By LAYAD EKID
How can we protect the children from ways of our society that contradict the basic values we take so much pain to preach to them?
About a decade and a half year ago, I taught in a rural high school in Mountain Province. At one time I accompanied our school’s journalists to a province-wide student conference and competition on the different aspects of newspaper work which was held in the capital town of Bontoc.
A week earlier, I chanced upon two acquaintances that were into environment activism. They were having their time in the town where I taught. I invited them to have better things to do – give my fourth year students a one-hour and thirty-minute lecture-discussion on the environment. They gladly obliged and provided a very good lecture on climate change and what little things the students could do to help heal the earth.
At the student conference in Bontoc, we were served food in styrofoam plates. The fourth year students who became environment-conscious asked: Were we not told that styros were dangerous to the body and the environment?
I do not remember how I responded. But I know then that those teachers and other education officials (whom our children look up to for guidance) also need environment education. Or perhaps they know, but knowing and putting into action what they know were two different things.
I remember I was relieved that they did not ask me further questions.
Since the conference venue was near the Chico River, we decided to find a spot in the river where we could enjoy our lunch. After eating, some students complained that two of their colleagues turned their styro plates into boats and launched them down the stream. I told the two students they were behaving like nothing seeped into their brains in last week’s lecture.
“Something seeped in there, sir,” said one with a naughty smirk. “But what is the point? If we place them in the garbage can, it will end up just the same downstream where Bontoc dumps its waste,” he said.
In instances like that, it did not help to behave like a teacher. I just made the student feel I was proud that he had such a good insight. I also acknowledged the others who were disturbed by an irresponsible waste disposal by their classmates.
That was almost fifteen years ago. Bontoc’s garbage dump along the Chico river bank is still there. It caught the attention of media several times, but it is still there.
Then sometimes in 2007, the province of Kalinga formally raised a complaint through the Regional Development Council (RDC). The former RDC Chairman Governor Maximo Dalog of Mountain Province, a lawyer, said that anybody could indeed hail the municipal government of Bontoc to court. He never said anybody could drag the provincial government with its capitol located in Bontoc to court.
Bontoc later responded by saying that even Kalinga communities were dumping their waste into the Chico River. DENR confirmed this allegation but tried to behave it was not an environment agency. Bontoc even tried to come up with pathetic excuses that the dump did not affect the river because the town constructed a concrete barrier. Downstream however, children get scolding from parents because they went swimming in the Chico River.
Bontoc accordingly has identified an alternative open dump, but it still has to perfect documents before it can leave the Chico River in peace. The act will just transfer the pollution from the river to the land. But at least Bontoc will not be projected as discourteous to its neighbors downstream. In the future, it will have to deal with its own people when they begin to complain that they are getting sick from the stink.
Meanwhile, teachers can talk of reusing, reducing, recycling and segregating to their students. Some would rather keep their children in the dark and start counting the days to doomsday October 21. # nordis.net