Let’s Plant Trees!

The Conference of the Parties (COP) is happening in Spain discussing how to fight climate change. Young people and the civil society march to the streets demanding governments to declare climate emergency and take action. Others decide to plant trees.

Last month, I was able to organize a mangrove tree planting activity at Subic Bay Freeport Zone done in partnership with Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA). The cool thing about SBMA’s tree growing project is they work with indigenous people in the community who helped our group of eight plant 200 seedlings of mangrove trees of different varieties. They were surprised to learn that we wanted to plant that many. It’s a shame that some find plunging in mud icky and end up planting just one or two seedlings. I was glad my colleagues were all game and actually enjoyed the whole experience.

Photo Credit: Christian Tanora

Now just over the weekend, I joined a “Holiday Nature Immersion” at Mount Purro Nature Reserve (MPNR) spearheaded by makesense which involved a short hike and sowing of ipil-ipil seeds as support to MPNR’s reforestation effort. Being in a natural environment is the best way of finding one’s connection to the earth. And what’s best to do that but to literally get your hands dirty. I can’t help wondering though why touching soil is something a lot of people wouldn’t want to do. Apparently, this could lead to weaker immune system and emergence of allergies, especially among growing kids.

Photo Credit: Pepper Limpoco

Planting trees is one of the easiest climate acts we can do. However, it also requires thorough planning and execution. I think partnering with communities and organizations can lead to more successful reforestation activities as trees planted are taken cared of and are monitored. This also ensures that the right species of trees, ideally native trees, are planted.

So for those wanting to contribute to climate action, come on and let’s plant more trees. It’s easy to do, it’s a cheap climate solution, and it’s good for your soul and the environment.

Green Minded Peeps: Zero Waste Advocates

For lunch, I would normally bring with me a container as I buy food from Jollijeep, a kind of a food cart, in Makati. If I see someone doing the same, I can’t help but smile, stopping myself from giving the person a hug. The vendors appreciate this effort and as a reward, I sometimes get a free banana! Yey!

Of course I also refuse the paper bag and use my own tote bag. Disposables made from paper is considered a lesser evil because it is compostable, but it’s still evil as it’s made from dead trees (gasp)! And its production entails the use of a lot of water. Reusables is still the best option.

My reusable starter kit.

I bought coffee from 7-11 and used my own cup instead of paper cup. The cashier wished more people would do the same. Well, the good news is, awareness about the issue of single-use plastic and pollution is growing, together with individuals and organizations promoting the zero waste movement.

Robin Lewis of Japan co-founded MyMizu, a water refill app that points you to places where you can refill your bottle for free. So cool! Good-bye bottled water. Those evil bottled water companies are shaking, haha!

Still in Japan, Akira Sakano, heads the Zero Waste Academy in Kamikatsu where garbage is segregated into 45 categories!

Low Impact Filipina, Angel Mata, a teacher raises awareness about the low purchase, low waste, and low impact lifestyle through her blog.

Zero waste shops are popping up like the Wala Usik: Tiangge + Kapehan in Bacolod offering local, natural, or package free options.

We do have to make corporations accountable for the waste problem caused by their plastic packaging but our individual actions contribute to the solution, too. Consumer pressure can drive business directions. And our individual choices can mean one less trash to deal with.

The Youth in Action

Greta Thunberg, today’s face of the climate movement, is angry. And we should be furious with her because those in power dilly dally in addressing this very complicated problem we now call as climate emergency.

Admittedly, change, a systemic one at that, would take time. But that’s something we’re running out of. And this should move us all into action. To be honest, this blatant disregard and apathy from the government and corporations is frustrating. So I’ve decided to draw encouragement from empowered individuals and young people giving their all, making their voices heard, and fighting for their future and their now.

The Global Climate Strike gained a lot of support worldwide and the Philippines, despite being one of the countries with least greenhouse gas emission, joined this national mobilization for climate action. Jefferson Estela, founder of Youth Strike 4 Climate Philippines outlined the demands of the group during a dialogue with Climate Change Commission on September 18, 2019. This include the phase out of coal and other fossil fuels, transition to renewable energy, and declaration of climate emergency in the country, among others.

#IAmHampasLupa together with Youth Strike 4 Climate Philippines had a dialogue with Secretary Emmanuel M. De Guzman, Atty. Efren Bascos, and Ludwig O. Federigan of the Climate Change Commission PH. The discussion revolved around the campaign for ecological agriculture and #DietforClimate, and the Climate Strike.

Foundation University in Dumaguete hosted the event “Entrepreneurship and My Future” focusing on social innovation on September 20. During the event, MakeSense, a community of citizens, social entrepreneurs, and organizations working for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, facilitated a start-up creation workshop for students in the city.

“Entrepreneurship and My Future” at Foundation University, Dumaguete.

In time for the International Coastal Clean-up Day on September 21, Bacolod CORE (Children Optimization for the Revitalization of the Environment), a youth-led group, gathered more than five hundred volunteers at Purok Crossing Otso, Barangay Tangub for a clean-up and waste auditing. Part of the day’s activities was a creative Disaster Risk Reduction Management (DRRM) Workshop for kids in the community.

Operation Kawayan Creative DRRM Workshop with children of Barangay Tangub.

The youth is often branded as selfish and are simply concerned of their social media image. But on the contrary, they are passionate, proactive, and brave. They are hopeful, they are angry, and they use all that energy to make a change.

Eat Veggies and Save the Amazon Forest – Ha?!

Nasusunog or should I say sinusunog ang Amazon forest. Ngunit hindi lang ang tinaguriang lungs of the earth or largest tropical rainforest of the world and biktima. Marami sa ating mga kagubatan ang sinisira dahil sa pagtotroso, pagmimina, at pagsasaka.

Gusto mong tumulong beyond social media? Kumain ng gulay at prutas. Anong connect, you ask. Well, isang dahilan ng pagkasira ng ating mga gubat ang pagsasaka. At huwag ka, ang mga pananim na iyan ay hindi para sa tao – pagkain iyan ng mga baka na pagkarami-rami upang mapunan ang demand for hamburger, corned beef, at iba pang karne.

Kapag nagbawas ka ng pagkonsumo ng karne, malaking tulong na iyan upang di lalong lumala ang deforestation.

Obviously, okay din ito sa kalusugan nang hindi dumagdag sa statistics ng namamatay sa heart attack, stroke, diabetes, at iba pang lifestyle diseases.

Ngunit masarap ang bawal. O kailangan ko ng protein for my muscles. O ayoko ng gulay. Kung gusto, maraming paraan. Kung ayaw, maraming dahilan.

Hindi naman kailangang itakwil ng tuluyan ang karne. Kapag nag-decide kang maging vegan o vegetarian, eh di ayos. Ngunit maski flexitarian (occasional meat-eater) lang, “meatless Mondays,” o sahug-sahog na karne sa ulam, o hinay-hinay sa unli-samgyeup, magandang simula na iyan. Hindi naman siguro isang malaking sakripisyo ito ano.

Kaya’t ano pang hinihintay mo. Mag-#lessismore na! Less karne, more gulay! Nakatulong ka na sa kalikasan, okay pa sa katawan!

Learn more about the campaign here.

Image result for less is more, greenpeace
Credit: Greenpeace

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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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?


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.

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.