The Need for Environmental Consciousness in the E-Era
Jamorabo-Ruiz, Adela, Manila Bulletin
IT is said that political will is needed. Political will involves not only the enactment of laws and budgetary allocations, but also the will to enforce laws, however influential the violators may be.
Business and industry. Some large, medium and small corporations are the major "adoptors" of environment-friendly measures. For example a computer firm urges recycling through a promo on environment-friendly toner return and disposal program to reduce landfill waste. Others, however, continue to be the biggest violators of environmental protection laws through such acts as dumping of industrial wastes in waterways and fields, emitting of poisonous smoke that pollute the air even in residential areas, and cutting of immature trees by those with logging permits, etc.
The foodservice industry is also guilty of "sins" against the environment such as using "disposables" whose disposal has become an ecological nightmare, not only because they add to the voluminous solid waste that must be disposed of, but also because they are non-biodegradable.
Some foodservice operators have "mended" their practices by returning to reusable utensils. Others in developed countries have gone further. They do not use meat produced in rangelands that were formerly forests, or vegetables grown with chemical fertilizers.
The educators. Teachers of the social sciences, from the primary to the tertiary levels, can raise the students' awareness of environmental issues, stressing to them that each one has a stake in protecting the environment. In the nutrition course, teachers can emphasize how the process of environmental degradation can be one of the causes of malnutrition.
Media are a powerful educator and shaper of values. It is heartening to note that environmental protection groups are conveying their messages through media, even using popular personalities.
The people. In addition to adopting environmentalfriendly practices, individuals can support organizations that lobby for the needed economic policy changes towards developing a country like ours. Private citizens can join, advocate and work for organizations concerned with environmental education, biodiversity conservation, environmental management and rehabilitation, energy conservation, water resources management, sustainable agriculture, food security, fisheries and marine resources management, pollution control and waste management. They can join demonstrations against illegal loggers and companies that pollute our air, water and land.
Sustainable agriculture and technological advances in food production
All in all then, environmental problems are reducing the world's ability to feed its people. With fish yields and rangelands decreasing, can advances in agricultural production compensate for the losses caused by environmental degradation? In the past, agriculture improved yields by making greater investments in irrigation, fertilizer, and improved genetic strains. Today, however, the contributions these measures can make are reaching limits and the improvements are leveling off.
Meanwhile, the world's population is rising at the rate of at least 2% per year. More people means more mouths to feed, which worsens poverty, hunger and environmental problems. Poverty, hunger and degraded environment, in turn, prompt parents to have more children. Breaking this cycle requires improving the economic status of the people and providing them with health care, education and family planning.
The country's population is one of the fastest growing in the world. Population growth rate was 2.4% in 1995. Population control has become one of the most pressing needs of this time in history. Until the nations of the world resolve the population problem, they can neither support the lives of people already born nor remedy global trends towards environmental deterioration.
The link between improved economic status and slowed population has been demonstrated in country after country. Sustainable development is central to this success and must include not only economic growth, but also a sharing of resources among all groups. In parts of Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Malaysia and Costa Rica where this has happened, population growth has slowed the most. Where economic growth has occurred but only the rich have grown richer, the population growth has remained high as in Brazil, Mexico, Thailand and the Philippines, where large families continue to be a major economic asset for the poor.
Sustainable development implies that economic growth and environmental protection are not incompatible.
An exciting development in agriculture is the application of powerful new computer technologies to food production. Through techniques collectively known as precision agriculture, farmers can adjust soil and crop management to meet precisely the needs of various areas of the farm. Irrigation water can be adjusted to meet the needs of each part of the field like hilly areas versus low-lying areas. The farmer can likewise preprogram a computer to apply fertilizer of just the right type and amount for each area or pesticide according to prescribed applications, thus avoiding areas too close to streams or other water sources. The preprogrammed system turns off the pesticide when it comes to a designated safety zone.
An important recent development, the global positioning satellite (GPS) system is at the heart of precision farming.
The advances in biotechnology may prove to be an essential part of a worldwide move toward sustainable agriculture. Biotechnology promises economic, environmental and agricultural benefits by shrinking the acreage needed for crops, reducing soil losses, minimizing use of chemical insecticides, and better crop protection.
* Salt-resistant and drought-resistant crops that can grow under stressful conditions may one day make use of unusable soils.
* Nitrogen-fixing cereals with legume genes may bring complete protein to populations who now lack quality protein in the diet.
* Transgenic livestock that produces more food while consuming less feed.
* Transgenic microbes that can contribute to continuous soil renewal and fertility and to recycle agricultural, industrial and household wastes to fertilizers.
Research is under way to ensure that transgenic microorganisms released into the environment will not turn out to be more harmful than the products they are intended to replace.
Environmentally conscious foodways
At every level, individuals can try to make lifestyle choices that consider the environmental consequences. Food production taxes environmental resources and causes pollution. Consumers can make environmentally conscious choices at every step from food shopping to cooking and the use of kitchen appliances to serving, clean-up, and waste disposal.
* Use car pools and mass transit when you go to your shopping destination or whenever possible, walk or ride a bicycle.
* Shop only once a week, share trips, or take turns shopping for each other.
* When buying a car, choose an energy-efficient one. Motor vehicles contribute the largest single source of air pollution.
* On food choices, eat low on the food chain, i.e., eat plants rather than animals that eat plants. Eat lots of fresh, minimally processed fruits, vegetables and whole grains. This suggestion complements the Food Guide Pyramid recommendations for good health.
* Limit use of canned beef products since many of these foods come at the expense of cleared rainforest land: 200 square feet of rainforest are lost permanently for every pound of beef produced.
* Eat small portions of meat; select range-fed beef, carabao and poultry. Choose chicken and small fish more often. Chickens are often grown locally and use fewer resources to produce while small fish eat low on the food chain.
* Select local food. Locally grown foods require less transportation, packaging and refrigeration. Buy fresh foods grown locally especially when you can confirm that product has been grown using responsible methods.
* Avoid overly packaged items; buy bulk items with minimal packaging or reusable, or recyclable ones.
* Buy juices and sodas in large glass or recyclable plastic bottles (not small individual cans or cartons); grains in bulk (not separate little packages); and eggs in pressed fiber cartons (not foam, unless it is recycled locally).
* Carry reusable shopping bags; alternatively, ask for plastic bags if they are recyclable. Production of paper and plastic grocery bags represents a huge drain on resources. Paper factories use chemicals such as toxic forms of chlorine bleach, which they release into waterways in quantities so large that the chemicals can destroy whole bays and fisheries.
* To conserve fuel, use fast cooking methods. Stir-frying, pressure-cooking or microwaving all use less energy than conventional stovetop or oven cooking methods.
* Use reusable pans and dishes rather than disposable items that are used once and thrown away. Use pumps instead of spray cans that are hard to recycle.
* Use fewer electric gadgets. Do without small electrical appliances such as can openers, mixers, knife sharpeners, and food processors.
* Purchase the most efficient large appliances possible like an energy-efficient refrigerator.
* Consider the possibility of using solar energy to meet home electrical needs.
* Use "real" plates, cups, and glasses instead of disposable ones.
* Use cloth towels and napkins, reusable storage containers with lids, and dish cloths instead of paper towels, plastic wrap, plastic storage bags, and sponges.
* Recycle all glass, plastic, and aluminum.
* Compost all vegetable scraps, fruit peelings, and leftover plant foods.
All aspects of our lifestyles relate to global problems. Recommendations include personal actions: reduce, reuse, recycle, and cut energy use. Admittedly, these approaches to solving today's global problems seem simplistic, but because we number 7 billion, individual actions can add up to exert an immense impact. As Margaret Mead said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world."
Emphasis on personal lifestyle choices is important because it raises awareness and paves the way for larger actions. Individual choices are, however, only part of the solution for today's problem. Institutional changes are the other part - changes in the way agriculture, industry and governments do their business domestically and internationally. Students can become involved in promoting both kinds of change: making personal lifestyle changes and then voting for government changes.
"Be part of the solution, not part of the problem," as an adage goes. In other words, don't waste time and energy moaning and groaning about how tough things are; do something to improve them. This adage is as applicable to today's global environmental problems as it is to unwashed dishes in the kitchen sink. They are our problems: human beings created them, and human beings must solve them.
The world's increasing population threatens the world's capacity to produce adequate food. If humans are to survive, we need to protect the natural wealth that makes our lifestyle possible. We must look into the future, not just for a few years, but for thousands of years, and use the knowledge of ecology and information technology to ensure that our actions are not damaging. Sustainable development means that we must obtain everything that we need today without spoiling the prospects for people in the future.
We need to renew our own earth consciousness and instill it in our children. After all, we do not inherit the land, we only borrow it from our children. Care of the earth and its living things matters for its own sake, as well as for people's sake. The earth is truly our mother. Its preservation and the protection of biodiversity is a moral and ethical responsibility that concerns us in a deep spiritual way.
Reduce, reuse, recycle and cut energy use. Eat right Philippines and help save Mother Earth!…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: The Need for Environmental Consciousness in the E-Era. Contributors: Jamorabo-Ruiz, Adela - Author. Newspaper title: Manila Bulletin. Publication date: December 10, 2000. Page number: Not available. © 2009 Manila Bulletin Publishing Corp. COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group.
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