Are the increasingly devastating effects of storms and rising oceans really the ‘environmental issue’ everybody thinks they are? Perhaps the term environmental issue is a misnomer. There is an issue to do with climate change and its effects, alright — but they are all human issues.
After all, how serious is the impact of climate change and the solutions required to mitigate its effects? Perhaps a few trendy coastal districts in the world’s major cities will be rendered unusable and some “informal” communities on floodplains displaced. But on a planetary and geological scale, does all that really matter?
We forget that Homo Sapiens as a species existed only over the last 100,000 to 200,000 years, and its modern “civilised” variant only over the last 10,000 to 15,000 years — not even registering as blips on Mother Earth’s timeline. The sun has enough nuclear fuel to continue shining over the next billion or so years. That’s a long time when one considers that most people (even our most esteemed “experts”) cannot even table a reasonably accurate picture of humanity’s future fifty years hence.
Indeed, anyone who tends a garden knows how even just a month or two of neglect can render any trace of human management almost invisible as weeds take over and shrubs spread. Nature moves on, with or without people. If sea levels rise eventually and render Manila uninhabitable to humans, guess what, vegetation and wildlife will merely fill the void. For that matter, if a gigantic volcano erupts tomorrow and buries Metro Manila in volcanic ash, the area will probably be fertile land for agriculture (and a tourist spot for amateur archeologists) a hundred years later. As Elton John sang in the film The Lion King, “it’s the circle of life.”
Therefore, when we say we undertake initiatives to “save the environment”, what we are really mounting is an effort to keep the environment safe for us. The environment per se does not need saving. If we continue along the trajectory that our current level of industrial activity is taking, the environment will merely evolve or transform into something else — as we are already seeing, most likely something that does not suit our species’ agenda, which is to surivive, say, another one thousand years.
Our species may eventually be fried, but nature will evolve with or without us.
Perhaps Filipinos appreciate this simple truth about our place in the scheme of things more than anyone else. The national philosophy encapsulated in the phrase bahala na (“come what may”) is, ater all, a philosophy of surrender to the vicissitudes wrought by nature.
As the latest super-typhoon Pablo (international code name “Bopha”) approaches the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, at least a few lessons seem to have been learnt…
With the devastation wrought by tropical storm â€œSendongâ€ in December 2011 still fresh in the publicâ€™s memory, NDRRMC executive director Benito Ramos said the new weather disturbance would dump heavy rains in northern and southern Mindanao, and in several parts of the Visayas region.
He said local government units and regional disaster response officials should immediately order preemptive evacuation in low-lying and mountainous areas along the possible path of the typhoon.
â€œThe task of implementing early evacuation rests on the local government units and their respective disaster response officials. We in the national level may only advise them to prevent (unnecessary loss of lives and properties),â€ Ramos told the Philippine Daily Inquirer over the phone.
â€œWe always want to be on the side of caution so as to avoid the destruction brought by â€˜Sendongâ€™ in Cagayan de Oro City and other areas in Mindanao last year,â€ he added.
Perhaps. Although the claim to being “always” aspiring to be “on the side of caution” is quite debatable. The Philippines has long been known for its template disasters, where thousands routiinely die under preventable circumstances. In the case of 2011’s Sendong, the last super-typhoon that struck Mindanao that resulted in thousands of needless deaths, I wrote back then…
Indeed, the people of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan are not the victims of Typhoon Sendong per se. They are the victims of systemic factors that made Sendong far deadlier than it should have been. They are victims of our collective inability to learn â€” a collective character all but reflected by the people we elect to the highest offices of the land.
Perhaps, it does not help either that Mindanao is so far away from Imperial Manila — far away from the president’s comfy palace by the river and the cozy offices of ABS-CBN, and other mega-corporate media outlets — and therefore likely just a footnote on the list of priority scoops the country’s esteemed “journalists” pursue. Specially now that a lot of election cash is sloshing about for the taking, non-Manila stories are not likely to appeal to reporters angling for a bit of Christmas shopping moolah.
Back in 2011 even as Sendong struck Mindanao with deadly force, President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III himself was caught out partying with starlet Valerie Concepcion and was infamously at a loss for presidential words on the tragic scale of the unfolding disaster…
The lack of a formal statement from PNoy about the [Sendong] disaster is a real disappointment for many Filipinos. His Communication staff has been left defending his inaction. It seems like PNoy does not consider tragedies outside Manila as urgent.
In short, if the boss ain’t worried, why should we be worried?
Considering that Filipinos are always gushing about the incomprehensible scale of their God’s “plan” and how infinitessimal their role is in that supposedly glorious scheme of things, perhaps they should just, as John Lennon once invoked, “Let it Be.”
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