Minimalist Me: Ecological Footprint

I want to minimize my ecological footprint or my demand towards nature going against anthropocentrism because really, it’s not all about us, human beings.

I adopt minimalism with regard to shoes, clothes, other things like books, even food that I eat.

In the office, I make an effort to use both sides of paper. I encourage my colleagues to segregate garbage (which seems so difficult to follow) and urge them to avoid single-use plastic.

When eating out, I tell my friends not to use plastic straws or challenge them to eat more veggies.

I constantly talk about the little things we can do to contribute to caring for the environment.

Some people do try to support environmentalism but others, I’m afraid, just find me overbearing whenever I start talking green. And sadly, a lot of people just don’t care – they have other stuff to worry about and environmental issues are the least of their concern.

There’s also the question whether individual action can actually cause real impact. Taken collectively, it can influence corporations. But these corporations can take advantage of it weaving corporate action as sustainable when it’s far from the truth. Case in point, Starbucks replacing plastic straws with sippy cups made from more plastic. Starbucks claims the plastic lid is recyclable unlike plastic straws but do they really get recycled?

Another downside of these individual environmental actions is that it can make people feel that they don’t need to do anything else as they already did their part. Annie Leonard, in an article, said that civic engagement is the real source of power to make a difference.

The key then is consistency as well as continuous involvement in environmental initiatives. We do this not really to save the earth because it is us who need saving. We are actually saving ourselves and the human race.

 

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Healing Earth, Healing Society, Healing Self

“We have to be angry but humble… We have to fight joyfully.”

This statement came from 2010 Right Livelihood Award Laureate Nnimmo Bassey, an environmental activist from Nigeria, during one of the learning sessions of the Chulalongkorn University Right Livelihood Summer School (CURLS). Centered around the theme, “Healing Earth, Healing Society, Healing Self,” CURLS is an experiential learning journey that aims to promote the concept of Right Livelihood by living rightly on earth.

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Plagued by neoliberalism, characterized by liberalization of trade and investment, privatization of goods and services, and changing of public regulation to support corporate interest, the earth has been treated as a commodity. The market considered as its very soul results to materialism and complete disregard of our impact to the environment. Changing this deeply rooted mindset can be frustrating. It angers me as an environmentalist. Yet “We have to be angry but humble…”

I do my part and expect others to do the same. At the expense of sounding preachy, paired with occasional bursts of exasperation, I point out how we’re not doing much. How we can’t even do the most basic things like segregating waste or refusing single-use plastic! We even reason how individual choices wouldn’t matter as long as corporations continue what they’re doing.  Being angry and humble at the same time sure is becoming more challenging.

During CURLS, learning about the disappearance of Laotian Sombath Somphone, a dedicated community and development worker, was heart-breaking. Environmentalists, activists, earth’s healers, those who fight for what is right, are being harmed for the work that they do. This elicits anger and fear but Sombath’s wife Shui Meng Ng encourages us to keep on fighting. And we have to fight joyfully in spite of it all.

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“Please return Sombath safely.”

Sulak Sivaraksa, another Right Livelihood Award Laureate, said that before you heal the world, you should heal yourself first and be liberated from structural violence. Sulak mentions of an ideal society where there is equality, fraternity, and liberty from greed, hate, and delusion.

Perhaps we should learn from Bhutan which uses Gross National Happiness (GNH) as a measure of development, a departure from the usual Gross Domestic Product, or as Nnimmo refers to as “Gross Domestic Problem.” The fact that Bhutan has never been colonized, practicing Buddhist culture, made it easy to embrace the idea of GNH which is about holistic development and collective happiness. For GNH, there are nine interdependent domains being considered namely health, education, living standards, time use, psychological well-being, cultural diversity and resilience, community vitality, good governance, and ecological diversity and resilience.

Another example worth emulating is the communal living of the Konohana Family, an eco-village in Japan. They practice sustainable agriculture, they follow the law of the universe, and everyone contributes to the community.

Chulalongkorn University where trees abound, birds and squirrels freely roam about amidst busy students transported in electric buses, right at the center of a highly-urbanized city like Bangkok was the perfect learning environment for CURLS. It made me appreciate the idea of nature and modernity co-existing.

In a predominantly selfish society, there are still those who fight joyfully. Those who remain connected to the earth. Through CURLS, I met some of these people. I also learned valuable insights that could help me towards my path to healing the earth, the society, and myself.

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CURLS 2018 Participants

 

 

 

Photo Credit: CURLS 2018 Organizers

Diet for Climate

To explore how our meal habits and choices affect the climate change movement, a panel discussion dubbed, “MKS Room: Diet for Climate” was organized by MakeSense together with Greenpeace and #IAmHampasLupa Ecological Agriculture Movement.

Angelo Abcede, an environmental advocate and a vegan; Virginia Benosa-Llorin, Food and Ecological Agriculture Campaigner of Greenpeace; and Drei Castillo of Good Food Community became part of the panelists.

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The Panel (l-r): Drei, Virginia, and Angelo (Photo by George Buid)

Virginia gave an overview of the Diet for Climate Campaign of Greenpeace. She explained that Filipinos are eating more meat and less fruits and vegetables because of the notion that meat is nice, necessary, natural, and normal. This, however, is leading to health problems and negatively impacts the environment. She also mentioned that 30% of crops are grown for animal feed and 14% of greenhouse gas emissions comes from livestock production.

Lessening one’s meat consumption or having meat-free meals a few times in a week already helps. For Angelo, having undergone multiple brain surgeries due to brain tumor, he believes that shifting to a vegan diet that upholds the principle of compassion paved way to his speedy recovery.

As someone who works closely with farmers, Drei said that the organic movement is growing but it’s still a struggle on the production side especially related to value chain. To contribute to the campaign, she encouraged constant conversation on the issue, getting to know our farmers, and changing our habits.

During the event, Angelo also introduced easy to prepare meat-free recipes – classic hummus made by blending chick peas, cumin seeds, roasted tahini garlic, and olive oil; and mushroom pulao, a sort of Indian fried rice cooked in spices.

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Angelo demonstrating how to cook mushroom pulao (Photo by George Buid).

Climate change might be too big an issue but our collective action through our individual food choices can already contribute to the solution.

Follow this link to learn more about the campaign: http://bit.ly/2G1AlS7 

Negros, beyond the City of Smiles

Bacolod, known as the “City of Smiles” is the capital of Negros Occidental. Tourists would normally go on a food trip as part of their itinerary to sample the namit (delicious in Ilonggo) dishes the place offers.

You can have dinner at Aboy’s Restaurant, a turo-turo style resto famous for their grilled seafood; have chicken inasal at Chicken House for lunch; and have desert at Calea Pastries and Coffee.

“The Ruins” tagged as “Taj Mahal of Negros” is a must-see tourist spot in Talisay. You can sip your coffee while gazing at the lit structure providing a mesmerizing view at night. Don’t forget to take the obligatory table top reflected shot of this once great mansion, burned down during the World War II (to prevent the Japanese from using it), the fate of a lot of the mansions all over Negros.

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Just 30 minutes away from Bacolod is Victorias City where you can find Peñalosa Farm. At the farm, you can learn about organic farming and eat organic meat and vegetables.

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Travel back to the past as you visit Hacienda Santa Rosalia, a sugar plantation located in Manapla owned by the Gaston family. Built in the 1930s, the Gaston Mansion survived the forces of war and nature. The Chapel of the Cartwheels is situated near the ancestral home. This non-traditional church is made from cartwheels, plows, mortar and pestle, and broken pieces of glass. The church aims to make the Catholic faith more local and more accessible. The Hacienda Crafts Factory is also in the area, where world-class craft and woven products are made, providing livelihood for the locals.

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Bacolod is the usual travel destination in Negros but explore the rest of the island and you’ll be happy to see that there is more beyond the City of Smiles.

 

 

Minimalist Me: Food

Buying groceries can be challenging for me because I have this mental checklist, a criteria that I base my decision on, before buying something. Ideally, it should be organic or natural, environment-friendly, locally produced, and has less packaging.

I always check the ingredients list. If I recognize most of the contents, none of those words you can barely read, then I’ll buy it. I used to eat a lot of junkfood but now, I mostly eat fruits and nuts for snacks! Occasionally, I buy sweets and pastries but I’m also trying to lessen my sugar intake (and the same goes with salt).

I remember a chef saying that you should train your tongue to eat real food. Kids hate veggies because early on, they get used to artificial food bathed in too much salt or sugar or flavoring. Once your tongue gets used to natural flavors, you’ll realize how, most of the time, the food being served is too salty or too sweet.

For me, minimalism in terms of food could also mean lesser meat and more plant-based diet. It is ranked as number four among climate change solutions. Reduced food waste is third in the list so no to food waste, please.

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Minimalism is about mindfulness. Being mindful about the food we put in our bodies is something we should strive for. We should change the mindset that eating healthy is a punishment or is a way of robbing yourself of the good stuff because it’s not.

Minimalist Me: Books

I collect Stephen King books. I used to collect those of Dean Koontz, too but I decided I’m more of a Stephen King guy (sorry, Dean).

In my previous post on minimalism, I’ve made it quite clear how I’m not a big shopper. But buying books is a different story. That’s something I wouldn’t mind spending money on. For the record though, stingy as I am, I buy from secondhand bookstores. It’s an awesome feeling when you discover a really nice book at a very cheap price. But after reading them, I’ve decided to give these books away.

I’ve kept a few for myself (can’t let go of Stephen King just yet) especially those that I would want to re-read but we have to be honest here, most of the time, they remain in the bookshelves collecting dust.

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I have bookworm friends who have book collections and that’s totally fine. If keeping these books add value to your life, then by all means, collect all the books you can get your hands on.

As for me, finally deciding to be part of the horde, buying my first smartphone, had a perk in terms of allowing me to read e-books. I still prefer holding an actual book, turning the pages and smelling the book paper, and all, but with free e-books available online, I save a lot. Plus, fewer stuff. But borrowing books from friends (hello, friends) and the library (if there’s still one) could be an option.

So yeah, I have minimized buying books. But I genuinely feel happy when I see people going gaga over books fairs and book sales. And in case you’re wondering, I still accept books as presents.

War on Plastic

Summer is almost over but in a country where we have really nice beaches, it might as well be summer all year round. But our oceans are now choking in plastic. Heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? It’s an accumulation of ocean plastic and garbage, which to date, is three times the size of France, and it’s getting bigger!

Why don’t we just clean it up? Not as easy as it sounds. There’s the issue of cost, distance, and effects of photodegradation (sunlight reducing plastic to smaller bits making them even more difficult to clean up).

Plastic is deemed evil for a reason (i.e. toxicity, pollution, etc.) but its usefulness in terms of food safety and food preservation is undeniable. A Quartz article explains that “Plastic is the symptom. Our centralized food system is the disease.” And a systemic issue will take time to be resolved.

One thing we can already do, however, is to start getting rid of unnecessary plastic. The good thing is more and more people are becoming aware of this. A lot of efforts are now being done to tackle the challenge.

There’s the ban of single-use plastic in some cities and municipalities, even among corporations. People are refusing straws and are opting for better alternatives – paper straws, bamboo straws, metal straws, and glass straws. There’s even a collapsible and seaweed-based edible straw. Speaking of edible, an alternative plastic bag made from cassava can be eaten or is compostable (as opposed to the oxo-degradable bags which just break down into micro plastics).

A growing group of individuals are starting to adopt a zero-waste lifestyle bringing re-usable bags, and jars, and containers when they go shopping; and re-filling their re-usable water drinking bottles instead of buying bottled water.

We have all these better options and it’s such a simple decision to make. It’s a matter of saying yes to the simple solution with big impact and letting go of the attraction of convenience.

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Halo-halo in the mountains with a re-usable container.