Sparky & Benny on climate change

FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas - The Philippine Star

If many adults turn their eyes and ears away from the issue of preserving the environment, how can one transmit the message of climate change to children?

Environmental scientist Janice Lao-Noche admits that climate change is a “complicated topic, and explaining it to adults is tough enough.” But she and her young daughter Esther Noche have written a small volume that explains in simple, fairy-tale like language what climate change is all about. Quite intriguing is their use of sea animals to explain the phenomenon. The volume, titled Sparky & Benny’s Big Home Mystery, was launched a couple of weeks ago.

The book’s major characters are Sparky Mono, a narwhal, and Benny Donti, a beluga whale, both belonging to the whale family. Sparky, as a narwhal, has a horn on his head, sometimes called a tusk tooth. The best friends live under the ice of  the Arctic Ocean. Benny, who is the main story teller in the book, says his home under the ice is beautiful. “The water just under the ice has a tinge of green and yellow, reflecting the algae that live at the surface… As you go down deeper into the water, the surface becomes darker and darker, like the night. There are football- and cone-shaped jellyfish that light up, and anemone corals with wily arms swaying on the seafloor as they prey on anything that passes through them. The beauty of our home is so magical.”

Sparky is bothered by the conversation between his parents about their losing their home and all the homes in the village. Perplexed, Sparky wants to know who is causing the destruction of his home. Together with his best friend Benny and their Grade V teacher Miss Rose and other whale teachers, they go up to the ocean surface to get some air. As they get closer, they see ships docked in an area where ice is thinning. From a marine biologist and science and math engineer, they learn about the changing climate that destroys their homes.

Then they see two polar bears standing on a small piece of floating ice that could melt and have them drowned. Sparky and Benny and company move them to a safer place, and from Larbi, the older bear, they learn more things about climate change.

The book authors have Benny ask questions about climate change, the conversation is simple and the effect is that it helps adult readers understand climate change. For example, Benny asks, “…Our ice is melting too early this season. Is our climate getting warmer or colder?” Larbi says, “Something is happening to make earth much warmer than usual. It might be caused by burning and cutting down forests and other materials.”

“What’s a forest?” Sparky asks.

“A forest is a huge group of tall plants. It’s a bit like seaweed, but on land. The forests near where we live are called taiga. Do you see the gray cloud in the sky over there? ...that is smoke from a big fire there.”

“We don’t have any forests in our home,” Benny says. “How can burning plants on another part of earth make our own home warmer?”

“We live in different places, but we all share the same atmosphere. Our atmosphere is like a bubble around our planet. Burning materials change that atmosphere and makes it warmer.”

Sparky and company have no idea of the animals aboard the ships, then later meets two of them – humans named Med and Miguel. The whales shudder with fear, but Med explains that humans have been using materials from the earth like coal or oil to make electricity or to make cars move, and wood from the forests to make paper, to cook and grow food, or to build new homes. “When we use these materials, they create what we call ‘greenhouse gases’ that cause heat and make the earth warmer. The more we use and burn these materials, the more it creates heat, and the warmer it gets.”

The whales and the humans vow to inform their communities and work together to find solutions and take action to stop the destruction of the earth.

Author Janie Lao-Noche says the book ends with “a call to action and belief in our common humanity, empathy, understanding and perseverance. If human innovation, invention and imagination have brought so much development to the world today, we can harness this same energy to solve climate change.”

A free curriculum guide with this book is available at: www.janicelao.com/big-home-mystery.

*      *      *

Anthony A. Marquez, MD MHA, who is assistant medical director of the Pasig City General Hospital, sent me his idea on measures to take regarding forthcoming vaccine distribution.

“The COVID-19 vaccine is on its final phase before inoculation to the population,” he writes. “Local leaders should develop prioritization schedules based on CDC guidelines, should consider operational capacity, the amount of vaccine available, available staff and facility requirements in their locality.”

For the local government units, Dr. Marquez, who happens to be one of my medical doctors, cites the challenges surrounding vaccine distribution and the things needed to solve them as follows:

• Find special freezers or refrigerators to accommodate them (outsourced).

• Make a thorough inventory of storage equipment in each hospital, barangay or city (including personal protective equipment such as gloves, hypodermic needles and disinfecting wipes) that will be useful in overall planning.

• Educate people on the importance and benefits of vaccination, citing previous good effects of old vaccines and safety issues to avoid vaccine hesitancy. Patients should be informed about all treatment options’ risks and benefits.

• Use existing staff, as well as BHW, EMS, police, fire to help staff vaccination sites including private health providers, clinics, government-run points of dispensing and others that will need to make requests to the national government for the vaccine.

• Establish different vaccination sites like drive-through clinics, clinics established at schools and other vaccine delivery models.

• Other pandemic response strategies (e.g., prompt treatment, wear face masks, social distancing, engineering controls in workplaces, changing work practices to reduce close contact with others, good hand washing) should still be applied.

*      *      *

Email: [email protected]

vuukle comment


  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with