It seems 2021 had just passed so fast and while there were restrictions in our movement due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many happenings in the country caught our attention.
Aside from the hot issues related to the forthcoming national and local elections in May 2022 and concerns on how the pandemic was being addressed, before the year ended many islands in the Visayas, some parts of Mindanao, and Palawan were devastated by super typhoon Odette.
Strong winds and severe flooding destroyed houses and many public infrastructures, including road and water, power, and communication servicing facilities. A number of deaths were also reported.
In Negros Occidental, 2021 started with heavy flooding in the northern part of the province and ended with another one in the south.
Amidst all these, the urgency of addressing environmental and climate challenges are getting more urgent and a must. The changing climatic condition of the world and the deterioration of our natural ecosystems are among the factors known to have caused these catastrophic natural hazards, and we are still in danger of facing even worse scenarios, as some experts expressed.
The COVID-19 should already be our wake up call when it comes to abuses to nature since the virus causing it was reportedly emanated from wildlife. Environmental protection and restoration must be complementary to recovery and rehabilitation efforts in the typhoon-affected areas and even all over the country.
While there is no actual assessment yet on the extent of damages to our natural ecosystems here in Negros, I got information that coral reefs and mangroves were badly damaged. There were reforestation sites that have been ravaged by the typhoon.
Just try to imagine that in urban areas in southern Negros Occidental many big trees were uprooted and electrical posts fell, and most likely some remaining forests in the province were also affected.
As pointed out in some studies, nature has its own way of healing. The forests and coral reefs have the capacity to naturally regenerate and the different species of wildlife have reproductive ability. Unfortunately, the anthropogenic disturbances to our natural environment are so huge and they almost overcome the natural regenerative capacity of our ecosystems and all living things that exist on them.
The best example is our forests that are supposedly considered renewable resources. The question, however, is on how our forests can regenerate when the lands where they used to grow are already converted into residential, industrial, and agricultural purposes. Such a situation endangers the wildlife reproductive capacity since their habitats have also been destroyed as well as their numbers in the wild are dwindling due overexploitation.
The concerns for our natural environment have something to do not only in mitigating the impacts of natural hazards and risks, but to our food security and wellbeing, too. Soil erosion due to loss of vegetative covers has affected our agricultural productivity as soil nutrients go along with the soil that are being washed out to rivers systems and eventually find their way to our seas to become pollutants in our marine life.
Aside from illegal and destructive fishing, the deterioration of our coastal and marine ecosystems contributes a lot in the declining productivity of our fishery production. The mangroves, seagrass, coral reefs are spawning and breeding grounds of numerous marine resources, many of which are commercially viable.
The word essential has been the byword during the pandemic, especially during the early stage of this health crisis. Due to the imposition of restrictions on our mobility, there were messages of allowing only essential travels, buying essential goods, rendering essential services, and essential production and distribution of goods.
There was one point in 2020 when the world was seemingly in a standstill. While I did not read an impact assessment to that scenario when it comes to our environment, there were several indicators attesting positive results to our natural environment, such as much cleaner air, wildlife movement, and minimal wastes, among others.
I am not implying to continuously impose a lockdown or much longer restrictions, but more so for us to reflect what are essentials for us to live humanly and with dignity. The rapid modernization, consumerism, industrialization, and globalization have brought numerous damages to our planet Earth. The extent of damages is already irreversible and beyond repair, especially with the advent of climate change phenomenon.
Experts say we can’t prevent the impacts of these challenges, but we can only innovate measures for us to be resilient and adaptive to these changes. In my simple understanding what we need to do is to continue and work for more in the conservation and protection of our nature. There are so many ways and means we can think of.*