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Citadel of democracy

SEARCH FOR TRUTH - Ernesto P. Maceda Jr. (The Philippine Star) - January 9, 2021 - 12:00am

It was a proud day in February, 1945 when General Douglas MacArthur turned over to President Sergio Osmeña the full powers and responsibilities of the Commonwealth Government. The General had liberated his beloved City of Manila from the Japanese Imperial Army. This was the crowning achievement of a triumphant return.

Standing in the ruins of our country’s devastated capital, he presided over the historic restoration of the reins of government to the hands of Cebu’s favorite son. This was the last step to the independence the Philippines was to receive from America had the war not intervened. At the turnover, MacArthur said: “Your capital city, cruelly punished though it be, has regained its rightful place – Citadel of Democracy in the East.”

No one can diminish the journey we traveled to earn that title. Did we continue to deserve it post-war? There are competing perspectives on the extent of true independence and the freedom to exercise that democracy, given our continued economic tethering to US hands. For sure, we merited it most at the historic EDSA people power revolution of 1986.

But no one has had to ask if the one conferring that title had the right to do so. The US is the acknowledged home of democracy in the modern world. To them, democracy is not just a political, economic or social concept. It is a way of life. And the Citadel of this greatest Democracy has always been Capitol Hill.

These are the wages that made the images of the mob’s assault on Congress so unnerving. The damage inflicted to the building is cosmetic. As to the destruction of the edifice of ideas that the voices, passions, blood and tears of generations built and which serves as scaffold to the continued viability of democracy, the US has only begun to measure the costs. The once open-door and transparent legislative process now takes place behind fences to keep the public out.

One of the strengths of American democracy was how people embraced it and honored it with the highest ideals of citizenship. Nowhere was this more manifest than in the sophistication of their showcase electoral process. Speaking of citadels, the idea of American electoral maturity was itself a fortress. Wednesday’s insurrection unmasked the fissure down its once impregnable ramparts.

But the mob failed in their short-term agenda of derailing congressional certification of the electoral college’s results of November’s presidential election. Senators and representatives crossed the aisle and linked arms to do their sworn constitutional duty. A nation’s shame became its proudest moment when the elected members of Congress stood firm, “bloodied but unbowed.”

The episode ended with President Joe Biden’s victory certified. As a bienvenida, the people of Georgia gifted the Democratic Party with two more Senate seats, equalizing the count to 50-50. With Vice President Kamala Harris holding the tie-breaking vote, the US enters 2021 with better hopes behind a Biden agenda.

Adapt, Survive, Educate. Last November, my brother Prof. Macky Maceda, Sustainability Director of Enderun Colleges, shared his expert opinion on the worsening impacts of the climate crisis. This time he shares his sobering thoughts on what we should do about the costs of climate change in the long term.

He starts with a quote commonly attributed to Darwin: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change, that lives within the means available and works cooperatively against common threats.”

Long term? If you live in a coastal city or a flood-prone area, plan on moving to higher ground. Sea levels will continue to rise due to melting polar ice sheets. Adapt, move and survive. We will experience more economic hardship as the populations of inland cities explode from the influx of climate refugees. Local governments should factor this into their socio-economic development plans.

In summer months, the usual water shortages – especially in Metro Manila. Shore up water supply and double down on water conservation measures. If you have the means and the space, invest in an additional water tank or a cistern and install a rainwater harvesting system on your roof. Be prepared for hotter summers with the usual danger of heat strokes. Protect yourself and stay indoors to avoid the extreme heat.

When the rainy season comes, expect stronger and more frequent typhoons. Batten down the hatches and secure your family. Participate or contribute to relief operations whenever you can. Even without typhoons, the monsoon rains of recent years have caused serious flooding. The government should prioritize its flood control projects in all our vulnerable cities. Garbage collection should also be improved.

We anticipate more pandemics to come. Wilderness areas are being lost due to human encroachment and forest fires, at an estimated rate of one football field per minute in the Amazon and other parts of the globe. This loss of biodiversity and wildlife habitat, combined with the incessant trade and consumption of exotic animals in frontier areas, has accelerated the frequency of novel zoonotic diseases. COVID-19 won’t be the last. All nations should learn from this current pandemic and make the proper preparations for the next.

Educate our youth on the climate crisis and what needs to be done. The impacts will undoubtedly be worse for them. All sectors of society must contribute, not just DepEd and CHEd. The message should be clear and delivered to where the children are listening – in school, on free TV, on social media and at home through their parents. Most importantly, the message should be results-oriented: that our children develop a genuine love for Mother Earth, so they’ll do a better job of protecting it when they grow up to become the next generation of decision-makers.

Education is the key to true environmental sustainability. The words of the great Senegalese conservationist Baba Dioum, in his speech to the United Nations in 1968, are fitting: “For in the end, we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.”

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