By Shay Cullen
We treasure many possessions in this world but for the vast majority of people, there is one most valuable of all. What is it for you: love, gold, money, security, peace, family, happiness?
Yes, all are precious but without the one most precious of all, which we take for granted, we cannot have any of the rest. The most important thing that we expect to be always there for us is water.
When I go to visit the remote villages of the Aeta people in Zambales to join them in tree planting and developing their water resources, there are some long walks and hiking to do and very soon, I am reaching for my water bottle. When it is empty, I feel anxious. I know that no human can survive two or at most three days without water.
Since our bodies are already 60 percent water, we need to replenish our body’s water to keep our other 40 percent functioning. Water is essential for life and, believe it or not, there is a huge shortage of clean potable water in the world today.
Twenty years ago, the city where I live had enough from a running river. It became a trickle because of logging and environmental destruction by greedy politicians. When there are no trees, there is no water but there is more CO2 to fill the atmosphere, causing global warming and climate change. The planet is 70 percent made up of water.
The vast oceans cover most of it and it’s good for the fish but we humans can’t drink it for the salt. Yet, it is vital to our climate.
Global warming evaporates the seawater faster and in greater volume, creating vast, rain-filled clouds. The warmer water causes currents to change direction and hot air rises to mix with the descending cold air and we get more powerful, more frequent and more massive typhoons, hurricanes and rainstorms as is happening around the world.
This is why there are massive floods everywhere except in parts of Africa. They suffer the extreme greater droughts because global warming evaporates the water on the land and rivers. When there is no water, the crops fail and starvation is next.
Now we humans are clever and smarter than most other creatures on the planet. We may have the larger brains and intelligence and many of us are really trying to be good, to do good deeds for others and be decent, honest, compassionate people willing to help others in need. But, it is not enough if we don’t act to love the planet, too, and be more active in trying to save it and people, animals and wildlife.
If we are all going to survive and that is not likely, we humans need to have greater human caring, compassion, sharing and peaceful co-existence and pressure our governments and their big business corporations to back off polluting the earth and change from burning coal, oil and gas to building renewable sources of energy.
Global warming is evaporating lakes, reservoirs and melting the glaciers in the mountains around the world. There is less water than ever before for irrigation to grow food. Then, there is the prolonged drought. Climate change has changed the rainfall. More hunger and death and the young people migrate north towards water, jobs and food.
If people are racist and mean, they don’t like to give them a welcome and are angry with the new arrivals. The rich countries may have only themselves to blame for this poverty. They have continually exploited poor countries from the colonial and neo-colonial eras to the present. Africa is being hit hardest of all.
Millions of people are going hungry and children are the first to die from malnutrition because the greedy tycoons and political cronies are exploiting the natural resources and destroying the Amazon and the remaining African rainforests. Even in the Philippines, there is still illegal logging in the remaining three percent of rainforests. In 1903, there was 70 percent forest cover in the Philippines. The top one percent of the international mega-rich tycoons and industrial barons are almost twice as rich as they were five years ago.
For us to survive, we have to reduce global warming and the loss of water. We have to change and do good. One easy thing is to plant trees anywhere and everywhere. When we visit the province, we could bring gifts of fruit tree saplings from a nursery at least two years old and plant them in the home province. Imagine, if every Filipino did that, then a million trees would be planted every year. That will help reduce CO2 and help reduce global warming.
Development aid should focus on reforestation, securing and restoring the rain forests and thus improving water resources and managing them to their maximum benefit. Urban communities need more recycling water plants, turning wastewater into clean water.
The climate change disasters facing the planet are most serious than at any time in the history of the earth. So many of us live without discipline, mindfulness, idiotic, useless lives, living a lifestyle that is destroying the environment by burning coal, oil and gas when we could use the sun, wind and geothermal and wave or tide power to generate electricity. Hopefully, scientists will develop fusion power plants to solve the problem.
We can plant our trees (I plant 2,000 mango saplings every year with the indigenous Aeta people). We can awaken concern for the environment and encourage people to act in a good responsible way and teach by example, especially the young. People should bring their children or grandchildren with them when they go to plant their tree saplings or give them to the indigenous Aeta people to plant and improve their ancestral lands.