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

Let’s talk about food

Food is a basic requirement for life which we have taken for granted. Aging farmers, food security issues as a result of climate change, and the proliferation of unhealthy, artificial food among others should be a cause for alarm.

With the aim of raising more awareness and sparking conversations on food security, the food system, and food in general, Good Food Community, Greenpeace Philippines, #IAmHampasLupa Ecological Agriculture Movement, and Make Sense organized a series of activities from film showing, potluck dinners, picnics, and farm visits for the months of June and July. As a culmination, an MKS Room Event was held last August 20, 2016 at WeCube Makati. The said event combined panel discussion with social entrepreneurs and live music performances.

The panelists were Katreen Castillo from Good Food Community, Gio Espital from Bangkong Kahoy Valley, and Julia Alayon from Veritas Organic. They talked about their motivation for pushing for more sustainable food production and consumption. They explained how logistics, economy of scale, and demand could drive prices up for organic products. Health benefits, however, could compensate for such cost. They further encouraged the audience to go into urban gardening to really understand how food is produced.

Those who would want to be further involved can come up with their own food conversation session in coordination with Greenpeace Philippines and #IAmHampasLupa Ecological Agriculture Movement. Important points from these conversations will form part of a recommendation to be given to policymakers.

We have a broken food system and it’s in our court to fix it. We can start by making a conscious effort of choosing safe and nutritious food that is produced sustainably. We do this for the sake of our own health, the environment, and the future of our food.

Trivializing environment issues vs. taking a stand

The presidential candidates during the recent debate in Cebu seem to have trivialized environment issues. We just don’t want to believe what we see. Al Gore, during the Climate Reality Project training explained that these environment issues are almost a spiritual problem. Are we trying to fill life’s emptiness with consumerism and destruction which stop us from facing the reality? Are we so consumed with greed and apathy that we don’t see what our only planet is turning into?

It’s all doom and gloom. But I’m encouraged to see individuals taking a stand, doing what they can for the environment. Be inspired by their initiatives.

 

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The Cordillera Ecological Center and A Tree A Day led the Walk for the International Day of Forests and Trees. Headed by environmental activist, Michael Bengwayan, Baguio residents protest against all forms of tree cutting.

 

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Cebu City Councilor Nestor Archival’s eco-house, a house close to nature, demonstrates how we can live sustainably. The eco-house features renewable energy source through solar panels and biogas, organic farming, aquaponics, vermicomposting, recycling, and waste management. (c)Hazel Aghon

 

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Nanay Gloria embraces the four laws of ecology in farming: everything is connected to everything else, everything must go somewhere else, nature knows best, and there is no such thing as a free lunch. (c) Jenny Tuazon/Greenpeace Philippines

 

 

Making Sense of Food Security

MakeSense, a community of more than 20,000 volunteers around the world who help social entrepreneurs solve their challenges, organized MKS Room – a discussion on food security at A Space Makati on March 10, 2016.

Virginia Benosa-Llorin, Food for Life Campaigner at Greenpeace Philippines, which campaigns for behavior change and political action on food security provided an overview of the agriculture sector in the Philippines. She also talked about the #IAmHampasLupa ecological agriculture campaign.

Solutions to the challenges in agriculture were presented by Rachel De Villa, CTO & Founder of Cropital, the first crowd-funding platform to invest in farmers; and Melanie Sacay, Founder of Aquaponics Philippines, which supports the growth of aquaponics throughout the country through guides, tutorials, and resources.

Amalia and Benito, a musical duo and co-founders of Kayumanggi Organics, performed during the event and also talked about their proudly Filipino, sustainable, and healthy products.

MKS Rooms are live events that blend musical and cultural performances and discussions with social entrepreneurs. Each event is centered on a specific cause with the goal of generating attention, fostering exchanges, and creating traction towards positive change.

#IAmHampasLupa for Food Sovereignty and Food Sufficiency

According to Greenpeace, the world produces more than enough food to feed all of us. However, almost 1 billion people go to sleep hungry every night. Around 1 billion are overweight or obese. And 30% of the world’s food is wasted.

In the Philippines, farming is looked down on. It doesn’t come as a surprise then that the average age of farmers in the country is 57. Their income per year is less than $500. They don’t even own the lands they farm.

Considering all these realities, Greenpeace Philippines came up with its #IAmHampasLupa Campaign. The word hampaslupa is a derogatory term to characterize someone in extreme poverty. Its literal translation though is to hit or till the soil which farmers do. The campaign then aims to change this negative perception towards farmers and farming in general.

What can you do to support this movement?

Challenge yourself and pledge your support for ecological agriculture.

Support local farmers by buying their produce.

Eat more organically grown fruits and vegetables. Lessen meat consumption. And don’t waste food.

You can also try to grow your own food through container or urban gardening.

Together, we can achieve food sovereignty and food sufficiency.

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