TreesBy Gloria Ramos
Cebu Daily News
Was it a year ago that the head of a mountain barangay publicly suggested to quarry the mountains to prevent landslides? Recently, a local lawmaker declared in a public hearing that “trees die anyway and that streets are forever,” in reference to the controversial road widening from the cities of Naga to Carcar.
These shocking declarations emanating from our public authorities reveal an appalling lack of awareness and appreciation of the crucial roles of trees and mountains (and the sea) and the biodiversity that they host, in this vastly threatened universe. Despite the disasters that visited our country, ironically so rich with vanishing flora and fauna, they still cannot connect man’s abuse of the environment and prioritization of “economic development” over environmental considerations and social equity as the main culprit.
Adaptation to and mitigation of the effects of climate change are still not in the radar screen of our public officials. Despite the country being globally recognized as one of the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, and the corresponding laws and the adoption of the National Framework and Action Plan to Climate Change that Congress and the Executive Department crafted, by way of response, at the local level, it is still a different ball game. It is still patronage politics revealing its ugly head. If a congressman or a governor or a mayor wants a project, it should be done, despite the implementing agency’s failure to comply with procedural requirements of public consultation and permits.
With the trees’ status as our natural heritage, climate change and the National Greening program of the Aquino administration, it is simply unfathomable that century and fruit-bearing trees in the Naga-Carcar highway are targets of destruction. It is not as if there are no alternative measures that can be done to protect them. Our experts from the Movement for Livable Cebu are willing to share their assistance in this regard.
If ecosystem services provided by these trees are factored in, it is definitely more sustainable in the long term. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Public Works and Highways should include the value of the services that our trees perform for us to have better quality of life. We cannot afford to think that we do not need them,because trees
1. Produce oxygen, which we humans cannot do without
2. Clean the soil by filtering the sewage and chemicals, reduce the effects of animal wastes, clean roadside spills and clean water runoff into streams.
3. Control noise pollution
4. Slow storm water runoff
5. Carbon sinks, thus mitigating the effects of climate change
6. Clean the air, especially in Naga which hosts industries that emit pollutants
7. Shade and cool.
8. Act as windbreaks
9. Fight soil erosion
10. Even increase property values (http://forestry.about.com/od/treephysiology/tp/tree_value.htm.)
Let us not forget that Executive Order No. 192 reorganizing the DENR declares as a State policy “to ensure the sustainable use, development, management, renewal and conservation of the country’s forest, mineral, land, off-shore areas and other natural resources, including the protection and enhancement of the quality of the environment, and equitable access of the different segments of the population to the development and use of the country’s natural resources, not only for the present generation but for future generations as well. It is also the policy of the state to recognize and apply a true value system including social and environmental cost implications relative to their utilization, development and conservation of our natural resources.”
The urgent need for environmental ethics and education, especially among our children and public officials, can never be overemphasized. Environmental education is mandatory in both formal and informal courses and in all courses. This can be part of the orientation trainings that public officials undergo before they take their oath of office.
Among the courses that should be included is Environmental Ethics which is “the discipline in philosophy that studies the moral relationship of human beings to, and also the value and moral status of, the environment and its nonhuman contents.” Our human-centered thinking is our downfall.
Unlike the indigenous peoples and in countries with a high level of awareness and close relationship with nature, our consumerism lifestyle which requires a destruction of the natural world, and our failure to acknowledge that we are just among the various species in the vast network of ecosystems, might just doom our civilization to collapse, as it did in Angkor Wat, Maya and other civilizations.
The dreadful signs are staring at us in the face, for us to do something about it—and act fast. Cutting the heritage and fruit-bearing trees is not the way to go. It is simply not an option.
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Potential waste-to-energy technology (WTE) projects seem to be mushrooming in the country. We at Philippine Earth Justice Center, Inc. and Eco-waste Coalition request the DENR to engage the various stakeholders in a series of public consultations for the people to be appraised what it is, its health and environmental consequences and possible violations of our laws against incineration and solid waste management. Following the precautionary principle, no WTE facility should be allowed to operate without these essential consultations and implementing rules and regulations issued by the DENR.
Absent such requirements, it is prudent for local government units not to jump into the WTE bandwagon as yet as they are primarily responsible for the protection of the health and safety of their constituents in maintaining a healthful and balanced ecology and in the enforcement of anti-pollution laws.
More from this Column:
- Public participation and political dynasties
- Being green
- Nature cannot wait
- The stirring journey of Jireh
- Rediscovering our paradise in an ailing planet