Eco-pragmatism

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Sunday, August 10, 2014


THEY call it the “Occupy Acacia Movement,” probably for the method they used in ensuring that nobody would touch their beloved “century-old” acacia trees in the portion of Cebu’s south highway from Naga City to Carcar City. Their idol is the parachute environmentalist Fr. Robert Reyes, who has become the champion of diseased acacia trees, two of which have already toppled.

Actually, the group has succeeded in stopping the cutting of the three remaining diseased acacia trees that were among the seven that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) 7 said posed hazard to properties and the lives of commuters passing Cebu’s south road.

I don’t know if Reyes and his local “chuwawaps” made good yesterday their intention to run from Naga City to Carcar City and wrapping ribbons around their beloved trees, some of them diseased. If they did, they were like rubbing salt on an open wound. They have succeeded in blocking a legitimate government action to the consternation of many people. They seem to be gloating.

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Reyes was the same priest who climbed up a diseased acacia tree spewing warning about eternal damnation for Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) 7, DENR 7 and local government unit (LGU) people who were implementing the plan to cut the diseased trees. He essentially derailed what all concerned sectors had already decided upon for the Cebuanos’ safety.

When he talked about the trees being like people, I knew something was amiss somewhere. Here is someone that I think would go to the extreme of recommending that those diseased trees be placed in the ICU of an imaginary medical center for trees.

Meaning that he is hewing to that line of environmentalism that “has long idealized wilderness (as true nature) while simultaneously designating humanity as the scourge of the planet” (“The Great Schism in the Environmental Movement,” www.slate.com). This “tree-hugging” concept is increasingly being questioned by a faction of those in the environmentalist movement itself.

What I am saying is that Reyes and his cohorts are not the sole authority as far as protecting the environment is concerned.

There are other environmental activists that approach the issue differently. There are pragmatists among them, called by some as” modern greens” and by others as “eco-pragmatists.” Marine biologist Benjamin Halpern put it this way: “Such pragmatism requires us to recognize that people are a fundamental part of all ecosystems that make up Planet Earth.”

What would modern greens have said about the issue on the diseased trees in the Naga City to Carcar City corridor? They would, I say, look for a win-win solution, which can only be conceived if the issue is being viewed in an objective manner. They would not sacrifice the interest of people or communities to advance a romantic notion of nature or, in this case, diseased acacia trees.

The problem is that the DENR, or specifically its hierarchy, seems to be hewing to the same environmental ideology that Reyes, et al are promoting. It was, after all, DENR’s boss Ramon Paje, who ordered a halt to the diseased-tree-cutting operation here in Cebu. Or perhaps DENR just couldn’t differentiate tree-hugging romanticism from the tenets of eco-pragmatism.

Here’s the message from that Keith Kloor article I quoted earlier:

“Environmentalism… has been a force for much good…Plants and animals and their habitats are better protected, our air and water are much cleaner, and polluting industries are better regulated. These important gains should not be sacrificed in the name of economic development.

“At the same time, however, greens should recognize that the nature-knows-best, technology-averse philosophy has bred some unfortunate tendencies that make 20th-century environmentalism ill-suited to address 21st-century problems and needs. If modernist greens are successful in prodding their peers, environmentalism will be reborn and continue to play a vital role in making the world a more sustainable place for all.”

(khanwens@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 11, 2014.

Opinion

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