by Malu E. Gacuma
May 16,2014 (11 pm)
Our countryside was often considered before as a safe haven for the city-based people who wanted to enjoy or be relieved by a cooler atmosphere.It offered a genuine refuge of Mother Nature against the false promises of comfort and convenience of a man-made,concrete jungle.
However,this impression is now deformed not only by the physical and topographical deterioration of our environment, but by the apathetic attitude most have towards its saddening state.
Whoever claims that we need not see more of our countryside communities joining hands in the fight against climate change, because the government can take care of it, must be unrealistic.
In the advent of another El Nino phenomenon — a ‘super‘ version this time – expected to strike in the middle of this year, everyone must not take nature’s red alert signals for granted.
Recent local news continue to banner stories of the adverse effects of the current heat wave in the countryside : a tornado in Cebu , a brief hailstorm in Murcia,Negros Occidental, hundreds of chickens that died due to the heatwave in La Union and numerous heatstroke cases everywhere.
Alongside these news are continuing reports of critical water level at 8 dams in Luzon alone, including the vital Angat Dam in Bulacan that supplies drinking water to Metro Manila.
In these crucial times, shouldn’t we see more of our fellowmen responsibly working harder with the government against the alarming ecological signals?
My three daughters, all ESP youth volunteers (L-R) Angel,Clay and Chickie Gacuma Gancayco after our March 9,2013 Coastal Clean-up project held at the environmentally-depressed,plastic-choked coastline of Barangay Pahanocoy,Bacolod City ,Negros Occidental.
Shouldn’t the government vigilantly, not occasionally, empower all of us, down to the grass root level, to join a massive endeavor of planting tree seedlings and mangrove propagules and of a more intensified environmental conservation and preservation awareness campaign?
Shouldn’t the government heighten and tighten its implementation of all environmental laws, including ‘Philippine Clean Air Act’ (Republic Act No. 8749), Executive Order 263 (Forestry Law) , Republic Act 7586 (Biodiversity Law), RA 8550 (Law on Fisheries) ,Presidential Decrees 1151 and 1152 ( on Environmental Policy ),etc.?
Or should the government first have integrity in implementing Republic Act No. 3019 ( Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act ) in its own strata before the aforementioned laws can be fully achieved?
Contrary to a popular belief that volunteers are handful where environmentalism is concerned, it is exactly the opposite from the vantage point of the grass roots.
Youth volunteers from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints (Bacolod 1st Ward) during ESP mangrove-planting event called `Helping Hands 2012` held in Bgy. Punta Taytay, Bacolod City, Negros Occidental on February 9 that year..
There is, in fact, an overwhelming spirit of volunteerism in the countryside and elsewhere in our country, waiting to be tapped for environmental projects.
While seen only as an economic advantage, our young population can also be steered towards this fight against climate change by empowering them to get involved in volunteering activities in saving our declining environment. There are so many interested yet need to know how they can do the first step.
Empower the parents, who are collectively an influential ‘guiding force’ in a family or household. A lifestyle starts at home, must first be practiced there, before it influences others beyond its premise.
This must be a priority of every local chief, the Barangay Captain and his council. Every newly-elected local chief must know his constituents by conducting a documented survey immediately with questions deemed appropriate that would help gauge their prevailing attitude towards an environmental campaign.
It’s a shame for most of those indulging in environmental activities for mere ‘photo opportunity’ purposes or a ‘plant-and-go’ attitude. Such hypocrisy must be discouraged in these challenging times.
But how many of these local officials know the strengths and weaknesses of their immediate environment and the vital role of a determined attitude?
It doesn’t take a highly-educated background to interpret the environmental laws to his constituents in layman’s terms. It only needs common sense,willingness and foresight.
Give our youth the chance to do something sensible and life-saving to do, make them become enthused about the prospect that it’s their future they’re protecting. Make them realize their heroic role needed in saving this dying planet and get them involved until it becomes their lifestyle.
Fine Arts student, Margaret Tevet Vanguardia of Silliman University in Dumaguete City,Negros Oriental with her winning entry to the `On-the-Spot Environmental Artwork Contest titled `Simplicity in Nature: How I See It in the Future` held in the said school on June 23,2012 by the Ecological Society of the Philippines, thru Malu E. Gacuma (Project Organizer ).
This is where the academic grounds can be made fertile. Embedding the all-level curriculum with more detailed subjects about the importance of our natural environment proves more worthwhile,again in these crucial times, than any theoretical topics being discussed in the classrooms.
The able and skilled yet unemployed population can also be tapped by NGOs to share their time and expertise, as resource speakers, to an enthusiastic grass root community.
To selflessly impart one’s knowledge for the benefit of the less-privileged is a conduit for self-confidence and self-growth even in the absence of a regular employment. This is where volunteerism can help both parties learn and intangibly benefit from each other.
The government must also strictly monitor and protect all tree seedlings (specifically fruit-bearing ones) and mangrove propagules in its custody, since these are discreetly sold in a self-serving manner by some unscrupulous authorities to unsuspecting environmental NGOs.
For the government to achieve this, it needs consistency not only in its drum-beating but through its leadership by example.
Think of the impact on our youth seeing a top leader immersed in mud, planting propagules or seedlings,enjoining his countrymen to do the same.
Action speaks louder than any sugar-coated words. One gesture of leadership-by-example has its lifetime impact in the minds of our youth.
Personally, I am more easily convinced by any leader who does the advocacy he or she speaks about, devoid of all pompousness his or her public position calls for.
But how many such leaders do we have these days?
We can attest that we, Filipinos, have matured enough once our concern for our regressing environment has outgrown our concern over whatever top showbusiness scandal is on the news.
We have a matured media once we stand up and speak against those big companies monstrously destroying our natural resources, then see these efforts as banner stories in all our media outlets.
By then, a culture of better change has evolved. Is it the same culture we need to arm ourselves so we can prevail against this fight against global warming.
Volunteerism is the only antidote against apathy about our environment, our natural resources., our countrysides.
While these are all easier said than done,there is no other choice.Either it is said or it is done. Either it is a choice of volunteerism or it is a choice of apathy.
By our choice, we get the environment that we deserve.