Saturday, August 17, 2019

Estremera: Taken for granted

"YOU got 4 out of 10 right!" That's the message below a quiz I thought of answering during a short break from work, and no, it's not your usual Facebook quizzes.

It's a serious one from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and is all about trees in time for the International Day of Forests on March 21 (

And I thought I knew a lot about trees. I was wrong.

I can always say that it's because many of the questions are not about the Philippines. But of course, I know that's just an excuse.

But if a bookworm like me scored four, how low would others get? Seriously.

Question No. 1: All these cities have hosted the FIFA Soccer World Cup Final, but which of these cities has the largest man-made forest in the world?

I got the wrong answer.

Question No. 2: True or False? On average, trees in cities grow faster than rural trees around the world.

Still wrong.

When I still got Question No. 3 wrong (Trees are excellent climate change warriors, but just how much carbon (CO2) can a tree absorb a year?), I was feeling like I was among the most stupid. And true enough... I didn't even get half of the answers right.

Having my poor showing stare right back at me made me realize how much I do not know about trees.

We just assume they're there, and before we know it, they have withered and died from the hot temperature we have been suffering from in the past decade. No wonder the Buddhists would insist on mindfulness. To be mindful about things going around you, the people, the creatures, the plants, and feel, listen, hear, smell, and see.

Over glasses of wine with my wine buddy last week, I recalled how even sounds no longer become bothersome when heard regularly.

When I first settled in at a house in Matina Aplaya right across Queensland Lodge, I'd be awakened in the most unusual time of the night whenever the motel's buzzer would ring, calling for a taxi. It was your usual buzzer, not even amplified, but for me, it was very loud, and I'd be startled and awakened. But after a year, I could barely perceive the sound and couldn't help but wonder why was I bothered before?

Then I moved to Bajada right across a rehabilitation center where the patients do some sort of exercises (I can't see them but can hear their counselor counting and barking out orders) to some dance or rock music, depending on the mood of the counselor I guess.) Thus, every 6:30 a.m. I'd be wide awake even if I'd gone to sleep very late or even at dawn because "Nosi Balasi" is playing again, and the counselor is counting a snappy, "One-two-three-four-five-six-seven-eight!"

Two and a half years hence, I could barely discern the sound, although because of that, the habit of waking up at 6:30 a.m. was developed. Then we think about trees and how we take them for granted... and miss those days when every house had an aratiles tree or a kaimito tree that we can climb and to gather their fruits, but normally, we really do not mind their absence, until we see one and wonder where have they all gone... Throw in politics into the fray and money will always reign supreme, never mind the environment. Or should environment be given some attention, then most likely it will be using some easy to grow non-indigenous species that would later become invasive ones.

The first lesson of economics is scarcity: there is never enough of anything to fully satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics," said Thomas Sowell, an American economist, social theorist, and author.

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