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It’s their time

As I prepared last month to fly to Boston to attend the graduation of my youngest son, Andres, I was flushed with pride at being the father of this young gentleman.

Andres, 22, graduated from Boston University with a double summa cum laude, in mathematics and business administration. When he was in high school, he represented his alma mater, Xavier School, in various competitions in statistics.

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Days before the graduation ceremony, which was to be held outdoors, the weather was unpredictable. A forecast of rain worried us. Well, when people talk about Boston, they usually say, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a while. It will change.” And so it did. On Andres’ two graduation days, we were blessed with wonderful weather!

I had arrived in the United States to cool spring weather, although many parts of the country were experiencing droughts and severe heat waves.

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Apparently, extreme heat is felt not only in our country but elsewhere in the world. The weather swings are much greater in variance than usual.

These days, the unpredictability of the weather must be considered while preparing for a journey to any part of the globe. In fact, seasoned travelers know they must pack all sorts of clothing when going on a trip. One never knows when the temperature will abruptly turn to freezing cold or scorching hot. Adaptation is now a necessity.

During Andres’ commencement ceremony, the guest speaker, Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, spoke candidly about his life and the role of the graduating class of 2014. He spoke about “the age of smartphones” in which we now live, an era of impersonal communication, albeit fast and accessible. He dwelled on the importance of real presence and face-to-face conversation as against the faceless world of social media. He elaborated on how the human touch, devoid of words or photos, is so important in daily communication and daily life.

Patrick was right. Technology is supposed to make this world a better place, “a smaller village,” so to speak. Isn’t it ironic that in this modern world, the gadgets we use to communicate seem to build more walls than bridges?

He noted the importance of the good old days when letters written with pen and paper and sent by “snail mail” had stronger influence. He observed how someone’s real presence always had a deeper impact on another, more than any technological fix and amenity that the world has succumbed to.

From Deval’s viewpoint, I can only ask: How many times has the course of world history changed with a mere “stroke of a pen”?

Also food for thought of great importance is the environment, with the failure of both the Conference Of Parties and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to come to any agreement of consequence.

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Carbon dioxide levels have breached over 402 ppm from the last count. The glaciers and the Arctic ice continue to melt faster than expected. Water resources—the source of all life—are on the verge of depletion.

Election fever is rife in the United States, and climate change will be—or should be—a focal issue in the electoral arena. But only 25 percent of the voting population take climate change seriously.

Still, many are striving to make climate change a No. 1 priority in the US electoral campaign. Among them is billionaire Tom Steyer, who has vowed to donate $100 million to make climate change a top electoral issue.

All over the world, change is occurring.

In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi brings new hope for the subcontinent. In Thailand, a vital sign of an Arab spring rises as martial law is imposed. In Ukraine and in Russia, the battle for resources continues.

In the Philippines, El Niño threatens warmer temperatures and very little rainfall, the dire effects of which, according to the weather bureau, will be felt starting in September.

With all these environmental threats, one wonders: Is there anyone really speaking for and in behalf of Nature?

At Boston University during Andres’ graduation, the dean of the College of Mathematics spoke of how “critical thinking” is so vital in changing our world today. (Only 1 percent of the university’s graduating class took up the challenging course in mathematics, my son included. It’s a course where critical thinking is required.)

These young graduates, like their peers worldwide, are equipped with the knowledge and skills to find new ways to solve the world’s problems, specifically our dying environment. As the old economic model falters due to lack of critical thinking by those behind it, the youth will now have to step up. It’s their time, and they will inherit the earth.

I keep my hope high that our generation can still help mitigate the effects of global warming and that we can leave our children a better planet.

I am a proud father of Andres and I am making no secret about it. May his achievement, diligence and determination be an inspiration to our youth. He did his family proud, and his country as well.

But more than my pride is my hope that Andres’ generation will have a better environment and a healthier ecology than what we have now. The youth must face the world armed with critical thinking, and do what must be done to change the development model that has failed us.

It’s their time.

Antonio M. Claparols ([email protected]) is president of the Ecological Society of the Philippines.

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