A carpet of green no more
INTROSPECTIVE - Tony Katigbak (The Philippine Star) - February 26, 2019 - 12:00am

Years ago, when I was working for a private company as the public relations manager, I would travel often to Bislig, Surigao del Sur. The PAL airplane flying us to our destination would fly below the clouds and I would look out the window in delight at the endless miles of green virgin forest below. It was such a sight to behold. And one that, unfortunately, I feel we have taken for granted.

That was 20 years ago. Today, anyone making the same flight would see something very different. Gone are the acres of untouched forestry due to illegal logging and profit hungry developers who have encroached on our forests and sold them off piece by piece to make tons of money. The forests are gone and the price we paid was steep – our environment and our natural resources. And all for the sake of modernization? If this was all we wanted we achieved that ages ago – now it’s just plain greed. Goodbye green and hello concrete.

In fact, my daughter all but confirmed this a few weeks ago when they arrived from home from their trip to Japan. She had looked out the window flying over the Land of the Rising Sun and saw forests and cities and bodies of water. A real plethora of things. As the plane neared Manila all she could see was a sea of concrete. Buildings upon buildings upon buildings and there is no end in sight.

In a news piece last Valentine’s Day there were viral photos of people enjoying the “seemingly” clean Manila Bay. This is was so scary because we are far from where we need to be when it comes to Manila Bay rehabilitation. Couples and friends and families were seen picnicking by the shore and some brave (or reckless) souls could even be seen in the water. People need to be more careful. I am excited at the prospect of fully rehabilitating the Bay but it is definitely not there yet.

It’s sad because we are so shortsighted in the way we treat our world. The Philippines has such a rich diversity of natural resources and we are watching them disappear at an alarming rate. We look to make quick money without looking further down the road. We build endless amounts of shopping malls and condominiums and we don’t stop to think about how this is going to affect us in the long run.

And we can’t run forever. We’ve already begun to feel the effects of us ruining the environment even if some people still choose to remain ignorant. Climate change has been hitting us all in the form of weird and uncontrollable weather phenomenon, flash floods, super typhoons, and more, and if we choose to keep going down this path it’s only going to get worse. Every single summer we claim it’s the hottest summer on record and if things don’t change soon the temperature is just going to keep going up.

I’m hopeful because I believe awareness is indeed spreading and people are trying to do their part – in their own little ways. It may seem like miniscule steps versus a Herculean problem but every little bit counts. Eco-bags instead of plastic, reusable containers instead of single use ones, and recycling all do their part in helping the world. But alongside individuals doing their fair share, the governments and big businesses of the world need to step up and play their part as well.

That is why – everything else aside – I am grateful that the current administration is adamant about taking a stand for the environment. This upcoming election season we should also keep our eyes out for candidates who make this an integral part of their platform. Sustainability programs are essential for the future and what good are all the promises in the world when there isn’t going to be a world left by 2030?

A couple of weeks ago, I was heartened to read an article on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Education (DepEd) working together for a joint tree-planting program within public schools and colleges nationwide. This is a laudable program and something private schools should copy as well. It’s a long-term investment that is going to reap very positive results for the future. After all, we can’t keep putting off tomorrow what we can do today. 

Plus the program – called “School in a Garden” (SIGA) project is not just about planting trees but also educating kids on the importance of caring for and respecting the environment. In my opinion this is just as important as the planting itself. After all, these are the children that are going to grow up and take care of our world and they need to understand why this matters.

Like in all things education is key. I truly want to believe that people who tore down our forests in the past may not have had a full understanding of their actions and the impact these actions would have on the whole world. Call it tunnel vision or shortsightedness but I think we have learned so much in the past few decades and this knowledge is important to share with the next generation. Hopefully they can do a better job than we did when it comes to saving Mother Earth.

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