Earth-friendly changes in 2020
INTROSPECTIVE - Tony F. Katigbak (The Philippine Star) - January 7, 2020 - 12:00am

One of my favorite songs, when I was younger, was a piece by British singing duo Chad and Jeremy. This group, who boasted of contemporaries like the Beatles, Elvis Presley, Pat Boone, and Ricky Nelson, had several beautiful songs with calm and relaxing lyrics, and one of them was “A Summer Song” which started with the lyrics “trees swaying in the summer breeze.”

Ever since I heard it and generally as a child, I have always had a fascination with trees. It’s a natural resource I believe we take for granted and we have wasted in the past several decades. I still remember when we had blankets of green in the country (and the world for that matter) and we have carelessly and thoughtlessly cut them down in favor of more shopping malls, parking lots, and the like.

I wish our leaders thought more long-term instead of about making a quick buck in the present. Development is necessary, yes, but so is preservation and sustainability. This is true globally and especially for the Philippines. We have such a rich store of natural resources we could have been a leading supplier of these if we only thought about sustainability instead of just using up what already exists.

Trees are a good example. Cutting down trees would not have been so bad if we had invested in proper tree farming instead of just cutting down the forests we already have. If we had found a way to make this sustainable the country could have already been a leader in wood. But this can’t happen without the proper foresight and laws in place to ensure sustainability. As is, we are losing forests at an alarming rate and we are seeing the effects of losing this greenery – decline in oxygen quality, floods, landslides.

The time for pretending that what we do in nature doesn’t matter has passed. We can no longer pretend that our blatant disregard for the world doesn’t have consequences. We are seeing the effects in so many devastating ways. In the country alone we have witnessed super typhoons, flash floods, landslides, and an unprecedented amount of earthquakes. Do we need more warning signs that climate change is rearing its ugly head? Do we have to wait for things to get even more catastrophic?

In Australia, uncontrollable brushfires have decimated roughly 14 million acres of land, killed almost 500,000 animals, and left hundreds of thousands displaced. It’s heartbreaking to see the news of how the fires just can’t be controlled. The drought has made water scarce and the firefighters are left to do the best they can with what they have. Although they say the fires started naturally, scientists add that climate change has no doubt added to the disaster as exacerbated hot arid conditions easily fuel the growth of such blazes. Not to mention the lack of water to help combat the blazes.

We can no longer look the other way. While we are not currently affected, the tragedy in Australia could happen anywhere and to anyone. At present, the ways that we can help those in Australia are limited to making donations to reputable organizations helping combat the blaze, provide relief for displaced citizens, or provide care and shelter for animals. And of course, pray for rains to help combat the flames. Other countries have also sent firefighting contingents to help beleaguered Aussie firefighters.

But just helping Australia isn’t enough. This 2020 we all need to do is commit to making important changes in the way we live. Reducing our carbon footprint has never been more important and we can’t feel daunted by the enormity of the damage we have to undo. As someone wise once said, we don’t need a few people making perfect changes we need everyone making imperfect changes.

We don’t all need to change the way we live overnight. We just need everyone to start and to make a commitment to doing better. If we can reduce our single-use plastics that already helps. Cut down on straws when possible, bring an eco-bag. Little changes at home help too. Save electricity, water, and more by being more aware of your usage. Carpool whenever possible and save gas. Walk if you can and get some exercise too.

These things may seem like small steps but they all add up. Imagine how much we could change if the billions of the people on the planet started making changes? Our house is literally on fire and it’s the 11th hour. This 2020 we all need to make some positive changes for Mother Earth.

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It’s a sad reality that despite all the harmful effects of tobacco so many Filipinos are still smoking. Roughly 16 million Filipinos to be exact according to estimates made by the Philippine Statistics Authority and the Department of Health. It seems that widely sharing the harmful effects of smoking on the lungs as well as making it difficult to smoke in public places isn’t enough to help people kick the habit.

I can understand the addiction. I used to smoke when I was young. But the more I learned about how harmful it was I decided to quit and made a commitment not to fall off the wagon. It can be done, but it requires discipline and commitment. I hope that others will be more aware of the harm they are doing to their bodies and make a change.

According to the World Health Organization, smoking cigarettes is the “number one preventable cause of death in the world today”. People must understand that they can really help themselves if they commit to breaking the habit.

In the country, lawmakers are looking for more ways to crack down on tobacco and regulate e-cigarettes and vaping, which have also been shown to cause significant damage to the body as well – some say even more than their traditional cigarette counterparts.

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