Friday, September 09, 2011

A Liter of Light

A low cost solar lamp using coke bottles, distilled water and bleach.

Visit this link a director's cut version of the story.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Mind haunts a place

There’s this residential area near the university that seems to be intimately linked with the present existence. Just like the university, this subdivision – with its blocks of sprawling houses and quiet gated streets – has its way of intruding into one’s consciousness. If there’s a sense in describing oneself as haunting a place even if one is still very much alive, this is exactly how one would feel upon coming to an awareness of such encroachment. It’s like slowly realizing that one has been a sort of prisoner all these years, that no matter how many miles one has flown away from a certain point of origin, one’s life will ultimately be pulled back to gravitate around a few significant places. Yet, there’s also this sense of being set free from some drab view of the past, and being made to see such places and everything on it in a totally different light.

Such were the thoughts that flitted through a weary mind as it came across this tree along one of the subdivision’s main streets. For the past several years since the road has become a daily path to and from work, the tree has constantly drawn attention to itself, as if its very presence is meant to proclaim the rootedness of nearby beings to the land. Its dark green foliage beckons from a distance, providing a sharp contrast to the early morning light or the reddish haze of dusk. Its gnarled branches, buttressed trunk and aerial roots project the image of an old defeated creature forced to retreat to its side of the asphalt-covered road. The tree’s overall form and shape lure the mind to anthropomorphism and before long elicit the title manang – Filipino term for a mature woman, like an older sister or an aunt.

Google confirmed an initial hunch: Manang belongs to the ficus genus, with around 800 species of woody trees, shrubs, vines, and epiphytes (organisms that grow attached to living plants). Filipinos call this particular tree variety balete and many still avoid any individual tree, especially the more weird-looking ones, for fear of spirits or ghosts that are believed to live inside it. Thanks to such indigenous beliefs and knowledge systems, a professor in biodiversity conservation once pointed out, some of these ancient trees have been left standing amidst the relentless onslaught of what many humans have come to call as “development”.

Passing by Manang’s abode one gray afternoon, the eyes are quickly led to the fresh red stipules sticking out of the clusters of newly formed leaves. It’s like Manang has turned into an armored animal ready to defend itself again and the few square meters of ground on which it stood. The heavier crown now droops a little towards the road, casting a mysterious shade on the concrete wall behind it. Only a few other beings remain within the subdivision that hold together the land and its residents in such an enchanted relationship across space and time. If the mind only dared to listen, a wispy voice should come through the engulfing silence.

Cross-posted from redplanet

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Ozone Conferencing

Another way of saving the planet is to be able to meet people from around the globe without spending for travel.

Get paid to save the planet. Visit the Ozone Conferencing website

Click here:

Sunday, March 23, 2008

No to Plastic Bags!!!

The other day I went to the market with my one year old. I brought along my re-usable canvass bag that I picked up from Geelong, Melbourne while attending the IMPAC conference in 2005. Then we also brought along our egg tray that we got from our HK trip. Its a mountain kitchen accessory that is used to put eggs when you camp out. Actually you can use it when you go to the market. This yellow egg tray can carry a dozen eggs safely.

I am happy to use my cloth bags going to market. I do not want to use any more plastic bags. The thing is I need to buy fish and the vendor had to put it in a plastic bag. Maybe in the future we will be made to bring our own reusable containers for such purchases in our local "palengke" (market).

Then I found this interesting article in one of my e-groups and decided it earns merit to post it here.

Soon!!! there will be no more plastic yehey!!!

Plastic bags facing restrictions around the world

Agence France-Presse
First Posted 19:20:00 03/13/2008

LONDON -- Britain is bringing up the rear when it comes to the fight against non-biodegradable plastic bags, with most of its European partners, African nations and even China taking tougher measures.

The Australian government announced in January that it hoped to phase out the use of plastic bags from the nation's shopping centers by the end of the year.

However, it has not detailed how it aims to achieve the goal and Environment Minister Peter Garrett this month ruled out imposing a levy to discourage shoppers from using the bags.

Finance minister Alistair Darling announced plans Wednesday to impose a charge for single-used carrier bags, unless retails take voluntarily action.

In January, China announced that the sale and use of thin plastic bags is to be banned from June, from when shoppers will have to pay for them at supermarkets and other stores. In February its largest plastic bag factory, with a total of 20,000 employees, was shut down.

In France in 1996, supermarket chain Leclerc offered the first reusable, recyclable bags that could be exchanged for free for life. But it was not until 2007 that most hypermarkets charged for bags.

Supermarkets charge between five and 25 euro cents per plastic bag. Department stores often give reusable bags.

Since 1999, recycled plastic bags used for packaging food items have been banned in India, and the manufacture and use of certain recycled plastics is also banned. Those who violate the ban face a 10,000-rupee (160-euro, $250-) fine. The application of the ban varies depending on the state.

In Ireland, a "plastax" has been in place since 2002. It currently stands at 22 euro cents per bag, donated to ecological projects. Plastic bag use has been slashed by 90 percent.

A ban on bags made of thin plastic has been in force in Kenya since the end of 2007, along with a high excise duty on thicker plastic bags.

A plastic bag costs 12 euro cents in Norway, and it is also possible to buy paper bags. The government is considering a complete ban.

Prices for plastic bags in shops, supermarkets and shopping malls in South Africa vary between two and three euro cents.

In Switzerland, major stores provide plastic bags to customers, and the country does not closely regulate their distribution.

Last March, San Francisco became the first US city to ban non-biodegradable plastic bags in supermarkets. California requires big retailers to recycle plastic bags, as does New York. Americans use approximately 84 billion plastic bags a year.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Dreaming of a Solar Home

Lately, I've been planning and dreaming alot about our home that we can truly call our own. One of the things I want my home to have are solar panels!!! I feel this is such a great idea to have renewable energy running your house hold. No more electricity bills. Clean Energy now! I sound like an ad here but well I need to say it to claim it. So here goes! I want a solar home!!!! NOW

Honda's Hydrogen car

I always wanted to drive a good car!

Honda’s More Powerful Fuel Cell Concept with Home Hydrogen Refueling

In the 3V schema, oxygen and hydrogen flow from the top to the bottom of the fuel cell stack (vertical gas flow) and the fuel cells are arranged vertically in the center tunnel (vertebral layout) for new, high-efficiency fuel cell packaging (volume efficiency).

more details here.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Sibuyan Island, Romblon

My heart seems to skip a beat. My lungs seemed to stop taking in air while I was reading this article. It seems like a scene from a telenovela but what gave this lump in my throat is the stark reality that is before me. Palpable reality.

Things that you read in the paper or hear in 24 oras evening news now seem to pale in comparison to the cold reality when you actually have met these people and your feet have touched their island.

A Murder on Sibuyan Island
By Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan
Vice-Chairman, WWF Philippines

On October 2, at 10am in the morning, a vehicle carrying personnel of Altai Mining Corporation, approached a group of approximately 150 Sibuyanon rallyists protesting against mining activities on the island. Heated words were exchanged. The vehicle driver drew his gun. A shot rang out. The vehicle's engine revved, dragging a man with it, then swerved out of control. A second shot rang out. Armin Marin, municipal councilor from Barangay Espana of the town of San Fernando, fell to the ground, dying.

A civil engineer by training, Armin spent most of his adult life in the service of his island. His first blush with public service was as kagawad of his own barangay, Espana. Then, from 1997 to 2002, he worked with WWF as a community organizer and farm supervisor, overseeing livelihood projects for poor communities in Espana and other barangays in San Fernando's northern sector. As part of his work, he dealt with farmers in the lowlands, the Mangyan Tagabukid communities in the uplands, even carabao loggers involved in illegal activity. It is said that Armin clearly understood how dependent Sibuyanons were on the exceptional ecology that characterized their island home. For him, people came first. He understood that without people's support, conservation would be a losing battle. He was a realist. After his exposure to WWF, Armin continued his service to his island, working with Fundacion Santiago on a project with the Department of Agrarian Reform, as a project supervisor for institutional development and cooperative formation. In 2004, he ran for councilor and lost. He continued his NGO work, and in May 2007, he ran again. This time around, he won. A man as large as life, father of 5 children, he saw Sibuyan evolve, from the time its economy was almost entirely dependent on illegal logging, through the years of out-migration, through the introduction of a conservation ethic. He understood that the solution was not simple. He also understood that unless Sibuyanons took it upon themselves to change things, his island home would vanish, and everything he gave his life to, would be for nothing.

Among the 7,000-odd islands of the Philippines, Sibuyan Island stands out. A 46,000 hectare island in the province of Romblon, one-third of Sibuyan is a protected area. Despite its proximity to Manila, it is one of the more difficult areas to access in the country. Having been separated from the mainland as far back as the last Ice Age, Sibuyan boasts some of the highest endemicity among all the islands of the archipelago. There are plants and animals that you find here, on the slopes of Mount Guiting-Guiting, that are found nowhere else in the world. In 1997, it still had as much as 75% forest cover, as well as the most beautiful and clean rivers. As a key site of the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS), the mountain and its park enjoyed protection under Presidential proclamation. Unfortunately, rare plants and animals do not often make a significant contribution to development in emerging economies. Many traditional products of Sibuyan, e.g., copra, abaca, basketry and a natural varnish drawn from almaciga trees, were replaced by synthetic substitutes and lost their competitiveness, reducing the island to what was described as an economic backwater. Out-migration began and the remittances of overseas workers became its main source of income.

A Dutch embassy officer once described Sibuyan as a microcosm of the Philippines. Everything you saw elsewhere in the country, both good and bad, was found here. It was no surprise, therefore, to see mining land on its shores. In July 2006, the Sanggunian Barangay of Taclobo approved the island's first endorsement of a mining application. Armin, together with many other Sibuyanons drew a line in the sand and the mining debate started.

Through the last twelve months, many things transpired. A consortium of mining companies, called the Sibuyan Nickel Properties Development Corporation Limited (SNPDC), was formed. Among the applicants for mining activity in Sibuyan are Altai Mining, Sun Pacific, All Acacia, San Roque Mining, and Pelican Resources. On the other side of the fence, the Sibuyanons against mining organized rally after rally on the island, feverishly lobbying at government offices and in Congress for support. Local anti-mining groups revealed that mining activity on the island has grown exponentially to the point where, at present, there are thirteen active mining sites surrounding the mountain and its national park. The mining juggernaut churned on, fuelling even greater local opposition. The mining debate rose in decibels.

On August 24, 2007, shortly before Secretary Angelo Reyes left the DENR, he approved five Special Cutting Permits to clear forest land for mining activity on Sibuyan. Clearance was given to cut down an estimated 59,000 trees, making up more or less 4 Million board feet of timber from Sibuyan's lowland dipterocarp natural forests. Some areas approved for cutting, sit barely 100 meters away from the core zone of the protected area. These permits included areas around the headwaters of the Cantingas, Punong and Olango rivers, water sources of Bgy Taclobo and Bgy Espana. In a world facing climate change, where all remaining forest stands provide a major umbilical toward the future, an action as severe as this is simply dysfunctional.

Everything many Sibuyanons had fought for were now going to officially disappear, through a clearance given by the very Department whose mandate it was to sustainably manage this area. The permit was reportedly issued to a consultant of Altai Mining. The proceeds from this sale would once again, leave Sibuyan and bring greater wealth to the mainland. The injustice was palpable, a sense of betrayal filled the air and the mining debate roared.

In late September, Armin Marin and many Sibuyanons, who continued to oppose mining on their island, felt it was time to speak again. On the evening of October 1, a crowd of from 150 to 300 people gathered at Sitio Olangos in Barangay Espana. Their objective was to simply to show the mining company there, that many Sibuyanons in Espana were not in favor of mining. Through the night, many speeches were delivered. The crowd thinned. But with daybreak, it swelled once again. Councilor Marin was there.

At ten in the morning, the Altai Mining vehicle approached the crowd. On board were its driver, a female staff member and two security officers. A witness, standing about 40 meters away, recounts that he heard a first shot. When he turned, he saw Armin being dragged by the jeep, held by the driver's arm. The jeep then seemed to veer out of control. A second shot, and Armin fell.

Other witnesses nearby, narrated that while the driver collared Armin with his left hand, he held a gun to Armin's mouth with his right – which is probably why the jeep veered out of control.

An official of the Philippine government lay dying on the ground. His friend, Ariel, ran up to him. He recounted that there was blood pulsing out of Armin's neck. He wanted to talk to Ariel, but could not, because blood was frothing from his mouth as well. Ariel held his hand, and applied direct pressure on the gaping neck wound. His eyes locked with Armin's and knew that his friend was going to die.

An elected public servant was shot in broad daylight, in full view of more than a hundred witnesses, by a gun-toting employee of a private company who believed that, simply because they had a government permit, they also had the absolute right to clear this ancestral forest, take away the only resources these people have, and forever alter the lives of Sibuyanons who choose to reject this change.

A line must, once again, be drawn in the sand. If sustainable development remains a sincere objective, there is a limit to everything. In the case of mining, what is that limit? It must be defined. And, if government does not have the will to make that definition, communities will. Shall we allow it to get to that? Where are the standards? They must be made public. And all who choose to venture into this business, must be transparent and remain fully accountable to abide by these limits and standards. Companies that fail to comply, must be closed down. This is the rule of law.

Our country is a patchwork of land-use overlaps. Protected areas overlap ancestral domain titles, that in turn, overlap mining claims and watersheds. We have allocated more land than we actually have. This, by its very structure, is a patchwork of conflict. Seeing this, if a mining company does not demonstrate the sincerity and capability to deal equitably, amicably and productively with local communities, it should be closed down and all its permits withdrawn. The promotion of a culture of violence is not in the strategic interest of this nation and goes against the public good. As an artifact of the Dictatorship and our recent political past, this is something we should get rid off. It is simply wrong, and positions our country as a pariah in the greater community of nations. Lasting solutions are founded on fairness, true dialogue and the establishment of mutually beneficial relationships.

Consistent law enforcement and public compliance have been one of our greatest national weaknesses for decades now. Whether in logging, or in fishing, in government contracts, tax collections or simple traffic rules – the story is the same. This must stop. We pay our taxes to ensure peace and order, a stable economy and a predictable future. This is our contract with government. It is the people's right to demand good governance and full delivery. When government calls the shots, government must make things work well. The best laws that are not enforced consistently are not good laws. They are a waste of public funds. They erode, rather than build, our nation.

In a government of the people, by the people and for the people, that is the least we deserve. And, when human life is taken, justice must be served. Although some passengers of the jeep are in police custody, Armin's murderer has escaped. How could this be possible?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

On 'the climate swindle'