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Are we all to blame? |


Are we all to blame?

MILLINER MUSINGS - Mich L. Dulce - The Philippine Star

Tuesday had me really depressed.

I didn’t even have to turn on the television.  I barely slept the night before because I’m scared of thunder and lightning. Only one person made it to work and the day before, I sent everyone home early.  We listened to the news on the AM radio in the studio, of dams overflowing, of floods that were higher than people, of a baby being found floating in the flood.

I had no Internet as it never works when it rains, so I decided to drive to Cecile Zamora’s house (nearby in our fortunately flood-free zone) to try and get a deadline sorted. She was with our friend Jude watching the news on ANC. I walked in saying I was depressed and my eyes started to tear up. “Don’t cry. It’s normal,” they said. “It's just another flood.”

I wasn’t here for typhoon Ondoy. I was in London where my other Filipino friends were clearing their wardrobes and collecting goods to send home. I didn’t fully grasp it. A while later I went to a Friends of The Earth Conference in London, and I cried listening to fellow Filipina Lidy Nakpil talk about Ondoy in a foreign city.  She talked about how this tragedy in my hometown showed the impact of climate change.  It's happened again twice since then.  In the 2013 study by Maplecroft, Manila is the number two city on its Climate Change Vulnerability Index, facing extreme risk, or facing highest vulnerability to climate change.

We’ve gotten so used to this tragedy happening we’re slowly mastering the art of handling it, and yes, this is a great thing.  Twitter goes on overdrive, with hashtags reused from many typhoons: #rescuePH, #reliefPH, etc. and the usual suspects retweeting and reposting nonstop. Malls stay open for stranded people, evacuation centers and relief good collection points are set up like clockwork. Yes, we see bayanihan at its finest, and everyone wanting to help in any way they can, rich or poor.  It's amazing, yes, and I’m all for helping, but isn’t it about time that we had this same energy and determination in consciously making our daily lives more sustainable in order to contribute to long-term change?

Yes, the government sucks because corrupt officials have left us with less money to spend on fixing our sewage system.  But I think it’s time we also took responsibility for our own actions — we each contributed to that in some way.    

I’m no saint. While I hate plastic bags and try to operate on minimal waste policy in everything that I do, I tend to leave lights on when I sleep or when I am alone in the flat because I’m scared of the dark. I’m guilty of throwing cigarette butts out my car window.  But tragedies like these remind me to make a conscious effort to live sustainably in some way. There’s something we can do each day, whether it's choosing to over taking a car, or using both sides of a sheet of paper. I believe in Vivienne Westwood’s Climate Revolution not just because I’m a Westwood fan, but because I believe in small steps.  She doesn’t ask for impossible feats, just things you can incorporate in your daily life with a tiny amount of effort.

We live such wasteful lifestyles, and it's annoying to me how this has been accepted as the norm.  It's not even just in the Philippines — I remember how I furnished my practically empty room in NYC, taking shelves and chairs and tables off the street every end of the month — it’s unreal how much people throw out.  I look at my closet and see things I hoarded and bought that will eventually never be used. We live in a society where decadence and excess and consumerism is seen as luxury living, where convenience has overtaken everything. Years ago, we didn’t have water in sealed plastic bottles in our homes; we had water purifiers (remember those Electrolux ones?). We didn’t have disposable kitchen towels; we had basahan. Magnolia milk came in huge  glass bottles with paper caps that were recycled, not Tetra Pak containers that went straight into the bin. We’ve become more wasteful in each attempt to make our lives better, without thinking that it may eventually make our lives worse.  Maybe it's time to recognize this and rethink each thing that we do.

Just something to think about each time we retweet or post a picture of the tragedy outside out window.

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