Editorial: Vote Earth

EARTH Hour has come a long way. When the country first became part of the global movement, only a few households purposively put off their lights and stopped consuming electricity for an hour before the close of March.

Launched by the World Wide Fund for Nature in 2007, the Earth Hour began as a “lights-off” event in Sydney, Australia to get more communities to address their
impact on the ecology. In 2008, two major Manila-based commercial establishments were among the landmarks on all seven continents that switched off non-essential lighting for an hour on March 29.

Merging of interests

Last Saturday, the country’s observance of the international global movement aimed at reducing humanity’s carbon footprints involves a growing cross-section of the community, including citizens, civil society, the private sector, and governments.

To support the pro-Earth initiative, many businesses blend their commercial thrusts with a philosophy promoting wholeness and healing of persons and nature.

Razel V. Cuizon reported in Sun.Star Cebu on March 19 that the Cebu City Transportation Office made the necessary traffic arrangements at the Cebu South Coastal Road to allow safe passage for the one thousand bikers estimated to join the Habagat Earth Hour Night Ride 2016.

Biking is embraced by many citizens and groups as an alternative mode of transportation as it does not involve the burning of fossil fuel required by motorized vehicles and thus, reduces the carbon footprint.

The health and wellness benefits of biking are integrated in the permaculture philosophy of social entrepreneurs Edna, Paulina and Joel Lee. The Lees run a group of hotels in Cebu City that practice permaculture, which blends agricultural and other lifestyle practices with social design principles to promote a sustainable way of living.

A psychology teacher, Edna formed the Psychology Volunteers on Bikes, which recently partnered with artist-sister Paulina’s Museum of Naïve Art to launch The Curve Project, training girls and women of different sectors on the use of art for self-expression and empowerment.

Joel and Edna were among the stakeholders of the Stop Cebu Flyovers Movement that resisted in 2011 the construction of two flyovers in Cebu City. The group proposed instead that public policy and funds go to institutionalize road-sharing through wide and clear sidewalks for pedestrians, protected lanes to ensure the safety of bikers, and an efficient and affordable mass transit system.

Electoral agenda

To translate the gains of the Earth Hour into having more impact, stakeholders should move for the prioritization of ecological sustainability on May 9.

Educating voters is needed to make contenders for public office prioritize this concern in their platforms and plans. Arni Aclao’s March 19 photograph in Sun.Star Cebu showed students donning headgear portraying sea creatures demonstrating before the University of the Philippines Cebu façade. To dramatize their demand that environmental issues be a high priority for the country’s next president, the students demonstrated outside the school, which hosted yesterday’s debate of presidential contenders.

It is striking, though, that the environment was not in the list of issues Cebu business leaders wanted addressed by the presidential contenders participating in yesterday’s debate. According to a Sun.Star Cebu report by Jeandie O. Galolo on March 19, better infrastructure and good telecommunication were the top issues local businessmen wanted the government to address.

Other issues included countryside development, the passage of the freedom of information bill, the economic game plan, global competitiveness, corruption, juvenile justice law, and the fair and equitable distribution of national resources for regions outside of Metro Manila.

Last Saturday, malls observed the Earth Hour through well-attended events that blended environmental awareness and commercial promotion. As a prominent and influential stakeholder, the private sector must lead in pushing that this advocacy for ecological sustainability goes beyond commitment to a one-hour annual event into shaping the political agenda of future leaders.
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