Nature cannot wait
The mentality that humans rule the world is our downfall. The signs of an overstressed planetary system are obvious, even to those without a scientific background. The people with the least carbon footprint, ironically the first suffering victims of environmental degradation and calamities, like the indigenous peoples, the farmers and the fisherfolk, know the world is no longer what their forebears had, where the future of the generations thereafter was always uppermost in their day-to-day decisions.
Each preceding year has been declared the hottest in this planet’s existence. The aberrant weather condition should already compel us to look at ourselves closely and act fast to save our home planet from our destructive lifestyle choices.
Truth can be painful. Many, especially those in positions of so-called “power” and influence, are still in denial that we are facing a real survival crisis. Can our country handle the impacts of climate change in vastly degraded ecosystems, being a disaster epicenter at that, amid the poverty and population issues that we are confronted with?
Government policies are even at odds and add to the state of uncertainty. National government wants local government units that banned open pit mining to kowtow to their vision of a vigorous mining industry. Yet, officials proclaim the goal for inclusive and sustainable growth under the Philippine Development Plan which requires people’s participation at each level of decision-making process, a right guaranteed by the Constitution and which all must respect. Largely, the environment and the people are treated as collateral damage in the pursuit of economic development and in the obsession with unsustainable activities like fossil fuels use, mining and reclamation.
The Aquino administration’s penchant for carbon-dioxide emitting coal is worrisome. There is no law specifically regulating such a highly hazardous and destructive material, except the Clean Air Act which defines a “fly ash” as a pollutant and a Department of Health Circular on handling hazardous coal spills and coal ash.
Do all realize that every ton of carbon emission in the atmosphere puts this country in harm’s way as we are the natural laboratory for disasters? Yet, coal power plants are being built in record numbers. Conveniently forgetting the clear mandate to prioritize our rights to life, health and a healthy environment and to mainstream renewable energy, the President, who is ironically the Chairman of the Philippine Climate Change Commission, is providing an example of a government lacking the needed climate leadership to steer our country into the sustainable path of development.
As in the times of his predecessors, environmental laws meant to protect life’s elements, species and their habitats and the people are still not enforced. Government agencies tasked with administering these laws still have difficulty performing their functions, specifically in implementing and harmonizing state policies on ecological integrity and sustainable development.
Worse, no one is held liable except, ironically, the brave and courageous few citizens, who dare hold negligent public officials accountable for their misdeeds or gross dereliction of duties.
Not only do we have a dysfunctional system, where the culture of impunity prevails, we are lulled into pretending that Nature has the patience to wait like a Mother for prodigal children to change. But, as we must realize now, nature cannot forever wait. It unleashes the consequences where everyone, including the innocent children, will have no choice but to be ready for.
Scientists have long warned governments that the changes might be irreversible, if we do not change our ways now. At the local scene, the Metropolitan Cebu Water District is alerting stakeholders of a depleted water reserve because the Jaclupan River has dried up. Will this development move us to action? A very reliable water management expert confided that the last time an assessment was made of the state of our waters in Cebu was during the time of the former Governor Emilio Osmeña, in the 1990s. Is this lack of action characterized as complacency or downright indifference? The continuing disconnect of humans to nature is most appalling.
The recent case in point is the Yellow submarine fiasco in Cebu, headline-hogging news. The Beatles would have been aghast to know that their world famous song was instantly transformed into a vision of “ignominy” on the minds of citizens who care for the natural world. The “Yellow Submarine” is now known as the coral crusher.
Considering it is the first of such kind in the country, not only prudence but our laws dictate a thorough study, scrutiny and evaluation of and equally as important, an inclusive process, before such an activity can be pursued. Was there even a sanggunian ordinance regulating and allowing such a pioneering activity that has profound environmental and public safety implications? Did the local governments and the national agencies have a baseline data on the state of the ecosystems and the means of monitoring the activity beneath the surface of the sea?
At the very least, did our public officials even take into consideration that the entire country’s corals have been so badly managed and mangled that our considered pristine coral cover now hovers between one to five percent?
How could a permit of a pioneering endeavor be granted based solely on the safety evaluation of a foreign government? Are we bereft of the competence, prudence and strong sense of responsibility to protect our people and our seas?
With the way things are, the change will have to emanate from us, citizens, who should not tolerate standards of service which are below par and which destroy further our environment and our rights. It is time that environmental education and the essential values of responsibility, respect and compassion for life’s support system and for humans and non-humans alike, be embedded in our hearts and minds.
Remember: Nature can no longer wait.
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