Thursday, 16 August 2012

Saving the World

Charity should not be mistaken as a single grand act of kindness or a moment of heroism that brings with it a ‘feel good’ factor and a pat in the back for a job well done.
In the light of the recent flooding in Manila, I admired the heroic acts of my compatriots, many of them are my friends, who initiated donation campaigns and relief operations for the thousands of people who were uprooted from their homes. It’s nice to know that in a time when the country seems to have been overtaken by the American culture it so openly embraces, Bayanihan, the spirit of communal unity to achieve a particular objective, is still alive.
But the big question that no one seems to be asking is that after all the relief operations finish, some of the houses are rebuilt and the typhoon season temporarily ends, “What’s next?”
Contrary to the Catholic Church’s belief that the devastations caused by typhoons in the Philippines are signs of God’s wrath over the Reproductive Health Bill, it is in fact, a natural phenomena where patterns haven't significantly changed since meteorological observation started more than 200 years ago. The ferocity and frequency of weather events across the globe are increasing, a man made inevitability thanks to carbon dioxide and its heat retaining properties. Disturbingly, the summer arctic ocean is predicted to be completely ice free by 2030. Indeed just half a degree increase in sea surface temperature can help a storm gather significantly more wind strength and rainfall amounts.The increasing temperature and melting ice caps also pose another threat to countries throughout the globe, but particularly ones with large areas of coastline and an abundance of islands, making the Philippines even more susceptible than most. Sea levels have been rising by 2mm a year and the latest middle estimates predicated a 100cm increase by 2100. It was shocking to see the evidence first hand on our trip to Boracay last year when dead tree stumps could be found on the sea shore.    

Our tropical country, because of its location, is in an area where typhoons build up but it was only in the recent years where we have started to experience the wrath of them. The reasons are two pronged but couldn’t be more obvious: growing carbon emissions contributing to global warming but also the way we have fundamentally changed our landscape. A concrete landscape cannot absorb nearly as much water and neither can soil that has been stripped of its forests. Dense vegetation helps to put moisture back into the atmosphere as well as help bind the soil together which prevents sedimentary run off and ultimately landslides too. They also help absorb carbon dioxide and put oxygen back into the atmosphere. 

Then add the nations's population growth that shows no sign of slowing down; booming housing market that does not consider sustainable development alongside; industry operations lacking energy efficient saving measures; high-carbon emission cars; and cities that don’t have proper waste management implementation. It is a recipe for disaster.
“I’ve always respected those who try to change the world for the better rather than just complain about it.” — Michael Bloomberg (Autobiography, 1997)
No, I am not all talk. I actually walk the walk. I am lucky enough to live in a country where ‘Saving the Planet’ and ‘Making a Difference’ is more than a single act of goodwill but a lifestyle in itself.
We own a car with a 1.0L engine and CO2 emission of less than 100g/km which means that we don’t have to spend a lot to fill the tank and we pay the lowest rate of Vehicle Excise Duty and. But despite that we use the public transport, a tram service run by electricity, then walk 20 minutes to get to work every day. It’s a healthier option and it cuts down the carbon emissions released in the air.
At home in Britain, we practice reduce, reuse and recycle. We reduce the amount of household wastes by bringing our own carrier bags when we go food shopping therefore not accumulating plastic bags that are usually a major source of litter. We use creativity to reuse items purchased for one reason into something else. We segregate plastics, glass, paper and bottle to be recycled. We also carefully select the chemicals in the cleaning products that we use, making sure that they are environmentally friendly and would not contribute to water pollution.
This kind of lifestyle is not cheap. On top of our personal taxes, we also pay council tax to the local authorities. We don't even earn as much money as most of our friends overseas (perhaps even some of those who live in the Philippines). But I’m sure people who reap the benefits of a cleaner environment and a better quality of life would agree with me that it is a price worth paying for. For someone who used be against socialism, Europe has taught me that there is better way than the right wing American way which is only geared towards personal, rather than community aspirations.    
Then again, I live in an already developed world. How would the country of my birth, where a quarter of its population live in poverty, be bothered about saving the planet when it can’t even feed its offspring?
I used to think the same: save humanity first then save the world. The human race requires an immediate need for food, water and homes to survive. But the world’s natural resources are finite whereas the world population will only grow in numbers. We need to find a way to meet man’s needs through renewable resources and make it our responsibility to be educated about how our actions affect the future of mankind.
As a Filipino living abroad, I couldn’t do anything more to alleviate the plight of my countrymen but I can show them that there is a better way to do things. In doing so, I can be the change that I wish to see in the world.
At the end of the day, there wouldn’t be anyone who would give me a pat in the back for a job well done but I sleep better at night knowing that because of the little things I do everyday, I would leave the world a better place.

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