Archive for April 2009

Turn green in response to climate change

April 30, 2009

Today is a rainy day in April. For two weeks now, it has been raining . So I sent a message to my sister Mina ,an environmental scientist. “What’s really happening? Why dont you write us a climate change expository  so we know what to expect.”  Mina wrote a piece and I will quote heavily from her article.

Mina wrote ” According to UNEP (2009), over the last 400,000 years the Earth’s climate has been unstable, with very significant temperature changes, going from a warm climate to an ice age in as rapidly as a few decades. These rapid changes indicate that climate is sensitive to internal and external climate forces and feedbacks. Temperatures have been less variable during the last 10,000 years. A possible scenario: anthropogenic emissions of Green House Gases (GHG) could bring the climate to a state where it reverts to the highly unstable climate of the pre-ice age period. Rather than a linear evolution, the climate follows a non-linear path with sudden and dramatic surprises when GHG levels reach an as-yet unknown trigger point ( ”

This means that we are experiencing  the  climate in its fluid form, hence there will be more rains even if it is not the season. Convinced that the earth is a sentient system, we must learn to do earthtalk.  First talk is  reducing our carbon footprints.

Mina explained “your carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide created from your everyday activities. Carbon dioxide, the most plentiful greenhouse gas, ‘traps’ the sun’s heat and contributes to global climate change.” So how do we reduce our carbon footprints ?

Two main steps  :  use CFL lights and  eat healthy food.

Use green light.  Ed and I have changed all our lights to CFLs after we attended the energy summit in 2008. This year in NEA’s 40th anniversary, there is an advocacy to convince all the electric consumers to exchange their incandescent bulbs to CFLs. The good news is that the CFLs will be free and the electric coops will distribute them in September if the consumers bring their incandescent bulbs to the exchange centers. It will be saving a lot of electricity . That’s a plus in a large way since there are 8 million electric households who are governed by the electric coops in 45,000 barangays.

Become members of the Go Organics movement to help farmers produce their own  organic fertilizers and go natural in food production. The carbon footprints in agriculture is one of the biggest sources of  carbon emissions.The commercial way of food production entails clearing forests,using chemicals and poisons on land and water plus travelling long distances to sell food.  When we go organic and stop using chemicals in our farms, we are restoring the soil’s fertility. We limit the  use of fossil energy when we send the harvest to the nearest markets .  “Produce local and eat local” should be a mantra in agriculture and fisheries markets. Healthy food is  organic food you gather within a short period and consume within a week.  Fresh organic food in every household.   Living green and shrinking carbon footprints is doable in the face of climate change.


electricity inside and outside us

April 27, 2009

this week ed and i are  writing on rural electricity. we start with the 40 years journey of the electric agency NEA and its partners,  the rural electric coops.  i am impressed with the fact that we are one of the few archipelagoes in the world that has energized 97% of our 45,000 plus barangays. that is an achievement spanning five presidents! but the more remarkable item is the 8 million consumers served by the electric coops!when i went to bohol and busuanga , i saw every village with electricity, even the most remote sitios. the young people were in internet cafes and playing video games. i saw women tending stores with multiple services. one business i saw in turla is a three in one combo : bakery,drugstore and sari sari agri store . when i asked her electric bill for the month, she replied ” 1500 pesos po.” wow, that’s a lot to pay for energy. “why so big”, she replied  “kasi po, i bought a refrigerator, an oven, a tv, a dvd and an electric  fan .”   so i asked a tricycle driver  on my way to the hot springs .”how much is your monthly bill” “below 50 pesos po, may electric fan at radio po ako.”

so i asked the electric coops, who are the outliers in your network? there were many.  i met caloy itable of bohol electric coop. he is an outlier, a  general manager of diamond proportions. being quiet and humble, he stands tall among the managers, having served boheco 1 and 2, supplying the whole bohol island with energy for more than two decades. i heard twenty seven years but have to verify soon. when you visit bohol, it is well lighted and people are enterprising. see my photos in FB website and the loboc river cruise by nightime.

i met feisty women, one of which is edith bueno, NEA administrator. she is indefatigable and very committed to her work.  i am amazed at her command of the energy domain. she is a knowledge manager and can provide you with a panoramic view of the electric field. i told ed i will write her story in our new book on renewable energy and sex  (service excellence). she is light and good to be with.  her strength is in  whipping into shape many of the problematic coops in the islands. a formidable warrior of light.

there are three women i intend to get to know. there is marilyn caguimbal of batangas who stood her ground when all the erring board directors fought her when she and the unions  embarked on a reform move to oust the corrupt manager and directors.  “all the king’s men couldnt make her a humpty-dumpty”. i saw all the battles inside the  coop grounds and how the police and soldiers treated her.  in fact is she were a true wiccan, she made them dumpy and frumpy. there is also laureen malolot of siquijor electric cooperative. i heard many good things about her and she invited me to see siquijor . soon i said.  the other woman warrior  whose name i still cant remember is a director in batangas but i need to verify with marilyn  when i can meet her.

energy inside our country seems to be in abundance because the leaders have sustained their commitment to energize the whole nation. but with the climate change outside of our control,  where will we get sex or service excellence from other sources ? on the day we flew back to manila, the submarine cable serving the visayas broke and all the islands lost their energy. edith went into action and communication didnt stopped until some energy could be restored. ” this means all your electric engineers and crew will not stop to sleep nor eat until energy is restored?’ i inquired from edith. “yes, that is the rule we committed ourselves in public service”, was edith’s response.

we who complain when brownouts or power outages come dont know that many women and men go to” warwork” when  cables break or technology fails. the mission  the electric coops committed themselves to have been served well but we dont even know it. now is the time to take note of the illumination we all enjoy. mabuhay kayo sa rural electrification movement.

the secret life of plants

April 19, 2009

am recommending people to read the 1978 book by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird  entitled “The Secret Life of Plants” . for the web savvy, google it and view the video documentary in 1978 by Walon Green. better download it first before watching .it runs for 98 minutes. stevie wonder did the soundtrack and one can google stevie wonder too.

the thesis is that “plants are sentient beings” . they can read our thoughts and be good to us if we know why they are alive .” there are pioneers who studied plants, from Paracelsus to Darwin, Steiner and Indian scientist Bose. the book cites many scientists and what their experiments taught them. i found the Baxter experiments interesting. Baxter used the lie detectors to find out what the plants feel and respond to. he wired plants’ leaves and observed that the plants react  even when Baxter was away from his laboratory. there is also the japanese couple Dr. Ken Hashimoto who was head of Fuji Electronics. he and his wife  taught their cacti plants to learn japanese and count. even the russians used plants in   experiments to find out if the plant can identify a subject who killed another plant. it did.

i am intrigued by all the stories of these scientists. the book states why  biodynamic agriculture  is a most  important development. its value is the technology for realizing  we can be   partners with plantlife or systems  in food security and  climate change. this knowledge that plants are sentient beings   is  the ultimate challenge  as a Filipino green advocate. what joy to do plant talk and harvest the goodness in all our plants and trees.   when the secret life of plants become common sense or good sense, many of us will never  go hungry and undernourished. even when solving ecological  crimes, we can trust plants to record who did what and where.  all our foresters will be assisted by the trees who watch over the forests .becoming an earthling ,under the care of the flora and fauna in the universe will be our legacy when 2020 comes. that’s a future  i wish to live for. i will be seventy years old by then. ed will be 77 while  ayen will be 30. the twins edric and yohan will be 12 years old, old enough to explore the depth of earthly life.

coron and its bountiful ,magical seas

April 16, 2009

am in the middle of the most beautiful seas and islands. the best fishes and rarest of marine food are here in coron but the filipinos cant buy them. they are exported at once to china, taiwan and japan.

tony and beth de castro brought me to spend a four day visit. i didnt plan anything and went with barely a schedule of what to do. the first sight from the air is a bouquet of pristine islets . upon landing in the new airport, we were greeted by staff who handed out forms for us. the bags were loaded quickly and retrieval was fast. a shuttle to the main coron was ready. the roads were partly cemented and the ride was a dusty one hour trip.

i saw the first row of mountains in coron , calamian islands. there is no beach shore,only  an expanding pier,a small market and  rows of boats, smaller barges a yatch. the streets are narrow but carry large street  signs, making it easy  to navigate and  find institutions. the first order of the day was to visit the farms that tony and beth own. a tricycle was handy and we went to the nearest farm. later, tony and beth said we would meet many of  tony’s relatives. it turned out tony has a town full of relatives. the whole day, people came up their bamboo house and brought water to drink, pails to bathe with and the meals were organized. we were told that water was rationed by the local mayor. that was the first item: conserve water. how paradoxical, so much water everywhere and not a drop to waste. why? the mountains are denuded and the springs have dried up. the coron wells have dried up too and the local water utility has to ration water.

the evening was good. we met the expat community in the french bistro. the food was good, especially the scallops and salmon. the british david jones treated us and we ate all his dinner. later we found out the scallops were from new zealand, the salmon from norway, and the sausage was from brazil. we were entertained with stories  of sunken japanese  ships and the treasures retrieved. it  astonished us,  so this is the reason the french, the germans, the british and other foreigners are in coron ? i wonder how many filipinos were part of this bounty hunting. the french mother and son, marie and pierre, told us how lovely coron is and why they like it. pieere even showed us his map of the calamian islands and his tshirts with the  japanese sunken ships. it was a detailed map and he said he was selling it.later i found out it was P1000 per copy and pierre gave tony and beth a gift copy. we didnt buy his  t shirts  because they were p1000 each.

going back to the bamboo house, i wondered how we  could bath before bedtime. since we could only use one tabu of water. i just made do with all the water in two tabus. but no problem, we were going to travel by boat to other islands according to beth ” we could bathe and have fun in the other islets”.

the next day, we went up 750 steps to see a view of coron and some of the busuanga islands.  the philippines is full of 7100 islands, what is so precious in busuanga, or in coron alone? if you have seen the suhotan coves in siargao or the hundred islands in alaminos, multiply the islands ten times and pour more  marine resources. the scene is magical, even more mysterious as you approach the ancestral mountains of the tagbanuas. they are jagged and impossible to climb nor fly over. it is a dangerous habitat to explore and only the hand of God can allow you to open its fortresses. i took some photos and you decide if you can do rapeling or trekking inside its bosom.

tourists can find various diving sites. am a fire woman, not a water nymph. the gentle  waves of the sea beckons and i closed my eyes, tasted its salty balmy fingers. that was enough. when i saw the deep blue sea,  i retreated to my fear of drowning. am no swimmer, it told beth.  i was happy just watching her boys and their cousins  dive and swim with the fishes. we went to five diving sites and i only sat on the  boat ladder, feeding the fish with crackers. no dare, no sea glory. but i did the clinging and trekking. the sea floor was varied, mossy, rugged, sandy and jagged. but the sea life  colours, that’s a feast for everyone. in my next life, i shall be a daring diver, i told myself.

in the next two days, i  ate a lot of lato, the seaweeds that looks like small grapes and is salty and delicious. beth and tony told me to eat all the seafood but i wasnt familiar with the ume, a black spiny anemone looking animal. when you open it, it looks like chicken shit, you shake the shit and find a yoke which tastes like an egg yoke but not particularly exciting like balut. the japanese eat ume as an exotic food and it is expensive, according to beth. the de castros are fond  of seafood and they go to the market to buy the daily catch.

what does one do in coron? swimming, snorkelling,diving, spelunking, trekking, eating and talking to the locals and expats. for a first visitor, the coron tourist sites are a must but dont expect vital information like schedules of boat  trips to the islands , what they will cost and what to bring.   visitors  need to plan many things, from knowing which islands to go first and what tours are reasonable. hiring boats vary plus the diving and snorkelling  costs .  even tony’s relatives were surprised at the entrance fees in every island we went to. according to one fee collector in 7 pescados, P100 per adult is a snorkelling fee but locals are free. in the tagbanua ancestral islands, P200 per visitor is the entrance fee in kayangian lakes . as we were paying the boat P2000 for the day, paying P200 each for 12 pax would be  P2400, so we had to negotiate that only three of us were visitors and the rest were locals. we found out that the fees were for conservation of the tagbanuas ancestral domain and we didnt mind paying.

what about food? there are a few good  international restaurants but the french bistro is popular with the expats and middle class.we found their pizzas good and their scallops very delicious. the drinks are at par with manila’s drinks but the local kids love ice cold coke while the men, san miguel beer. i drank a lot of buko juice and was happy with coconut water aplenty in coron. we had home cooked food, courtesy of tony’s relatives but we didnt have time to really find where bird’s nest soup and clams, squids, and other seafood fare were available. the de castros had a tight schedule visiting their farms and talking to their relatives,convincing them to go organic and try vermiculture.

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