i declare myself an environmental activist.

it is final. i have decided. when was that? a long time ago i think.

but of what use have i been to the earth?

park scene

after watching all sorts of disaster films, seeing my countrymen… men, women and children, an entire school… sink into a mass grave covered by mud from a mountain landslide, after watching the horrendous, ginormous tsunami engulf Aceh in Indonesia and the recent catastrophe in Jakarta…  after reading magazine articles on the destructive droughts in China and Russia, seeing the polar ice caps tumble en masse in the north and south poles in Al Gore’s documentary (An Inconvenient Truth) and learning that 70% of the earth’s freshwater is held in the antarctic ice sheet… hurricane Katrina, typhoon Ketsana (a.k.a. Ondoy), the yearly El Nino & La Nina… people in Africa suffering from drought and famine… outbreaks of diseases happening around the world… the ozone layer being depleted by roughly 4% every decade… the relatively recent rise in the rate of extinction of certain species… after personally experiencing the July 16, 1990 earthquake while studying in Baguio City, Philippines and witnessing the first major explosion of Mount Pinatubo the following year (June 1991) while working that summer in McDonald’s Dau… saw the magnificent houses in Cabalantian, Bacolor in the province of Pampanga buried in mud… with the old cathedral half buried as well… no words can describe how desolate it all seemed back then… was just there on a jeepney, passing through… headed somewhere else… tears rolled down my cheeks as i struggled to breathe.

how horrible it must have been to lose one’s only home… all the memories lost as the lahar covered everything in mud… with no regard to the heartbreak, indifferent to the screams of despair and loss… prayers unheard as the mountain rumbled after centuries of quietude…

the 4-hour drive from Baguio City to Pampanga seemed endless. one friend of mine hailed from Luisita, Tarlac, two were from Magalang, Pampanga and I (at that time) lived in Angeles City. Pangasinan seemed unusually silent as we passed it by. We could not sleep on the bus as we were wont to do.. we were too anxious, worried for the most part for our families. School just started a week before and there we were again, headed home. By the time Tarlac came into view, we saw the dust that covered the place… the pale spiritless atmosphere that seemed to pervade the entire length of the trip from there… we thought we had seen the worst till we caught a glimpse of Capas, Tarlac and then Bamban… the river was almost obliterated, the houses.. everything… it was like one massive cemetery. What was left of the houses looked like tombstones jutting out of an unkempt ancient burial site, no longer trodden by humans, left and abandoned… surrendered to the elements… “unsaveable”… incapable of redemption.

i remember lining up at the makeshift SSS offices and filing for a calamity loan (I’ve been a member since age 15) and looking around at the people… everything was stark grey… like we had just come out of hiding after a terrible civil war. i could not see a single soul dressed up… people had the same desperate, hopeless, miserable look on their faces… sometimes one person would sob for no apparent reason… there were no flaring tempers even with the long wait… everyone felt defeated… we all needed help.

oh yes i have seen enough. enough cruelty and loss. enough death and despair. sadness. misery. sickness. tragedy.

i have seen enough not to care about this planet we call our home. our only home.

but for others… these things around us seem unrelated. independent events that have nothing to do with one another… or at least, have nothing to do with you or me. so why should we care about children dying in Somalia? people ravaged by the earthquake in Haiti? why should it matter to me that some sea creatures are vanishing and that migratory birds seem to be as confused as the weather?

why do i need to segregate trash? why should i avoid using plastic and styrofoam? why should i get my leaking faucet fixed? why should i use energy efficient appliances? why should i learn to reuse certain resources and control my consumption? why shouldn’t i buy that 4WD with a really powerful engine just because it uses up too much petrol? i can afford it. why not?

who’s to tell me that not finishing my meals is bad? will those starving people live just because i have decided to finish every single meal that is served before me? why do i have to conserve water and electricity? i pay my bills and i have enough money to pay for more. why should i stop smoking? the rest of the world does, so what is one less puff worth?

my friends laugh at me when i keep plastic spoons, forks and knives to take home and wash, sanitize and reuse. i have carefully studied this and available info on plastic state that plastic is safe for reuse as long as the material remains pristine / undamaged even with just a small crack or graze (bacteria may enter and proliferate in those areas)… that is, good quality plastic. i try to keep a mug at work so as not to use plastic cups for my drinking water, even my coffee. i use glass containers for my lunch pack. i collect and reuse plastic bags from the supermarket. i bring my own eating utensils (plus my chopsticks), not because i’m scared of using what the cafeteria provides but to minimize my use of plastic utensils. and whatever i do use, i take home to sanitize and reuse. i don’t use a screensaver. i reuse newspaper and office paper… i keep loose buttons to be reused some time in the future. i pick up safety pins and paper clips i see lying around as long as they are still fit for use. i reuse tote bags / shoppings bags (we Filipinos are experts at this). i also use washable grocery bags and “green” shopping bags to carry my “work stuff.” i turn off the faucet while brushing or lathering my face. i turn off the shower tap when i am not actually rinsing yet or washing. i turn off all electrical outlets when i leave the room i live in. the air conditioner is turned on only from 8pm to 7am the next day during summer. during winter, the air conditioner is hardly ever used. as much as possible, i make use of mass transit (which is quite easy to do here since i don’t drive… 🙂

these things are small. seemingly insignificant. what i do. or try to do.

they are small. tiny. and we have such a big wide world to save.

and billions of lives to take care of.

do i care about the future generations? my children and their children’s children? and their children’s children’s children?

some people say, why take the trouble? i’d be long gone by then.

then end may not be so far if we remain as we are. on the wrong side of the track.

we think but fail to act. never act.

so many researches, so many articles… so many words, words, words.

i rest my case.

© Lovely Claire Dangalan, 2010