A Green Mind

I woke up thinking how using the AC demands more electricity which primarily is sourced from coal thereby contributing to carbon emissions hastening climate change. But William McDonough and Michael Braungart’s book, “The Upcycle” claims that this is more of a design rather than an environmental problem. If the energy comes from a renewable source, then you don’t have to feel guilty about enjoying the comfort provided by an air-conditioned room.

Same thing with taking a long shower. Nothing wrong with that if the water is recycled.

And this applies to products which don’t necessarily have to end up as trash if they follow the cradle to cradle concept, a holistic and waste-free way of manufacturing.

While reading this fascinating book in the bus, I can’t help but shake my head and wonder how difficult it is to pocket the tiny bus ticket that people put more effort in stuffing it in corners and crannies. Don’t get me started on the supposed inspection of these bus tickets. We do know there’s a better system and is already existing at that. Another design flaw.

Would it make a difference if I confront them? I once did that in the jeepney when this full grown, obviously educated woman, just mindlessly threw the garbage on the floor and I told her, “That’s not the garbage bin.” She just looked at me innocently as if she didn’t do anything. And that’s what I end up doing when encountering such individuals. Stare at them spitefully and they stare back confused wondering what they did wrong.

Littering is bad and everybody knows it but we’re just too lazy to care, that is, if we care at all.

Speaking of trash, another frustration I have is with straws and plastics. When you say, “No straw/no plastic, please” vendors or servers sometimes find that amusing. I was told, “Remove the straw yourself.” So when I see my friends using straws, I judge them, a little. I observed that for most people, these things are not a big deal.

How about health? We know that fastfood, processed food, and too much meat is bad news. Bad for the environment, too. But it doesn’t matter. It’s what’s available, it’s cheap, and they taste so good, as well. I still eat fastfood sometimes because it’s that convenient. And real food is difficult to come buy these days. I was a pescatarian for a while wanting to be a vegetarian but options can be very limiting. Add to that the idea of micro plastics in my fish and pesticides in my veggies. Besides, according to “The Upcycle,” we should celebrate diversity and that includes diversity in diet. So right now, being a flexitarian is the best option for me.

I don’t know if it’s just a trend but more and more people are turning to organics, and healthy living, and being more mindful and more sustainable in their ways. This is the right thing to do but who am I to tell people how to live their lives. As zero waste advocate Lauren Singer puts it, what environmentalists can do is to show everyone that there are other better options.

I remember the quote from Inception: “An idea is like a virus. Resilient. Highly contagious. And even the smallest seed of an idea can grow.” So I guess my goal, since it’s Environment Month and all, is to plant seeds of green ideas and hope that these would grow in the minds of people. Because the truth is (and this is not some kind of an alternative fact), environmentalism, this seemingly hopeless idealism, is for humanity’s survival.

Isang pagninilay-nilay

Ang nakaraan ay tila pilit natin binabaon sa limot at muli lamang naaalala dahil pula ito sa kalendaryo. Tinuturo man sa eskuwela’y di nito nabubuhay ang silakbo ng pagmamahal sa bayan. Tulad ng isang larawan, unti-unting kumukupas sa alaala ang rebolusyon at mga kabayanihang nagawa noon. Nagiging palaisipan kung ano nga bang pinaglaban nila. Simpleng kalayaan mula sa banyagang mananakop? Ang karapatang magkaroon ng sariling pagkakakilanlan? Ang makawala sa pagkakagapos?

Subalit isang kabalintunaang ngayo’y nakagapos pa rin. Sa kalbaryong pasan araw-araw. Sa kamay ng mga mamumunong pansariling interes ang inuuna. Sa materyalismong pag-iisip. Sa pagsunod sa dikta ng lipunang kinabibilangan.

Huwad na kalayaan nga ba ang mayroon tayo?

Series of Unfortunate Events

There’s the suicide bombing at Manchester after Ariana Grande’s concert.
And then the Maute terrorist group attacks Marawi.
And then double bombing occurs in Jakarta.
And then another one in Kabul; and let’s not forget, this happened to Saint Petersburg, too.
And then Duterte declares Martial Law in Mindanao.
And then we have Mocha Uson’s symbolism hoopla.
And then online trolls, fake news, and mindless social media postings continue on.
And then Trump wants to pull out of the Paris Agreement.
And then we learn that the Nickelodeon theme park in Coron is pushing through.
And then a gunman wreaks havoc at Resorts World.
 
It’s a crazy, crazy, crazy world.
 
And yet we see a glimpse of hope and kindness, and beauty in humanity.
 
From the One Love Manchester benefit concert that would aid victims and families affected by the Manchester bombing.
From Muslims protecting Christians from the Maute terrorists.
From noble groups and individuals quietly doing their part to attend to the needs of Marawi evacuees.
From Indonesians defying terror with their, “we are not afraid” message.
From truth seekers, those making their stand for what is right, and citizens who are not afraid to question the government.
From 146 other countries which ratified the Paris Agreement.
From environmentalists defending our oceans and the planet.
 
From people who strive to be human.

A Plastic Tale

I’m cheap, easy to manufacture, and you could mold me into any form you wish. You can use me once and throw me away and forget about me altogether. That, unfortunately, is not the end of my story. Because apparently, I can outlast your life and be here forever.

Sometimes, I get recycled but mostly I’m buried or dumped or kept somewhere away from your sight. Other times, you burn me and I give my last breath of life through toxic fumes. Or I let the wind carry me up in the air or I just float endlessly into the sea.

Life in the ocean can never be lonely. I’m reunited with all my kind at the North Pacific Gyre where we form a garbage patch. And thanks to the biggest plastic polluters, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam, we could soon conquer the ocean.

I feel guilty, though, as I cause the death of countless animals when they mistake me for food or when they get entangled in my deadly embrace. And ever pervasive, I can break down into micro plastics ending up in your plate of fish.

I know it’s more convenient to use plastic bags instead of reusable ones. Or to buy bottled water instead of carrying a refillable bottle. Or choose disposables instead of washing up. Or drink through a straw instead of simply sipping one’s drink. But there’s already too much of us that maybe it’s about time that you reduce your plastic consumption.

Hey, I won’t take it against you. It’s the least I could do considering that May is the Month of the Ocean. And if it’s not too much, maybe you can even sign the petition calling for ASEAN to unite and act to protect the oceans from plastic and marine debris.

Every single piece of me ever made still exists today. However, I’ve stayed long enough and I’m ready to move on.

Greenpeace whale installation

The environment in a win-lose state

The plight of the environment is in constant push and pull.

Lawmakers rejected the appointment of Gina Lopez as Environment Secretary citing her lack of qualification among others leading to the decision and that her passion and commitment for the environment just wouldn’t cut it. In the end, it’s all political and business interests still prevail. So sad for the country.

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But last April 22, during the Earth Day, the Paris Agreement took effect in the Philippines. This is a great milestone as this would allow us to participate in the next Parties to the Paris Agreement meeting and gives us access to climate funds.

One time, in a fast food restaurant, I requested that my drink be served without a straw. The server told me to just remove the straw myself. Let’s add that then to the ever growing plastic trash.

Image result for no straw campaign

But there’s one good news for Baguio. The long overdue ordinance that bans plastic and Styrofoam is out. Please don’t let this be another good law that nobody really follows.

Long weekends call for a getaway and that’s what we did as we headed to Tingloy, Batangas. A quick Google search would tell you how this island is pristine and it would paint a picture of paradise. Nothing could be further from the truth. The supposed unspoiled Masasa Beach was filled with a bunch of partygoers with their mindless drinking while literally trashing the place.

The island hopping tour brought us to another beach which was full of garbage. When I started picking trash, the local guide just told me not to mind the rubbish.

Photo from the Pinoy Traveler

But I’m still hopeful when I remember my trip to El Nido where taking care of nature is a priority and ecotourism is practiced. Why can’t other tourist destinations follow suit?

The plight of the environment is in constant push and pull. Still a long way to go towards sustainability. When will we wake up from this slumber of environmental indifference?

Of X’s and Why’s

It’s been two years now. Ever since the time when I, together with a bunch of misty-eyed young people decided to take a chance and be a public school teacher as a fellow of Teach for the Philippines.

I was naïve, passionate, and hopeful. Overconfident, if I may add. Then reality blew up in my face. Of overcrowded classrooms, of kids coming to school with empty stomachs, of students with behavioral problems acting out in class. Add to that the unmotivated learners, and the non-readers, and the list just goes on.

I decided to put on the mean teacher mask. I became super strict and tried to employ a military style of classroom management. But I was like a mad man as I switched from the non-smiling disciplinarian to the overly enthusiastic persona when delivering a lesson or a story.

Oh and there were occasional bursts of anger but admittedly I was really angry most of the time. Angry at the system, angry at myself, angry at parents who don’t attend to their children’s needs, angry at these kids for being their rowdy selves which I couldn’t blame them for because, well, they ARE kids!

Despite the challenges and frustrations, there are moments when I felt like I was doing something right. When I saw the sparkle in the eyes of my students when they learned something new. When I observed behavioral changes and academic improvement. When I witnessed these young individuals demonstrating creativity, optimism, and kindness.

Fast forward to now. My former students back in Third Grade are finally graduating from Elementary School. I don’t know why the occasion brought so much pride and joy to my heart as I look at these faces and think about the ups and downs we went through together. They made it. They’re a step closer to their dreams.

It’s a bit conceited to think that I contributed to their success. It’s of course mainly brought about by their own will and perseverance. But then again, maybe I was somehow a part of it, being the positive influence that I wanted to be.

A parent told me that her son could still remember the words I said in class about dreams and working hard to achieve one’s dreams. That right there reminded me of my why. I do it not for myself but for the kids. After all, it has always been about them. And I may not be a teacher now but the experience continues to motivate me to strive to add value to people’s lives in whatever I do.

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Politics Classics in Introspection

History is a complete repeat of what was.

What’s happening to our country? What’s happening to the world? What’s happening to humanity? We usually ask these questions and history may hold the answers. Well in my case, reading “50 Politics Classics” by Tom Butler-Bowdon gave me a bit of understanding of the nuances of politics – a topic I’m not a big fan of. But according to Aristotle, man is by nature a political animal so I guess I have no escape.

Politics is all about power. In an ideal world, keeping it in the balance will result to utopia. But that is challenging and even impossible to achieve. Because we’re dealing with humans here. And humans are difficult to predict and to control. So we are left with constant power struggles. A continuous experimentation of some sort on what system could best work in the society.

For Fukuyama, liberal democracy, characterized by open society and equal rights, works best. I share Karl Marx and Friedrich Engel’s belief that a classless state where all means of production and property are shared among all citizens is ideal but knowing man’s selfish nature, this eventually would crumble. Thomas Hobbes also supposed that man is instinctively mean and so I don’t think Emma Goldman’s faith in anarchism, the philosophy of the sovereignty of the individual, will work. In this case, Hobbes putting forward that authoritarianism leading to order and physical protection at the expense of loss of freedom, makes sense.

The purpose of the state is to achieve the happiness and elevation of its citizens (Aristotle, “Politics”). Democratic Philippines haven’t quite achieved that just yet. But let’s not put all the blame on the government. The price we pay for living in freedom is the expectation of personal responsibility as stated by Karl Popper. Zakaria said that democracy contribute to long-term stability and yet we remain poor. Thanks to failed political institutions ran by corrupt politicians.

The quest for an ideal state constantly lead to roadblocks and now I understand how totalitarian movements rise. Hannah Arendt explains that they get their power from a claim to be the expressions of “inevitable” forces of nature or history. Compared to these forces, the individual life means little, and so is dispensable. Sounds a bit like President Duterte’s war on drugs, isn’t it?

Solzhenitsyn, who wrote, “The Gulag Archipelago,” an account of the horror of Stalin’s regime, state that all the evil of the twentieth century is possible everywhere on earth. But if it’s any consolation, totalitarianism tends to be short-lived.

Tyranny results to revolutions but despite the best intentions, most revolutions simply substitute one ruling class for another (George Orwell, “Animal Farm”). And in the words of Machiavelli, whatever form of government a state chooses, it always seems to become corrupted given enough time. Because power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely (Lord Acton, “Essays on Freedom and Power”).

The political, economic, and moral struggles throughout history continue to the present day. The battle cry of Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King for equality and justice would have to go on in the today’s fight against racism and discrimination.

Women empowerment is on the rise but somehow we’re still stuck in the backward notion that women should spend their time looking for love instead of gaining the impact that their abilities should award them (Mary Wollstonecraft, “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman”).

In “No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies,” Naomi Klein said that we are citizens, not consumers. And yet to feed our appetite to consume, sweatshops abound in several countries and according to Upton Sinclair, this is a “passing stage” which any industrializing country goes through.

Indeed, history is a complete repeat of what was. Same issues. Same struggles. Same state. We try to be better. We fail. We try and then fail again, committing the same mistakes. Ultimately, it is in trying that gives meaning and purpose to life. And this should give us the courage to continue on.

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