How Asia’s air pollution spreads across Earth

I saw this interesting video on how Asia’s air pollution spreads across Earth. I’m posting this here because I live in Asia—and a tropical country at that! And when you watch Hollywood disaster movies from recent years, tropical countries like the Philippines almost always gets immediately wiped out when doomsday comes. Not only are we vulnerable in Hollywood, we are vulnerable in real life, as well. Case in point: Stronger typhoons in the Philippines year after year. Onday. Haiyan. What’s next?

According to this Salon.com article titled

“Frightening video shows Asia’s air pollution spread across Earth”

this video from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, taken from 2006 to 2007, shows how aerosols travel via wind patterns across the planet. This results to stronger cyclones especially in tropical countries. How? When more water condenses onto the increased aerosols, this action releases more energy and eventually creates stronger Pacific storms.

Scary.

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!

The Organic Geek as a Headless Chicken

This is the familiar story of bloggers getting busy with other things in their offline life. They get busy, so they blog less. And that’s what happened to me, more or less.

The first semester of my second-to-the-last year in grad school is proving to be my most challenging yet. Not even the weekly papers I am required to churn out in my Environment, Culture and Society class a few semester ago can compare.

International Relations (IR), an elective I’m taking this semester, is much harder. Since my IR background is nil, I have to work double time to catch up with my classmates. There are around 100 pages worth of required readings each week. Additional readings on current events has to be done, too, to be able to participate in class discussions. And then there are the papers I have to research for and write.

My International Reporting class is about to start on Monday. Aside from required readings, additional reading on current events has to be done, too, to substantiate class discussions. There are also weekly writing activities and mini researches.

Ah, and then there’s my full-time work as well as my upcoming volunteer work, so good luck to me and my sanity!

But I shouldn’t complain, really. After all, learning these things is a dream I’m making a reality. I can’t really save the world from impending climate change, but I can at least help explore solutions through my own expertise, right?

Anyway, these should have been my blog entries the past weeks:

1. Tried and Tested: Human Nature Natural Deodorant – I love how it allows me to sweat naturally without the icky body odor. The rosemary scent gives a girly vibe, too.

2. About to Try: Planters Organic Laundry Detergent – I bought this at Sesou in Trinoma yesterday and I’m excited to try it. The box says I can even use it to clean the bathroom! Let’s see how multi-tasking this product really is.

3. Tried and Tested: Human Nature Strengthening Shampoo with Rosemary Scent – Rosemary scent rocks! It makes my nightly showers extra-soothing and refreshing.

4. Tried and Tested: Human Nature Choco-Vanilla Lip Balm – Ah, this one disappointed me a little. Whenever I glide the tube to my lips, it feels like I am swiping candle on my lips–totally not cool. It seems to be short on oil and moisturizers, unlike the Human Nature Mandarin Lip Balm which I love!

5. Rags2Riches Tree Bag – RIIR’s new tree bag is light enough to carry and roomy enough to put my things in. I would love to buy this—as soon as I get extra money!

Reusable Water Bottle: A summer must-have

The summers of our childhood are gone. If before, all we needed were a fan and a big bowl of halo-halo with lots of shaved ice and a scoop or two of ube ice cream on top to keep us cool, these days not even an air conditioner’s coldest setting can beat the heat.  When we go out, the sun stings our skin and we get instantly thirsty. That’s why I’ve taken to bringing a water bottle when I know I’m going to be out and about for quite some time. Climate change is here and adaptation is the order of the day. So get a water bottle and fill it up with fresh water when you go outside. You don’t necessarily have to buy one, though. I noticed that it has become fashionable for companies to give water bottles as corporate giveaways. When you receive one, use it instead of buying another one. Not only will you save money, you will also get to practice restraint in a consumerist world. In Gandhi’s words, Live simply so that others may simply live.

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.

Stand up

You know, Illac Diaz, World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leader of 2008, really hit the mark on climate change, and the parts in bold are the ones I personally found poignant:

“Climate change is real. Addressing climate change requires a mix of mitigation and adaptation. This requires more mitigation for industrialized countries and more adaptation for developing countries. This can be translated into one simple scenario: While the industrialized world continues to send up tonnes of carbon into the
atmosphere, whether or not we blur the amounts through carbon credits, hopes are fading for those who will be receiving the sharp end of the Damocles sword; the developing world. The urgency is to realize that this is not going to stop at 350 ppm, or even double at 600 ppm, the Philippines has to realize that despite all the petitions and feel good campaigns of dreams for a climate stabilized world, real solutions need to be done. We have to get to the part where we learn to start dealing with this. The country is located right beside the warmest parts of the ocean that is in the perfect storm of vulnerable coastlines, intense winds, and an observation of growing dumping of large amounts of rain. We need to live in a world where climate will hit the poorest of the poor first, regardless of where they live, it will test our resiliency as a city, as a village, as a community, and specially as a people. This song is dedicated to the awareness that dealing with one ONDOY is not the victory, but a climate of change will be the battle of this generation.” —Illac Diaz

The video above is a call not just for a real and dedicated stewardship of God’s creation but for responsible citizenship as well. The video is part of Diaz’s Design Against the Elements, an international design competition that responds to the call for social and climate adaptation by building sustainable homes. Here, 47 Pinoy rock artists unite with him in this campaign.

I am told that this is not yet the official music video, though. The video will be out in the coming weeks. I am also told that the song and its remixes (house, electro, hip hop) will be airing in the following stations: NU 107, Magic 89.9 and RJ Underground 105.9.

On January 24, 2010, Ateneo de Manila University’s Collegiate Society of Advertising will hold its first fun run for the benefit of Design Against the Elements. Learn more at the event’s Facebook and Multiply pages.

Thank you!

My carbon footprint

carbon_dch_footprint

After reading a newspaper article where the writer measured her carbon footprint online last week, I decided to try calculating mine today.

For some reason, I decided to visit Loren Legarda’s website first before googling “carbon footprint calculator”, and lo and behold, Legarda actually has one such calculator embedded on her site!

Not that I am undoubtedly voting for Legarda at next year’s national elections. There’s also Mar Roxas who I’m thinking about. But I must admit that I am seriously contemplating Legarda. I’ve always remembered her as an environmental advocate since she started out her political career when I was in grade school, and she has steadily advocated for climate change up to the present time.  Aside from that, she is also pro-women and pro-education, which makes my heart melt.

AND (and!) she was the only guest politician who came on time to speak to public relations practitioners about our role in making change during last September’s public relations congress, an annual event organized by the Public Relations Society of the Philippines.

In fairness, Chiz Escudero apologized for being late, citing the unexpectedly heavy rain as culprit. Then there was Dick Gordon, who was just…plain late.

But back to my carbon footprint, which I pegged from October 1, 2009 to November 1, 2009. After inputting the numbers for my flights (I took the plane route Manila-Laoag-Manila during my Fort Ilocandia vacation) and my secondary footprint, I found out that my total carbon footprint is 0.40 tonnes of CO2, which equates to 4.46 tonnes per year.

But of course, I know that that’s not entirely the true picture. I didn’t fill in the numbers for house, car, bus and rail simply because I am not sure of how I fare in these factors. I’m not sure how much electricity I personally consume at home. And while I don’t own a car, I take the jeepney, but there’s no jeepney option at the carbon footprint calculator I used.

So if I include these yet-to-be-measured factors, my carbon footprint will surely increase. I might even exceed the Filipino average of 0.97 tonnes, given my penchant for malling and eating out.

Some other data from the website:

  • The average for the industrial nations is about 11 tonnes
  • The average worldwide carbon footprint is about 4 tonnes
  • The worldwide target to combat climate change is 2 tonnes

I must help get the worldwide target of 2 tonnes. For one, I never ever want a repeat of Typhoon Ondoy again. EVER. Funny, but while home-hunting these days, real estate brokers have started to put “Ondoy-proof” and “40 meters above sea level” and other such comforting things to their marketing materials.

Another reason is that (cheesy, hehe) I would want to take my beautiful future children to the Philippines’ (and the world’s) beautiful islands when the time comes.

And last but not least, taking care of the environment is (seryoso ito ha) a great way of honoring God. So ayun.

So I clicked on the link outlining suggestions on how to reduce our carbon footprint and I must say some things really hit some guilt in me:

* Buying bottled water instead of bringing my own portable water container (I actually have two containers, which were freebies–one from a PR partner and another from a cooperative I am part of)

* Not growing my own vegetables (I actually tried to plant basil for my pesto before, but got discouraged when the maya birds feasted on them before I did)

* Eating too much meat (chicken and fish, mostly)

* Not minding too much if a certain product seems to be overpackaged, thinking that it’s part of what I paid for, anyway (Note to self: Start bringing a reusable canvass bag to the supermarket and the mall)

Okay then. I guess the changes start now. Must. Reduce. Carbon. Footprint.

Join me. =)

Josette Sheeran in the Philippines | WFP | United Nations World Food Programme – Fighting Hunger Worldwide

Josette Sheeran, executive director of the United Nations-World Food Programme (WFP), together with WFP ambassador and Filipina celebrity KC Concepcion, visited the Ondoy- and Pepeng-stricken places in the Philippines.

Although the scenes shown were dismal and sad, I’m glad that Sheeran also chose to see the playful smiles of children (I had alarm bells shrieking LEPTOSPIROSIS when I saw the kids swimming in flood waters, though) and the hopefulness of the Filipino people. It’s really our trademark trait to hope against hope that every cloud has a silver lining.

And in our case, the silver lining came in the form of unlikely volunteers–high school kids, college kids, and families with their little children trooping to relief centers to gift us with their time and energy, especially at the Ateneo de Manila University’s Task Force Ondoy–and boxes and boxes of relief goods.

The silver lining also came in the form of a rekindled nationalism: Some were inspired to register to vote (Such as…me! Hahaha!) for next year’s elections, some were inspired to create art, some were inspired to blog, and some were inspired to innovate.

So Sheeran has hit the spot right on: We are a hopeful people. We see hope when there is seemingly none. I hope the universe conspires to give us more reasons to believe.