Sustainability key to combat our changing environment

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Report by Irma Faith Pal

DUMAGUETE CITY — A “gross ecological overshoot”.

A recent study by an independent think tank in the United States called Global Footprint Network has revealed that the damage to the Philippine ecosystem has exceeded by 117 percent the value of its natural resources.

Jose Maria Lorenzo Tan, vice chair of the World Wildlife Fund National Advisory Council, called on the local government units in Negros Oriental for a new way of thinking to recover from difficult climate-related problems.

He cited 2014 figures of the Global Footprint Network that showed countries like the Philippines running ecological deficits, with footprints larger than their respective biological capacities.

An ecological footprint is a resource accounting tool that measures the value of a country’s ecological assets.

Implications of ecological deficits can lead to resource loss, ecosystem collapse, debt, poverty, famine, and war.

Tan said the major drivers of biodiversity loss are not even climate-related, but are purely caused by human activities.

These include habitat destruction, over-exploitation, chemical and biological pollution, as well as weak institutional and legal capacities.

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“The ‘old school’ formula has failed. We have taught fishers how to fish, and in many parts of the world, our fisheries have collapsed,” he lamented.

He urged the local executives and environment advocates in a Forum on Climate Change, Poverty & Development sponsored by Silliman University and the Oscar M. Lopez Center, to “take part in shifting to less-consumptive lifestyles”.

He said ‘bio-capacity’ uses the ecological footprint to tell us when we have gone too far. He said it measures the ability of an ecosystem to produce useful biological materials, as well as absorb wastes and carbon dioxide emissions. “This metric is anchored on the truth that we are all connected,” he said.

Tan said that in the past decades, we have allowed these “anthropogenic plagues” to persist.

He warned that along with human populations, biodiversity will suffer from extreme weather events and climate change impacts “as we are all connected”.

He noted that conservation is not preservation; but sustainable use. He lamented that “humankind has chosen to take a different path”.

Tan said that in the Anthropocene — this period where human activity is the dominant influence on the environment, spawning an economic era referred to as the Great Acceleration — physical processes can no longer be examined in isolation.

Tan cited food, water, and energy – “which all come from nature” — as existing in a series of connections, and their “need to be managed that way”.

During the open forum when an environment activist from the Save Mt. Talinis group asked for comment on the Energy Development Corporation’s cutting down of more than 500 trees in barangay Puhagan in the mountain town of Valencia, Negros Oriental, to make way for a geothermal plant, Dr. Rodel Lasco of the OML Center said he was “not yet aware” of such complaints.

The EDC, involved in geothermal, hydro, and wind energy projects, is a member of the Lopez Group of Companies, the mother company of the OML Center, organizers of the forum.

“The private sector must actively participate in the constant renewal of natural capital,” Tan urged the representatives from government and the academe.

He said the planet will gradually change. “Although the gut response to extreme weather is relief and rehabilitation, the real opportunity is renaissance.”

(Irma Faith Pal/SU REnews)

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