By CHEN REYES-MENCIAS
It is a brand new day and a brand new year! It follows it should also be a brand new YOU! So how about getting a new pair of glasses to see the world. For about a year now I had been traveling all over the country giving a lecture called “The Seven Lenses” from the book with the same title written by environmental educators from Miriam College. The two-hour lecture is about the working of nature that every human being should know.
TOXIC FISH. Research reveals that the toxin in the plastic materials that humans have produced over the years have gone up the food chain and are already in the blood of humans. Photo courtesy of Chen Reyes-Mencias
Knowledge for all
With the serious environmental problems that we are now facing such as global warming and climate change, it is important for humans to understand what is going on. For years understanding the workings of nature was mostly left to scientists. The realization that all humans contributed to the problem, however, brought about the need for more extensive information campaigns using ordinary materials. The book “Seven Lenses” was developed for this purpose and it discusses in simple language the principles that govern nature.
Nature knows best
Just like our bodies, planet earth is governed by natural processes that when violated result in ecological backlash. These processes allows water, chemicals such as nitrogen, carbon, phosphorous and other nutrients to move about in a cycle from the atmosphere, to the soil, to the plants and animals, to the water bodies. These cycles had been going on since the beginning of life on earth. Humans, however, have learned to disregard these processes by polluting the air, soil and water with materials that do not decompose.
There are many signs and indicators that the defiance has gone too far such that we are now experiencing floods and severe drought, stronger typhoons, a rise in the sea level, landslides, forest fires and calamities that result to loss of property and lives. The recent landslide in Casiguran, Aurora is an illustration of how nature can wreak havoc to people’s lives.
All forms of life are important
This principle talks about biodiversity and the role of each species in the over-all scheme of things. Just as a person has an address and an occupation, creatures also have a habitat and a niche. Even the microscopic bacteria is important since it plays a vital role in breaking up materials so that they can be absorbed back by the soil. The extensive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides are poisoning the soil and killing this valuable organic decomposer.
Luzon has the last of the remaining large block of primary forest cover in the country and it is rich in endemic and threatened species of life. Illegal logging, kaingin and poaching threaten Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park in Isabela. Although law protects this park, enforcement can be quite challenging. Its remoteness and undeveloped status, though, has somehow protected it for years. The plan to establish a RORO route from Sta. Ana, Cagayan all the way down to Quezon, following the eastern seaboard may open this pristine area for uncontrolled development and careless exploitation.
All things are interconnected
Water, wind, minerals and nutrients connect all things on earth. Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan talked about the butterfly effect. He said when a man claps his hand in the US, a butterfly falls dead in Asia. This is a metaphor of course, but it simply describes how a seemingly innocent action may have a devastating impact on others. User conflict is a classic example of how human activities can go against each other. The root cause of some social and ecological problems of Baguio City, for instance, may be traced from the wanton disregard for the long term impact of mining, illegal logging and uncontrolled development. Although Baguio is considered a tourism destination, the environmental problems clearly do not support a healthy tourism industry.
In addition, through food chains and food webs, life is connected by countless invisible threads. The more intricate these linkages are the more stable the environment becomes. It follows that the strength and integrity of the environment lies in the diversity of life. The more species there are, the more chances for creatures to survive because there will be more food available. It goes without saying that destruction of habitats will lead to loss of biodiversity, and consequently affect the capability of ecosystems to support life, including that of man’s.
Everything goes somewhere
Man is the most intelligent creature on earth and yet we have allowed ourselves to get into this quagmire. Now we are faced with bitter realities and one of these is that the situation is already critical. The problem with plastics and how they are accumulating in the environment is something that should be dealt with right now.
Recent studies reveal there are more plastics in the Pacific Ocean than there are live planktons. This is a shocking news indeed considering that planktons are microscopic and they are at the very base of the food chain. The fact remains that plastic materials do not decompose, but merely degrade into tiny particles, eventually breaking down to pieces as small as planktons. Plastic absorb toxin in the water and when they are mistaken as food by fish, turtles, birds and other sea life, the toxin make their way up the food chain until they eventually enter human bodies. Hence, the “fresh” fish we are eating may actually be laced with poison, perhaps even from plastic that we, ourselves have thrown into the ocean. A study by Japanese scientists reveal the toxins in the plastic we use in our daily lives are already in the blood of human beings.
Everyone encounter changes, which may be cyclic (rise and fall of tides, seasons), linear (birth and death) or random (volcanic eruption). Life is not static and human beings continuously contribute to the changes in the environment. Human mindset has evolved from being hunter-gatherers to a belief that humans can conquer the world through technology.
As we crave to improve our lives and seek prosperity, we have developed machines and “things” that get stuck in the environment. Today we are faced with an issue of global proportion – climate change. It will affect everyone, young or old, rich or poor, smart or dumb, good or bad. Nobody is exempted from the impact of climate change, although some areas will be more vulnerable than others.
Ours is a finite earth
The earth may be huge from our point of view but it is finite and the resources can be depleted. This principle highlights human footprint or impact on the planet caused by population increase, lifestyle and choices. Reducing one’s footprint should be a daily goal in order for nature to have a chance to recover from years of abuse and misuse. Simple lifestyle change, better awareness and more responsible choices from a personal level are the challenges of the times.
Humans are stewards of nature
As we are faced with dramatic environmental changes, change is also the very thing that will save our species. Immediate change in mindset, in action, in practices and lifestyle are called for. John Newbert said, “People can be divided into three groups: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened.” Time for wondering is over. We need to educate ourselves, our families and our neighbors. It is time for action, for getting involved and for contributing to positive change.
Let us all make 2009 a New Year full of knowledge, wisdom and a personal commitment to act for the sake of the next generation. #
If you wish to sponsor a lecture on the seven environmental principles in your area or simply wish to let me know what you think, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.