Hot flat world

FOOD FOR THOUGHT - Chit U. Juan - The Philippine Star

If you have read Thomas Friedman who started with a flat world (The World is Flat, 2005) then followed it up with the sequel on how we should green the world (Hot, Flat and Crowded, 2008), that was a good 15 years ago. And today, listening to Lopez Group chairman Federico “Piki” Lopez speak, we are in big trouble. Our world is hotter and only a conscious effort to rebuild, renew and regenerate our planet will save it from burning out.

We had Mr. Lopez at the annual membership meeting of the Nextgen Organization of Women Corporate Directors (NOWCD) and he talked about REGENERATION. “Sustainability alone is not enough,” he shared. The power of billions of people to bring this world to hotness can be the same power to regenerate it. The solution really sounds simple, if we all make the effort.

Who wants to live with floods and heat waves, forest fires and tsunamis? We definitely do not want to. And the way to do it is really to avoid the use of coal and start going electric. But electricity must also be from greener sources like solar, wind and hydropower if we are to enjoy its benefits. And first and foremost is to make businesses think about how to be green and still be profitable.

We are now in a good place to convert to renewable sources of energy. There is an array of electric vehicles and hybrid cars available, albeit still with a steep price. There also is the seemingly disposable electric tricycle, because its battery replacement cost is almost the same as the cost of a complete brand new unit.

As early as 15 years ago, we had a campaign called “Live Green” and we gave talks on the use of CFLs (now LEDs) instead of fluorescent lamps, the use of power strips which you could turn off rather than have all your appliances on the “wait” mode, consuming power even when not in use. We also started adopting the use of inverter appliances like air conditioners. Today, technology has inverter models of washing machines, power drills and other equipment. There is no reason not to change over to inverter and power-saving versions of household staples like air conditioners.

Today, making green choices is easier than ever. There are solar lamps and chargers for household lights, security lamps and solar versions of almost every appliance. Thanks to the lowering of prices of photovoltaic (PV) cells, we also now have a lot of solar farms, gathering electricity at lower costs than coal. These solar farms sell back the power to the grid, adding to our reduced dependence on fossil fuels as a country.

The other activity we all must do is to reforest, replant and regenerate our farms. Did you know that there is a law requiring every able-bodied Filipino 12 years and older to plant one tree a year? I had the most interesting conversation with a learned public servant who is a forester and a CENRO or Community Environment and Natural Resources Office head. He told me more about free seedlings the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is giving away. I was able to get a Narra seedling from the event I attended in Laguna. Apparently, DENR distributes these for free as they are replacement of trees coming from areas with tree cutting permits. For every tree cut, 50 seedlings replace the cut tree. For naturally growing trees, the replacement is 100 seedlings. All one has to do is to visit a DENR office and ask for a seedling.

Besides these free seedlings, we at the Coffee Board (www.philcoffeeboard.com) also have a program with GCash to plant coffee trees all over the country. So I asked my new consultant if they could help us source shade trees. Coffee seedlings need shade in their early stage. In Benguet they use native alnos or pine, and in Cavite they use madre de cacao.

It is really enriching to talk to foresters who mean well and who further added that he is recruiting young graduates who can continue work he has started to reforest our lands. Now that’s a good example of someone thinking of the next generation already, even before his retirement. His team was just as interested in the dispersal of seedlings and showed their love for their work…on a Saturday, too. It is rare to have government people work on weekends, but this group was in their uniforms, ready to help consumers like myself by answering many queries I had.

For example, why do we distribute mahogany seedlings when we know that its leaves are acidic to the soil and that they are not indigenous to our forests? They cleverly answered that distribution of mahogany is allowed IF it is for production and not for reforestation. Clearly, they do not recommend mahogany to be planted just anywhere but purely for production purposes (imagine a manufacturing plant for wood) as it is harmful to animals and for biodiversity in general. Now, that is an intelligent clarification I truly appreciated.

So for your community, family or company, you can partner with an organization like GCash and Coffee Board to plant your tree, anywhere in the country. You may also volunteer to dig holes, spend a day in the warm sun and get your Vitamin D. We will work with the CENRO, PENRO (Provincial Environment and Resource Office), the farmers’ groups to get your trees planted and maintained. With today’s available technology like drones, GPS and satellites or similar monitoring equipment, we can see these trees through their infancy to adulthood.

As Mr. Lopez shared, we have to now regenerate and reforest. Planting a tree (the correct species) is the simplest, best thing anyone can do. Imagine 100 million trees a year. Now that can make our country cool in no time. And reap other benefits of regeneration. A cooler world for all.

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