Earth Day 2012
BY: ERROL A. GATUMBATO
Last April 22, the whole world commemorated the Earth Day, now on its 42nd year following its declaration by the United Nations. Numerous activities in different parts of globe were initiated by environmental organizations to remind us of the present state of the Earth and what we can do, as an individual or group, to save it from further deterioration. Looking into the Earth’s prevailing condition, one may think that there is no compelling reason to celebrate, in as much that we are facing enormous environmental issues and concerns today. Some damages we inflicted to Mother Nature are already irreversible and beyond repair.
We need not to be experts to determine what environmental problems we face these days. Just try to imagine the extreme weather we are experiencing during this summer with the increasing temperature. Last Saturday, the government’s weather bureau reported the highest temperature recorded in Metro Manila at 35.9 degrees Celsius, while a much higher temperature was noted in some parts of northern Luzon. On the contrary, scattered rainshowers are occurring in several regions of the country, particularly in Visayas and Mindanao.
With the kind of weather condition we have, one can immediately relate to what is now a popular phenomenon known as global warming, a reality that we need to confront squarely because of its devastating consequences, that include tremendous changes in the normal climatic pattern of the world. It is by this account that we are now experiencing erratic weather conditions. According to experts, global warming is primarily attributed to the destruction of the ozone layer that shields the Earth from the direct heat of the Sun. Such destruction is the result of the voluminous accumulation of green house gases, such as carbon and methane, in the atmosphere. The Earth’s natural mechanisms are no longer capable of absorbing these emissions such that all these green house gases stay in the atmosphere and form a permanent layer.
The natural forest supposedly serves as a controlling agent since it absorbs carbon and emits oxygen. Unfortunately, the natural forest of the world is getting limited due to massive deforestation. In the Philippines, for instance, the remaining forest cover is barely seven million hectares out of the over 30 million hectares land area. We lost almost 80% of our natural forest and most of the remaining forests are either open or secondary growth and/or plantation forests. Only less than a million hectare of closed canopy natural forest remains in different parts of the Philippines. The Visayas region is heavily affected with deforestation. It seems the cooling power of the remaining forest could no longer cope with the increasing temperature these days.
The changing climatic condition brings us to two contrasting situations – either prolonged dry and warm period, or much longer rainy and wet season. It is also alarming to note that during the recent past, we observed the intensification of typhoons and the volume of rainwater is increasing. As such, we witnessed numerous disasters and calamities, such as heavy flooding and landslides.
The other impact of this global warming is the reduction of our freshwater supplies. With no rains coming, the freshwater stocks in various reservoirs are likewise declining, while some freshwater bodies, particularly river systems, may tend to dry up, because of the insufficiency of water supplies from our watersheds that has been likewise affected with deforestation. With this situation, even our food production will be affected since farming system that relies on rainwater may no longer be productive and the irrigated farming areas will have no sufficient water supplies.
The list of environmental challenges in our midst may never ends, but with our collective efforts and resolve to protect what has been left in our natural environment and restore what has been lost, we can make a difference. And so, let every day be a celebration of the Earth.
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