By Tessa R. Salazar
Some 15 million Filipinos made a difference in making this planet a little bit more liveable when they switched off their lights and other electrical appliances for just one hour during the 2009 Earth Hour.
That singular act was equivalent to 7,491 trees planted and grown for 10 years, prevented carbon dioxide emissions from 123,984 liters of gasoline or 8,862 LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) tanks, kept 57 passenger vehicles from being driven for one year, produced 1.18 carbon emission reduction credits in a day in the Ambuklao dam.
Overall, the carbon dioxide reduction at that moment was calculated to have amounted to 292,155.45 kilograms.
In the 2009 edition of Earth Hour, the Philippines first posted the highest number of town and city participation among all countries in the global environmental advocacy event. Since then, the country has been a consistent top participant.
“What’s next after switching off the lights?” asks Custer Deocaris, founder and chair of Meatless Monday Philippines (Luntiang Lunes).
“If the same number of Filipinos switched off not just the lights but their appetites for meat even for just one day, would we generate a greater positive impact on the environment?” says the “balik-scientist” of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).
Deocaris crunched some numbers.
If 15 million Filipinos went without meat for just a day, that would be equivalent to 150,412 trees planted and grown for 10 years.
That would have prevented carbon dioxide emissions from 2,489,404 liters of gasoline or 177,941.57 LPG tanks, kept 1,150 passenger vehicles off the streets for a year, and produced 23.79 carbon emission reduction credits in a day in the Ambuklao dam. Overall, this would have reduced CO2 by 5,866,068.516 kg.
Deocaris added, with compassion being the message during the Lenten season and Easter Sunday, that these 15 million Filipinos would also have saved 1.8 million animals from cruel slaughter.
The scientist said he was prepared to defend his calculations if anybody got in touch with him at firstname.lastname@example.org, explaining that he came up with the numbers using the International Energy Agency figures as basis for conversion.
He also cited as references the Inventory of US Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Sinks, the US Environmental Protection Agency.
According to the DOST-Food and Nutrition Research Institute’s Philippine Food Composition, replacing protein derived from beef, chicken and pork by soya beans could reduce CO2 emission, he said.
Deocaris lamented that despite the Philippines being the second richest in terms of plant biodiversity with more than 250 varieties of indigenous vegetables, Filipinos continued to eat disproportionately large amounts of meat and accounted for one of the lowest intakes of vegetables in the world.
Ranked the 12th most populous country, the Philippines “has the capacity as a nation to foment a powerful revolution against climate change right on the dinner tables of 18.5 million Filipino families,” Deocaris said.
Meat production has been identified as one of the most significant contributors to climate change.
Livestock farming also accounts for the use and pollution of 70 percent of global freshwater and 38 percent of land-use conversion.
Seventy percent of the Amazon Rainforest, for instance, has already been cleared for grazing and feed crop production.
It takes about 12,000 liters of water to produce 1 kg of beef, compared with just 850 liters to produce the same weight of wheat.
Industries which have been pinpointed as the main producers of greenhouse gases—from oil to construction to manufacturing—have been urged to switch to more sustainable practices, and use more Earth-friendly materials.
But that doesn’t mean individual acts don’t count.
Climatologists predict that by 2050, global temperature will rise by 2 degrees Celsius, unleashing a catastrophic climate change of a magnitude that threatens humanity.
That may still be a good 38 years away, but some Filipinos are doing what they can now.
Breast-feeding expert Nona Andaya Castillo, founding director of the Nurturers of the Earth, said she would probably be still alive in 2050 (aged 87) because her daily meals nowadays consisted of indigenous raw vegetables, sea vegetables, fruits and grains, with no dairy and animal protein.
She said she had been on this diet since 1991, reversing 12 of her diseases along the way.
Castillo cited an article in The Guardian that reported a United Nations Environment Programme analysis stating that as the global population surged toward a predicted 9.1 billion by 2050, Western tastes for diets rich in meat and dairy products would be unsustainable.
The story says: “Animal products cause more damage than (producing) construction minerals such as sand or cement, plastics or metals. Biomass and crops for animals are as damaging as (burning) fossil fuels.”
Deocaris, who would be 77 in 2050, said he had been a vegetarian for more than 30 years for reasons that included “putting an end to animal farming.”
“To sustain a population of 7 billion (humans) means not just providing resources for such a huge number of people, but we need to consider, too, space, food, water and energy for the 1.5 billion cattle, 20 billion chickens and 2 billion pigs that people will eat,” he said.