The “Save” Brand of Environmentalism: Sunsets, Trees and Unicorn Poop

Environmentalism is a creed of mysticism. While it often tries to display a veneer of science, it in fact rejects reason and science. It regularly makes claims that are divorced from any objective evidence.

– In Moral Defense of Forestry, Peter Schwartz. Posted in Ayn Rand Center, January 28, 2000

crying tree huggersThe Tree Huggers in Baguio and the Sunset Savers in Manila have a number of things in common, both movements rely on a lot of emotionalism and deception when it comes to trying to get supporters.

Project Save 182, for instance, still insists that SM Baguio is going to cause an enormous amount of environmental damage by balling up a few dozen trees on Luneta Hill.  This even after it was scientifically proven in court that some of the trees were sick and were past the stage in which they could efficiently absorb air pollution.  Moreover, Project Save 182 charges SM Baguio with environmental ills (water run off, exceeding the carrying capacity of Baguio, etcetera), the larger part of which is actually being caused by  hundreds of other business establishments, land developers, and home owners.

In the case of SOS Save Manila Bay, a number of its supporters have uncritically accepted the canard that the proposed Manila Solar City Reclamation Project will block the view of the Manila Bay Sunset and continue to spread this erroneous claim on social media.  I’ve confronted a number of them (Paulo Alcazaren, Jim Libiran, Sylvia Mayuga, Ninotchska Rosca, Carlos Celdran, etcetera) with graphic data from which shows that the proposed reclamation will not block the sunset.

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march sun trajectory

Another visible supporter of Save Manila Bay is Ivan Henares who claims that the February 12 Synchronized Sunset Viewing was attended by 5,000 people.

ivan henares liar

I was at the February 12 Sunset Viewing and the crowd gathered there couldn’t have been more than 1,500 — unless of course they included passersby, motorists, vendors, and vagrants in their head count.

Are these high school children capable of understanding the whole range of issues on reclamation and forming an informed opinion on reclamation?

Are these high school children capable of understanding the whole range of issues on reclamation and forming an informed opinion on reclamation?

Never mind the fact that some of their supporters compelled high school students — yes, minors — to participate in the rally just to swell their ranks.  Even if the student’s participation in the rally were permitted by school authorities and parents, the question is whether the students had an well-informed opinion on the matter.  The fact that I heard one high school student say that Manila Solar City would cover up the entire bay, when plans for the city clearly show that it was occupying less than 10 percent of the bay, is PROOF that the students didn’t know what was going on.

I think Save Manila Bay IS deliberately confusing the Manila Solar city with a Manila Bay reclamation master plan, which shows the stretch from the Manila Yacht club to the US Embassy will be reclaimed.  Manila Solar City is NOT the Manila Bay Reclamation Plan.

Other claims of the group that can be scientifically refuted are:

Save Manila Bay claims the proposed Manila Solar City Reclamation will cause flooding or worsen flooding.

  • According to PAGASA, the flooding of Roxas boulevard last year during Habagat was caused by a storm surge.  According to Wiki:  “a storm surge is an offshore rise of water associated with a low pressure weather system, typically tropical cyclones and strong extratropical cyclones. Storm surges are caused primarily by high winds pushing on the ocean’s surface.”
  • The widespread flooding in Metro Manila, in the case of Ondoy and Habagat, were attributed to a number of factors according to the La Liga Policy Center. (1) Only 20% of the Marikina Watershed remains; (2) Natural flood ways, rivers, esteros, and storm drains have been silted, blocked by solid waste, or filled in; (3) Natural rainwater sinks have been covered up by pavement or buildings; (4) Ground subsidence caused by the tapping of ground water or displacement of ground water in the construction of high rise buildings
  • The proposed Manila Solar City does not block the mouth of Manila Bay.

Save Manila Bay proponent Lory Tan (CEO of WWF and consultant for SM) claims the proposed Manila Solar City will displace 60 invertebrate species.  However, Tan didn’t say if these species were at all endangered at all or if the proposed development encroaches on a protected area under NIPAS.  The fact is, what Tan says about Manila Solar City could as well be applied to the SM Mall of Asia and which case, the only difference is that Manila Solar City doesn’t have him as their consultant.

Going back to what Schwartz said of environmentalism:

Environmentalism is actually a modern, secularized form of religion. It urges man to subordinate himself to nature, to serve nature, to worship nature as a God. It is an ideology that declares the human mind too feeble to grasp the complexities of an inscrutable world, or “ecosystem.” It is an ideology propelled by the desire to have man prostrate himself before a greater power, the power of nature.

I think the likes of Libiran, Celdran, Alcazaren, and even CCP Chair Emily Altomonte Abrera are being disingenuous about the whole issue with Manila Solar City in an attempt to cover up their self-interest.

Libiran openly said that he is opposing the reclamation project because it would ruin the view of the bay from the high priced condo he is renting.  Celdran and the likes of Bart Guingona are up in arms because it will affect the value of their property, even demanding that the Manila City government prioritize the revitalization of their section of Manila.  Alcazaren is a vocal advocate of building restoration and if the Manila City government opts for restoration, I can only assume Alcazaren would want to be a consultant for a number of restoration projects — having become a self-proclaimed expert on the matter.

PHILIPPINES-RELIGION-EXHIBITION-ARTAbrera, being the CCP chair, probably sees that the reclamation project — being touted as a new arts and culture hub in Manila — might detract from her agency’s cultural offerings.  Not that the CCP has made waves at all in the art and culture community under her watch, the last time I actually heard of CCP was the uproar in connection with Mideo Cruz’ installation showing Jesus Christ with a penis on His forehead.

While the mass of people behind SOS Save Manila Bay are beating their collective chests and crying out against “corporate greed”, they aren’t at all acknowledging the fact that the shelving of the project would deprive Manilenyos (residents of Manila) some 100,000 jobs and business from more than 290 Billion in investments over the next couple of years.  Proponents of Save Manila Bay aren’t saying that the project will raise additional revenues for the Manila City Government’s social services — that’s the money that goes to health centers, public schools, and support for the local police as well as neighborhood watches.

The few dozen people comprising Save Manila Bay is placing a higher value on a sunset colored by polluted air and a bay shimmering under a film of toxic water pollution than the employment and livelihood of millions.

That  to me is IMMORAL.

The way to assess environmentalism, therefore, is not as a scientific issue, but as a moral one. And this brings us back to where we began. In response to all the claims about the harm posed by various productive activities, one must ask a basic question: “Harmful–by what standard?” For according to the standard of man’s life here on earth, technology is beneficial–wealth is beneficial–material progress is beneficial. According to a rational standard, no actual threats to human welfare could justify the elimination of that upon which man’s welfare depends–namely, production, technology and freedom. Any solution to actual, demonstrable threats must embrace improved production, better technology, more capitalism.

16 Replies to “The “Save” Brand of Environmentalism: Sunsets, Trees and Unicorn Poop”

  1. “When men stop believing in God, it isn’t that they then believe in nothing: they believe in everything.”

    Umberto Eco

  2. Thanks to modern logging practices (like planting two trees in place of every one cut), there are actually MORE trees today than ever before in history. The only problem we really need to fight against are illegal logging, which is the top priority.

    Many environmentalists mean well, but having good intentions does not necessarily mean they’re going to do good. If it were, then ethnic cleansing is justifiable.

  3. One other thought I had was, after the launch of the Book Silent Spring, and after all that it led to, I would say the environmentalist movement had outlived its usefulness. Yes, I agree there is a need to be good stewards of the earth. But current environmentalist initiatives have become exaggerated and overgrown. Some of them have even turned into businesses. It’s time to be discerning and look at whether these “environmental” things are actually accurate and useful.

  4. Confronted me? Where and when? You posted a picture and I made a comment that I don’t care if the Manila Bay real estate development is two feet or more away from the sunset, there should be no development there, period. Don’t exaggerate.

    1. Let’s put aside the issue of sunset in 1980’s, after the large part of Roxas Boulevard shoreline was inflated for more land for building construction, Cavite shoreline was affected by flood and countless of families lost their homes including us and my relatives. My grandmother’s small beach resort in Tanza was ravaged permanently by flood, Naic shore line suffered worst the same setbacks. This catastrophe never even get any attention from high authority and never even divulged in the media. As the government welcome giant corporations to establish business in the Philippines, to create more jobs and boost the country’s economy as what they are ranting, they must consider to carefully study the negative effect of this project for many ordinary people like us. Damaging the lives of so many families and the destruction of many trees for the sake of development (kuno) is the worst immorality ever they committed.

  5. Do you think the high authority will be interested to conduct a studies about what had caused it? They didn’t even give any dime of relief or assistance to those who had been affected those times. How can “this study” says that “farming and fish ponds” are the caused of flood were in Cavite in 1980’s majority of agricultural land was already converted to industrial and real estates. FYI a lot of fish ponds those times were ruined and a large part of residential area are now covered by sea water permanently. It never recovered. Nobody cares about this problem since the only concern and affected are poor people and most of them are fishermen’s family. We are not against any development in the society, as long as the poor people are not treated like crap and as if they do not exist.

  6. Yeah maybe you are right of pointing fingers ” to poor people activities” ..what do you think is the root cause why this people remained poor and ignorant? And explain as well what is the root cause of sea level rise phenomenon?

    1. The root causes of why people are poor are complex. Perhaps explaining all this flooding is complex. That’s why I find it hasty to conclude that reclamations necessarily caused flooding in your area. Better have that investigated.

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