A revolution in how we view our environment is needed. This concept extends far past any country’s borders. Issues can no longer be viewed as individual events with easily measurable impacts. We live in a closed-system environment and within it everything is interconnected. This system includes more than just our natural systems of water, air and land. It contains economies, global politics, women’s rights, education and well, everything. The energy behind the revolution is powered by humans, like you and me. Some feel this revolution is already happening. Are you part of it? – Whitney Radforth
There are many characteristics that define the Philippines from any other place on earth. It’s an archipelago comprised of more than 7100 islands. It’s situated on volcanic landmass that provides arable land for agriculture and supports the growth of forests. It’s heavily endowed with natural resources and mineral deposits. And it’s one of the most biologically mega-diverse places on earth. The list goes on! There is abundant proof that the Philippines is a rich country, but why despite these characteristics is there so much human and environmental suffering?
According to the EM-DAT: The OFDA/CRED International Disaster Database, the Philippines ranked 1st in terms of the country with the most reported natural disaster events (event= +100 people affected) in 2009. And of these disasters reported, the Philippines ranked 3rd for the number of mortality and victims caused by an event. What are the contributing factors that make the Philippines so vulnerable to these disasters?
The statistics gathered by the Philippine Environmental Governance Project force us to take off the rose-colored glasses in order to answer that question. The Project found that over 100,000 ha of forests are lost every year, resulting in less than 6% of original forest cover remaining. About 70% of all the coral reefs have been destroyed due to overfishing and destructive fishing practices. They reported that less than 40% of solid waste is actually collected; the rest left to clog rivers and streets. This results in almost 58% of all groundwater contaminated and only 7% of domestic effluents being managed. And although these activities do not directly cause disasters, they are most definitely contributing factors to the severity and frequency of disasters in the Philippines.
Now, it’s important to differentiate between natural and human-induced causes of disasters. Natural disasters are for the most part considered just that; natural, unpredictable and uncontrollable. Natural causes of disasters exist without the influence of humans. For example the Philippines is situated in an area susceptible to earthquakes which is not influenced by humans. Therefore, earthquakes can be seen as a natural disaster.
However, it’s getting increasingly more difficult to blame disasters on nature alone. There almost always exists a human component which can influence the severity and frequency of disasters. For example, a human-induced cause of disaster is one that is a direct result of human activity such as deforestation causing landslides. This concept also includes the more pressing phenomenon of climate change. Due to human waste and consumption, the production of damaging greenhouse gases is causing air and water temperatures to increase. The worst part is, the effects of a warming climate are still not completely understood, but it can be assumed that disasters will definitely be on the rise. The point being, human activities play a large role in influencing the way disasters affect environments and the people who live in them. And it’s up to us, global citizens, to do what we can to slow down climate change and reverse environmental degradation.
For two consecutive years, the Philippines have demonstrated the most local participation in the annual Earth Hour event. According to the Earth Day Official Website, On March 29th over 10 million Filipinos in 647 cities and municipalities switched off their lights for Earth Hour, saving an estimated 611MWh of electricity – equivalent to a temporary shutdown of a dozen coal-fired power-plants. It is a great accomplishment for a single moment in time, but will things return as they were before at 9:01 pm?
Here are some ideas of what you can do every day to help your environment prevent and prepare for disasters.
For more information on how you can get involved with Earth Day events this year, or to register your own Earth Day event please visit, http://www.earthday.org/countries/philippines.
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