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A convenient truth |

Young Star

A convenient truth

UNWRITTEN - Maria Jorica B. Pamintuan -

Do you believe that climate change is real?” was the very first question my environmental science professor asked upon meeting his class for the first time.

About half of the class said yes. A fourth said they didn’t know. The remaining students either didn’t care or didn’t believe in climate change.

My teacher smiled at the results of his query and told us that by the end of the semester, he was sure that everyone in the classroom would believe. He also promised to arm us with information to help us fight against global warming.

Former US Vice President and environmentalist Al Gore’s speech at the SMX Convention Center last Tuesday echoed my former teacher’s words.

He said that he did not come to the Philippines to lecture or give facts. He came here so that he could try to convince us to be part of the solution to destructive climate change.

It’s one thing to be convinced by Gore’s rhetoric and say that we will stop contributing to the problem, and another thing to actually live a green lifestyle.

For sure, green is definitely the new black, if the proliferation of those “I am not a plastic bag” canvas shoulder bags is any indication. Everyone wants to be called green now — it’s probably the catchword of the decade!

Celebrities who have expressed their commitment to help the environment, like eco-champ Brad Pitt and his various causes, have inspired their fans to switch to green living. There are also more products that practically scream, “Buy me! Buy me! I’m green and environment-friendly!” available in mid- to high-end stores.

However trendy going green may be, it takes a conscious effort (and, at times, deep pockets) to make the change — and sometimes, the right choice can also be the profitable choice. Consumers who want to join the action usually favor products and companies that carry a green stamp.

Just look at the grocery culture here in the country. The big chain stores will sell green (literally and figuratively) shopping bags to their customers to reduce the use of plastic, then give discounts on the purchases of those who opt to use the bags. The thing is, most people aren’t about to shell out P100 for a not-so-awesome grocery bag when they could get lots of plastic ones for free.

In Germany, it’s the polar opposite. Cashiers there will not give you a plastic bag unless you ask for one, and they’ll make you pay five euro cents for it, too. Talk about forcing you to go green; yet, it helps reduce the proliferation of non-biodegradable waste.

Segregating trash is also a big part of green living. Countries like the US that have extensive recycling programs impose fines on those who don’t bother to separate plastics from their cans and paper. They even have machines where folks can drop off their cans and plastics and get a few dollars for them.

Changing even the smallest things, like the kind of tissue you use in the bathroom, can go a long way in the fight against climate change. It’s not as if your bum will break out into rashes if you use anything less than three-ply toilet paper.

Fortunately, the youth is leading the pack in the green movement. A 14-year-old boy in Malawi built a windmill based on a Popular Science magazine picture, and was able to power his family home. After that success, he built windmills for his neighbors, too. Closer to home, budding engineers have started developing efficient solar-powered jeepneys. (Visit

The youth has also strongly supported and encouraged smaller earth-friendly acts, such as printing on the blank side of used school papers, and bringing their personal mugs to coffee shops instead of using paper cups.

 Many young people are also active in hosting talks and forums in schools to raise awareness about the perils of climate change among the greater public. For them, the pledge to save the planet is not merely a lifestyle choice, but an advocacy. They care about the earth and its future.

What Mr. Gore is doing is raising awareness not only about the problem, the debates, the science, and the actions the world is taking to end this rising threat, but also the morality of the issue.

Yes, it’s about economics, politics and ecology, but above all, the battle against climate change is about concern for the environment, for ourselves, and most importantly, for future generations.

It all boils down to caring — caring enough not to litter on the street, caring for pedestrians who have to breathe in the noxious gases spewed by ill-maintained vehicles, caring enough to spend a little to lessen the impact of a company on the environment, caring enough to stay awake in class to be able to understand just what is going wrong with the planet.

It’s not easy. Like Al Gore said, we are naturally self-centered animals. It’s hard enough to learn, let alone teach.

As anyone who has seen his film An Inconvenient Truth can attest, half of the words coming out of Gore’s mouth are scientific mumbo jumbo, while the other half are economic jargon.

For many people, it is enough to hear those terms in school, where the words enter one ear and promptly go out the other. Spending precious free time watching a depressing video about the world’s apparent impending demise isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time.

It is difficult to understand the science behind the melting of icebergs, storms, droughts and animal extinction. Comprehending how one small human decision can worsen these disasters is an even bigger pain in the brain. Yet, it is even harder to make people listen to this inconvenient truth.

But that’s the best thing we can do: spread the word. Ironically, it is by disseminating an inconvenient truth that we spread a convenient one — that there is hope.

As Al Gore said, “We can do many things that people believe are impossible, because it is the right thing to do.”

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