Trash: Scapegoat, not culprit

TO THE QUICK - Jerry S. Tundag - The Freeman

Many parts of Cebu City went under water from particularly heavy rains the past few days. From virtually all accounts, the accusing fingers once again pointed to the usual scapegoat --trash. Note that I used the word scapegoat instead of culprit. And that is because I have long realized that it is not really trash that causes and should be blamed for floods.

Trash being inanimate, it cannot voice any sentiment in its own defense. Such helplessness has made trash a convenient excuse for the real social and political failures that are the real culprits behind the devastating flashfloods. Nobody is rising in defense of trash because everybody wants no part of the real responsibility for this modern-day scourge.

But I think no one will dispute the fact that trash does not on its own walk and jump into the nearest canal, creek, river, or similar waterway to clog it up out of some inscrutable mischievous design. It is a human being that puts trash into a waterway. And if trash builds up to such an extent that it can now block the free flow of water, then it must have taken a considerable number of human beings to do that. Society as a whole is the culprit here.

Another thing. Flashfloods are so strong they can sweep away not just vehicles but even trees and houses. So if rampaging waters can carry away even immovable objects, I do not see why, even if I am no engineer, flashfloods cannot flush away any accumulated and obstructing trash that may lie in its way. One only has to go to the sea to where all waterways empty to know who prevails between immovable objects and unstoppable forces.

I also do not think anyone will dispute the other fact that flashfloods do not just occur in trash-plagued urban area but in the countrysides as well where there is no or at least very minimal trash. If floods can occur even in the rural areas where there is little or no trash, then clearly all this pointing of the blame on trash is misdirected, misleading, and dishonest. It is not trash but people who are to blame.

As early, or as late, as 20 years ago, scientists were already warning of how greenhouse gases were instigating very rapid global warming and how such global warming was altering weather patterns. But all these warnings have fallen on deaf ears and failed to activate idle hands. As a result of this indifference and inaction, we now have upon us hotter and drier spells followed by colder and wetter seasons. El Niños swing easy to La Niñas.

The colder and wetter seasons are now characterized by supertyphoons (remember Yolanda in November 2013?) and stronger and heavier rains. Stronger and heavier rains were what Cebu City experienced that past few days. I do not see how trash can be factored with any real significance into an equation where it is nature itself, under assault by human abuse and profligacy, has chosen to hit back in all its majestic but deadly fury.

Despite the warnings by scientists as early, or as late, as 20 years ago, human beings did not move with corresponding seriousness and urgency to the threat of an angry nature. In the Philippines, political leaders chose to go on politicking. Nobody put up adequate measures and policies to meet and contain the threat. To irresponsible human beings, it seems enough that there is always trash to lay the blame on and bitch about.


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