By Chester B Cabalza
Commentary of an Academic (Copyright @ 2013 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved).
The following are the Seven Environmental Principles
1. Nature knows best
2. All forms of life are important
3. Everything is connected to everything else
4. Everything changes
5. Everything must go somewhere
6. Ours is a finite earth
7. Nature is beautiful and we are stewards of God's creation
The seven environmental principles are very basic yet multifaceted, simple but striking, as well as meaningful and evocative. It’s like reading the book of Robert Fulghum on “All I really need to know I learned in Kindergarten”. The theme seems so elementary, however, the essence and practice is universal, unfortunately, misguidedly followed by many of us.
There are three principles from the lucky seven principles that really struck me as a concerned soul of the universe who communes with and cares for our nature – in one planet inhabited by billions of people and trillions of organisms, hence, each individual or thing has an important role to play, i.e. to protect and respect mother nature is a right innate in us.
The first concept that caught my attention is, “everything is connected to everything else.” This third principle is a nicely interwoven adage that exemplifies the concept of ecosystem. There is a serious synergy of togetherness we all aspire for as a peaceful community surrounded by living organisms and non-living things. And I guess even philosophers, environmentalists, and team building facilitators, would agree with me that we all need each other, vis a vis, no man is an island.
In the web of life we learned since kindergarten, we were taught by our diligent teachers that, the moral lesson in the story is, while we interact with each other to ensure the web is perpetuated, any outside interference may result in an imbalance and destruction of the web.
To cite an example, climate change is a real hindrance to our survival in the web of life. The climate is changing and the earth is warming up. It is indeed happening now in all regions of the world, and the worst is yet to come. As ASEAN Secretary-General Dr. Surin Pitsuwan puts it, “the region possesses unique natural ecosystems which feeds the world and sustains the global environment.”
And as Haribon Foundation confirms it, “global warming and climate change adds up on threats to the Philippine biodiversity and will lead to massive biodiversity loss.”
Examples of natural resources where it collides with the concept that everything is connected to everything else are rivers that are primordial to any civilization. Until today, rivers remain so important where countries compete for its utilization, development, and exploration.
The Danube River Basin (DRB) covers parts or all of 18 states comprising from Albania to the Former Yugoslav countries, from Switzerland down to Ukraine. There are marked differences between these countries in terms of economy, sociology, and topography that make managing water a complicated matter.
The Artic region is occupied by eight nations where people began to inhabit parts of the Arctic at least since 20,000 years ago.
The Nile river, the second longest in the world, has 10 counties sharing the river under the Nile Basin Initiative that have been negotiating for a new framework agreement to manage the river’s water from the last ten years. From Egypt to Uganda, the Nile River basin Cooperative Framework’s Article 6 talks about protection and conservation of the basin and its ecosystem and environmentalists look at this as a milestone in maintaining the water levels from a wider catchments area feeding into the lake.
Lastly, Mount Everest as the tallest peak on earth, with the summit of 8,848 meters above sea level, and part of the Himalaya range in High Asia, is surrounded and protected by Nepal, Tibet, China, and India.
The second concept is, “everything changes.” This concept found as the fourth principle suggests that we as members of the genus homo sapiens sapiens are constantly evolving and changing, our environment remains not static. But remember, change may be linear, cyclical, or random.
Today, efforts are made by scientists, conservationists, leaders, and policy-makers on a collaborative efforts to address environmental issues and concerns that boil up from local, regional to global perspective, which in a way forms the web of life of our survival, and mitigate disaster risks brought by sudden climate change.
Take for example global warming and climate change. In every place around the globe we are experiencing cyclical changes exemplified by today’s volatile weathers and by extreme changes in seasons and the rhythms in floral and faunal life stages that go with the seasons. Thus, breeding season for most animals and harvest season for our farmers and horticulture practitioners go against the calendar.
There is now overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is happening that are human-induced. Global warming and climate change refer to the increase in the earth’s mean temperature as a result of enhanced greenhouse effect. Natural events and human activities are believed to be contributing to an increase in average global temperatures. This is caused primarily by increases in “greenhouse” gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrus oxide. Effects of global climate change are harmful and we must inspire action against it.
The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) notes that, “climate change is attributable directly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and such activities contribute to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.”
The development of various forms of multilateral initiatives has been addressed by a major feature in every regional organization in the world in the past decade. The current silent crisis of global warming and climate change that the entire human race has to deal with should be on how to adapt, mitigate, and reduce the impacts of these ecological issues. Hence, the saying goes, “everything changes” means that how we adapt with the changing environment must also change on how we should think of ways and means to create a symbiotic existence with nature.
Thus, according to the study of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), for instance, the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries, which contribute 12% of the world’s total carbon emissions, will suffer the most impact of global warming, including the devastation of their ecology.
These factual indications and situations lead many experts to agree that climate change may be one of the greatest threats our planet is currently facing. However, if not addressed adequately and properly, it could hinder the region’s sustainable development especially its heavy reliance on agriculture for livelihoods.
Despite worldwide efforts to address this transborder issue and cyclical evolution of climate change following the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which led to the creation of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 and the initiation of the Copenhagen Accord in 2009, these global concern must also be dealt locally, by every countries concerned, and by all regions in the world; the countries must converge for multilateral approaches in combating this inevitable climate change through cooperation and fill the gaps of research about this current non-traditional security crisis.
We should rethink of our relationship with the environment. Changes that we think be beneficial to the environment often turn out disastrous. Environmental technologies should be given priority if man would want more positive changes in the environment. However, man’s technology has also affected natural changes often to a problematic extent. Although, mutation in case of linear change in the evolution of species, pesticides invented by humans have induced insect mutations that are not matched by natural checks and balances.
The third concept which is the sixth principle that I really like about is, “ours is a finite earth.” Since we only have one planet, we have to love and protect it, from any form of destruction and annihilation.
As they say, the earth’s resources can be classified as either renewable or non-renewable. Renewable resources are those that can easily be replenished by natural cycles such as water, air, plants, and animals. While non-renewable resources are those that cannot be replenished through natural cycles like ores of various metals, oil, and coal.
So how do we go about this problem? I think we were taught in kindergarten the value of discipline. Even in our homes, discipline is instilled in us by our parents and the same practice we instill to our children. Thus, we must be disciplined. Once we are disciplined, we can start adapting the approach of other countries like well-disciplined countries such as Singapore and Japan for instance, that put high regard on their environmental policies. It all starts with being disciplined, coupled with love of country. Hence, our government should also implement environmental laws more strictly.
Although renewable resources can be replenished, we must also do our part that things are not overused or destroyed that causes pollution. Thus, the fury of nature is manageable if we have the sense not to abuse it. We must educate ourselves and future generations on how to take care of our environment lest we reap its fury in the form of major disasters. Discipline is a prime factor in our collective survival and it’s long overdue.
On the other hand, we should also be cognizant that the earth’s limited resources leads to a conscious effort to change one’s consumerist attitude as well as to develop processes and technology that would bring about effective recycling of a great number of resources.
Now that we know the limit in our resources, as stewards of God’s creation, we are given the responsibility to take care of our one and only Mother Earth. We can start by following the three Rs. First, reduce our trash. Second, reuse. Our old clothes can be used as rags. Third, recycle. Materials like paper, glass and plastic bottles can be made into new products. This will lessen the production of many new materials that add to our garbage. Another way to take care of the environment is by planting trees. We must be determined to help Mother Earth.
Proper waste disposal and waste segregation are but simple and basic measures where we and the authorities can jointly play a significant role in taking care of the environment. We can start taking care of the environment inside our homes by segregating biodegradable from non-biodegradable waste, then making a compost pit for biodegradable waste, so it can fertilize the ground, and giving non-biodegradable waste to the garbage collector for recycling. This is a basic step to protect our environment and even kids can start doing it.
Let us plant more trees and stop using plastics. If the more than 80 million Filipinos will do their share in caring for Mother Earth, then there is hope for a better tomorrow. We can start taking care of the environment by way of reducing, reusing and recycling our garbage. We need to do something about it now, before the damage becomes irreversible. We want our kids and grandkids to breathe in clean air and live a full life without all the pollution.