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Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Invitation to the Biodiversity Forum

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Just saw this story in Inquirer.net, which immediately transported me into a state of nostalgia and melancholy:

Help save Sierra Madre, tribe leader urges media
By Delfin Mallari Jr.
Southern Luzon Bureau

LUCENA CITY, Philippines — Using a borrowed mobile phone, a tribal leader in Sierra Madre in northern Quezon asked for media’s help to stop the renewed illegal logging operation in the mountain ranges.

On Monday evening, Eric Avellaneda, vice chairman of mountain tribe association called “Adhikain ng mga Grupong Taong Katutubo na Nagtatanggol” (Agta), sent a text message to the Philippine Daily Inquirer and reported that more than 30 chainsaws were sneaked into the mountain and were now being used by unidentified groups in their renewed unlawful cutting of trees.

In a follow-up phone interview, Avellaneda said he just borrowed the mobile phone from a lowlander to contact the media to ask for help to stop the illegal activities.

“The media is our only hope to stop and prevent the further destruction of Sierra Madre. Illegal logging stops every time it was reported in the media,” he said in Filipino.

Full story here

I guess there’s a bright side to this. That a tribal leader is actively engaged in protecting his ancestral domain, that the ubiquitous mobile phone has given him access to media, that the reporter who got the message actually wrote about it, that the government initiated action on the complaint. It shows the power of the individual, the power of the media, the power of, well, texting.

Just what the extent of that power is, I don’t know.

Illegal logging has been systematically wiping out the Sierra Madre for years, even decades. It’s one of those situations where the problem seems so big that one is tempted to just despair and give up hope that it’s ever going to go away. The loggers are rich, powerful, and armed. The government officials are on the take. A lot of upland residents are too poor to have much livelihood options other than the destructive slash-and-burn farming. And the felled logs continue to float down the river, continue to breeze through the checkpoints.

Three years ago, the Sierra Madre was the scene of heartbreaking tragedy as the denuded mountain slopes broke loose after days of heavy rains, triggering landslides and flashfloods. The disaster killed more than a thousand people, destroyed property and infrastructure, and rendered farmlands useless.

I had the opportunity to listen to some of the victims during a forum we organized at the Haribon Foundation about half a year after the tragedy. I wrote about their story for the Haribon website, where I now go back to go over it once again.

The article was one of the most difficult I’ve ever had to write. I remember sitting in front of the computer listening to the tape from the forum, trying to hold back tears as I listened to the speakers.

“Hanggang ngayon maluwag sila sa pagbibigay ng permit para mailabas ang kahoy na dapat sana’y tulong na sa amin. Masakit para sa aming tanggapin na yung mga kahoy na yon ang pumatay sa mga mahal namin sa buhay samantalang kami walang maipag-pagawa ng bahay… Tone-toneladang kahoy ang lumalabas, sabi nila total log ban daw, sabi nila ibibigay daw sa aming nasalanta, pero marami sa amin ang walang bahay.”

“Sa totoo lang po gustong-gusto naming hukayin yung bangkay ng mga mahal namin sa buhay pero wala kaming magawa. Syempre po yung mga natitirang nabubuhay may mga pangangailangan naman na dapat tingnan,”

“Ang mga ganitong pagsasalita ay mahirap para sa amin…sa bawat pagkakataong nagsasalita kami ng ganito ay para naming hinahalukay ang aming mga namatay na anak. Pero kung hindi po ako magsasalita ngayon sa harapan ninyo, para ko ng kinalimutan yung pagkamatay ng pamilya ko, ng anak ko.”

Two of the speakers very understandably broke down and cried in the middle of their talk, and it was all I could do not to burst into tears as well. But they very bravely told their stories, because they knew that the world needs to know what happened, what is still happening, in Sierra Madre.

“Huwag nilang ibaon sa limot ang trahedyang ito …kung dadaain natin sa limot ang mga bagay na ito, ilan pang bayan at ilan pang Sierra Madre ang luluha?”

It’s a sad story, it’s one that’s been going on for years, so much so that even the media entities do not put it among the big headlines. Still, Agta leader Eric Avellaneda had enough faith and determination to send in that text message, to do every little bit within his capacity, in search of solutions. It’s a sad story, but I don’t want to think, not yet, that it’s not going to have a happy ending.

Photos by Don De Alban

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“It’s one of the most important news stories of our time, and it’s breaking right now.”

Go around the world with CNN as CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Animal Planet host and wildlife biologist Jeff Corwin take viewers to four continents and 13 countries, investigating stories of environmental change and witnessing first hand the various ways in which the planet is under attack.

“The environment is more than just a niche news story; it is an issue that affects every living being and warrants greater attention in the press,” Cooper said. “Our goal was to report not only on individual issues but to examine the interconnectivity of environmental changes. Instead of simply delving into academic theories, we set out to document the actual changes taking place that affect the way we live our lives and the choices we make.”

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From the wildlife markets of downtown Bangkok to the depths of the Madagascar jungle to the melting ice sheets of Greenland, Planet in Peril weaves the different stories together and brings unforgettable images of a world that is changing in alarming ways right before our very eyes. These are stories that are worth telling, because in spite of everything, there is still hope, and there are still things that we can do.

The two two-hour programs of Planet in Peril will air in Manila on October 24 and 25 at 9pm.

See videos, take a visual tour, and get other information here.

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Punong Pinoy

A couple of posts back, a reader, Rey, shared the links to these videos their group made for the Clean and Green Foundation’s Trees for Life campaign, and they’re so interesting that we thought we might as well put them up as a full post here. Trees for Life advocates for the use of native tree species – punong Pinoy – in tree-planting efforts to ensure that you’re really restoring the forests and not just “greening” things per se. This topic has been discussed in a previous post, but the message of course needs to be preached as widely as possible.

I don’t know who Rey is, and I’m not sure if I’ve met the people behind the Trees for Life campaign, but through this post at least we’re spreading the same message. It’s making these connections, reaching other groups, spreading the message, it’s all of these things that make keeping this blog so much fun.

If you’re interested in knowing more or in helping the Trees for Life campaign, call Clean and Green Foundation at 63-2-5276376 or 78 or email cgfi@itextron.com, or share these videos to your friends.

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Any chance you’d remember how you came across the term “biodiversity” before? If not, let me make it easier for you by making you pick from the choices listed below instead. Could you have learned about biodiversity through:

A. Printed materials. It could be academic textbooks (don’t be shy now), magazines, posters, or newspapers. Billboards—why not?

B. Radio. Probably from listening to news announcements and radio programs. Or from an FM station, perhaps?

C. TV. Of course, the most popular and widespread broadcast communicating medium in the country. Let’s see: The Discovery Channel? Or late-night documentaries like The Correspondents or The Probe Team?

D. Friends or from other people. Maybe you know somebody who’s into environment stuff, hopefully not a pet collector. Or you’ve been invited to discussions, or a monthly forum? Let’s not forget the classroom.

E. Internet. Surfing the World Wide Web could lead you to environment-related sites, or could get you to this blog, for example.

Biodiversity, Conservation, and the Community

For me, it would have to be A. I happened to be tidying up the room of our college department laboratory, back at the time when I was already a graduating student. On one of the desks I was arranging, I noticed a book with an attractive front cover showing a pair of Philippine Eagles attending to their offspring. The title read, “Biodiversity, Conservation, and the Community.” I figured the book probably had something to do with animals, but I couldn’t quite define what “biodiversity” was. I was familiar with “bio,” which meant life, then “diversity” meant variety. Ah, variety of life! Easy. I scanned through the pages for a few seconds, then I put the book on a shelf somewhere, never to lay hands on it again until fate brought me to work for a conservation NGO several months later. But just to formally define “biodiversity,” I quote Catibog-Sinha and Heaney from their book, “Philippine Biodiversity: Principles and Practice,” which goes:

Biodiversity means the variety and extent of differences among living things, at the species, genetic, and ecosystem levels.

Most of you who have learned about biodiversity may have found out about it through either of those conventional channels I’ve mentioned above. If you encountered the term for the first time through this blog, that’s really flattering. But that only means you have not heard of it before regardless of whichever medium, which to me indicates that biodiversity, or more specifically Philippine biodiversity, still has a long way to go before it becomes as commonplace as Jollibee in the Philippines.

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