Walk the Talk

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Off and running to a rousing start, that’s what we had this past week, ushering in an exuberantly upside mood for a city long on the coasting along mood all this time. New leaders have begun working — to be sure, even long before they took oath — rolling up sleeves for the get-go demanded by the times.

Right on the very first working day, an environmental situation took place, something that must have caught everyone by surprise. It’s been long in coming, they say, ever since that dumpsite had been ordered shut down 9 years back, but allowed just the same to accept biodegradable waste for compost-processing. That it happened right on that first day, with foul stench wafting freely from uncollected waste, was still a mystifying happenstance. How it came to pass may be one narrative we’d never know, except that it’s still unexplained why it had to happen that very first day.

Surely, those in charge would have known that their very order not to collect bio waste would result in trash clogging up roadsides that may spark health and sanitation issues when flies and other vermin get attracted to breed on them. Surely, they would have known that so important a situation should have merited prompt executive action, long before something as health menacing would come right under our noses.

Anyhow, it’s been a source of comfort that swift executive action had been taken. The General just couldn’t be hamstrung by a situation well riped for it to happen. Within hours, the order to shut down compost-processing operations was lifted, subject to the city’s compliance with certain doable conditions. Doable, because they could have been done way way back, in all the 8 to 9 years that the processing machines were in on-and-off work schedules. Doable, because there’s just no choice, but to do what should have been done right from the get-go.

An environmental situation nipped in the bud? Not so, actually, unless everyone involved gets into one supreme collegial act of getting to agree that trash talk time is long over, and the time to resolutely address the issue is right under our noses. Bio waste needs to be converted to compost, right at source (meaning where we live and work). It can be done in multiple ways, without having to rely on machines that have not been at work fulltime, on people that seem not to know how to get things done, on policies that appear cross-headed. Garbage, after all, is what we’ve been generating all these years, non-stop, unrelenting. Even the reasons have been plain garbage.

Which brings us now to where we are: our environmental woes are plainly everyone’s responsibility. Time and again, we have been striving to highlight the need, in fact in so urgent a way, just how serious have we been to address concerns that have grown in scale and magnitude all through the wasted years. Climate change has been upon us faster than the eye’s blink. Everything happening worldwide, least of all in vulnerable places like ours, is a direct result of climate change. It has become a global situation that calls upon people and nations, most especially leaders, to act on.

Let’s face it, all it takes is looking at what we’ve committed, as humans enjoying what is left of a fast-depleting environmental resource, and what we’re doing to alleviate us from the very scourge that has now been upon us for decades now. Are we cooling the earth’s heating atmosphere, amid the rising temperatures that’s been scalding us, from all directions?
Wildfires at the unlikeliest places, said to be the deadliest in modern history, give us the grimmest reminder that we’re losing out fast in this race to calm and cool down a changing climatic pattern. The weather extremes occurring in many places offer another telling sad narrative over how humans like you and I have become so vulnerable, among the very first to succumb at the first hint of a disaster.

Every now and then, moderate to strong magnitude shakers have been hitting our archipelago in recent months. Powerful storms, the likes of Yolanda and Ondoy, have been crossing over north and south of the country in seeming regularity, testing the very limits of human endurance that folks of lower capacities are so habitually prone to become victims. Ompong and Rosita did just that, snuffing lives of downtrodden people who were simply caught unaware or unconcerned that something like the grounds falling from heaven would cascade down in a deadly descent. Indeed, the new normal in earth-shakers and powerful weather aberrations has become more and more intense, the forthcoming more furious than the last. Again, it’s all about Mother Nature’s extreme behavior, and what we’ve been all taking recklessly for granted all these years.

Weather temper tantrums in utterly extreme conditions, that’s what we’ve been experiencing worldwide, in a relentless fight-back that Mother Nature has been unleashing in erratically worsening form and shape. When the earth shakes up, it does so not just in mighty heaves, but in suddenly deadly fits and turns. When the weather turns hot, it’s become lethally scalding. When it rains, they come in torrential force, whipped up by lashing winds like no other.

Again, we need to iterate the Global Climate Risk Index that has even listed up the Philippines as 4 of the world’s 10 countries most affected direly by climate change, the three others being Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. The stark reality is that we are among the most vulnerable places in the world. Accordingly, the effects of climate change are decidedly far-reaching and will greatly impact on us due to the humanitarian crises that it spawns, the displacement and migration of victimized people and the loss of livelihood.

Archipelagic as our country is, climate change will simply cause coastal areas to shed portions of shorelines, throwing in helter-skelter movement our compatriots who live in these threatened places. Even now, we are witnessing erratic weather patterns taking place in alarming regularity. Subtropical deserts are expanding; arctic glaciers are melting down.

Of course, by now we all know why Mother Earth has gone misbehaving. Human activities — those that we have been recklessly doing since 1750 — have relentlessly produced a 40% increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, resulting from too much combustion of fossil fuel principally coal, oil, natural gas, along with deforestation, soil erosion and animal agriculture. What we ought to be doing is simply to reduce these activities that pollute the global atmosphere. Scaling down carbon emissions — singly and collectively as no less embedded like being etched on stone in the Paris agreement on climate change — is the only sensible thing to do. And that is simply because it is the only right thing to do.