Climate change reality
by Nancy Russell Catan

During his recent visit to Manila, Al Gore presented updated data about climate change and its impending catastrophic effects. Sometimes it is not easy to see the good in a situation like the devastation wrought by super typhoons or earthquakes or tsunamis, sudden sinkholes or violent volcanic eruptions. Sometimes it is hard to believe that the melting of an iceberg at the North Pole or the destruction of the coral reefs in Australia or the encroachment of the desert on villages in Africa should be of concern to us here in the Philippines.

What is the Lord trying to tell us? Have we really taken a close look at ourselves, our habits and our actions? Are these natural disasters a sign of global warming and climate change, or are we the source of our man-made problems?

Al Gore posits that addressing and solving the problem of climate change is our choice. Each one of us must individually and collectively have the necessary political will to take action. We mustn’t wait for the disaster to hit us. He says we must shift our priorities, change our NIMBY (not in my back yard) attitudes, and take action. What kind of action? Whatever and wherever we can … at the grassroots level by transforming our consumerist ‘throw-away’ culture into a ‘recycling, zero waste’ culture … by pressuring our leaders to take courageous steps to protect and nourish the environment.

Let us admit that one cause of all this flooding and landslides is the manmade progressive denudation of our forests and hillside land cover. Without the thick foliage and deep root systems that refresh the land, we experience dry, dusty drought conditions.

The foliage and deep root systems also trap the rainwater and allow it to soak into the ground to replenish our subterranean water supply. Without these natural water reservoirs, the rain waters just gather momentum and soil as they swiftly seek out routes to the sea. This deprives us of two precious resources: clean water and fertile topsoil.

Then as the flood waters rush to wherever they are going, they get bogged down in our trash-filled waterways and clogged up riverbeds – another manmade cause of floods. Riverbank communities impede the flow of water. Riverbeds fill up with the mud and silt washed down from the high lands forcing the river to overflow its banks and invade the nearby communities.

So, instead of complaining and pointing fingers at others, we need to be individually proactive and take the necessary steps to minimize the effect of climate change on our country and on each of us personally. It is not enough to just respond with help for the victims. We need to have and support a political will to dynamically address the manmade problems mentioned above.

There is much that we can do: plant trees, clean up our barangays and dispose/ recycle all trash and waste materials, help clean up the nearest waterways. I am sure that you can think of many other positive things to do if you only put your mind to it. As a columnist once remarked when writing about the aftermath of a supertyphoon: “This calamity is the sum of all our mistakes.”

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