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Unsolvable crime?

By: Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos March 02,2015 - 10:44 AM

On my way to the Mactan airport, a heartbreaking sight caught my range of vision. A male senior citizen nonchalantly poured a pail full of debris into the polluted river. Obviously, it was a destructive regular habit the impacts of which were either not yet brought to his attention or he was never reprimanded for this criminal act. Had he been fined, sued or imprisoned as a consequence, he would not be caught, in public, at that, doing such irreversible damage to our already deteriorating natural support systems.

We know the old man is among the millions of uncaring or, to put it kindly, still uninformed inhabitant in this part of the world. They still have to assume a sense of responsibility for the materials he or she no longer needs and understand the implications on a longer term, for their children and the future generation.

The man might have been ignorant of the fact that there are hazardous substances lurking in each homes and offices which if thrown recklessly can cause destructive impacts to our ecosystems, species of marine resources and us, humans.  Among these are plastics, batteries, lamps, cosmetics, household cleaners and don’t forget –  cigarette butts.

Cigarette butt wastes consistently top the list of most collected items in the beach, and the litter in streets and waterways. They might look harmless but what is worrisome is, they “contain all the carcinogenic chemicals, pesticides, and nicotine that make tobacco use the leading cause of preventable death worldwide, yet they are commonly, unconsciously and inexcusably dumped by the trillions (5.6 trillions and counting) into the global environment each year.”  ( Indeed, looks are deceiving.

Recently, a study published by the journal Science, based on coastlines, indicated the Philippines as ranking third among countries, next to China and Indonesia, that throw plastic waste in the world’s oceans.

Not many are aware that chemicals found in plastic bottles include bisphenol A (BPA), and other persistent organic pollutants (POPS). BPA is highly toxic to humans and fishes. Plastic materials comprise the majority of the so-called marine debris.

No one dares to argue that we are laggards in waging a war against plastic bags and the so-called environmentally unacceptable materials. The lack of government’s political will to implement the law is manifest in the Solid Waste Management Commission’s continuing inexplicable failure to  “Formulate and update a list of environmentally unacceptable materials” and ensure that local government units have crafted a solid waste management plan in a participatory manner.

Without said political will, the not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) syndrome will still be prevalent, despite information from the airwaves, social media and even schools that we should all be mindful of our duty to take care of our refuse. Experience shows that it is never enough to do infomercials, public service announcements or distribute flyers. It is a Herculean task to reach out to the minds and hearts of  stakeholders for them to do their share in nurturing our life support system, without government taking on genuine leadership role in solid waste management.

How then do we deal with this horrible scourge we have inflicted upon our planet by making it the hapless dumping ground and waterways of discards?

Is it still possible to change behaviors of citizens of all ages, including our political authorities?

We can only hope, at this point. But, we should never give up. Citizens can still steer much-needed action from government, as stakeholder initiatives in the past have shown.

It is inspiring and timely that the Movement for a Livable Cebu has come up with a  program to make the public more aware and be more appreciative of the much taken-for-granted crucial roles that they perform in our lives.  The “Syagit sa Sapa” (Shout of the River) project was announced to be launched on March 22, celebrated worldwide as World Water Day.

Let us join the campaign and be the defenders and voices of our rivers and waterways and be part of the   morning bike ride to Cebu City’s five bridges on March 22.   Cebu Daily News reports that activities, workshops and seminars will be held leading up to a multi-sectoral summit in April to discuss strategies to recover Cebu City’s rivers. Connect with MLC for details.

The crime of destroying the life support system that nurtures us should already stop. The action starts with  each one of us.

The former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan says it best: “Let us be good stewards of the Earth we inherited. All of us have to share the Earth’s fragile ecosystems and precious resources, and each of us has a role to play in preserving them. If we are to go on living together on this earth, we must all be responsible for it.”

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TAGS: ecosystem, environment, solid waste management

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