SuperAdobe Construction with Super Volunteers

Who’s crazy enough to give up their long weekend which could be spent for rest or a quick getaway in the beach in favor of doing hard labor construction work for three days? Well, that’s what we, Greenpeace volunteers did, when we decided to help out in the building of SuperAdobe earth houses which would be part of the Climate Resiliency Field School Training Center in Gerona, Tarlac.

Developed by architect Nader Khalili, the founder of California Institute of Earth Architecture, SuperAdobe is a form of earth bag architecture that makes use of sand bags, barbed wire, and soil. The structure can last for years and can withstand severe earthquakes and typhoons. It can be an emergency shelter in times of disasters as the construction is designed to be easy, simple, flexible, and fast to complete.

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Photo by Conan Rogador

Indeed, the concept is simple but it’s also very systematic as it involves some precise measurements with a degree of flexibility.

Learning more about this fascinating technology is one thing that motivated us to volunteer. The Center, which is a project of the Rice Watch and Action Network (R1), would soon be used to train farmers on ecological agriculture. Personally, being part of the construction work became a sort of a test if a frail, skinny guy like me would be up to the challenge of actually doing hard labor.

Clay soil, which mind you is difficult to work with, was mixed, transported, and filled in sacks. These then were piled on top of each other and were thumped flat. In between the sacks, barbed wires were placed to serve as mortar and reinforcement. Before that, the barbed wires would have to be tamed (yes, there’s such a thing). And we had to go through this cycle several times until our muscles were sore, our skin sunburned, and our shirts soaked in sweat.

Additionally, we created French drains by digging canals around the structure and filling them with gravel. We also cleared and leveled an area that would be a site for the Training Center’s amphitheater.

This definitely deserves a “feeling accomplished” Facebook shout out. Especially to the strong independent women, the female volunteers, who seemed to have the strength of Wonder Woman and worked those construction tools like pros. Who says that only men can do heavy work? That’s another unique feature of SuperAdobe houses, anyone can build it.

The experience has been tiring but fulfilling. Even made more rewarding to get to work with amazing individuals who show the true spirit of volunteerism, the genuine desire of giving of the self for a greater cause.

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Photo by Shyo Sayajon

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

Why do people do the things that they do?

Dr. Robert B. Cialdini’s book, “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” brilliantly explains factors that affect the decisions that we make. Below is a summary in a question and answer form.

  1. Why did I buy the more expensive pair of shoes? The automatic, fixed-action pattern made you think that higher price reflects higher quality.
  2. Why do people announce the good and bad news together? It could lessen the perception of how bad the bad news is. The contrast principle affects the way we see the difference between two things. This is also the reason why it’s easier to say yes to a lesser request.
  3. Why do we feel indebted to someone who gave something or did something for us? The rule of reciprocation says that we should try to repay what another person has provided us. The rule is overpowering, enforces uninvited debts, and can trigger unfair exchanges.
  4. Why can’t we get rid of initiation rights and why are military trainers always mean? These are not acts of sadism. These are acts of group survival that also promote cohesiveness. “Persons who go through a great deal of trouble or pain to attain something tend to value it more highly than persons who attain the same thing with a minimum effort (Elliot Aronson and Judson Mills).”
  5. Why is it easy to go with the flow or follow the crowd? We have the tendency to assume that an action is more correct if others are doing it. Especially in times of uncertainty, we rely on social proof. We normally look around at the actions of others for clues.
  6. Why are there a lot of sports fanatics? Why do we always feel “proud” as a Filipino when a fellow Pinoy wins something or does something great? “All things being equal, you root for your own sex, your own culture, your own locality… Whomever you root for represents you; and when he wins, you win (Isaac Asimov).” Likewise, positive association encourages us to name-drop or to claim that we know or we’re friends with a famous or successful person.
  7. Why do we willingly submit to authority? We are trained from birth that obedience to proper authority is right and disobedience is wrong. The mere command of a higher authority trumps apparent senselessness, harmfulness, injustice, or usual moral standards of a certain act because information from a recognized authority can provide us a valuable shortcut for deciding how to act in a situation.
  8. Why do we eat the “forbidden fruit”? With psychological reactance, we show strong tendency to react against restrictions on our freedoms and the tendency to want what has been banned.
  9. Why do scarce cookies taste better? This perception is an emotional arousal that flows from scarcity influences.
  10. Why do we depend on isolated piece of information even if it could lead us to stupid mistakes? For the sake of efficiency, we must sometimes retreat from the time-consuming, sophisticated, fully informed brand of decision making to a more automatic, primitive, single-feature type of responding.

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?

Aesthete

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I like to stand at the summit
And gaze at the sea of clouds
The magnificent mountain ranges
The sunset
The sunrise
I like how the cool wind embraces me
Tousling my hair
Like gentle hands giving its affectionate gesture
Dancing through the branches and leaves
Making them wave their hello
I like the refreshing smell of the air
The scent of wood, and soil, and vegetation
I like how the birds tweet a tune
And crickets and night creatures with their orchestra of sounds
I close my eyes and stretch my arms
Taking it all in

Aesthete (adj.): Someone with deep sensitivity to the beauty of art or nature.

Do you enjoy nature, too? If so, do your part. Be stewards of the environment. Happy Earth Day everyone!