters. They build houses to showcase their success or exhibit their wealth. It is really hard to understand why the broom closets of some mansions need to be more expensive than the shacks along river banks occupied by at least six-member families each.

Consumerism is not based on needs but based on greed. It fuels the individual desires to have more possessions even if these possessions are not anymore necessary and only become burdens. Ironically, consumerism produced communication technologies but it has made communication gaps become wider. To some extent, computers, cellular phones, and the internet paradoxically isolated individuals rather than making them more cohesive. Some people have lost the capacity to communicate in an individual or personal level. Gadgets seemed to have made some people numb about other people.

On the other hand, consumerism has impact not only on the social behaviors of people but also on the biosphere itself. Consumerism is taking too much from natural resources and converting these raw materials into unnecessary but coveted products. Hence, natural resources are depleted much faster than it is being replenished. Some resources are not even renewable. Consumerism is taking too much from nature without replenishing it. At the same time, it is also dumping waste in the process. Unlike other systems, such as a forest or a coral reef, the resources are not effectively used and recycled by the human society. Balance is therefore not preserved. Consumerism is the complete opposite of the natural order.

Take for instance the case of the automobile industry. It is an industry being sustained by the mining the earth of petroleum and metal. Petroleum products end up polluting the air as they are converted to greenhouse gases. On the other hand, the metal parts of the automobiles end up rusting in junkyards. Although some of these metals are recycled, large bulk of these materials are lost to oxidation. Just imagine how many tons of rocks and soil have to be removed just to produce the metals needed for car production. Just imagine how much river, lake, or ocean siltation it causes. On the other hand, some of the materials used in cars are not recyclable. Materials such as polymers and fiber glass end up in some landfills, waiting millennia to be decomposed.

Consumerism resulted to the mass production of surplus products that eventually end up as garbage. Every time you shop, you contribute to the piling up of garbage. The irony of this is that most of these products benefit only very few people in spite of their abundance. Significant amount of these products are only wasted. To prove this concept, just visit the food court of a nearby mall. Observe how much food end up in the garbage bin.

Human society is a sophisticated society. However, it is not sophisticated enough to provide for all its members. It is not sophisticated enough to be capable of optimizing resources without too much non-recyclable waste. When it comes to this aspect, an ant colony can be considered to be a far more efficient and just society.

July 19, 2008 at 11:00 am 5 comments

Policy Intervention

Policy intervention is just one of the many strategies that can be used for the cause of the environment. Since the government is a powerful agent of change, influencing its policies can have great impact. Just like many other issues, environmentalism has a political dimension. This does not necessarily require getting elected to a political position. Even ordinary citizens or groups can have a voice. YPEC is fortunate to be given the opportunity to have a voice to participate in the legislative process of Legazpi City.

For the past three months YPEC has been actively participating in the committee and public hearing deliberations of the Sangguniang Panlunsod on matters that have environmental significance. So far, YPEC has significantly contributed in drafting two proposed city ordinances. These ordinances are the Anti-Littering Ordinance and the River Protection Ordinance. The first proposed ordinance is now approved by the city council and has the full status of a local law. Meanwhile the second proposed ordinance is still undergoing a series of public hearings.

The participation of YPEC in local legislation is made possible through the help of Councilor Rolly Rosal. He has given the organization the privilege to be regularly invited to the city legislative deliberations. He also encouraged the organization to apply to the Legazpi City Planning and Development Council (LCPDC). On the other hand, the organization is also seeking representation to the provincial government through the environmental protection committee of the provincial board.

Aside from legislative participation, YPEC is also seeking to participate in the actual implementation of environment-related ordinances. For instance, the organization has arranged an appointment meeting with the city mayor to discuss the possibility of the organization being part of special taskforces created by the city chief executive. One of these taskforces is the Anti-Smoking Taskforce. YPEC seeks to participate as the monitoring and information-dissemination arm of the said taskforce.

YPEC is also actively involved in the issue of climate change. The organization was given the opportunity to be part of the organizing committee of the recently concluded First Scientists Round Table Conference on Climate Change held in Legazpi City. This privilege was granted by the Albay CIRCA (Center for Initiatives and Research on Climate Change Adaptation).

The various participations of YPEC in government policy interventions is a proof that environmental activism does not necessarily entail protest rallies. The organization believes that participatory governance is the best way of pursuing environmental advocacies. Participating in government legislations and programs is far more effective than holding piquet lines or hoisting indignation streamers. Having a voice in government does not necessarily entail shouting indignations. YPEC considers the parliament of the streets only as a last resort.

July 16, 2008 at 11:45 pm 1 comment

Saltwater

By Julian Lennon
(Download MP3)

Verse 1:
E
We are a rock revolving
Emaj7
Around the golden sun
E7-A
We are a billion children rolled into one
Am-E-C#m
So when I hear about the hole in the sky
C-D-E
Saltwater wells in my eyes

Verse 2:
E
We climb the highest mountains
Emaj7
We make the desert bloom
E7-A
We’re so ingenious we can walk on the moon
Am-E-C#m
But when I hear of how the forests have died
C-D-E
Saltwater wells in my eyes

Chorus:
Abm-A
I have lived for love
Abm-A
But now that’s not enough
C#m
For the world I love is dying (and now I’m crying)
Abm-A
Time is not a friend (no friend of mine)
Abm-A
As friends we’re out of time
C#m-C#m7-F#
And it’s slowly passing by…
A
(slow strum)
Right before our eyes

Verse 3:
E
We light the deepest ocean
Emaj7
Send photographs of Mars
E7-A
We’re so enchanted by how clever we are
Am-E-C#m
Why should one baby be so hungry it cries
C-D-E
Salt water wells in my eyes

Verse 4:
E
We are a rock revolving
Emaj7
Around the golden sun
E7-A
We are a billion children rolled into one
Am-E-C#m
What will I think of me, the day that I die
C-D-E
Salt water wells in my eyes

May 31, 2008 at 1:10 am 1 comment

Naturally

Contributed by Heherson Juego
University of the Philippines
Los Baños, Laguna

Just recently, I’ve heard the news about the Greenpeace flagship “Rainbow Warrior” blocking a coal shipment in Quezon Province. It was a part of an environmental crusade against the use of coal which, apparently, besieged a power plant run by Team Energy Philippines in Pagbilao. At the end of it all, the vessel lifted its anchor and sailed away. That was, of course, after the group understood that they have already sent their message across. The ‘damage’ has been done, as it can be said. No need to rub more salt on wound.

One thing I find interesting about that part of the environmental group’s crusade is that it was willing to go the extra mile, literally and figuratively, in nailing the message they brought with them to those who need a good hammering the most. It was quite literal in the sense that, instead of sailing straight to Manila, the group and its ship took the extra route of heading to Quezon. It, too, was quite figurative in the sense that they resisted the limits imposed by the law on any cruising naval vessel in this nation by squatting, or floating, whichever way you call it, on a region of our waters without heeding first the demands of the law. Yet the most interesting thing about this is that neither the enforcers of the law nor the security enforcers of the power plant were perfectly able to drive the group away.

It was the group’s volition or their own understanding that they have already been able to accomplish their mission that prompted them to lift the anchor, and so the voyage back to the open arms of the sea.

Which altogether makes me wonder: must we resort to going beyond the dictates of the law just to preserve the environment, or at least to temporarily awaken the sleeping senses of both authorities and civilians in the face of the monumental environmental degradations that stare us straight in the eye?

Of course, it does not take an Einstein to figure that going beyond the dictates of the laws of man is illegal, is proscribed, and warrants sanctions in more ways than one. That is founded on the idea that the laws of man, let alone our laws, perfectly fit the mold. It assumes that our laws have not grown irrelevant in this modern or post-modern time as some people will call it. It assumes that our laws have not been reduced to obscurity by the struggles of the generations here and now, and there and before — or perhaps not yet, given a few decades to a full blown century.

Must we resort to going beyond the dictates of the law just to preserve the environment, or at least to temporarily awaken the sleeping senses?”

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: what counts as legal may not necessarily amount to what is just. This is why laws have to be amended, or revised—or are threatened to being seized like a golden opportunity for a perpetual regime to thrive—every now and then even if “every now and then” translates to every change in the presidency. There, too, are cases which make you think if the drive to amend what needs to be amended or to change what needs to be changed with the laws that we have is fueled by that ingredient of justice or the lack thereof. Sometimes it becomes suspect of politicking, of a palpable and grotesque way of bending the law so as to achieve political perpetuity. Like Marcos. Like Ramos. Like Gloria. That goes without saying that fitting the mold on the cast is not only absurd. More than that, it is insane.

And more than any of those, it is one of the worst signs of injustice. Which takes us back to the basic question: must we go beyond the law just to capture that slice of justice for once and for all, if not for once or for all?

Well, for the part of Greenpeace and its flagship Rainbow Warrior, they did. They went beyond the fences of the law, striding by leaps and bounds, if only to remind us of that slice of environmental justice hanging above our noses like carrot on stick. You don’t get to see that every day, especially in a nation obsessed with power, both political and electric. You don’t get to see that every day, especially in these times of calamitous circumstances calculated with pinpoint accuracy by the wrath of nature. You only get to see Congressmen, a huge number of them, scuttling and fighting over the pieces of legal papers that they raise in the plenary hall.

Yet the legal crusade to protect the environment is not one which has seen its better days. For all we know, it is yet to see its better days. Well beyond the legal aspect of it, the ‘justice’ crusade is yet to ripen and reach its maturity. In some parts of the country, you can tell that both law and justice preserve their environment like a fragile mirror—environment reflects the kind of society that they have, let alone the kind of people that they are. In quite a larger part of this world, you can tell that either law or justice is depriving the people of their natural resources precisely because these resources either have trickled down to anorexic volumes or have vanished altogether. Worse comes to worst, one can only begin to imagine what the absence of both law and justice can do.

And worst comes to exceedingly unimaginable, the absence of people testing and braving the tricky waters of preserving what is left of us and for us is, well, exceedingly unimaginable.

I’ve always believed that nature is big enough to give everything and big enough to take away everything. With a sweeping moment without warning, us unable to take notice of whatever fateful way nature decides to roll its sleeves and play its tricks on us, we are literally at the mercy of nature’s kindness and nature’s wrath.

Must we resort to extra-legal measures in order to raise heaven on what has become hell for some people? Hell indeed, if it takes a thousand Rainbow Warriors just to give us more reasons to live and to breathe the kind of air that we all need instead of giving us more reasons to breathe our own intestinal flatulence apart from the smoke from metal pipes, then amen to that. What good are laws when it promotes injustice in horrendous proportions? What good are lawmakers when they rub more salt on wound, set apart from the rest of human civility by their own doing of not walking the talk? Indeed, it makes us rethink of who is doing more injustice: those who brave the law and suspend it by their own hands for a taste of environmental justice, or those who enact laws and live a life quite differently from what they preach, not knowing what is left from is right, or with what is left, or remaining, of the environment from what is the right thing to do?

Your guess is as good as mine.

May 27, 2008 at 12:32 am Leave a comment

NEWS Feature: YPEC’s Participation in City Legislation

By Joseph Benedict

In lieu of the global concern of saving our environment, the City Government of Legazpi, consistent with its program as a developing city, promulgates some measures to join such concerns.

In connection with this, the Young Professional Environmental Club, as a duly organized body with the objective of helping also abides with such concern. To help the city where this organization was founded, YPEC seeks to help the Legazpi City Council promulgate an ordinance with the purpose of reducing the waste production throughout the city.

In doing so, YPEC Officers in coordination with Hon. City Councilor Rolly E. Rosal, Chairman for the Committee of Environment, Legazpi City Council have suggested that the proposed ordinance be scrutinized by the club. This would allow the club officers to suggest some things for the improvement of the said ordinance. Here are some of the recommendations/suggestions:

a. the proposed City Ordinance entitled AN ORDINANCE PROHIBITING THE DISPOSAL OF HUMAN AND ANIMAL EXCRETA AND EGESTA, CLINICAL, AND OTHER WASTES FROM HOSPITALS, CLINICS AND OTHER SIMILAR ESTABLISHMENTS, OBSTRUCTION OF WATERWAYS AND DUMPING INTO BODIES OF WATER, REQUIRING CERTAIN PERSONS, INSTITUTIONS, COMMERCIAL AND INDUSTRIAL ESTABLISHMENTS, LAND, AIR AND SEA TRANSPORTATION COMPANIES, PUBLIC AND PRIVATE UTILITY VEHICLES TO PROVIDE GARBAGE RECEPTACLES FOR REFFUSE AND THROWING LITTER AND GARBAGE OUT OF MOVING PRIVATE AND PUBLIC UTILITY VEHICLES, AND PROVIDING PENALTIES FOR THE VIOLATION THEREOF AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES should have an alternative title Anti-Littering Ordinance or Solid Waste Management Ordinance.

b. Section 2:21-22 of the proposed City Ordinance should also include the delegation of duties to Environmental Organizations, Public Safety Personnel, and Policemen.

c. Section 3 of the said City Ordinance should also state the budget, its source and its management for the implementation of this legislation.

d. Section 8 should impose higher fines in case of violations of the discussed Ordinance.

e. Also for uniformity of fines, the Ordinance should make the computation of fines 10% of the monthly income for big establishments. Furthermore, this Section should state also how many times a violator should do such violative acts before the punishment of Non-Renewal of Business Permit could be implemented.

f. Section 10 should include where the cost for rehabilitation of a particular affected area will come from.

g. Things like information dissemination should be clearly stated in the ordinance as well as the inclusion of NGOs in such undertaking.

On April 29, 2008, a Public Hearing was held at the Sangguniang Panglusod Session Hall, Legazpi City Hall Complex with attendees that included community health practitioners, hospital administrators, mall and restaurant managers, officials from different barangays, youth, CENRO, NGOs, media practitioners, academe, city veterinarian, and PNP. The following recommendations were presented and discussed:

a. Apprehension – citizen arrest can be applied and the person caught will be subjected to payment of fines and/or seminar.

b. Garbage receptacles should be increased in numbers throughout the city.

c. Billboards and signages should be used in terms of information dissemination.

d. The City Government should do separate collection of hospital wastes and other toxic elements.

e. The Committee on Education should include in their program massive information dissemination about this proposed City Ordinance.

f. The conduct of Seminars or community service on violators of this Ordinance.

g. Improved garbage collection – garbage trucks should have covers in order not to add to pollution.

h. In case a minor is apprehended for violation of this Ordinance, he/she shall be referred to DSWD for proper guidance.

April 30, 2008 at 6:27 am Leave a comment

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