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‘Building back better’ after COVID-19

/ 04:04 AM February 01, 2021

Is a better world possible after it has been shaken by the pandemic?

Building back a better world after the disastrous effects of the coronavirus disease and its variants may seem far-fetched at this time in the Philippines and in many parts of the world.

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Last Dec. 11, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, widely known for his campaign against legislators’ insertions of “pork” in their budgets, remarked that the “pandemic could not stop the greed of some [legislators] … despite [its] crippling effects on all sectors of society…”

Lacson was referring to the diversion of some much-needed funding for social welfare to huge budget ticket items that are prone to corruption and to some favored legislators’ countrywide development funds, otherwise known as “pork barrel.”

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Indeed, the greedy among the so-called honorable members of the two Houses of Congress do not care as they continually lust for taxpayers’ hard-earned money.

Legislators aside, greedy entrepreneurs also sacrifice environmental sustainability in exchange for quick financial returns on their investments. In this insecure period of our history, some unscrupulous business operators continue to ignore the effects of their selfishness on the environment.

Last Jan. 9, a fish kill was reported in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato, leading to damage worth more than P20 million. This is not the first time a fish kill was reported in this scenic town. The town’s tilapia growers experienced fish kills in 2013 and 2017. In 2017, the fish kill resulted in the loss of about P126 million, the equivalent of more than 1.4 million kilos of tilapia. This year, more than 200,000 kilos of tilapia fish were lost to fish kill. This incident affected three barangays in Lake Sebu:

Poblacion, Takunel, and Bacdulong.

Fish kills happen when there is reduced oxygen in the water that results from various environmental conditions, like a sustained decrease or increase in water temperature, especially during the rainy season or during a drought. A sign of the stress due to the lack of oxygen is when some fish are gulping for air at the surface of the water, especially in the morning. In this case, large fish die first because they need more oxygen to survive.

But fish kills are aggravated when fish cage operators overstock the fish in their cages, and also when they use decayed fish feeds. The overstocking is done to have more fish harvested after a certain time, and the use of decayed fish feeds is a cheaper option that leads to amassing greater profits. In the words of a former colleague, a genetic scientist, the bottom line of this newest incident of fish kill is just pure, unabated greed.

Unabated greed is the hallmark of a world entrapped in crass materialism, where the lust for money is the default way of life.

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In an interview with Jonathan Watts early last month for The Guardian, Jane Goodall, world-renowned British primatologist and anthropologist, said that one of our serious problems today is our greedy lifestyle, as seen in our reckless burning of fossil fuels, and our insatiable demand for meat. The reckless burning of fossil fuels is premised on the idea of unlimited economic development amid the world’s finite natural resources. Goodall added that our greed, as seen in our disrespect for animals (by killing them for food) has created the conditions for the emergence of zoonotic diseases, or diseases that jump from animals to human beings. According to Goodall, about 75 percent of newly emerging diseases among humans, including COVID-19, are zoonotic.

But Goodall is optimistic we will change. She sees change happening among the youth who are actively campaigning for a cleaner and environmentally safer world. She also advocates that we veer away from our greedy lifestyle, and value our intricate relationships with nature, both the animals and the rest of the living creatures in it. Only then, she says, can we build back a better world after the pandemic.

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TAGS: COVID-19, Fishkill, Jane Goodall, Lake Sebu, Senator Lacson
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