Children and climate change

A special focus on children must be given when addressing the issue of climate change. According to this article in Our World, children in East Asia are more vulnerable to climate change than adults for the following reasons:

1) In terms of health, children are physically weaker because they have less developed bodies than adults

2) Psychologically, children are also easily affected because of their age and limited life experience

3) Social impacts of climate change also affect children especially in education, as children are usually forced by parents of families hit by natural disasters to quit schooling in order to help the family rebuild their lives.

The article gives a ray of hope, though, because it points out that children are optimistic about facing climate change and doing something about it. Some possess knowledge on how the physical impacts of climate change are related with institutional and social impacts.

Moreover, the article also reminds us that educating children early on about the environment develops their love and concern for it, which in turn, will motivate them to protect our world.


Preference for eco-friendly products is on the rise in SG

This article from Channel News Asia says that preference for eco-friendly products is on the rise in Singapore. That’s good news!

The article cautions, though, that eco-friendly consciousness “will take a long time”.  Also, the preference for green products seems to be primary motivated by economic factors, such as saving energy. It’s good to note, though, that “eco-retail, fashion, food and beverage are also on the rise, even if slowly.”

Let’s also hope, too, that this won’t lead to the phenomenon known as greenwashing. Fingers crossed!

Food security in an unsecure environment (A lecture video)

I’m sharing with you a lecture video on “Food Security in an Unsecure Environment” held during the SC Johnson-Ateneo Environmental Leadership Forum at the Ateneo de Manila University on September 9, 2011. Enjoy! It’s Blog Action Day 2011! #BAD11

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

March 8 is International Women’s Day!

It’s a special day for women tomorrow. As I write this, I am thinking of the women that my Environment, Culture and Society class met a few weeks ago during our fieldwork.

One of these women is Nanay Rosario of Samahang Elgancho, a People’s Organization (PO) in Naic, Cavite. Our class was lucky enough to hear her story of bravery, of going out of her comfort zone, and of encouraging other women to do the same.

According to her, it has been male fisherfolk’s habit to go drinking after each fishing expedition (“inuman”). They hold monthly meetings where each contributes P20 for drinks. This angered the wives since their husbands can contribute to drinking but none for household expenses like rice. Often, too, when money is tight, the men would have no qualms about loaning drinks from the sari-sari store themselves, but would have qualms about loaning rice, thus letting their wives do the loaning.

One day, Nanay Rosario decided to attend these monthly meetings to see what’s going on. She also found herself going with her husband to fishing expeditions, helping her husband with the fish catch. This is on top of her household duties and on top of her income-augmenting activities such as washing clothes for a fee (“labada”) and selling candies, chocolates and fish with her children.

As a member of Elgancho, she attended training by NGOs and joined mobilizations. When she realized that she was the lone woman, she encouraged the other male fisherfolk’s wives to join.

“Kapag may meeting, kapag hindi dumating ang asawa mo, ikaw ang dumalo para masawata natin ang pag-iinom,” she said.

According to Nanay Rosa, they have established a microlending system (“paluwagan”) where they contribute around P20 per month during their monthly meetings. Members use this fund to finance their children’s school expenses, to pay their electricity bills, and for other needs. Their contributions have also enabled them to supply electricity at Aplaya, to organize a sportsfest, and to establish a “bigasan” (rice store).

““Hinihikayat ko po yung mga nanay na huwag kayong manatili sa apat na sulok ng bahay ninyo. Lumabas kayo kasi pagka kayo’y nasa apat ng sulok ng bahay, nababagot kayo,” she added.

More ways Naic women contribute

Other Naic women also help their husbands augment their family income.  Some offer laundry services while some  peddle food like turon, banana cue, lumpia and rice cakes (“kakanin”). Others engage in livelihood projects taught by the local government such as candle-making. However, since the materials needed to make a candle and other livelihood products require capital which women most of the time don’t have much of, these government-taught alternative livelihoods are left untapped.

Another way that women fisherfolk help their husbands is by preparing their fishing gear before each expedition, cleaning their fish catch, and selling these at the market.

So here’s to the many ways women serve and nurture the family and society! Happy Women’s Day to all!

And do visit the World Food Programme site to learn more amazing trivia about womankind!

Bored on the Fourth of July: An exhibit of excess

Kawayan de Guia's Bored on the 4th of July

Ateneo Art Award winner Kawayan de Guia’s return exhibit “Bored on the Fourth of July” documents and depicts the artist’s reactions and experiences on seeing a country of excess. It’s the product of his solitary walk along Route 66 in America while he was, as the name of his exhibit goes, bored on the 4th of July. It’s about the land of milk and honey, and the treadmill of consumption that he saw with his very own eyes.

The artist focused on America’s seemingly insatiable drive to consume.  He also touched on the country’s heavy penchant for advertising and marketing when he paired popular tag lines with photos he took during his walk.  The artist also focused on the same consumption pattern he saw upon arriving to the Philippines.

What I like about this exhibit is how it enriches my understanding of the materialist view of the environment. From what I remember in my Environment, Culture and Society class, the materialist view of the environment zooms in on society’s patterns of production and consumption. Both production and consumption are inter-related. With slick advertising and marketing by businesses, people are led to consume more. When people consume more, demand surges, so businesses produce more. More production means more products to choose from in the market, which further fuels consumption. Eventually, you don’t know where to draw the line between production and consumption anymore.

Simply put, economics, profit maximization, and materialism make the world go round. This world view strains the earth and wipes out our resources (especially the resources of the third world countries). In this view, the earth is merely a resource to be utilized for money and material satisfaction. The materialist view does not take into account the circle of life, the sacredness of nature, nor the idea of “finding God in all things.”

Kawayan de Guia’s “Bored on the 4th of July” runs at the Ateneo Art Gallery until March 15, 2010. I also wrote an article about this exhibit at the Ateneo Website.

The key to unlocking the climate change solution

I am inclined to think that if we’ll all take time to understand the Rural and Indigenous Women’s Statement on Climate Change and be humble enough to accept it, then that’s like possessing the key to unlocking the climate change solution.

Here’s my favorite quote from the statement, because it pinpoints where environmental damage and climate change began:

We believe that climate change is a result of the historical and unsustainable exploitation and concentration of access to global natural resources by the northern countries and transnational corporations (TNCs) in the name of development.

On my second read, I realized that this is also important, because it calls for a holistic solution, and not just a solution hinging on humans managing resources as if they’re separate from nature. That is, a solution cloaked in a materialistic and purely economic view of the environment:

We confirm that mitigation and adaptation measures detached from the context and development aspirations of rural and indigenous women instead renege on commitments to biodiversity and sustainable development, poverty reduction and human rights.

We believe that any long term solution to the escalating climate crisis should acknowledge historical responsibility and ecological debt, grounded on the respect and protection of life and diversity and promote and fulfill justice and social equity between and within nations, peoples and sexes.

Why I won’t be voting for the lone environmentalist in the presidentiables list, and other Presidential Debate musings

At today’s Inquirer Presidential Debate at University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman, two candidates caught my attention in terms of their environmental views.

First was Nicky Perlas, whom I realized would make a good DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) Secretary, but not a president–well, not yet at least. See, he had clearcut answers about environment and  health  issues during the debate; but had farfetched answers on questions related to actual governance and politics. This made me unsure of his capactiy to lead a country.

I agreed with him when he said that environmental protection goes hand in hand with development. Although the time limit of the debate did not allow him to elaborate, I knew where he was coming from, especially after having read Vandana Shiva’s “Staying Alive” and David Korten’s “People Centered Development”. 

Which leads me to the second candidate whose environmental view interested me: Gibo Teodoro, who no doubt was an eloquent and astute speaker, but whose view on “sustainable mining” disturbed me. For him, sustainable mining meant that mining is permissible and acceptable as long as locals agree with it. For him, it’s just a matter of getting the ‘yes’ of locals before exploiting natural resources.

The important question to ask, though, is the WHY. That is, to determine the REASON why locals would agree to mining–to the exploitation and degradation of their land. First and foremost would be for sheer survival. In poor provinces, people permit the exploitation of their resources because of poverty and the need to feed themselves and their families. The less fortunate do not have time to contemplate the intellectual aspects of environmental destruction. Due to their hand-to-mouth existence, their concern usually is where to get their next meal. Therefore, their saying ‘YES’ to an ill-defined “sustainable mining” would stem from THE FIGHT FOR SURVIVAL and not an intellectually-charged rationale for agreement.

Needless to say, this was the question that made me eliminate Gibo Teodoro from my list of people to consider as president.

I would have wanted to vote for Nicky Perlas for his apparent sincerity and his mastery of environment and health issues, which are two of my three must-do’s (aside from education), but it is to early to entrust the whole Philippines to someone who needs more experience in governance.

In my head, I’ve also eliminated Erap Estrada (For obvious reasons–Duh!), Manny Villar (Trapo!), Jamby Madrigal (Drama Queen!), and Eddie Villanueva, who kept on harping about “moral leadership”, but who fell short on CONCRETE STEPS on how to go about it.

I was surprised to see some eloquence in Noynoy Aquino. I was amazed to hear him speak fluent and beautiful-sounding Filipino. And more importantly, his answers made sense! True, he was pretty low-profile as senator, but I’ll see how he morphs into an able presidentiable in the coming months.

I understand it’s too much to ask for presidentiables to be tree-huggers, but I hope they’ll put the environment in their platform too.  Because even before this circus of an election season came to be, climate change has arrived. It’s here. And 92 million lives are at stake.

How to save the world according to Vandana Shiva

Chipko Movement in India

This is a photo of the Chipko women in India, who pioneered the Chipko Movement in order to save their forests against greedy logging. They are the original tree-huggers.


If the world is to be conserved for survival, the human potential for conservation must be conserved first. (Vanda Shiva in Staying Alive: Women, Ecology and Development)




Environmental stuff I learned from the APS Congress

January 29 was a long day for me because I had to document the Ateneo Professional Schools (APS) Congress. It was a gathering of great minds from the fields of law, governance, medicine and business, and I was happy to be part of it even if (yeah) it was for work.

Eighteen people spoke that day, and I chose to listen to five:

  • Ateneo President Bienvenido F. Nebres, S.J. who spoke on “The Ateneo Way”
  • Ateneo Vice President for Professional Schools Alran Bengzon who explained what the APS Congress is all about
  • Pipalawan Naga, environmentalist, prime mover of Save Lake Lanao Movement and Ateneo School of Government student who spoke on “Transforming Governance for Sustainable Development”
  • Dr. Jessica Salas, president of Kahublagan Sang Panimalay Foundation, who spoke on “Mobilizing Communities for Sustainable Development”
  • Thereese Fernandez, president of Rags2Riches, Inc. who spoke on “Enterprising FOR and WITH the Poor”.

From Fr. Nebres, I learned that the deeper poverty is the lack of capability

In his talk, he asserted that poverty is the result of weak social institutions. He said that the Philippines remains poor because the government does not pay attention to the poor. Even a corrupt government like Indonesia, he said,  has managed to reduce the number of the poor by paying attention to this sector.

For Fr. Nebres, poverty is not just material poverty. Rather, he asserts that lack of capability is a deeper poverty. Beyond foreign investments, what we really need for takeoff are capabilities in terms of basic education and basic health. In other words, building human capacity is far more important than money and dole-outs in poverty alleviation and nation-building.

So I suppose then, that working in the field of education is a strategic place for me. However, the important question that Fr. Nebres asked was “Where does your heart take you?” Knowing the answer to that, I concluded to myself, is the best way to contribute to nation-building.

From Dr. Bengzon, I learned that the real value of the APS Congress is the action that follows

Dr. Bengzon, echoing what Fr. Nebres said, again stressed the importance of expanding our understanding of poverty. That is, poverty as not only the lack of material resources but  the lack of capacity and opportunity. Again, he seeks to prioritize education and health, just like what our Asian neighbors did to alleviate poverty. This expanded view of poverty is what I shall take with me as I ponder my succeeding actions.

From Mr. Naga, I learned that passing environmental laws is easy; it’s the implementation that’s the “fun part”

Mr. Naga, through his Save Lake Lanao Movement (SALLAM), was able to obtain an environmental compliance certificate in order to save this majestic lake, connected to the world famous Maria Cristina Falls and the source of water that propels the turbines of the Agus grid power plants, supplier of up to 65 percent of the total electricity needs of Mindanao.

Protecting this lake is not just a matter of survival and subsistence. For Mr. Naga and his fellow Maranaos, this lake is tied to their identity and culture. Negotiating with them thus entails cultural sensitivity. Tip: Mr. Naga said Maranaos are clannish people. They look up to their leaders for action.

From Dr. Salas, I learned that rainwater can be harvested for reuse in households…and that the Philippines has a 10-year window to save itself the effects of climate change

Dr. Salas helped mobilize the community near Tigum River in Iloilo for harvesting rainwater. This project supplied enough water to double the people’s crop yield. Rainwater harvesting, through the Coca-Cola Foundation’s rain barrel program, allowed households to store enough fresh water, too!

According to Dr. Salas, managing rainwater is necessary if we are to maximize our freshwater resource. With our denuded forests, we are facing a water crisis. We must therefore retain, recharge and reuse rainwater!

Dr. Salas also touched on climate change during her talk. She said that the Philippines is the most vulnerable in Southeast Asia as we are an archipelago. We can feel the effects by the year 2040. However, she is optimistic that we can still do something to avert the deadly effects of climate change. She cited 2010-2020 as the 10-year period where we can still prevent disaster. It’s February now. Nine years and 11 months to go!

From Reese, I learned that personal mission is the greatest propeller

Reese is a BS Management graduate (correct me if I’m wrong) who bravely took the road to social entrepreneurship despite uncertainties and being the breadwinner of her family. Her story called to mind again Fr. Nebres’ earlier question of “Where does your heart take you?” Certainly, Reese’s heart took her to working for the social enterprise Rags2Riches, helping Payatas women earn a decent income and regain their dignity while providing women like me with lovely eco-chic designer bags.

I suppose studying MA Communication, combined with my varied interests, will naturally lead me to…