Oct 29, 2010

Framing Environmental Issues for the Everyday Juan

It would probably need a miracle to have a fruitful discourse regarding the environment to a vocational student whose sole purpose is to have a decent job above minimum wage after graduation, or to an unemployed mother who has at least five mouths to feed every day. You can’t say, “we got a really big problem! Don’t use a straw! Use public transportation more! We need to save the whales and the polar bears!”


My friends and I were doing some groceries last night for a house party, and as I was talking about the perils of using plastic and aluminium cans, they kind of just mocked me. Especially when I said not to use the plastic cups “in order to save the whales” – my favourite line. I can’t blame them since 1) I didn’t use the right perspective or framework to discuss environmental degradation and 2) they can’t appreciate the whales since they and even I haven’t seen one. (This may be the reason why I wanted to go to Bicol and swim with the whale sharks)

“When you talk to the head of the government, your language is economic; when you talk to the communities, your language is welfare; when you talk to businessmen, your language is their future profits; when you talk to NGOs, your language is environment" - Thomas Friedman, Hot Flat and Crowded

And I guess when you talk to Filipinos, your language would have to anchor on job creation and poverty alleviation. It’s difficult to see the connection right now, but part of biodiversity conservation is the creation of jobs so that the locals would not illegally or hyperexploit our seas and forests like what happened in Indonesia. Since (i think) there is a decreasing number of jobs that require man power or blue-collared jobs (that’s why there is high unemployment), people should shift to green-collared jobs since it’s the industry to be after the enineering economy of the 1990s and the information economy of 2000s.

Aside from employment-leads-to-poverty-reduction effect, going green may also mean growing your own food or harnessing your own utilities (electricity and water) at your backyard to reduce cost. I have learned from my liberation theology class that marginalization has to do with the system – an institutional immoralization. So eliminating that structure like capitalism may actually serve as a catalyst for social change. These people/communities are independent so they don’t have to rely on structure from which they deserve more benefits. An example of this would be an ecovillage with all the characteristics mentioned above, plus their zero waste management and the use of their own currency.

People, especially Filipinos, have the tendency to respond to rewards, and if you’d say that going green can directly affect their lives, they’ll be more interested in the green revolution. Right now, i think the perception of Filipinos regarding this shift is an elitist movement wherein environmental talks are for intellectual people and making a difference may come from those who have resources. There’s a more effective solution than gathering the brightest of the brightest which may have the tendency to keep the knowledge for themselves or their group. We should create a dialogue with the everyday Filipino, because before you can instigate solutions and get Filipinos moving, you have to inform the everyday Filipino of the vision and what I mentioned above may just be the proper framework to spark this dialogue with them.

1 comment:

JM said...

This House Believes that Environmentalism should replace Capitalism.