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Cebu News

Pinoys more likely to survive this century

- Maria Eleanor E. Valeros -

CEBU, Philippines - Filipinos have a better chance of surviving three world crises  climate change, the peak oil crisis, and an unfolding economic crisis  with our frugal lifestyle of utilizing for example the small CR water dipper; our innovation of an efficient non-rail transport system with vehicles like the trisikad; and our culture where family, community and church are emphasized over consumption.

Dr. Glen Green, a professor at the University of San Carlos, Departments of Biology and Architecture, as well as a student of Planetary Sciences, discussed in a forum our adeptness at survivability which when magnified on a global scale would pressure developed countries to “catch up to Cebu and the Philippines.”

“The Filipino has a better chance of prospering in the future, not just in terms of sustainability, but more importantly in survivability, which is the call of our present times. Cebu’s low-tech developments, and the less wasteful Filipino lifestyle can help us all move away from fossil fuel-dependent development. Filipinos have the skills to overcome the ill effects of climate change, and survive oil scarcity, and a potential fall of the world economy,” Dr. Green pointed out in his presentation supported by reports, statistics and all sorts of graphs.

Green emphasized small Filipino success stories that make us rich.

“If you think we Americans are rich, you’re wrong. You are far richer than us by leaps and bounds. The US is the biggest user of the world’s resources, and it’s the biggest debtor nation on the planet. You have proven to have lived lives that cost much less in a much more efficient and humane way. In the States, I and most everyone else lived a life with too much waste and excess and it took me to marry a Filipina to realize that I can live without the expensive toilet paper for example by using a little water dipper. Now I know that toilet paper is an inferior method, and I’ll never go back to that,” Green shared this anecdote to the delight of legal and environmental management students who gathered recently for the forum at the Buttenbruch Hall, University of San Carlos Main Campus.

“Cebu has a diverse and efficient public transportation system, perhaps the most efficient non-rail system in the world. Filipinos have invented many kinds of vehicles like the motorella, the tricycle, and the trisikad which needs no fossil fuels at all, and of course the multicab which I think is a good candidate for the label “car of the future”. Why? Because the Filipinos have designed the multicab to seat 18 people, three times as many people as when originally built,” he added, earning a chorus of laughter from an obviously amused audience.

“And there’s the karaoke/videoke which is a cheap but healthy form of family entertainment. This shows how the Philippines is rich in social capital, the connection between people. The Philippines may trail much of the world in terms of GDP (Gross Domestic Product), but that is not a good measure of national success because it disregards human well-being and the environmental costs of consumption. But Filipinos are world leaders in a better measure of success, in terms of HPI (Happy Planet Index),” Green noted.

“HPI measures how efficient a country is in converting resources into human well-being. The Philippines leads most countries,” he further said.

By the way, the Philippines takes 17th spot in the Happy Planet Index, while the US ranks 150th.

He implied that the Filipino’s early exposure to a modest way of living is itself the model for today’s need to adapt to a world experiencing extreme weather patterns, facing resource scarcity with the imminent peaking of world oil production as fossil fuel resources are finite; and the faltering economies of developed nations like the US, Japan and the European Union, which are highly dependent on fossil fuels and have huge debts.

Contrary to the standard materialistic and wasteful development Americans have grown up with; Filipinos who are used to living in bamboo and nipa houses can easily shift back to being “low-tech.”

“Low-tech is nothing to be ashamed of. Low-tech is best. It’s less expensive and more resilient,” Green stressed.

Other mitigation measures the Filipinos are good at is shifting to renewable energy sources from fossil fuels, like harnessing more geothermal power. Cebu now gets 70-percent of its electricity from geothermal power. Also, using natural ventilation in place of more expensive air-conditioning units like the passive cooling method adopted by Engr. Nestor Archival in his A House Close to Nature in Barangay Talamban. The College of Architecture and Fine Arts building, USC Talamban Campus, and the Elicon Hotel and Café are other good examples. Natural lighting can be used instead of light bulbs; rainwater harvesting instead of groundwater pumping; groundwater recharge to prevent runoff from impervious surfaces; natural farming instead of fossil-fuel based agriculture like the Natural Farming Project of Fr. Domingo Saladaga of the Laray Parish; productive landscaping instead of landscaping “just for looks”; bio-digestion instead of dumping of human waste onto rivers; and vermiculture instead of dumping biodegradable waste in landfills/dumpsites.

“Filipinos are most likely to survive this century, however, survival skills need to be taught because most Filipinos are not aware of these solutions. Survivability needs organization and discipline,” Green further said.

He laments over the failure of academe so far to strengthen non-fossil fuel-based education. “Creating a survivable future is the solution. However, not even the schools have fully emphasized the need for students to switch from a mentality of GDP to HPI; for a need to help spread the word that a simple thing like white roofs lead to cool homes which are more economical and comfortable.”

Natural farming can also be embraced (Green argues for a 90-percent conversion to microbe-based Natural Farming System agriculture); the building of biogas digesters for all the piggeries of the city to remove piggery waste/odor and use the created methane for alternative fuel; and adopting urban gardens to cut down by 50 percent Cebu’s imported food needs and to reduce costs.

There is also the lack of replication of Barangay Luz’ very successful waste-to-profit project. This is seen to eliminate 60 percent landfills/dumpsites and create fertilizer profits. As for rain harvesting, cisterns are still not taken seriously enough so far.

Green also proposes a Cebu building rebirth with the goal to retrofit 50 percent of building with natural ventilation and natural lighting and other “Green Architecture” ideas; with the country’s blessed location on the Ring of Fire, it could double production of geothermal power; the power of trees to sequester carbon and to cover ten times as much space and cool Filipino cities. Harder but worthy goals of cutting automotive oil use by 50 percent by using natural gas, biofuels and compressed air; the harnessing of wind power more to increase national production tenfold; and enhance charcoal cooking by planting and maintaining huge plantations for fuel are also advocated by Dr. Green. 

After presenting the bad news that despite discussions on sustainability, the world continues to live lifestyles highly dependent on fossil fuels and consumption growing faster than production, Dr. Green posed the following options: We can either exercise our freewill now for a voluntary transition before 2030 away from fossil fuels to renewable energy (at about the same time the global coal production may peak) by getting away from our 90-percent importation of oil and coal (75-percent); or kicking and screaming by 2050 as we can’t anymore afford to purchase the remaining scarce fossil fuels with the rich nations enjoying access to it and the last of growth; or greet 2080 “not with a bang but a whimper” when all the worlds fossil fuels are gone.

Moreover, Green pointed out that the 500th anniversary of Magellan’s arrival in Cebu is 2021. A “world’s fair” on survivability could showcase Cebu’s projects, which could be big enough to impress humanity but “low-tech” enough to be affordable.

“As with the other world expositions, Cebu can use the 10-year run-up to the celebration with a mission to reduce emissions and emphasize the need to start conversion from fossil fuels immediately,” he said.

Dubbed Cebu-WISE 2021 or World Ideas for Survival Expo, it would utilize a structure called the Spirit of Unity Shrine as the focal point to sell the idea to the world. Like Seattle’s Space Needle and Paris’ Eiffel Tower, (structures built during previous world expos) the Shrine would depict Lapu-Lapu’s sword, Magellan’s cross as a symbol of Christianity in the Far East, and the crown of the Sto. Niño. The mountains near Cebu are seen as ideal location for the shrine. When viewed from the side, the sword enters the earth to conform to a passage in the Book of Isaiah: “The sword is beaten into a plowshare.”

“Most Filipinos haven’t realized that they can now lead the planet if they make the effort. You are the ones you’ve been waiting for. Despite the bad news, the good news is that it is not yet the end of the world but maybe the beginning of a deeper awakening,” Green concluded. (FREEMAN)

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