For a happy, healthy Earth
In one of our brainstorming sessions in class to rework things, there came the realization for the students to save the environment so we could still hear the birds sing. Their will to leave behind a healthy and happy Earth for the next generations is cut five ways:
First, on technology. Industrialization, a worse pollutant, has to take a back seat to agriculture. Industrialization leaves less and less food for humans and shelter for birds. All animals are essential to the complex balance of nature that keeps people alive. The wise use of nature’s gifts—air, water, plants, minerals, birds and other animals—is the responsibility of everyone on Earth.
We should tend more agricultural lands, with our productive soil and generous, all-year-round sunlight being perfect resources for crop growing. Young students, the jobless, and prison inmates should be trained to plant, too.
The students said the Philippines must not be Asia’s waste basket in exchange for dollars and overseas work. Empty stomachs need more food than dollars, and our bodies require clean living.
Second, on forest sanctuaries. Forest denudation not only does grievous damage to our environment; it also does this damage on the sly. Laws against the rape of forests lack teeth because certain lawmakers themselves break the law, the students said. There are no quick fixes to this ecological ruin because replanting takes time.
The students suggested that environmental polluters, poachers and illegal loggers be forced to pay for the cleanup of their own toxic legacy. Who needs matches when lighters are fine and don’t need trees to be cut for them to be produced, or, for that matter, wooden toothpicks, gift wrappers, and so on? Forest reserves should have iron fences surrounding them, and environmental security forces guarding these reserves.
Third, on the construction of homes and buildings. The students said builders should construct earthquake-proof structures like the main building of the University of Santo Tomas (which celebrates its 406th foundation anniversary in this Earth month on April 28). All buildings must have carports in the basements. Fruit-bearing trees, which prove sturdy during typhoons, should be planted between buildings. Installing electric cables underground with proper insulation would save on logs used for electric posts. Homes in flooded areas must be elevated, and let the grass grow for the Earth to breathe.
Fourth, on the traffic mess. Aside from cleaner air to make towns and cities more livable, the students called for less traffic. They aired the belief that every person has more worth than a car.
Toward a more environment-friendly mode of travel, the students figured out this answer to traffic’s perpetual gridlock: Build more less-pollutant means of transport—the LRTs and MRTs—up to the farthest provinces. Widen new roads to allow for broader, level islands. What are islands for? With the vehicular lanes eroded by popular bike- and motor-sharing programs, or even the pomp and pageantry of fiesta parades, May Santacruzan festivals, and funeral processions, which snarl traffic and enrage motorists, the islands’ free space can be made available for them, thus allowing quick, smooth usage of the roads.
Fifth, on education. The students pointed out that only intellectuals must teach—those intelligent, passionate and sensitive teachers who can educate and inspire more to save the Earth and share great lessons with them. To attract the brightest to go into teaching, the government must raise teachers’ salaries to the level of those for doctors, engineers, or lawyers. Together with environmental protection, religion or euthenics must be taught in all private and public schools.
More suggestions from the students: Candy wrappers should be edible. Electrically charged wires must be installed around forest reserves.
How about heeding the voices of these young stewards of the Earth and the country’s future leaders?
Pit M. Maliksi was Most Outstanding Professor for 10 years at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines in Santo Tomas, Batangas, and is an alumnus of UST and of Central Texas College.
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