BACOLOD CITY – When Greta Thunberg made an impassioned plea before world leaders over what she believes is the deteriorating state of the environment, she was met with derision from all sides, some questioning her methods and the science behind her statements.
But her “How dare you!” speech also made people sit up and notice, spurring the youth and environmentalists all over the world to declare a climate strike, a strike for the environment, with the demands to decrease carbon emissions amongst the loudest voices.
And now, with November touted as Wildlife Month, discussions on how best to conserve resources and preserve nature have been heating up not just on online platforms but on the streets as well. Eco-activists and concerned institutions, even local government units, have come up with efforts to mitigate effects of apparent misuse and abuse of the environment.
Just recently, for instance, President Duterte announced the possible ban on the single-use plastics, while the Negros Occidental provincial government announced that the province will remain coal-free.
HISTORY OF DESTRUCTION
The province of Negros Occidental is not the urban jungle that it is today, with more buildings than there are forests.
Once, the province’s mountains had a very rich biodiversity in terms of trees, but a combination of factors have left Negros Occidental with an almost denuded landscape.
A case study done by Jelson Garcia and Lindsey Mulkins titled Ecological Management of a Residual Forestin Negros Occidental, Philippines: The Experience of Marcos Flores in Negros Occidental documented four culprits responsible for the massive denudation of the province’s forests.
These four would be the lumber traders, the military, the forest dwellers, and the charcoal traders.
The lumber traders, according to Garcia and Mulkins, were primarily the Insular Lumber Company (ILCO), which began operations in the upland sitios and barangays in the 1950s, ceasing operations only in the ‘70’s.
ILCO, the study said, left “a large portion of uncut forest to be subsequently logged by local financiers from the nearby town of Cauayan”.
The military, on the other hand, through the Philippine Constabulary, “funded commercial extraction of Bel-at’s forest”, cutting down large hardwood trees, with operations underway as early as 1962. The military then engaged in the logging trade, setting prices for interested parties.
Forest dwellers, meanwhile, contributed to the destruction of the forests in their search for food and employment opportunities. They also cleared large tracts of land to make way for the cultivation of rice, corn, and root crops. This was aggravated by the migrants’ slash-and-burn techniques in clearing the land, along with the increasing population.
Charcoal contractors, meanwhile, were enterprising traders who made do with the cleared trees by turning them to fuel. According to the study, forest dwellers produce a weekly average of 10 sacks, each sack earning P55-60 when sold to a contractor.
Independent ecological site Mongabay recorded that Negros Occidental’s forest cover is now at 28 percent, implying success in efforts of groups to reforest the province. It also notes that there is a 3 percent loss of forest cover since 2000.
EFFORTS IN PRESERVATION
With studies on global warming, depletion of resources, and destruction of the environment mounting, so do efforts of environmental groups, NGOs and government institutions in conservation.
From mangrove planting efforts by the academe, to the adopt-an-endangered animal efforts by organizations like the Negros Forests Ecological Foundation, Inc., to the declaration of a Climate Emergency, concrete steps are now undertaken to ensure that the future generations would have a sustainable world to live in.
One such effort is the Himamaylan City’s symbolic Tour of the Fireflies, proposed by a young idealistic councilor who wishes to do her share now that the province is celebrating Wildlife Month.
(Up next: Wildlife Month: The Fireflies Tour)