Making “Every day, Earth Day” a reality

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Sunday, April 27, 2014


THE celebration Earth Day in Cagayan de Oro City was a rather momentous occasion considering its coverage landed in the national news because several sectors and activists protested the presence of coal-fired power plants in the city.

Indeed, we Kagay-anons are growing more than ever aware of the situation of climate change — who hasn’t felt the sting of summer heat yet? — And its implications in our city. The need to be environmentally aware first presented itself over the extreme casualties of Typhoon Sendong in 2011, and we now face one environmental issue after another, the latest of which is only the increasing brownouts, which are telling of alarming power shortages and unhelpful non-renewable energy sources.

On a personal level, I understand eco-friendliness to be important because I have already seen the waters slowly consume the shores in Initao where I used to play as a kid. Our world is only getting hotter, and sea levels are only going higher; the Philippines is an archipelago (7107 islands!), and Cagayan de Oro is not exactly a landlocked city — and once the sea levels rise more drastically, well, imagination can only take us so far.

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Resilience is not enough

Still, we might say that it is better late than never: better that Kagay-anons only chose to be vocal about pressing environmental concerns now than never at all. However, if you think about it, more calamities are coming, and freedom of expression really does nothing tangible against forces of nature.

After Yolanda, by which our city was not superlatively affected but from which we were not quite spared either, foreigners came into the country and lauded Filipinos for being resilient in the face of calamity — but is that really something to be proud of? If you think about it, would we rather say that we can withstand extreme damages, or do we want to contribute to minimizing them?

Not crippling

We may not be able to prevent the coming of calamities but we can change the way we receive them so they are not as crippling as they would be. That is, we can attune our lifestyles to an eco-friendly setting and feel good about ourselves for cliché-edly minimizing calamity in our own ways. This now begs the question: who is “we”? While the large groups fight for the shift to renewable energy and the green movement, what are individuals at the grassroots left to do?

Advocacies are often perceived as luxuries, reserved for only those with the time and resources to care. To those who think this, I ask: When catastrophes come and we are nationally unprepared for the damage, do you think death will discriminate? Typhoons have always been an equalizer in this country, and accountability tolls not the individual but the collective.

Paradoxically, of course, any collective effort begins with the individual — but I think we just get scared that the environmental advocacy may be too idealistic. I recently came across a "list of realistic eco-friendly things to do," created by the US-based Inwater Research Group, Inc. and shared to me by my school’s Ateneo Environmental Science Society on Facebook. The nice part was that they actually were realistic, and to end this rather blunt scolding of an essay, I share some items from it below: Unplug “vampire appliances.” Appliances like your TV, DVD player, video game console and laptop waste about $200 [or almost? 9000] worth of energy each year. To save money and energy, plug them all into a power strip with a switch that you can turn off when you’re not home.

Go native. By planting native plants around your home, you not only encourage wildlife but you save on water and help maintain a balanced ecosystem, while creating a beautiful landscape.

Pay online. By switching to eBills and online bill pay, each household could save 6 pounds of paper and 23 pounds of wood annually.

Reduce, Reuse, “Re-Sip.” One of the easiest ways to give back is by purchasing a reusable water bottle or drink container. Not only does each bottle take hundreds of years to break down in a landfill but bottled water can cost more per ounce than gasoline.

Support conservation programs. You can support conservation organizations in a number of ways including visitation, membership, social media following, filling out surveys, volunteering, etc. Every little bit matters and makes a big impact! (Ena Jarales-ADMU Student Intern)

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on April 27, 2014.

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