Asian Judges Network on mountain ecosystems

I repeat myself on this topic:  Growth and development in Baguio City, a mountain city, and the rest of the Cordillera Administrative Region should be pursued under a sustainable mountain ecosystem framework.

The discussions in the 2nd Asian Judges Symposium on Environment: Natural Capital and the Rule of Law on 3 December 2013 at Asian Development Bank HQ in Manila highlight issues affecting mountain cities in South Asia. Especially interesting is the role of the court in sustaining mountain environments (listen to the sixth presentation, of Dr. Ananda M. Bhattarai, of the Court of Appeals in Nepal). We can learn from these.

In the Q&A session, a member of the audience asked the panel about traditional mountain people’s laws vs modern laws. The panelists provided enlightening insights. Of note is Archana of IUCN India’s mention of the importance of having laws applicable to mountain regions.


The abuse of ‘climate change’

Climate change is probably the most exploited term today to explain just about all the cogs in the environment like disasters. Take the disasters “brought on” by Typhoon Ondoy/Ketsana in Rizal and Typhoon Juan in La Trinidad and some parts of Baguio City. It’s not the typhoons per se that caused the disasters but the flash floods which caught people red-handed. If the flash floods did not occur, but just wind and rain, the disasters would not have happened, most probably. Perhaps the usual damages incurred from typhoons but not the wide-scale damages and loss of lives. If we go through the causal chain of flash floods, it will lead us to impingement on ecosystems, and who has the capacity to impinge like no other specie but Homo Sapiens, ‘a cut above bacteria, fungi, plants, and animals’? With intelligence and freedom of choice endowed on this specie, there is no limitation to how it would use these gifts. Choice plays around three: exploit, nurture, or do nothing. Behavioral economics has contributed much in its analysis of Homo Sapiens who, according to the discipline, if given free rein will always work for self before anybody or anything else, never mind if this means disappearance of its very own habitat. After all, it reasons, with its intelligence it would create a whole new habitat for itself: Cities.

Looking at cities, there are two perspectives available, either you look at them as if at Planet Earth from outer space for the first time – in dumbfounded ecstatic glory – or as a re-creation of Homo Sapiens’ natural habitat. In cities, the equivalent of say majestic pine trees are storied concretes and relationships in the natural ecosystem are equivalent to say producer-middleperson-consumer relationships manifested in shopping malls. The road system thrives with four-legged fuel-gulping smoke-belching artificial transport. In this artificial recreation of natural habitat and ecosystem, every living thing – except Homo Sapiens the creator – must go; like in mall sales, value of goods out of season are pegged down to make way for goods in season. Apparently, trees and grass and wetlands and flowing chemical-free waters are so cave age. Pristine water in the twenty-first century are treated, bottled and sold. Birds’ nests on branches of trees are out in the twenty-first century but are found on the thirtieth floor of condominiums and penthouses of hotels. Economics, again, at this point, posits a well-proven theory: everything comes with a price. And the price of artificial recreation of natural habitats are lack of natural protection from environmental hazards hence without natural protection – an ecosystem service in biology speak – we had the Typhoon Ondoy/Ketsana disaster. If you want a morbid description of the situation, it’s like a human being walking in the open without skin, susceptible to invasion by all the viruses in the air.

And then you hear persons in accountable positions say, “climate change kasi” and then they go hide in their air-conditioned teak-tabled rooms. From this, the rest of Homo Sapiens, because they could from time to time regress to its bird form, parrot what they have heard, “climate change daw kasi” and it becomes a vicious cycle of bad influence and laziness to invoke the natural tendency to search, to ask ‘why’ because ‘why’ will lead you to ‘what’ and ‘how’ which is the beginning of movement or action (of all things, I’m most perplexed with why many Filipinos have digressed from their native positive values of pakikialam, pakikisalamuha, pakikipagkapwa-tao, pakikitungo (sa likas yaman). My theory is its the untimely inculturation of the ‘mall mentality and personality’. Real development has not yet come to majority of Filipinos yet the landscape is being filled up with artificial parasites such as, consumerism-driven malls and unbridled (meaning, absence of zoning regulation as houses could be built anywhere even in critical protected areas such as watersheds) real estate development (in biology, parasites are part of ecology and have their role in it to keep the system going but trouble begins when the system is overrun by parasites which is the situation we have now). The country has not yet learned to produce in the likes of Japan and Malaysia yet Filipinos are taught and lured and therefore obsessed with consumerism (I see this as clear as day in the malls and it’s one hell of an economy if you call it a real economy). It’s like pulling up young rice plants before their time and so they die.) As if the decisions made by Homo Sapiens did not cause the acceleration of climate change! Pointing the finger to a non-being – climate change – does not solve the problem at all instead perpetuate and facilitate it because nothing is done about the situation and intrusive activities in the ecosystem are allowed to continue and proliferate.

So it’s not climate change, it’s us: how we plan for and manage communities that foster ecosystem relationships (as opposed to human-only communities). We need our “skin”.