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Bacolod City, Philippines Monday, August 3, 2020
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Conservation Matters
with Errol A. Gatumbato

Living lightly over the Earth

Rock & Refuge

I borrowed the title of this column from the pastoral letter issued by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines after the EDSA Revolution in 1986. It told the faithful on what was happening then to our environment and the required action needed to abate the further deterioration of the Earth.

After over 30 years, such message is even more meaningful, especially so with the uncertainty of our times with the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the Philippines, Covid-19 cases are increasing so much so that the association of medical doctors has called on the government to re-impose stricter community quarantine amidst the high volume of virus contamination after the easing down of the lockdown in the country. Our health practitioners are expressing apprehension that the capacity of medical workers, facilities, equipment, and supplies may come to the point of saturation, and it is detrimental to the health security of the country.

While preparing this article, the government seems so reluctant to follow such recommendation given the economic letdown brought and is still bringing by this pandemic, which was suspected to originate from a wildlife’s corona virus.

During the early weeks of the outbreak, many countries were at a standstill and the world economies have almost ceased with the imposition of restrictions in transportation, productions, and people’s movement. It was a period that I viewed as a healing time for the Earth, as the air was relatively clean with the reduction of pollution, minimal disturbances and uses of natural resources, and the wildlife has been noticed to move freely and undisturbed, among other indicators.

A number of experts has already pointed out that with the changes and disruptions of the Earth’s natural cycles, this Covid-19 would not be the last pandemic that the world may experience, in addition to the grave threat of climate change, with tremendous impacts already felt in various parts of the world. With the grim scenarios, the call of the CBCP more than three decades ago is more apt and necessary for us to live lightly over the Earth.

The global consumerism, production, commercialism, and technological advancement have tremendously increased since after the World War II, plus the blooming population globally. They have brought about rapid exploitation of the Earth’s natural resources to the extent of creating damaging and irreversible impacts to our natural ecosystems. The CBCP once articulated that we need not be an expert to see what is happening to our environment, like massive deforestation and pollution, destruction of our marine and coastal resources, deteriorating quality of our soil due to high volume use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, the introduction of plastic and non-biodegradable products that are creating so much solid waste pollution, excessive and unabated exploitation of our land and mineral resources, and the threatening of the existence of various and important wildlife resources, among others. All these are much pronounced in our times today.

Such enormous environmental issues, concerns, and challenges could not be compartmentalized to the governance aspect of the world, particularly in the Philippines. Our government in the past and, at present, is purely biased toward the utilization of natural resources with little regard to conservation and wise use or the so-called sustainable use. We have numerous laws on environmental protection and biodiversity conservation, and yet they are hardly applied or being undermined when resource utilization comes into the picture. While there were and there are still conservation efforts, they could hardly surpass the damages being created to our natural environment.

During the lockdown, the term “essential” became widely used and practiced. Some of its applications were essential travels, essential movements, essential commodities, essential productions, and essential transactions and interactions, and we have survived, although we will also admit that all of us underwent difficulties, while others experienced food shortage, hunger, displacement, and dislocation.

Unfortunately, thousands have been infected with the virus and thousands of lives were also lost, and to date, we don’t know who will be the next victim, because it seems we are going back to what it was used to be, instead of just prioritizing what are essentials for us to live and survive.*

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