There is power in unity! The People’s Climate March has initially won. Thousand of Earth advocates came and responded to our call.

Soon after the September 21 mobilization, countries from across the globe have started making plans and executing concrete actions that are easier on the environment.

Little by little, we are heading forward…

The invitation…

Let’s make our voices heard!  On Sunday, September 21, let’s  go out of our comfort zone and join the People’s Climate March.  Let’s demand action for a cleaner planet and an economy that works for people.

PCM

This is not an invitation to change everything.  But at least, we, the citizens of planet Earth can make an impact that could swerve the course of history.

As heads of state from around the world meet for a historic summit on climate change, let us also seize the moment to demand action.  Action that may deliver us from the damaging effects of climate change.  UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon even exhorts governments to participate in a global agreement to minimize global warming pollution.

We are aware, however, that a single summit cannot “solve climate change”. But, as a unified and vigilant community, we have the power to organize and confront the power of fossil fuels.

The People’s Climate March is a worldwide activity with the primary purpose of urging heads of governments from all over the world to take concrete action to reduce the impact of climate change.  As these heads of state hold the climate change summit in September 2014, in New York City, we can organize a synchronized movement wherever we may be.

Check the schedule of events in your region or community and sign up.  You may even want to organize an event in your locality, if there is none yet.

Let’s make this weekend a historic event for all mankind.  Our future is on the line here.

By the way, have you ever wondered how much climate change has already claimed of our planet Earth?  Let Kelly Nyks and Jared P. Scott show you the extent of damage and its potential threat in their film, DISRUPTION.   

After the September 21 People’s March…..

We made the largest mobilization ever!

Hundred of thousands join the People’s Climate March in New York and in more than 2,000 communities all over the world to call to action on the threats of climate change.  It’s the largest mobilization ever!

Our concerted effort and solidarity is our initial victory towards building a sustainable society. We have put forward our message of making the governments of the world know that we, the citizens of planet Earth, are seriously concerned about the growing threats of climate change.

As heads of states gather for a summit on the issue, we hope that they come up with concrete and workable plans to resolve the problem of climate change, so that we may translate our initial victory into pursuing concrete actions to save the world by creating a community powered by 100% clean energy.

We shall continue the march towards a sustainable path by building better and healthier climate along the way.

Thank you all for your active participation in the September 21 historic event. Scroll down to see the evidence of our solidarity.

New York, USA
New York, USA
New York, USA
New York, USA
Honolulu, USA
Honolulu, USA
Rio, Brazil
Rio, Brazil
Athens, Greece
Athens, Greece
Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona, Spain
Genoa, Italy
Genoa, Italy
Rome, Italy
Rome, Italy
Berlin, Germany
Berlin, Germany
Munich, Germany
Munich, Germany
Bristol, United Kingdom
Bristol, United Kingdom
London, United Kingdon
London, United Kingdom
London, United Kingdom
London, United Kingdom
Ottawa, Canada
Ottawa, Canada
Paris, France
Paris, France
Paris, France
Paris, France
Melbourne, Australia
Melbourne, Australia
Melbourne, Australia
Melbourne, Australia
Melbourne, Australia
Melbourne, Australia
Sydney, Australia
Sydney, Australia
Bogota, Colombia
Bogota, Colombia
Bogota, Colombia
Bogota, Colombia
Bujumbura, Burundi
Bujumbura, Burundi
Loliondo, Tanzania
Loliondo, Tanzania
Lome, Togo
Lome, Togo
Nairobi, Kenya
Nairobi, Kenya
Wilderness, South Africa
Wilderness, South Africa
Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Delhi, India
Delhi, India
Delhi, India
Delhi, India
Delhi, India
Delhi, India
Kathmandu, Nepal
Kathmandu, Nepal
Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul, Turkey
Jakarta, Indonesia
Jakarta, Indonesia
Avaaz Executive Director, Ricken Patel, presents the 2 million-strong petition to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the People's Climate March, New York
Avaaz Executive Director, Ricken Patel, presents the 2 million-strong petition to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the People’s Climate March, New York

The results of the summit and the People’s Climate March…..

Our efforts paid off… and we’re moving on!

After the historic September 21 event, we are now beginning to see some progress on Climate Change.  The people power and the summit of leaders have initially produced some victories.  For one, climate change is now in the European agenda.

Meanwhile, one of the most popular malls in the Philippines has launched the world’s largest solar power on its facility.

The SM Supermalls has installed 5,700 solar panels on its North EDSA branch on November 24, 2014.  The system is said to generate 1.5 megawatts of solar energy, covering five percent of the store’s average daily electricity consumption.  This translates to a two million pesos savings per month on the part of the retail giant.

This development will significantly help ease the looming problem that the country’s energy sector has foreseen.  The Energy Department has projected earlier that if the country does not adjust accordingly, the northern part of the Philippines might experience energy shortage of around 300 megawatts to 1,000 megawatts in the summer months of 2015.

Moreover, SM Prime Holdings also promised to launch two similar solar power projects at its SM Dasmarinas and Mall of Asia branches soon.


Climate change is not just a concern of a few or confined to certain regions of the Earth. Rather, it is a serious threat that affects all mankind.  Each of us, citizens of the Earth, has contributed to the accumulation of carbon footprints.  And so, let us do something to restore and repair the damage that you and I have caused.  Let’s start from home and our immediate surroundings by at least minimizing our waste.

When we speak of waste, we refer to those materials that have lost their values in our lives and have no more economic values.  In other words, they are the things that we most likely would want to discard.

There are actually different types of waste, namely: bio-medical waste, hazardous waste, special hazardous waste.

Biomedical waste are those trash resulting from clinical activities, such as from the medical, dental, nursing, pharmaceutical, skin penetration, and other similar enterprises.

Hazardous waste, meanwhile, refers to trash that poses threat to human health and the environment.

I am rather interested to talk about municipal waste because it is something that you and I commonly produce everyday at home.

Minding the 3Rs: Recycle, Re-use, and Reduce  

Municipal waste includes our household trash , commercial garbage, and demolition junk. I seriously urge everyone to participate in managing our household waste by recycling materials, and re-using those things that can still be utilized for other purposes in order that we may reduce the amount of garbage at landfills.

Many of us may be wondering just how biodegradable or non-biodegradable are the products we commonly use at home.  For this reason, I decided to share what researchers have discovered regarding the decomposition time of the products we use everyday.

Plastic bags
Plastic bags: 200 to 1,000 years
Monofilament fishing line
Monofilament fishing line: 600 years
Disposable diapers: 550 years
Aluminum cans
Aluminum cans: 200 to 500 years
Plastic bottles
Plastic bottles: 450 years
Plastic containers: 50 to 80 years
Rubber-boot soles
Rubber-boot soles: 50 to 80 years
Foamed plastic cups
Foamed plastic cups: 50 years
Tinned steel cans
Tinned steel cans: 50 years
Leather shoes
Leather shoes: 25 to 40 years
Cigarette butts
Cigarette butts: 10 to 12 years
Milk cartons
Milk cartons: 5 years
Wool socks
Wool socks: 1 to 5 years
Plywood
Plywood: 1 to 3 years
Orange peels
Orange peels:  6 months
Cotton gloves
Cotton gloves: 3 months
Cardboard
Cardboard: 2 months
Apple core
Apple core: 2 months
Newspapers
Newspapers: 1.5 months
Paperbags
Paper bags: 1 month
Banana peels
Banana peels: 3 to 4 weeks
Paper towels
Paper towels: 2 to 4 weeks

Plastic bags, the commonest and most ubiquitous items in every household, are very popular among consumers and retailers because they are cheap, strong, functional, lightweight, and convenient to carry. But beyond its usefulness is its apparent danger and threat to human health, other living organisms, and the environment.  Since these materials take a very long time to decompose (in fact, we don’t get to live long enough to witness its decomposition), plastics tend to pile up in landfills once they are used.

Each year, an alarmingly increasing number of used plastic bags find their way into parks, streets, beaches, waterways, and finally, into oceans.  Some people even try to get rid of these plastic bags by burning them, consequently infusing toxic fumes into the atmosphere.  

Studies show that plastic bags that get to the oceans are responsible for killing around 100,000 animals such as dolphins, whales, turtles, other fishes, and penguins every year through suffocation and ingestion, as they mistake these materials for food.  It was even found that the ingested plastic bags remain intact inside the animal’s body even when the latter has long died and decomposed. Besides, production of plastic bags requires around 60 to 100 million barrels of oil each year.

Oil and other petroleum products are non-renewable resources and they are already alarmingly diminishing and costly by the day. Therefore, it is now imperative – and I’m urging everyone – to minimize our use of these non-biodegradable containers.  While governments and some shop owners have implemented a ban on the use of plastic bags, we, as individual consumers, can also do our share of reducing the amount of plastic bags in landfills and saving our environment by using environmentally friendly alternative packets.

Let’s start making it a habit to bring along a tote bag or eco-green bag each time we buy our groceries and other goods. Did you know that an environmentally friendly bag can be reused for more than a hundred times?  That means a lot to help reduce the amount of plastic bags in landfills.

Waste management: it’s everybody’s concern


Waste management should be a concerted effort of each and every member of a community, and not a responsibility of the local government alone.  For everyone is responsible in messing up with Nature.  In Iligan City,  it seems extremely difficult to enforce a waste management program because of the divisive political views of both those in power and the constituents.

Sendong IliganIligan City in the southern part of the Philippines was one of the hardest hit by typhoon “Sendong” (international name, Washi) that triggered a flash flood and landslide in the area, and claimed over a thousand lives on December 17, 2011.  The tragedy was blamed heavily on illegal logging, improper waste disposal, and other natural disaster-causing elements. Because of this, the newly-elected local government officials are trying to implement a waste management program to prevent the tragedy from happening again.  But sadly, many are skeptical, and even adamant, about the proposed project initiated by the city’s newly-elected mayor.

When politics gets the upper hand

The new mayor, retired Col. Celso Regencia, pointed out in his electoral campaign earlier that garbage has always been one of the major problems in Iligan City, and (as usual) promised that he would do something about it if elected.  And true to his promise, he issued an Executive Order regarding the collection and proper disposal of garbage, which took effect on September 1, 2013.

But the problem is: his Councilors and even the vice mayor are adamant about implementing the Executive Order, citing too many reasons and issues – from lack of funds to communication problem to the grassroots level. Other related issues also propped up, most salient of which is funding that has been misused by the previous administration.  Even as government officials squabble over the Executive Order issue, constituents are also divided on who to follow.  And this is why up until the present, Iligan City is yet to see a properly implemented waste management program.

I recall, in the early morning following the flood, I saw for myself the tons of garbage strewn all over most parts of the city – plastic, bottles, all sorts of wrappers and packaging materials, enormous logs, appliances, etc… – not to mention the lifeless bodies of both animals and humans – you can find it anywhere!  It was indeed a horror to witness the effects of people’s indifference to the environment.  Being an environmentalist, it created a profound impact on me. I could only utter, ‘I wish you all learn from this’ at the time.

The tragedy also created a sort of realization among government authorities and the people of Iligan, in general.  They became fierce about stopping illegal logging and bringing to book those responsible for it, rebuilding their homes and lives, and a bit of concern about waste disposal.  But unfortunately, though, the impetus I saw right after the storm has gradually died down.

And, the Executive Order?  I don’t know anymore what has become of it!  I think it’s now in the back burner again as the government officials continue to squabble over matters that might threaten their political standing among their constituents. What about the supposedly massive information drive about garbage disposal?

I’ve witnessed how a significant number of homeowners are either not keen about segregation as they see it as an additional task, or simply they are not aware of the essence of the proper disposal of garbage.  I was appalled by a resident’s comment when I asked her opinion about garbage segregation.  Without batting an eyelash she said, “Ah, I have no time for such thing, I would rather find other ways to dispose of my garbage than doing that time-consuming segregation.”

Obviously, the city government has still a very long way to make this Executive Order successful. First and foremost, politics has to be set aside.  Second, it needs the active participation of all its residents.  And, to get them involved in this important endeavor, the people must thoroughly understand the essence of waste management.

This leads me, then, to write this blog, hoping to help in the dissemination of the importance of proper disposal of common household trash.  And I am not addressing this only to the people of Iligan City but to all citizens of the world.

Why should we dispose of our trash properly?

Plastic, styrofoam, used electronic devices, and other waste materials strewn anywhere or thrust into rivers, streams, and other waterways can hamper the flow of water into its final destination.  The accumulated water will then find other course and overflow into the streets and other areas where it is not supposed to get into.  Besides, our trash serves as breeding ground for germs and insects, eventually causing the spread of several diseases.

Many of our household wastes are poisonous, and when discarded improperly, it may cause contamination and even death of people and other living organisms.

How to dispose of your household waste?

Segregation 2Segregate.  Separate your household waste according to biodegradable (nabubulok in Tagalog, malata in Cebuano or Bisaya); non-biodegradable (hindi nabubulok, or dili malata), and toxic waste, like used batteries. Assign a particular container, with color codes if necessary, for each category. Some localities assign Green for biodegradable materials, Yellow for Non-biodegradable, and Black for toxic wastes.  

Make a compost pit.  If you live in the rural area, or if your surrounding allows for it, make a compost pit where you can dump your biodegradable wastes.  By doing so, you will be generating fertilizer out of your unwanted items. Besides, composting our food scraps, paper, wood, waste, and yard trimmings, can tremendously cut down on the amount of garbage that would otherwise sit on landfills, serving as fodder for disease-carrying insects and rodents.

Recycle, Reuse and Reduce.  We can greatly help our environment if we make it a habit to recycle, reuse, and reduce household trash.  These are the key elements in which we can considerably minimize our production of waste.  Read Going Green Starts at Home for some helpful tips in reducing your impact on the environment.

Install a garburator.  Another way of eliminating food waste at home is by installing a garburator or garbage disposal unit under your sink. Here is how it works.

The average cost of a 1/3 horsepower-motor residential garbage disposal unit is usually around Php 2,200 to Php 5,000, depending on where you purchase it.  Nevertheless, it is important to shop around first for the appropriate unit that best suits your requirements. Beware, though, of the cheapest garburator; it might not perform the way you want it to be.

Cooperate.  Proper waste management is not a sole responsibility of the government or your barangay officials. Each person, young and old, who belongs to a certain community is responsible for maintaining cleanliness in his own area.  Let not politics, which seems to have eaten much of the fabric of development, get in the way to a cleaner Iligan City. What the community needs now is  political will to move forward!

Again, if only we strongly WILL to resolve the garbage issue and its consequential problems, we CAN actually materialize a cleaner environment and a healthier lifestyle – and we would be surprised to know that there are several ways to accomplish it! But, if we remain unwilling and passive, we will forever cling to nasty excuses!

Admittedly though, waste management is a legally, technically, and commercially complex system, not to mention initially expensive.  The local authorities, has to set specific dump sites for all the wastes, define a systematic way of collecting garbage, and spend for recycling facilities, to name a few.  But these should not stop us from doing our part as citizens of the earth and in our own locality.

As the saying goes, “Improvement begins with I, not Y”.  So, let’s get moving!  Besides, we don’t want to have a repeat of Sendong, Pablo, Ondoy, or Yolanda, do we?

First Option: Reduce Waste at Home

Even as we consciously make an effort to dispose of our garbage properly, we should also make it our primary concern to minimize our waste.  This way, we not only reduce our carbon footprints, but we also cut down on our expenses and bills.  Here are some helpful ideas that you might want to consider.

  • When buying new products, try to choose the better quality or more durable items, instead of opting for the cheaply-made or disposable ones.  The seemingly ‘high price’ you pay for the item will actually give you your money’s worth as you get to use the product for a longer period.
  • See if your old or broken items can still be repaired or restored before deciding to replace them.
  • Purchase products that can be reused for a long time.  For example, it is more practical to buy china or enamel crockery than paper plates and bowls.  It is also way better to pack your children’s school lunches in reusable containers with cover.
  • Buy products packed in recyclable containers, such as beverages in returnable bottles or packaging.
  • Buy your consumable goods in bulk to avoid unnecessary or excess packaging.
  • If you have some unwanted items in your home, you may give it to someone who might need it, or you may sell, or donate it.
  • If you need to purchase paints, pesticides, or other chemical-based materials, make sure to get just enough amount you need; otherwise, share the leftover with your neighbor or other people. This way, you are able to reduce toxic waste at home.

These are but a handful of many ways to reduce household wastes.  For sure, you also have your own ideas to share.  And, as we make this a daily habit, there’s no doubt that we will still discover more options to better manage our household trash.

Animals are silent witnesses to global warming


Scientists warned that mass extinction of wild animals is likely to happen in the near future due to global warming. In fact, it has already started creating significant changes in climatic conditions that threaten species in different parts of the world.

Polar Bears

Polar bears depend on sea ice because they use it as a platform for resting, and to catch their prey – the seals. Sadly, some studies have revealed that the Arctic sea ice melt at an alarming rate of nine percent each decade, threatening the animals’ habitat and their existence. The increasing temperatures considerably cause the floating platforms to move farther apart and transform the once frozen areas of the ocean to become open water. These conditions make it difficult and dangerous for polar bears to swim long distances between stable ice. 

Unless we, humans, do something to make the pace of global warming slower, polar bears could just disappear in the wild.

 

Sea Turtles

Rising temperatures and the noticeably increasing sea levels pose threats on the lives of the world’s sea turtles.  In fact, six of its kinds are already listed among the Endangered Species, namely: the green turtles, hawksbills, loggerheads, Kemp’s ridleys, Olive ridleys, and the leather backs.

sea turtlesFemale turtles come ashore to lay their eggs at nesting beaches, make their nests under the sand, lay their eggs there, and then return to the ocean.  They have the unique ability to return to the same nesting beaches over and over for years because their memories seem to have been “stamped” with a magnetic map of the place where they hatch.

But with the melting of the polar ice caps and the rising sea levels, those beaches where they used to visit for their nesting ritual are beginning to disappear under water.

Likewise, the rising temperature consequently increases the thermal reading of the sand, which plays a significant role in determining the sex of the turtles’ eggs.  Hotter sand alters the natural sex ratios of hatchlings.  The upper limit for egg incubation is at 34ºC. But when the sand temperature becomes hotter, it results to more female hatchlings.

Moreover, extreme weather conditions associated with climate change lead to continual and severe storms, causing beach erosion, alteration on turtles’ nesting areas, and inundation of their nests.

right whaleNorth Atlantic Right Whales

Characterized as having a massive body and mostly black skin with pale patches on its head and belly, the North Atlantic Right Whale has been recorded as one of the rarest marine mammal species with an estimated population of way less than 500 individuals.

Its name was taken from the clue that it was the “good or right” whale to hunt for its slow movement, its inclination to come close to land, tendency to float after death, and for its abundant source of oil and baleen.

Historically, right whales have lived through both cooling and warming periods but the present global warming befalls at a much faster rate, exposing the cetacean to a high risk of heat stress.  Besides, climate change causes indirect impact on these whales by altering their prey resource, upsetting their calving intervals and the number of calves born each year.

Pollution is another factor that has significantly distressed the reproductive performance of the right whales and other cetaceans.

giant panda

Giant Pandas

Although, they possess the same digestive system of a carnivore, just like the other members of the bear family do, giant pandas rather live on a vegetarian diet, relying on bamboo for their main source of food. Its daily menu is ninety nine percent composed of leaves, shoots, and stems of the twenty different bamboo species. But sometimes, too, they do hunt for pikas, small rodents, and other plants.

Since bamboo has very minimal nutritional value, pandas have to eat around 12 to 38 kilograms of this staple food every day just to meet their energy requirements. This means they spend 14 hours a day eating.

Sadly though, scientists warned that some of the more than 100 varieties of bamboo are under threat of extinction due to the increasing global temperature; thus, indirectly affecting the giant pandas’ survival and existence, since these animals do not feed on all bamboo varieties.

orangutanOrangutans

Man of the Forest – that is what orangutan means!

The orangutans, Asia’s only ape, are at risk of extinction due to the effects of climate change. In fact, their number in the wild has remarkably dropped by fifty percent in the past decade. Their remaining habitats in the rain forests of Indonesia continually suffer from frequent and long droughts, and bush fires. Therefore, trees and plants no longer bear sufficient fruits, on which the orangutans feed on.

Besides, logging and mining industries are clearing the lowland rain forests, taking away their areas to find food and reducing their ability to freely move about in large radius.  Because of this, orangutans are forced to stay in one area and tend to deplete all food sources there.

How you and I may help slow down the rate of global warming

These are but few of the many animals that are silently trying to cope with the increasingly harsh environment.  But you and I can do something to reduce the rate of global warming. Here’s how:

  1. Let us actively practice the reduce, reuse, and recycle habit.
  2. Minimize the use of our heater and air-conditioning systems.
  3. Replace our regular light bulbs with compact flourescent light (CFL) bulbs to save on energy.
  4. Drive less, walk more.
  5. Advocate energy-efficient products.
  6. Consume less hot water.
  7. Switch off light when not in use.
  8. Plant a tree whenever and wherever possible.
  9. Encourage family members, friends, associates, and neighbors to conserve.

Clean water is not everywhere


Water may be a renewable resource as it replenishes itself through rain. But we should bear in mind that only 3 percent of it is fresh, and only a third of this amount is potable. The rest of the Earth’s water is part of the ice caps and glaciers.  Over 700 million people in the world, especially those in populous states, don’t have access to improve water source.  Thus, it is imperative for all of us citizens in the world to be frugal in our use of water.

water 3
Water, sanitation, and hygiene-related diseases claim more than 3 million lives each year, 99% of whom are from the developing countries.

You don’t want to wake up one morning with this kind of water to wash your face with, let alone drink, do you?  

I’m not being grim here, but this can happen to us. Reality is that, at present, 780 million people in the world are already suffering from lack of access to potable water, which translates to a ratio of one in seven persons is deprived of it.

It is true that water is a renewable resource; but we should also take note that this basic life support is finite! Of the earth’s water resource, only 3 percent of it is fresh, the rest is salt water found in the ocean and seas, locked up in glaciers and constant snow cover. . Of this 3 percent fresh water, only a third is fit for drinking.  Research findings also show that water scarcity even occurs in areas that receive plenty of rainfall or freshwater. 

Here are more horrible facts related to world’s water condition:

  • Almost 4 million people die each year due to water-related water ailments, unsanitary conditions, and hygiene-related diseases. Ninety-nine percent of these deaths happen in developing countries.
  • In Africa alone, diarrhea kills five to ten times more people than war.
women carry water
Women and children in developing countries spend around 200 million hours a day fetching water from distant sources.Diarrhea is more widespread in developing countries because of their inadequate supply of clean drinking water and sanitation, aside from lack of access to life-saving treatment, hygiene, and nutritional condition.
  • Diarrhea claims a child’s life every 21 seconds.  Studies show that the disease is the second leading cause of death among children five years old and below. Because of inadequate access to fresh water source and sanitation, children’s death rate is equivalent to that of a jet airliner crashing every four hours.
  • Around 2.5 billion people do not have access to improved sanitation facilities or toilets, and around 1.2 billion of whom still resort to open defecation.
  • Contaminated drinking water, and poor sanitation and hygiene attribute to 88 percent of global cases of diarrhea.
  • An average toilet uses 8 liters of clean water in just one flush.
  • Studies made in 45 developing countries reveal that women and children bear the burden of collecting water for drinking, washing, cooking, cleaning, and other uses in the household.  Most often, they have to travel an average of 3.7 miles (around 5.96 kilometers)  and spend untold hours daily waiting for their turn to collect water, often from polluted sources, and return home with around 40-pound jerry cans on their backs. Because of this responsibility, millions of them have to forego school or education, locking them in a cycle of poverty and unemployment. When the women get old, the girls have to carry on this task to provide such basic necessity for their respective families.
  • Around half of the world’s schools do not have clean water supply.
  • A simple washing of hands can significantly reduce the chance of diarrhea by around 35 percent.

Given these facts, what then should we do to solve and/or avoid potable water crisis?

As much as it is the duty of the local government to provide the community with water system and safeguard its quality, local residents must also cooperate in such an effort.

Protect the water supply.  Reduce or keep bacteria and other disease-causing organisms, nitrates, or synthetic organic chemicals from coming into your water sources by protecting your well or watershed.  In constructing your local well,  make sure that the ground around it slopes away so that rain and runoff water will not get into it.  Never allow surface water to flow down into the well.

Avoid and/or remove sources of contamination. Do not use pipes, fitting, and other fixtures that contain lead and other hazardous chemical compounds.  Keep your water sources away from possible sources of contamination, like industrial facilities, livestock holding areas, septic systems and sewage force mains, and underground storage tanks.

Apply water treatment.  To maintain a safe drinking water supply, you must treat your water regularly to eliminate bacteria and remove hard water and other mineral deposits. There is no single water treatment system, though, that can totally eliminate bacteria, but you can choose one that provides the advantages you want.

Develop new water supply.  Should you discover that your existing water supply is already contaminated by nitrate, fuel, pesticide, salt, or other organic chemicals, it is best recommended that you start developing a new source, or purchase from an existing water system.  Such move, though, requires assessment by geologists, engineers, and other professionals in the field to ensure that your new supply is safe and protected.

But above all these measures, we should do our personal share of water conservation at home.

water

 

February 2 is World Wetlands Day


World Wetlands Day is commemorated every second day of February to mark the anniversary of the signing of the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance in Ramsar, Iran on February 2, 1971.  Also known as the Ramsar Convention, it aims for “the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world.”

Ramsar

Over 98 countries around the world participate in various events. Government agencies, non-government organization, and groups of concerned citizens from all walks of life conduct lectures and seminars, nature walks, children’s art contests, community clean-up days, and other related activities to raise peoples’ awareness on the value of wetlands and its benefits.

This year, 2015, the program highlights the theme, “Wetlands for our Future”, to focus on the necessity of raising people’s awareness on the values of wetlands to the future generations and its importance to sustainability.

photo contestAmong the various programs lined up for this year’s celebration is a photo contest among young people 15 – 24 years old.  So, if you are fond of taking selfies, here’s an opportunity to take your personal interest to a higher level.

What exactly are wetlands?

Why should we give them so much importance? Wetlands are land areas that are seasonally or permanently covered by shallow water.  They play a very significant role in our ecosystems because they serve as home to several wildlife species of amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals, crustaceans, and fish. These lands provide bountiful nutrients and water to animals; make a safe refuge for many animals and plants during hot seasons, especially during droughts, and; they accommodate nurseries for fish and migratory birds.

Wetlands are also capable of improving the quality of water and the general state of the drainage basins.  When water passes through a wetland, pollutants like silt, nitrates, and pesticides that are carried with it are purified, controlled, and broken down by the bacteria found in the soil or by the vegetation in the wetlands.  Thus, preventing harmful chemicals from going farther into the ocean.

In addition, wetlands provide mankind several socio-economic and environmental benefits, such as:

  • protect people and their properties from natural disasters, like raging storm waters, wind, landslides, and erosion
  • significantly slow down the effects of global warming by keeping greenhouse gases away from the earth’s atmosphere
  • prevent excess water from getting inland, which can pose threat on land use activities

There are a number of ways by which you can participate in the World Wetlands Day commemoration.  Most likely, there is a community in your area that organizes events for this purpose.  Or, you may even want to initiate a project in your locality.  Ramsar Convention would be willing to provide you with the materials you need.

Last year, 2014, the theme “Wetlands and Agriculture” emphasized on the need for the wetland, water, and agriculture sectors to work together for the best shared outcomes. While the 2013 event focused on “Wetlands and Water Management”.

Hybrid vehicles: a transport to sustainable development


Fossil fuels have brought us into this modern economy. But they also put us in danger because of the increasing carbon dioxide levels they produce. It is now time that we seriously look into the use of hybrid vehicles to reduce emission of carbon dioxide. Hybrid vehicles that are charged by electricity produce clean energy. They are sustainable and cost much less as they utilize nature’s own energy sources, such as solar and wind power.

Hybrid vehicle 1

Hybrid vehicles are similar to the conventional petrol-powered vehicle, except that they veer away from total dependence on fossil fuels.  They are powered by two or more sources of energy. Hybrids utilize any of these natural sources of energy:

  • solar power
  • wind power
  • pressurized or compressed air
  • electric batteries
  • fuel cell
  • liquid petroleum gas (LPG)
  • liquefied nitrogen
  • hydrogen
  • alternative fuels and biofuels
  • manpower

These sources of energy work alternately in such a manner that the more efficient one functions when and where it is needed most.  For example, when petrol engine assumes the gear in negotiating a steep hill, the other energy source shuts off.

Hybrid vehicles significantly reduce the impact of tailpipe emissions by ninety percent. And since their  emission is almost zero, they are gentler to the environment as well as to human health. Hybrids are  economically-efficient, too, as they allow users to be less dependent on petrol fuel.

Car manufacturers continually study and test varied combinations of energy sources to come up with the most cost-efficient and most environmentally-friendly hybrid. So far, the most common among the hybrids use gas-and-electric power combination, called the hybrid electric vehicle (HEV).

Hybrid vehicle 2

HEVs use fossil fuel to power the internal combustion engines and electric batteries to energize the electric motors. Their salient advantages over fossil-fueled vehicles include:

  • They use regenerative braking to recoup some of the energy lost during stopping, saving  energy in a storage battery to be used later to power the motor whenever the car is in electric mode.
  • HEVs outperform gasoline-powered cars in terms of mileage by approximately 20 to 30 percent.
  • When HEVs are switched onto electric mode, they don’t produce excessive roaring.  In other words they operate quietly; thus, reducing another form of pollution – that is, noise.

If you are planning to buy a hybrid vehicle, check first on each car model’s economy information.  Also watch this video on how hybrid vehicles work.

Causes and effects of forest degradation


Forest degradation is the long-term reduction in the overall capacity of a forest to produce or provide benefits, such as carbon storage, biodiversity, wood, and other products due to environmental and anthropogenic alterations.  It results to a decrease in the number of species in the forest and in tree cover, or the alteration of the forest structure. Forest degradation is different from deforestation; although the latter is a contributing factor to the loss of biodiversity.

forest degradation 1st

Forest degradation creates great ecological problems in all parts of the earth, the most significant impact of which is the loss of habitat of many species or loss of biodiversity.  It also leads to the disruption of water cycle and river ecosystems, and soil erosion.

Causes and effects of degradation

Forest fires. Every year, fires wipe out millions of hectares of forests worldwide. Although, they are expected to occur in many forest types, particularly in boreal and dry tropical forests, since they are a natural part of ecosystems. But fires can also be due to accidents and human error.

forest fires

Forest fires become a serious issue when:

  • they occur in the wrong places at an unusual frequency, or at a wrong temperature
  • they are directly or indirectly premeditated or influenced by humans
  • fire is used as an option to “manage” forests. Usually, this is employed as the simplest and cheapest means for smallholders.

Fires can tremendously change the composition and structure of forests. They make the burned areas vulnerable to invasion of alien species, and endanger biological diversity. They also leave an impact on varied sectors, particularly:

  • Local communities. Forests are basically an important resource base for the communities around it, such as the soil where they grow their crops, water for drinking and irrigation, and the like.  When fires occur, environmental degradation adversely affects soil fertility, water cycles, and biodiversity.

I remember what Ghanaian President, John Dramani Mahama, once said in a speech.  He lamented at how his country suffers from environmental degradation through forest depletion, agricultural soil degradation, and environmental health damage, which remarkably hamper his country’s prospects of sustainable development.  He said that such degradation has cost 3.7 percent of Ghana’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2010.

  • Farmers. Forest fires mean loss of their crops, or even livelihood.

Fires can also tremendously damage buildings, plantations, and crops as well as claim human lives.

forest droughtClimate change. Climate change causes transformations on montane forests, rainforests, savannas, boreal forests, and other similar ecosystems. It increases the intensity and frequency of droughts and dry spells, and escalates the mean and peak temperatures. Extreme weather conditions considerably decrease tree cover and dry out bodies of water that run through the forests.

Wildlife are also forced to migrate, decreasing the quality of forest ecosystems in the process.  Actually, forest wildlife severely suffers when they lack water and have to look for a new habitat.  When changes happen too quickly in the ecosystems, species might not be able to cope with it, resulting in its loss or, worse, global extinction.

Diseases and pests.  An outbreak of plague and pest attacks can damage the vegetative cover of forest areas.

Living dangerously with polluted air


The Industrial Revolution ushered humanity into an age of economic progress, and a new kind of lifestyle.  A lifestyle that retrogressed from healthy to dirty.  Since then, we have been living dangerously with soot and polluted air. In fact, it is now very rare to find a place where we can breathe clean air.

Alongside the so-called economic development came urbanization.  Population continuously grew around centers of industry and commerce. As people crowd into these places, they also begun generating more wastes, polluting the environment and the air. Hence, we become acquainted with the words smog, industrial air pollution, accidental air pollution, transport-related pollution, green house effect, and the like.

Smog, which is a combination of smoke and fog, is generated from industry emissions, motor vehicle combustion, incinerators, open burning, and other sources.  It results when high concentration of moisture transfuses with smoke at high temperature. The smoke in this combination usually contains oxides of sulphur and nitrogen.

Industrial establishments utilize various kinds of chemicals in their production processes, the excess of which are emitted into the air through the chimneys of their factories.  Once out, the smoke forms a bond with fog and pose health threats to humans and harm to other living things.

Industrial air pollution is identified as one of the major causes of air pollution because it covers several areas. The major industrial air polluters include thermal plants, manufacturing units for fertilizers and pesticides, leather and plastic factories, atomic reactors, and other types of industries.  All of these are considered air polluters because of the chemically harmful smoke they emit into the atmosphere during production processes.

Accidental air pollution.  As the term implies, this type of pollution occurs by accident, like burning in forest fires, accidents to petroleum mass transport vehicles, and by leakage or blasts in industries.

Transport-related air pollution. This type of air pollution comes from the exhaust of petrol- or diesel-powered motor vehicles.

Green house effect.  It is an occurrence when the earth’s atmosphere traps solar radiation caused by the presence of certain gases like carbon dioxide, methane, and water vapour in the atmosphere that allow incoming sunlight to penetrate but also absorbs the heat that is radiated back from the earth’s surface.  With such an effect, the atmosphere gets contaminated when a number of green house gases, such as methane, sulphur, nitrogen, carbon monoxide, hydrogen, and ozone blend with air.

Economic progress is not bad at all.  But, we also need to consider our own health and the only planet we live in.  Everyone has the right to breathe clean air and to live a healthy lifestyle.

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