About Time

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With a new year now upon us, it being a midyear election year for that matter, it’s about time to raise some critical questions relative to environmental care:

How ready are we in preparing our beloved city cope up with another year of nature’s onslaught? Are our contending leaders — they who have professed to do milestones of service year after election year — equipped with the mindset to do everything they can to make us prepared in a more pro-active, rather than reactive, way? Are our voters — they who have always accepted lip-service avowals year after election year — similarly armed with a mindset to do away with promises unfulfilled and instead focus on those they can worthily entrust another year of standing by each other, least of all to stand up in conscientious and principled stance, once and for all? Another year ended, another now upon us.

To be sure, everything worse has been happening here in Baguio, and in a larger perspective, in our country as a result of swiftly changing climes. Just two to three months back, landslides of lethal proportions struck our region, principally nearby Itogon and distant Natonin. Nearly 200 perished in a day’s time when boulder-size slides came thundering down after mountain soil loosened up and came crashing on hapless human settlements. Families lost kith and kin overnight, scores still unretrieved despite days of rescue efforts.

Ompong and Rosita came upon us just a week from each other, but the disaster numbers were just as hideous. Right here in Baguio, the image of downtown being submerged by onrushing waters remains etched in unfading memory. For all that happened last year — and for that matter since way, way back — everything worse took place, placing much of our fate very well on a tough road ahead. Another progressive year, it might be claimed, but it’s been a roller-coaster of 365 days marked more by further damage to the environment, largely brought about by unrelenting ejection into the global atmosphere of polluting toxic gas emissions.

Super-hurricanes unparalleled in strength, mighty earthquakes of greater ferocity, weather disturbances that pack fierce winds and heavily cascading torrents of rainwater — all these took place unrelentingly. Hapless our geographical circumstance may be, our archipelagic country had its share of environmental events without peer in recent memory. Last month alone, as the populace girded up to bid farewell to a fading year, landslides again struck the country, from torrential rains whipped up by a puny storm. CamSur and Sorsogon became signature names for a calamity unexpected to emerge from a natural event that has become familiar to mountainous communities.

It is indeed sad, very sad that compatriots would lose kin and possessions in an instant of suddenness brought about by disrespecting environmental fury. It’s even more disappointing that government officials, national and local, should be taking swift turns blaming each other for nature’s irregular outbursts, not just to escape a share of culpability, but as a wishful thought that lives would be restored and properties regained when somebody else gets the uprise finger.

Don’t we all know by now that while it’s just Mother Earth simply reacting the way it’s been behaving, by and large it’s all of us, governing and governed, who must share collective wrongdoing? The governing ones, for simply not being there when things could still have been prevented, when risks could have been reduced, when disasters, impending as they have always been, could have been better managed?

As for every disaster victim, it’s not just to mourn the suddenness and meaning of their loss. Fine, they weren’t just at the wrong place at the wrong time, even if all reasons for being there weren’t just worth it. Why were they in danger zones, in harm’s way, until the disaster was already upon them? Did government — meaning our leaders and policy makers and all the bureaucrats in their command —allow them to be there in the first place? Have they looked the other way, because there’s no other way to look at? In fact, were their heart in the right place, beating loud enough to hear the cries of neglect?

It is often said that hard lessons aren’t enough, when we talk of disasters sweeping us by year after year. If we must take to heart what hard lessons are, we need to be seriously resolved, as one community of disaster-stricken people, to learn these well. If these ill-fated events happen just the same, then the lessons have not been hard and harsh enough for mistakes to be shunned, either from sheer negligence (of what ought to be done) or plain indifference (regardless of what ought to have been done).

If previous elections years are indicative of things to expect, we can be witnessing a.nother year of serious, heart-to-heart avowals that this time, our precious yet fragile environment is uppermost in our heart and mind. So we welcome a new year with fresh resolve, with hardening hopes that environmental issues would be forcefully addressed this time.

But the clock has timed us out this time. Climate change will continue to wreck havoc in the way we do things. Leaders will once again besiege us with their time-honored betrayals year after election year. But voters like you and I and the rest of us are simply masochists of a kind: we don’t mind if they keep on reneging on stoutly articulated environmental themes, for as long as they do us the personal favor of attending to our more mundane needs at the right time and at the right place.

Time is clearly not on our side, but collectively nations and peoples around the world can bring about radical stout-hearted changes and make industries and automobiles be more environment-compliant, if only to mitigate the misbehaving ways that Mother Nature has been acting up in recent times.

Genuine leadership is all about leading the way when a clear vision of what collectively we aspire for has been defined well enough to inspire everybody else to do his share. Genuine citizenship is all about leading a life that prepares our children for responsible endeavors by the matured choices they make, largely influenced by the values instilled in them early on.

To serve our roles properly, we should make this year the defining threshold of our time in the city. This is when we ought to be casting aside from activities that worsen the continuing folly of our everyday activities, from the machines that we hum to the engine that we rev up on the road.

All that we need to do is to go for clean energy and get to manage life as well-resolved as possible. All that we must do is to get going with our life freed from the clutches of dirty energy, especially at this time when alternative energy sources a lot more desirable for the environment are just waiting to be utilized. All that those of us with affordable resources should be doing is to plough more money into these new energy sources, if not dis-invest from traditional coal-sourced fuels.

At year’s end, it is time to ring out the wicked ways of life. At year’s start, it is time to ring in fresh initiatives to give Mother Earth the overdue reprieve from the global havoc we have been inflicting all these merry-making years of our life.

Mr. Candidate, your time’s up. Mr. Voter, it’s your time now.

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