“We now live in a fragile environment. Our climate is changing faster and in a more dramatic way than we previously expected. We have to find ways to adapt to our changing environment,” said Rosa Perez, senior climate specialist of the Regional Climate Systems at the Manila Observatory and one of the lead authors of the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC-Working Group II.
Perez’s observation was backed by Presidential Adviser on Climate Change Elisea Gozun, who said that, “with many poor people living in high-risk areas and with most of our cities and municipalities being coastal, we are very vulnerable and there is, thus, an urgent need for us to adapt to this more invasive environment we now live in.”
Today marks the worldwide celebration of Earth Day 2012 with its international themes “Mobilize the Earth” and “Earth Day Every Day Everywhere.” It aims to once again remind the public to increase its awareness and appreciation of the Earth’s natural environment.
Margareta Wahlstrom, special representative of the United Nations Secretary General for Disaster Risk Reduction, told the BusinessMirror that with the planet “under pressure,” there is a need for countries to deal with environmental issues, climate change, as well as the growing population to minimize risks in the future.
“It is critically important to address environmental concerns on ways to adapt to the changing climate and to reduce disaster risks so that they will not impact greatly on the socio-economic development in developing countries such as the Philippines,” Wahlstrom said.
In the Philippines, apart from dealing with the growing population of 97.6 million this year, major environmental concerns are forest cover, mining, waste management, pollution and climate crisis.
Voltaire Alferez, executive director of the Earth Day Network Philippines Inc. (EDNPI), said there is a need for the government to involve communities in addressing environmental issues in the country to make them more sustainable.
“The most significant action that the government and the people can do is to come together and agree on the climate-change strategy that responds to the critical environmental issue, intertwined with socioeconomic, political concerns, among other things.
“Too often, environmental advocacy proceeds without considering that the key success is to engage the communities of the critical areas because without them, the environmental action will not be a success,” Alferez added.
Alferez also said illegal logging is the least reported environmental issue in the country. He cited the case of the flash floods that claimed more than a thousand lives and inflicted heavy damage on property in Northern Mindanao, particularly in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan cities, during Typhoon Sendong last year.
“This is critical because the result of illegal logging is death. More often than not, illegal logging only becomes an issue when there are flash floods and deaths,” he added.
In Baguio City concerned residents have also been struggling for three months to stop an expansion project of a corporate giant that plans to cut and earth ball at least 182 trees.
Karlo Altomonte, convener of the Project Save 182, said, “This comes at a time when our very existence on this planet is being threatened by the effects of the abuse we have inflicted on our natural environment.”
“There are two ways that this battle can go: Corporate greed wins and we tell our generation today that murdering trees for profit is acceptable. Or we, the people, win and we tell our children that we must live in harmony with our natural environment, and not against it,” Altomonte said.
Small steps, huge impact
PROACTIVE and radical solutions like tree-planting projects are a good start to taking on the problems of deforestation and climate change, according to Ramon Dacawi, coordinator of the Eco-Walk Children of Baguio City.
“Planting, protecting and promoting trees is one way to combat climate change,” said Dacawi, who, together with other journalists, set up the program in 1992 to conduct a series of children-oriented hikes to Busol, Baguio City’s main and endangered watershed.
Through the program, the children have turned this precious water source into a laboratory and playground for experimental learning for the environment, Dacawi said.
“It is, indeed, a small step, but with huge impact,” Dacawi added. “For many years, we have volunteered to teach children the importance of the forest and given them an opportunity to discuss what they have learned during their walks in their classrooms.”
He said several indigenous communities in the Cordillera highlands, the watershed cradle of northern Luzon, have adopted the program to help revive their own traditional forest-management systems. Eco-Walk has been replicated in other local government units, which are drawn to the program by its simplicity.
For William Dar, director general of the Indian-based International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, safeguarding the environment, support for biodiversity, long-term strategy on agriculture and combating global warming are essential for a just and sustainable Philippine environment.
Dar said that among the key priorities the Philippine government must focus on is to develop a long-term strategy on climate change in agriculture. This, Dar said, should both include mitigation and adaptation mechanisms; this strategy once formulated must have a plan of action initially for five years
One key priority that Dar suggested is to enhance documenting coping mechanisms already being practiced by farmers as a result of earlier climate variability.
“We need to enhance the understanding of the present and future effects of climate change and for communities to adapt to these conditions. Again, a science-based approach is key to all these,” he said.
In the face of the immense challenges that ordinary Filipinos face in addressing climate change, how can one contribute to making the Earth sustainable and livable?
It is basically consuming responsibly, said Gozun, who is also a former chairman of the Earth Day Network.
“We need to aim for a more eco-efficient lifestyle. Since all human activity has an adverse impact on the environment, we have to always be conscious of how we can minimize and mitigate these adverse impacts,” Gozun said.
Gozun said Filipinos are also urged to practice 101 ways to a greener lifestyle which people can refer to—from turning off lights, riding mass-transit systems, recycling and buying organic products, not littering, planting trees and many other ways that advocate environmental protection and conservation.
“It is a call to action,” Gozun said. “Each one of us has a duty to take care of our environment. Small actions can make a huge difference. We have to make every day Earth Day.”
see original story at http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/home/top-news/26119-earth-day-special-planet-under-pressure