Monday, June 30, 2014

Will the “real” environmentalists please stand up?

I will be the first to admit that I am not a genuine environmentalist.

I feel guilty every time I use plastic bags, ride in cars, eat in fast food chains, use my cellphone –name it, there is no denying that I am one of the earth’s killers, most of us are. Obviously, our very own existence has always been a threat against our planet. I did explain this indisputable fact in my Wasted World essay seven years ago. My admission is not a way to escape responsibility, but simply a way to accept the truth.

We cannot deny it. Even a popular environmentalist in our place ironically used pine wood in most parts of his home. Self-proclaimed environmental activists travel with their own cars, even uses plastic tarpaulins in their rallies. For some observers, they are seen as a bunch of hypocrites – a group of media whores who jump at chances for camera exposure, people who organize or attend tree planting activities for mere photo-ops, or attend environmental rallies for the same…Or maybe, those observers are just some bitter people who are disturbed by the guilt of not doing anything.

The thought of “not doing anything because we are destroying the environment in the first place ” is akin to accepting hopelessness in our society. It is still great to know that we are doing something to mitigate the effects of our actions, if not to substantially eradicate our tendency to destroy the natural fabric that underpins life itself. Hence I would like to give credit to those who have championed these environmental causes, those who have made it a cause to save the world, those who have risked their name to go against anyone who would dare to destroy mother nature. You all have my respect.

That is why when the news about Sto. Tomas destruction broke out, I was confident that those said ‘environmentalists’ like those who organized/joined the movement against SM a couple of years ago,  will raise hell against the alleged perpetrator of the said environmental crime, just like how they did against SM. The case is just so unbelievable for cold silence.

To my surprise, there is a stark contrast between how they reacted against SM and to their reactions against the Congressman. Some newspapers are also surprisingly silent about this issue. As if the incident is not about a Lawmaker-Lawyer- Lawbreaker who promised that his term is “para sa Kalikasan at Kapaligiran”. The Baguio City People page provided this painful and truthful illustration of how this issue is being treated:

“Adi sika ti apan ag-rally jay balay da nu kayat mu!” said an ‘environmentalist’ friend who admonished me years ago for not attending more activities against SM. “Ket sika ngay?” I retorted sheepishly.

That is not the point. Although I was there at the backseat, I was there to have my comparison on how it was with SM and how it was today with the Sto. Tomas Issue:

SM Issue (against a Corporation)
Sto. Tomas Issue (against a Politician)
Quotable Quotes
“Give Trees a Chance”

“Cut your Greed not the Trees”
“ Congressman, we are giving you the chance to explain…even if you did not give the trees a chance”

“Trees were cut because of Greed”
Reason for not Talking
“Sub Judice” (case is pending)
“Sub Judice”
Notable Media Scenes:
Consistent rallies/ concerts/ activities even up to dawn.

Crying/Screaming/Dancing people on Protests.

Altercation with SM Guards by movements’ ‘leaders’.

A singer tying himself to a tree to protest.



"Will the “real” environmentalists please stand up?" People might ask.

I can only imagine the reason for their (or our) deafening silence. If some critics felt that those who went against SM are not environmentalists, then will the said critics be? Who are the 'real' environmentalists, or leaders anyway? Perhaps, I am also writing this to criticize myself. Why can't I do the rallies? Why can't I also scream? Why do I expect them like superheroes who will do everything for the residents?  It would be quite unfair to them. Or perhaps, it is  wrong to kick someone when he is already down. Especially because authorities have already filed a case against him.

But maybe he deserved to be kicked down. It was one Grace Bandoy, a PRs nightmare known for her bold and sometimes, extreme political and social commentaries, who first exposed the massive cutting of trees and destruction/excavation at Sto. Tomas. Apparently, there is truth in the saying that “even broken clocks are right two times a day”. Were it not for her, I wouldn’t have known about this issue. Only a couple of bloggers talked about this issue uncompromisingly, and I give my respect to The Cordillera Sun (TCS) who is the most relentless in doing so.

“Ket sika ngay? Inya aramidem garud ta ada en met jay Court?” my environmentalist-friend asked again. “Agsuratak garud blog ken maki-join ak forum to give the congressman a chance to speak and incriminate himself in the process…tapnu haan matay jay issue ken maabak nu next…” I told him jokingly.

“Aye pay di ay Kailyan…” he sighed.

“This is not an ethnic issue…it’s a simple issue of a public-official’s betrayal of the people..” I replied. This may be bigger than the people involved...bigger than the observers, movement leaders, perpetrators. As an advocate of better governance, I once withdrew my support to another lawyer who betrayed my trust (but that is another story).

“Inayan sa…” he breathed. “Ket ibagam jay kakadwa tayo garud nga uray i-share da man lang dagijay write-ups about the issue..”

“Narigat met kanu…” I said.

In a way, I understand them. We live in a very complicated world.

I've met the Congressman years ago when he was still a councilor(although I bet he would not remember me), and saw an ideal to imitate – a lawyer, lawmaker, who has everything going good for him. Perhaps this issue will warn all those idealists not to ‘turn into the monsters that they once abhorred’. That greed only brings tragedy, and power corrupts absolutely. I wish the Aliping family the strength to face this, and I’m sure they know that neither silence nor stone-blocking will not end this issue. If I am in the Congressman’s shoes, I will admit what I’ve done, resign from office, face the people and ask for their forgiveness, hug my family with a free conscience, and spend my remaining life being a “genuine environmentalist”.

Life is too short for the corrupting pleasures of more money and more power.


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