Musings on Whatever: The Water Crisis

Our home back in Baguio is not connected to the city’s water supply network so we would always have water delivered. This naturally made my family very mindful of our water consumption. We collect rain water which is used to water plants, wash the laundry, and clean floors. A basin for dish washing and a bucket for bathing are always available to conserve water. Wastewater can be reused to flush the toilet.

So it does bother me sometimes when I see people who would just keep water running from the faucet or mindlessly waste water. Yes, water is a renewable natural resource but it can also be depleted. The earth is mostly covered in water but only 3% is freshwater. More than half of that is frozen in ice caps so we’re basically left with around 1% for our water needs.

A growing population entails an ever increasing demand for water. But rapid urban development, pollution, deforestation, and climate change are leading to water scarcity everywhere like Cape Town in South Africa; several cities in India; and even in Metro Manila in the Philippines.

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THE WATER LEVEL IN ANGAT DAM DIPS BELOW CRITICAL LEVEL! 
As of 6:00 AM today, the water level in Angat Dam, Metro Manila’s major water source already went down to 159.93 meters (below the 160-meter critical level). 
Without any significant rainfall (100 mm/24 hr) expected this week, the water level is expected to continue going down and might even reach its historical lowest level of 157.56 meters (July 2010). Credit: Earth Shaker

Clean drinking water is a human right. But what are we doing to uphold this right? It’s sad how we don’t put too much value on what nature offers. It’s practically free. But in return, we destroy the very thing we need for survival.

Post-apocalyptic scenarios come to mind – of dessert landscapes; of riots, and power play, and killings over water; of water everywhere but not a drop to drink…

Well, we could resort to drinking treated poo water, like what is being done in Namibia; or maybe consume desalinated water if we could afford the technology. But for now, what we can actually do is to conserve water, plant a tree or two, and keep water bodies clean. Is this too much to ask?

 

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Just Eat Your Veggies

We know that eating fruits and veggies is good for the health. We were told that in school and at home since we were young. This must be true as we see people reaching the age of 90 or even 100 claiming that a plant-rich diet is the secret to long life.

We’re discovering how our meat-heavy diet is killing the planet and us, too. And yet we find it hard to diet for climate or say good-bye to bacon.

We rely on fad diets where we starve ourselves, or get rid of carbs, or binge-eat on meat and fat, when simply reducing one’s meat intake and eating more plants would have been easier.

Or maybe it’s not as easy as it seems. Colorful and tasty artificial treats are served in schools. Home-cooked meals are replaced by convenient fastfood. Powerful ads have brainwashed us to keep on consuming these so-called healthy products spewed by evil corporations. Local crops are disappearing. And we’re starting to forget what real food tastes like.

On June 17-23, we celebrated the World Meat Free Week and July is the National Nutrition Month in the Philippines. These events put a spotlight on food and how it affects our health and the environment. These are opportunities for us to make changes in our eating habits. That means as much as we hate veggies or don’t like the taste of it, we have to train our tongues. It takes a bit of self discipline and though we can’t really tell people what they’re supposed to eat, eating right is common sense.

Batman Slapping Robin Meme | EWW BROCCOLI EAT YOUR VEGGIES!!! | image tagged in memes,batman slapping robin | made w/ Imgflip meme maker
Photo from: https://imgflip.com/i/1wrf0n

Green Steps You Can Do this Environment Month

The end is nigh. Climate emergency, plastic pollution, deforestation, food and water crises. The problems seem daunting like the white walkers of the “Game of Thrones.” But there are solutions and they can be done. It takes a little bit of effort and it can be inconvenient at times. But no matter how trivial, it’s better to do something than wallow in apathy. Here’s what you can do for the earth since it’s the Philippine Environment Month and all.

Be a better consumer. Adopt a minimalist or zero waste lifestyle if you can. That means buying just the essentials or buying second-hand or not buying at all. Consider having broken things repaired or borrow from people instead. Reduce, re-use, recycle. Reduce comes first because if you can avoid generating waste in the first place, then do just that. Refuse unnecessary single-use plastic. Bring your water tumbler, a reusable container, a reusable bag, and even your cutlery everywhere. Paper may be a lesser evil but going for reusable stuff is still your best bet. And no, you don’t have to buy metal/bamboo straws and eco bags to prove a point. The key is to lessen one’s consumption.

Speaking of consumption, you may want to lessen your meat intake and adopt a more plant-based diet. And say no to food waste. These are definitely doable climate acts.

Demand change from corporations and the government. Individual efforts matter and so does putting pressure on corporations and the government. So sign petitions. Write letters. Attend town hall meetings.  Policy and corporate support could speed up the change that we want to see.

Raise awareness on environmental issues through social media. The reality is this is still one of the easiest ways to reach people within one’s circle of influence. Posting or sharing environment-related posts may generate conversation and may even cause people to change mindsets and behaviors. And it’ll be more effective if you pair your online advocacy work with offline activities. 

Be involved. Volunteer. Participate in clean ups and tree-planting. Give talks and and education sessions. To reiterate what Annie Leonard of Greenpeace said, civic engagement is the real source of power to make a difference.

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There are many ways to be involved. Here’s a picture of me volunteering to help paint a marine-themed mural to give life and bring in nature to an underpass (Photo by JM Sagum).

This Environment Month and beyond, a green mind is what we need. To rephrase what Edward Everett Hale said, you are only one, but you are one. You cannot do everything, but you can do something. And you should not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.

Humans of the World: Akira from Japan

Meet Akira. A wife, a mom, and a zero waste warrior.

Akira heads the Zero Waste Academy, an organization promoting the zero waste movement in Kamikatsu. In this small town in Japan, wastes are segregated into 45 categories achieving a recycling rate of 81%.

During the World Economic Forum, she was one of the six young people selected to co-chair the conference in Davos.

To further promote the idea of circular economy, she created a zero waste card game which is meant to educate both children and adults.

An epitome of a strong, independent woman, Akira is driven by the mission to do something now for our generation’s sake and that of her daughter’s otherwise there won’t be any future to speak of.

Busy as she normally is, Akira admits it’s a challenge to juggle between work and family but she tries to stop working after 6PM and devote the time to her husband and child.

Photo Credit: Kel Almazan

HANDs!: Hopes and Dreams for Miyako

How can the element of fun be possibly be integrated to something serious like disaster education?

This is where Iza Kaeru Caravan comes in. A disaster drill comprising of games, storytelling, toy exchange, and other fun activities for kids.

The event organized by Japan Foundation Asia Center as part of Hopes and Dreams (HANDs)! Project and Sanriku International Arts Festival took place in Miyako, a coastal area of Iwate Prefecture, which was hit by a tsunami in 2011.

HANDs! Fellows from Japan, Philippines, Indonesia, and Thailand took part in the said event. Aside from the caravan, they also participated in the Miyako City Walk and Mapping, as well as a group discussion about creating a better future for Miyako.

In time for the anniversary of the Great East earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, the fellows likewise learned more about the disaster through a tour and a Memorial Ceremony.

The local tour guide said reliving memories of the disaster can be painful but she stressed its importance in raising awareness so we become more prepared in case such disaster happens again.

She added that the sea can bring about nature’s wrath taking lives. But being a fishing area, residents acknowledge the providence of the “mother sea” as they call it. A demonstration of nature as a hazard, a blessing, and a tragedy.

One of the HANDs! Fellows, Makoto Sasaki who initiated this effort is committed to making her hometown, Miyako, a better place. For her, this is just the beginning of greater things to come for the city.

Photo Credit: Shinji Yoshida and Carlos Ortiz

Zero Waste January: The Japanese Way

Japanese World Cup fans pick up trash after the game.

A Japanese guy voluntarily cleans up an overpass in Baguio.

Kamikatsu, a zero-waste town in Japan, segregates their waste into 45 types in 13 categories.

Marie Kondo’s “Spark Joy” is inspiring people to tidy up.

I do admire how the Japanese do things. Especially on how they deal with garbage. At an early age, kids learn how to clean their own classrooms that they grow up expecting no one to clean up after themselves.

In the Philippines, it’s a different story. People litter because they think it’s someone else’s responsibility to dispose their garbage. There are laws against littering and laws mandating us even to segregate but who cares about these laws. We blatantly litter because simply, we can get away with it.

In a so-called poor country, disposing garbage properly should be the least of our worries since day to day survival is what we’re focused on. Yet what’s exasperating is educated Filipinos, you wouldn’t expect, also litter!

Recently, devotees of a religious event left 15 trash of garbage not in garbage bins or garbage bags but scattered everywhere!

The same thing happens after people spend time in public parks, the beach, or the mountain. We leave the garbage behind.

How can this mindset and behavior change? There’s constant reminder, and education, and campaigns on proper waste management. Maybe we should step it up and charge people fees for garbage they produce. And I mean, not just the measly amount but the real cost of disposing this garbage. Because in reality, the government is spending a lot just from hauling all these junk.

Out of sight, out of mind. But I do hope the Japanese way could rub off on us some way, somehow.

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Kamikatsu, a zero-waste town in Japan (Photo from Business Insider).

Zero Waste January: The Straw that Everyone Loves to Hate

Since that video of a poor turtle in pain as a plastic straw was being pulled out from its nose went viral, people began to realize how this thing could hurt or even kill animals. And it pollutes the ocean, too.

So restos started banning plastic straws. Or they provide alternatives like paper or re-usable straws, which I’m not really a fan of since it simply reinforces consumerism. Making us believe that life is better with straws when we could, in fact, survive without it.

That’s the thing with consumerism. We have to keep buying stuff we don’t really need. Like those “eco bags” being marketed as the better option. How many of these do we exactly need? A growing mountain of re-usable bags, left unused (defeats the reason for its name), would end up as trash and we’re back to square one.

But back to single-use plastic. This addiction is all about convenience.

Using plastic bags is more convenient than always carrying and actually re-using a re-usable bag.

Choosing plastic spoons and forks, and cups (and those paper plates are not any better) is more convenient than washing up.

Buying bottled water is more convenient than carrying one’s own water tumbler.

Drinking with plastic straws is more convenient than using one’s damn mouth to sip and gulp.

We are drowning in plastic. Bits of it could now be found in our stomachs. So ditching the plastic straw is a good start. But it shouldn’t end there. Let’s be inconvenient together and ditch other unnecessary plastics, too.

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