Category Archives: Environment

Posts about the environment.

Water Wars in the Philippines

One of the most controversial issue our world faces today is the problem of utilization of water resources. It is an evident fact that water is one of the resources vital to human existence and has resulted to water wars. Countries along the Nile River particularly Egypt fight for control over the Nile River where 90 million of its people live . Further, water is susceptible to degradation and depletion.

Although almost two-thirds of the world’s surface is made up of water, only a small portion of this constitutes sources of potable water. At the onset of rapid urbanization and development, the proper management and distribution of water for varied uses becomes an immediate center of attention. This concern has caused different entities and groups to examine the present condition and to prescribe ways for management of some of the biggest water systems in the Philippines.

Small-scale water wars

People derive different uses from water sources. These uses include water for domestic use, irrigation, hydroelectric power generation and flood control systems.

Communities in the Philippines obtained their water supply from different sources such as rainfall, surface water resources, rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and underground resources (Greenpeace, 2007). Some of the major water basins and water systems in the country include the Angat Reservoir, Laguna Lake, and Batangas City groundwater system.

However, events in the past and our condition provides a different image of water resource use in the country. Various governmental agencies currently share the magnitude of the work involved in gathering information and monitoring the water supply services in the country. These organizations include the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA, formerly NSO) and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), (NEDA, 2010).

An article written by Guillermo Tabios and Cristina David in 2002 specified the different issues and conflicts involved in the sustainable use of water resource in the some of the Philippines’ important water systems. In the 1970s, the country experienced the need to meet the increasing water demands of the consumers. The situation led to serious problems for planners and decision makers.

Provisions of the Republic Act 9275, otherwise known as the “Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004”, specified that trade-offs in water use may be imposed. However, the said provision is not efficiently carried in the entire country. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources is the lead agency that implements RA 9275. Previous reports and cases supporting the claim of weak implementation by the government were also evident (as stated in the case between Bulacan Farmers and the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System. Due to conflict of interests, changing the political landscape and weak justice system, resolution of cases that involves water use trade-offs are still being decided (as stated in the case between Bulacan farmers and MWSS).

water wars
A 21st-century water-use conflict among the states of Georgia, Alabama, and Florida in the US.

Another aspect that needs to be considered in this issue of water use is the physical system and operation of water systems. Planners and decision makers must be well-equipped with the required knowledge to relate the functions of the respective water systems relevant to its effects on the nearby ecosystems, surrounding communities, and different stakeholders. This point was significantly noted in the instance of the construction of Mangahan Floodway in Metro Manila. The Floodway was constructed to safeguard Metro Manila from floods. The floodway, however, caused flooding in the surrounding communities in the Taguig and Taytay area. This event goes to show that careful planning, especially those involving the construction of structures, should be carefully planned since these might also affect other neighboring areas.

Saltwater intrusion is also one issue that needs to be addressed. We all know that potable water for domestic use needs to be free of substances that might increase its salinity. Due to excessive pumping, groundwater aquifers and systems become prone to saltwater intrusion. This situation results when freshwater pressure can no longer repel that of saltwater, leading to intrusion. This occurrence increases the salinity level of water beyond the treatable condition. When this happens, costly processes must be carried out to treat water for domestic use. Nevertheless, not all government agencies and private companies in the country can afford to employ such process.

Another issue is the worsening effect of pollution on our water supply. Much of our water resources are being exposed to chemical and toxic substances that may lead to worse environmental and health problems. Water pollution due to poor sanitation and untreated wastewater contributes significantly to the degrading quality of our existing water supply. Results showed that polluted water may cause several health problems such as gastroenteritis, diarrhea, typhoid, cholera, dysentery, hepatitis, and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (PEM, 2003).

Possible recommendations to prevent water wars

Ultimately, a greater portion of responsibility lies with the agencies of the government that manage the utilization of water resources. To prevent water wars, responsible government agencies should work together. Though each organization has different stakeholders that they need to cater, it is still best that they harmonize their respective schemes and equitably share our existing water resources.

Efficient monitoring of water quality and supply should also be carried out regularly. The conduct of researches and studies is highly recommended. With the results of these studies, the government, including the planners and decision makers, will be provided with the proper basis that may be used to review our existing laws about water resources use.

All of us should realize that water is a finite and scarce resource. Such can only be attained if we work hand-in-hand to preserve these resources and prevent water wars.

References:

(1) David, C and Tabios, G. (2002). Competing Uses of Water: The Cases of Angat Reservoir, Laguna Lake and Groundwater systems of Batangas City and Cebu City. Philippine Institute for Development Studies. 20, (6).

(2) Philippines, National Economic and Development Authority. (2010). Philippine Water Supply Sector Roadmap, 2nd Edition. Pasig City, Philippines.

(3) Greenpeace-Southeast Asia. (2007). State of Water in the Philippines. Quezon City, Philippines.

Cite this article as: Jeneferlyn Yap (November 8, 2016). Water Wars in the Philippines. In SimplyEducate.Me. Retrieved from http://simplyeducate.me/2016/11/08/water-wars/

Forest Management: The Evolution of the Government’s Role

There is much to say when it comes to the issue of forest management, i.e., its protection and conservation, in the Philippines. So much had changed since the year when Presidential Decree 705 or the “Forestry Reform Code” was enacted.

The role of the government from then, and until now was seen to be less centralized and more participatory when it comes to forest management. But whether or not these efforts and initiatives are instrumental to sustainable forest management is still arguable. As the community and the public to that extent becomes more involved, and as we continue to change the social and political landscape of this nation, it becomes imperative that we continue to appraise and evaluate our situation as often as possible.

The Reality of Forest Management in the Philippines

In 2001, Ben Malayang III noted in his article “The Changing Role of Government in Forest Protection”, that only one percent (1%) of the causes of forest losses come from illegal logging. Though the author clearly emphasized the discrepancies to the data, there is still much to discuss.

The data we have here in Palawan could be used to claim wholesomely that illegal logging, especially those of premium wood species, constitute a significant percentage of events that contribute to diminishing forest resources. The cases of illegal logging in the province do encompass not only those operating on the large scale but also those small-scale illegal loggers. This practice was evident with the apprehension of thousands of board feet of Narra, Ipil and Kamagong in a resort in Culion, Palawan last 2015.

forest management
Illegal logging threatens the sustainability of ecological services.

Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force

To solve the issue on continued illegal logging in the province, a multi-partite Anti-illegal Logging Task Force was created. Different government agencies compose the task force, including the Provincial Government of Palawan, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development.

Once illegal loggers are apprehended, the enforcers from the different enforcement agencies face another problem when it comes to filing of cases and prosecution in court. Most of the time, apprehensions lack substantial evidence and legal instrument. This shortcoming results in a weak prosecution of cases that often leads to dismissal.

Furthermore, several other causes aggravate illegal logging such as kaingin (swidden agriculture) and land use conversion. It goes to show that there are still much to do when it comes to enforcement of forest-related laws and ordinances.

The Local Government Code as a Tool for Forest Management

The ratification of the Local Government Code (LGC) in 1991 augmented the changing role of the government and the community towards forest management. Selected provisions of LGC mandated the central government to devolve some of its powers to the local government units.

The law would have been beneficial to the larger population. However, such powers and authority were not appropriately complemented with corresponding funds and machinery – causing the LGUs and the local leaders to fall short in monitoring and implementation. This weakness led to the involvement of private groups.

The extent of responsibility and the volume of work of the government are not well-complemented by its existing resources. Thus, the government has to find ways to reinforce limitations by involving private groups to partake not only in the decision-making process but also in the implementation and operational phases of certain projects.

Nevertheless, as more players and entities become more involved, the more complex the political spectrum becomes. It becomes harder to impose the provisions of relevant laws since more interests are being brought into the process.

The Role of the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA) in Forest Management

Another issue is the lack of legal bases as to the regulation of the use of forest lands and resources among the indigenous groups. At present, we have the IPRA Law which safeguards the interests of the indigenous people in place of national laws. We need to respect the laws of the land without necessarily displacing and robbing our fellow indigenous communities of their rights. It is only necessary that we harmonize these laws with one another.

In the end, it is also our responsibility to offer our services towards achieving common grounds in managing our forest resources. Sustainable development cannot be achieved alone. People participation, effort, and cooperation are needed for us to build a better nation.

The Default Theory

I have been thinking about this concept for quite a time. And I am convinced that advancing this idea as a theory can help explain the phenomenon that commonly beset human affairs, i.e., nothing happens, or nothing changes without deliberate and sustained effort to institute changes. I call this the Default Theory.

The Default Theory I have in mind applies to many cases of human endeavor. Although there is a theory by Timothy Levine called Truth-Default Theory or TDT, the theory I am advancing is entirely different from his description.

For example, I disseminated information among colleagues that there is an opportunity for innovation and development proposals to be potentially funded heavily by the Commission on Higher Education. The initiative is part of the government’s effort to minimize the adverse effects of the K-12 Transition Program.

A week was given to comply with the simple requirement of submitting a one or two-page concept paper to the funding agency. The concept paper preludes the preparation of a full-blown research proposal once the proposed concept is accepted.

I discussed the rationale, explained the mechanics and gave all the forms to be accomplished to the unit heads. I thought they would appreciate the effort and be motivated likewise to disseminate the information to the 400-500 faculty members of the university. I also explored possible topics as starting points that the group can follow through.

Even while disseminating the information and being hopeful that they will respond to the call, at the back of my mind, I somehow anticipate that nobody will submit or make the extra effort to present their proposals. By default, nothing gets done for some reason. Almost always, nothing gets done despite efforts to make a change.

And nobody did submit except me as I took extra effort to make a submission on or before the deadline. I am aware of the Default Theory. Things happen as they should if no additional effort is done to counter its effect. I have done this action several times, and I made changes and took a career turn. I counteract the default with deliberate, sustained effort to do something.

urban sprawl
Eutrophication of coastal areas occurs by default.

When applied to dealing with environmental issues or concerns which are my cup of tea, the Default Theory works likewise.

For example, for many years and after so many ideas, suggestions, propositions, projects, programs among others that arise to counter the effects of environmental degradation, the default prevails. That is, nothing gets accomplished that significantly and with lasting impact.

If you attend conferences or read scientific papers, the issue of environmental problems such as pollution, illegal trade, over-extraction, and similar problems faced decades back remain. The default is that nothing gets done, at least on a sustainable manner, even with much effort and expense. There may be successes, but history reveals that everything goes back to board one through time. Gains are not sustainable.

So where does this bring us?

It all starts with the recognition that this phenomenon exists. And deliberate, sustained effort to counter the “business as usual” must be made.

Electromagnetic Radiation Effect on Sleep

Does electromagnetic radiation emitted from modern digital devices affect sleep? This article explores and describes electromagnetic radiation effect on sleep based on scientific evidence. Read on to find out.

In an earlier post, I described the effect of blue light emitted from laptop or tv screens to sleeping patterns. But knowing this and taking action to prevent exposure to blue light apparently is not enough. I still had difficulty sleeping despite reducing my exposure to blue light. Blue light reduces melatonin levels thus disturb sleep.

I thought emissions from the WiFi adapter in my laptop might have something to do with my insomnia. So I hooked the laptop and the router together using a 10-meter RJ-45 cable run through the ceiling. I then switched off the built-in WiFi adapter on my laptop to a wired internet connection. Apparently, I slept soundly because of this change.

My experience could be considered an anecdotal evidence that the emission of electromagnetic radiation (EMR) can affect sleep. I thought my observation can lend support from the scientific literature. Hence, as is my usual routine, I browsed Google Scholar for relevant research on electromagnetic radiation effect on sleep.

Is there a relationship between EMR and sleep? What does research say about the electromagnetic radiation effect on sleeping patterns? Are they related at all?

Electromagnetic Radiation Effect on Sleep

The following five papers that describe the electromagnetic radiation effect on sleep can be convincing enough.

1. Chronic (or long-term) electromagnetic field exposure causes abnormal tissue death in the brain. It also causes lung damage, paralysis, muscle tremors, and bone pain (Worthington 2007).

2. Residents exposed to electromagnetic radiation from telecommunications towers suffer insomnia. In addition, they noted other non-specific health symptoms. These symptoms include headache, giddiness, loss of memory, diarrhea, mental slowness, reduced reaction time and mood swing (Suleiman 2014).

3. Radiation from cell phone base station affects the adrenal glands. The glands stimulate the production of adrenalin and cortisol. Excess adrenaline causes insomnia (Goldsworthy 2012).

4. Electromagnetic radiation from network routers can disturb sleep (Stein 2015).

5. Radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF EMF) before sleep alters brain activity thus affect sleep (Regel 2007).

These findings demonstrate dose-response relationship. This means that small doses of EMR may not cause health problems. But larger doses can produce health symptoms upon reaching a certain threshold level. The present youth are particularly vulnerable, as their life revolves around the use of these gadgets either for serious school work or at play.

electromagnetic radiation effect
Radiation dose chart

Steps to Avoid Electromagnetic Radiation Exposure

One of the papers recommended that governments should impose new regulations on EMR-emitting communications infrastructure. Locating cell phone stations away from densely populated regions can reduce health risk. Chronic or long-term exposure to EMR-emitting gadgets such as cellphones, tablets, laptops, among others in the information age should be avoided.

To reduce electromagnetic radiation effects on your health, take the following steps:

1. Avoid using your electronic gadgets close to your body. Use an earphone when calling someone.

2. Connect to the internet using a cable as much as possible. If you can do so, switch off your WiFi adapter. The adapter emits more radiation the distance increases from the router. Weak router signals mean more electromagnetic radiation emitted by your gadget’s receiver.

3. Avoid going to places where people converge and use their cell phones such as malls and buses.

4. Do not sleep with your cell phone on and next to you.

5. Do not put your cellphone in your pocket. EMR has been known to cause infertility problems.

6. Avoid living near cellphone base stations. If living near one, block your house from incoming radiation with reflective aluminum insulation and painted walls.

7. Inform others about the health effects of electromagnetic radiation. Encourage them to take action so that emission of EMR in your workplace or community will be reduced.

The worry of the future generation is not about visible air pollution as environmental technology gradually keeps it at bay. Invisible radiation, due to our modern communications systems, is a threat that now shows its symptoms.

What you can’t see can harm you.

References

Goldsworthy, A. (2012). Cell phone radiation and harmful effects: Just how much more proof do you need?.

Regel, S. J., Tinguely, G., Schuderer, J., Adam, M., Kuster, N., Landolt, H. P., & Achermann, P. (2007). Pulsed radio‐frequency electromagnetic fields: dose‐dependent effects on sleep, the sleep EEG and cognitive performance. Journal of sleep research, 16(3), 253-258.

Stein, Y., Hänninen, O., Huttunen, P., Ahonen, M., & Ekman, R. (2015). Electromagnetic Radiation and Health: Human Indicators. In Environmental Indicators (pp. 1025-1046). Springer Netherlands.

Suleiman, A., Gee, T. T., Krishnapillai, A. D., Khalil, K. M., Hamid, M. W. A., & Mustapa, M. (2014). Electromagnetic radiation health effects in exposed and non-exposed residents in Penang. Journal of Geoscience and Environment Protection, 2(02), 77.

Worthington, A. (2007). The radiation poisoning of America. GlobalResearch. ca, October, 9.

Cite this article as: Regoniel, Patrick A. (May 14, 2016). Electromagnetic Radiation Effect on Sleep. In SimplyEducate.Me. Retrieved from http://simplyeducate.me/2016/05/14/electromagnetic-radiation-effect-sleep/

SCUBA Diving in Tubbataha Reef for the First Time

I ventured to SCUBA dive in Tubbataha Reefs (in 1993 declared a World Heritage Site) for the first time last April 12, 2015 after a hiatus of almost seven years because of a health condition. My last reef dive was in Middle Rock, a site where the waves meet and cause seasickness among our companions left in the boat in Port Barton, San Vicente on August 8, 2008.

The recent dive in Tubbataha is my 71st and 72nd SCUBA dive sessions. But during the 71st dive, I almost became another victim of a strong undercurrent. Here is my story and some lessons learned.

It was a Sunday, about 9 o’clock in the morning when we started out to Black Rock, a dive spot located northeast of South Atoll of Tubbataha Reef. I attempted to dive the day before but had trouble equalizing so I tried again that day. I had a sinus operation three years back due to a bad case of nose bleeding which could impact on my diving performance. This worries me, but I’d rather try than just guess if I’m fit to dive.

The original plan was for me to hold on to the anchor’s rope of a nearby motor yacht and gradually descend into the bottom while equalizing. While on the dive boat I contemplated the 100 or so meter swim to the rope. Shall I swim and hold on to the rope then gradually descend or descend right there and then in the clear waters?

coral wall diving
Diving next to a wall of corals is unlike diving in a reef flat.
I donned my SCUBA gear a bit anxious of my ears not equalizing underwater. My dive master companion assured me that a protected area ranger will watch me as I descend. That may be comforting but that did not relieve me of my worries.

I held the top portion of my mask and made sure air comes through easily in the second stage of the SCUBA diving regulator. The air flow seems okay. I also made sure that my snorkel is attached firmly to the mask. I tilted my body towards the water and fell backwards at the side of the dive boat, down into the water with a big splash because of the heavy tank.

Seeing my two dive master companions underwater gave me second thought on swimming towards the motor yacht to hang on. I decided to descend directly as time is of the essence.

I have done this before, why not now? I thought.

The beautiful coral reefs and marine life in Tubbataha are just irresistible. It is a rare chance to be in a World Heritage Site known worldwide as one of the best dive spots.

And so, after a few minutes, with occasional pain in my ears as I descend and ascend a little to ease the pain, I landed on the bottom of the sea at a depth of about 65 feet. It seemed my weights have been too heavy as I added two more 2 pound lead weights on my belt aside from the metal integrated in my buoyancy control device (BCD). My buddies came over to check on my gears and I made an OK sign with my thumb and index finger.

Sharks and Strong Undercurrent

We toured the area awhile before I signaled my male buddy (the other one’s a young lady dive master) to take a video of my instant refresher dive. I couldn’t understand his reaction as he motioned to his camera and signaled he is going to ascend. I learned later that he has to set his camera.

My lady buddy placed her two index fingers together, meaning, I will follow or accompany her. She has a GoPro camera around her wrist and I understood as she swam away.

I followed her as she swam towards the edge of the reef. She’s going deeper looking for interesting creatures to document. I followed suit until we encountered a group of sharks, probably white tips, swimming in the opposite direction.

reef shark
A white tip reef shark.

I was just a few meters away from her when suddenly, I felt a sudden tug of current pulling me away from her. I realized that a streaming current is lifting me up towards the surface. I can hear my dive computer emit rapid bursts of beeps indicating I was ascending too fast and I could hear my ear pop. I thought to myself that this could be the end of me. I may be in the news that day as a diver casualty.

Instinctively, knowing that the sudden ascent can cause Nitrogen bubbles in my body and cause decompression sickness or bends and probably unconsciousness, I kicked upwards while pushing the water up a few times in a desperate move to go deep again and prevent disaster. I also have to avoid jerky movements as I know sharks are nearby and I might catch their attention. I don’t want to be mistaken for a struggling fish.

I succeeded as I found myself back underwater so rapidly that my eardrum was so painful. My eardrum would have burst had I dove deeper. I tried to calm myself by breathing slowly to establish neutral buoyancy.

Reunited Divers and Snorkelers

After my successful attempt to swim back to the depths, I saw my lady buddy staring at me about fifty meters away. I was glad to see she was alright.

I motioned with my hand for her to come and join me as the strong current carries us to another spot. I held on to a projecting rock and held on to it until she came right next to me.

Upon closing in, my buddy gave me her camera as she spooled back the string that connects to a surface marker buoy (SMB) oriented parallel to the surface indicating the current is quite strong. She wrapped her arm around mine to prevent us from drifting apart as she gradually released the balloon towards the surface for the dive boat skipper to see. I was breathing so heavily I thought I’d finish off the air in the tank before we reach the surface.

I feel relieved being back to the dive boat after several minutes and seeing our worried team leader get a sigh of relief. I survived!

Our snorkeling companions had likewise troubling stories because of that sudden current sweep underwater. One snorkeler drank seawater and panicked. Luckily, everyone made it to the boat safely.

While on the boat, I halfheartedly resolved not to dive again. But upon my dive buddy’s invitation to dive in the afternoon that day, I could not resist but join the two master divers once again.

The second dive that day released me from my traumatic experience as I dove, also for the first time, along a wall of colorful, thriving corals and reef fishes without the swift current. My health worry is gone and I am able to SCUBA dive again.

Postscript

I learned later that my lady buddy thought I was just behind her while she takes a video of a group of white tip sharks, probably a dozen of them. She was rattled when she saw I was gone but was relieved upon my re-submergence at a distance.

Human-Beings and Ecosystem Interaction: The Complex Adaptive System

Without ecosystem services provided by the environment, human-beings cannot survive nor exist. Human-environment interaction is common to us. It is the usual scene every time we, humans, wake up in the morning and continue the routine of living.

For a moment, can you describe the details if you will be asked, what are the interactions between an individual and his environment? By posing for a while and observing what is really happening, I have found that the relations between human-beings and environment are complex.

In this article, we will see the reality of complex relations between ecosystem and human-beings within one of the remote communities in the island of Palawan that we have visited.

Human-environment interaction are complex adaptive systems. It is complex because ecosystem and social system have many parts that are interconnected and interdependent with each other. Adaptive since it has feedback structures that promote survival in a continuously changing environment.

Humans are highly dependent on the environment. Ecosystem services such as food, water, clothing, shelter, timber and many other resources are essential for human-beings survival. By using these resources, people affect the environment in a lot of ways. Humans modify the existing ecosystem for their purposes and benefits as well as develop new strategies that seem to be more effective in serving their needs.

The type of society strongly affects the attitude and behavior of people towards nature, and therefore brings impacts on ecosystem. Some of the significant characteristics include population size, social organization, knowledge, culture, belief and many more. Values, knowledge and cultures strongly influence peoples’ “view and principles of life” and subsequently define the way people act. The choice of possible actions is then limited by the available resources and technologies.

The Pala’wans – Environment Interaction

The Pala’wan tribe who have settled in the southern part of Palawan island have simple way of living. They are highly dependent on the availability of natural resources within their areas. The practice of traditional agriculture like slash-and-burn farming is one of their ways to produce staple food such as rice, cassava and other endemic crops. They also know unique strategies in fishing and hunting of several wild animals. For thousands of years, their lives are linked with the environment. Their rich traditional knowledge reflects and embodies a cultural and spiritual relationship with the land, river and wildlife.

The selected photo below shows how Pala’wans are connected with the environment. It was taken in May 2013 when my dad and I, together with my group mates in research study in college, visited Sitio Bayabas, Barangay Bunog, Rizal, Palawan. The site is located within Mt. Mantalingahan, one of the protected areas in the province of Palawan.

The site is considered as one of the sacred places of the Pala’wans. Thus, only limited people are allowed to visit the area. And we are fortunate to have that opportunity! Once more, I’m so blessed to witness these great creations of the Lord.

falls
©2013 Shellemai Roa

The Aesthetic Value of the Site

The aesthetic view of the place is like a paradise. You are free to hear the natural sound of murmuring water from a waterfall that continuously flows and rushes within the blocks of big rocks; it has crystal clear running waters with bluish and greenish color in some parts that seems like a confined pool with fresh and cold water; the fresh gentle breeze that touches your skin with whispering sounds around your ear; the sound of chirping birds and other insects around; as well as the views of mountains, really gives relaxation, peace of mind, thanksgiving and enjoyment to human-being like me. These natural services provided by the ecosystem cannot be compared to any man-made structure.

The Interrelationship of Each System

By looking deeper into the relationship of every factor present in the area, other interactions were recorded. These include the different biogeochemical cycles that sustain the homeostasis of the environment. For instance, sun is the critical source of energy for every living organism, both biotic and abiotic factors. Without it, no one can exist, including human-beings.

The communities benefit from the oxygen produced by vegetation in the area (including us who visited them as well as in a global aspect for it cannot be confined in an area). On the other hand, plants use the carbon dioxide released by humans and animals as well as other organisms that release the same, for the process of photosynthesis to take place.

Direct Benefits Obtained in the site by the Community

Aside from the indirect value of the resources in the area, the water source supplies the needs of the Pala’wans for cooking, cleaning, bathing or swimming and other purposes. Moreover, hunting of wild animals, fishes, shrimps and other crustaceans is one of the major sources of food of the Pala’wan. The provision of these resources support the lives of the tribe. They use arrows in hunting fishes or shrimps. What is so good about them in gathering of resources is they observe proper utilization.

During the trek, Rowel, a Pala’wan, tried to hunt some shrimps for lunch. However, during those times, shrimps are not fully grown yet; thus, he did not collect any.

The Pala’wan also believe that they will suffer in the near future if the available resources are exploited. Furthermore, they believe that every place is guarded by gods and goddesses who take care of the area and they will be punished once they over-use the resources.

fishing using spear
©2013 Shellemai Roa

Intangible institutions like these lead to environmental conservation. Beliefs, cultures and traditional knowledge drive their attitudes and values toward their interaction with natural ecosystem.

Human-environment interaction is observed in every action that we do. Human activities increase or mitigate pressure on the environment. The driving forces which initiate human activities are mainly socio-economic and socio-cultural forces.

Thus, it is very important that we examine the consequences of our actions before we start to act. Consider the impacts that it will bring to ecosystem for we have a very complex system – a system that is interrelated to one another in which an action in one factor is connected to the rest of ecosystem.

©2015 April 18 Shellemai A. Roa

The Economic Loss of Rice Farms Due to Sea Level Rise and Farmer Adaptations

How are research topics arrived at? One of the ways on how to identify a phenomenon worthy of research investigation is to go out on field and ask questions.

This article discusses how research topics in environmental science can be generated through interaction with community members as clients of the research outputs. Specifically, it examined the issue of sea level rise as a pressing issue threatening the rice production capacity of a community living next to Malampaya Sound, a marine biodiversity rich body of water located northeast of Palawan Island. It was once dubbed the ‘fish bowl’ of the Philippines.

The trip yesterday to Abongan, a farming community in the municipality of Taytay located 167 kilometers northeast of Puerto Princesa, Palawan (Figure 1), was a fruitful one. I discovered an environmental issue that could be a good research topic to explore. The rice farmers in that community experience the negative effects of sea level rise – a manifestation of climate change. This issue arose as our research team conducted a focus group discussion with agriculture stakeholders.

sea level rise
A map showing the location of sea level rise affected farmlands in Abongan (Map source: Wikimapia.org).

Salt water inundated and changed a portion of the farmlands into mangrove stands. The phenomenon started way back in 1994, according to the barangay chairman of Abongan.

Reminded of the environmental economics perspective on evaluating environmental issues, a question popped in my mind: “How much in terms of money is the value lost by farmers each year because of the advancing sea waters?”

The Economic Loss of Rice Farms Due to Sea Level Rise

To objectively examine the issue discussed earlier, let us enumerate and assume the value of the different variables at play in this phenomenon:

  1. Area of farmland affected by sea level rise: 200 hectares
  2. Number of cavans of unhusked rice grains (palay) produced per hectare: 100
  3. Percentage of rice (bigas) produced in a cavan of palay: 25% or 1/4
  4. Price per kilogram of rice: PhP42 or $0.92
  5. Kilograms of rice per cavan: 50
  6. Number of croppings per year: 2
  7. Percentage of return from farm investment: 50%

The net loss of income on annual basis, therefore, can be computed by converting the net income from rice produced per hectare to the number of hectares affected. This is obtained by multiplying the number of kilos of rice produced per hectare to current price. This is equal to 25 cavans or 1,250 kilograms times PhP42 ($0.92); that gives a total of PhP52,500 ($1,150) per hectare.

If 200 hectares are affected by sea level rise each year, the total value of rice yield per hectare will be PhP10,500,000 ($48,300) per cropping season. Since there are two cropping seasons per year, total annual loss in income will be double this amount.

The annual loss in income of farms in Abongan, therefore, will be PhP21,000,000 or $96,600. Since the percentage of return from investment is roughly 50%, the annual loss in net income is half this final value which is the same value obtained for one cropping season, i.e., PhP10,500,000 ($48,300).

The value given above assumes that the area of affected farmland is the same. But farmers observed that saltwater goes further inland each year. This causes anxiety among farm owners especially those whose land lie next to rivers.

Adaptation of Rice Farmers to Sea Level Rise

Currently, some of the farmers build dikes to prevent saltwater from flowing into their farms. There’s also a plan to increase the flow of freshwater from the watershed to their farms.

Further reflecting on the issue, three questions came to my mind:

  1. What species of mangroves successfully settled in the upper reaches of the river next to farms?
  2. What are the other adaptations measures did farmers make to mitigate the advancing waters aside from dikes and increased freshwater flow?
  3. What is the salinity of river water next to farms?

Now, can you appreciate the value of having to go out in the field and identify environmental issues that hound communities? In the process of finding answers to questions, the outcome of your study will be helpful inputs that will empower communities.

Figuring out your research topic in the four corners of the classroom will offer you less ideas to pursue. Get up and explore the world.

©2015 January 11 P. A. Regoniel

Eating Insects as Food: A Practical Solution to World Hunger

Have you ever thought of eating little, crunchy, yummy insects such as grasshoppers and cockroaches? What will be your response when someone asks you to have  ‘cricketty-cricketty crickets’ or ‘buzzerry-buzzery buggies’ dinner? Hmm… Quite weird huh! But, if it becomes a solution for the world hunger after 50 years, what will your response be? Oh well, let us see what’s so good about insects and why it is considered as that.

Consumption of edible insects has been part of human history for many cultures. These insects played an important role as part of human nutrition in many regions worldwide like Africa, Latin America and Asia. Rural areas in these regions suffer from malnutrition, especially protein-energy malnutrition (PEM) (Siriamornpun and Thammapat, 2008).

Communities of Thailand for instance, have a long cultural history of eating insects. They have become well-known for their exotic food like cockroaches, beetles, grasshoppers and other insects; it is one of the countries which have the most registered species that make their way into man’s digestive system.

insects as food
Insects served as part of regular food in a restaurant (Photo by Richard Allaway@Flicker.com)

Over decades, edible insects are used for other products like canned goods or snacks on a commercial-scale. Its use as a sustainable and secure source for human diet has continued to increase (FAO, 2010; Shockley and Dossey, 2014).

Survival Strategy of Edible Insects

The unpredictable changes in the environment causes many organisms to develop adaptation strategies to survive. One of the strategies is to increase in number of offspring that need little energy investment. The underlying reason is that even if there are unpredictable forces of nature, still there will be some left to live, to reproduce, age and pass on future generation just by mere numbers. Many invertebrates follow this strategy – lots of eggs are produced and larvae are formed but only a few survive to maturity (FAO, 2013; Shockley and Dossey, 2014).

Insects place an emphasis on high growth rate which typically exploit less-crowded ecological niches and produce many offspring quickly. The exponential growth curve by Malthus applies in this selection where the population at the beginning is not very high but grows independently at a very fast rate. Nonetheless, these organisms have relatively low chance of surviving to adult stage. Creatures belong under this strategy are called r-strategists (Shockley and Dossey, 2014).

Most of the organisms classified as r-strategists are pests. They damage crops or bother human beings. However, the traditional use of insects as food continues to expand around the world and it gives significant socio-economic and environmental values for the communities (FAO, 2010).

Potential Source of Alternative Food – Solution to World Hunger

It was projected that by 2050, the world will be having 9 billion people. To support the food needs of this number, the present food production will need to almost double. Arable land, however, has become scarce due to rapid development. Oceans are over fished and climate change and other related shortages can have direct or indirect implications to food production. To meet these problems, production and consumption should be re-evaluated. New strategies of producing food are needed (FAO, 2013).

worm as food
Barbecue flavored worm crisps (Photo by Flavio Ensiki@Flicker.com)

There has been a growing realization that insects can meet the scarcity in food especially in the many protein challenged regions. The works of Raksakantong et al. (2010) as stated by Siriamornpun and Thammapat (2008) concluded that one of the cheapest sources of animal protein are insects.

Consumption of insects is continuously encouraged by many people due to financial issues. Many of the poorest populations in the world such as Africa and Asia eat insects as part of their diet (Shockley and Dossey, 2014). It has the potential of supporting many rural dwellers including also those street traders in urban areas, where some of these insects are popular among those who want to try alternative food (FAO, 2013; West Africa Trends Team, 2014).

The efficiency and biodiversity benefits provided by insects are potential for food supplies and sustainability of a region. Insects contain higher nutritional quality than animal protein as well as produced more sustainable and with much smaller ecological footprint than most livestock such as pigs and cows (FAO, 2013; Shockley and Dossey, 2014).

Furthermore, since insects are r-strategists, they tend to produce quickly compared to livestock, thus, have greater efficiency and biodiversity for they can contribute to human food ingredients even within a short period. There are more than 1 million species of edible insects described and still more than 4-30 million species are estimated to exist on earth, living in every niche inhabited by humans and beyond. For instance, house crickets can lay 1,200 – 1,500 eggs in just a matter of 3-4 weeks (Shockley and Dossey, 2014).

Gathering and farming of insects can also offer employment and more source of income. In developing countries like in Asia, demand for edible insects becomes common. It is relatively easy to bring insects to market. Gathering, rearing and processing into street foods, just like the sale of chicken or fish, are within the reach of small-scale enterprises (FAO, 2013).

Finally, the combined force of traditional knowledge and new technologies in gathering, rearing, processing or producing edible insects is a potential solution for world hunger problems.

Yummy, crunchy cockroach meal, anyone?

References:

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) (2010). Edible forest insect: humans bite back! Rome, Italy: Publishing Policy and Support Branch.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) (2013). Edible insects: future prospects for food and feed security. Rome, Italy: Publishing Policy and Support Branch.

Shockley M. and A. T. Dossey (2014). Insects for Human Consumption. In Mass Production of Beneficial Organisms Invertebrates and Entomopathogens. J. A. Morales-Ramos, M. G. Rojas and D. I. Shapiro-Ilan (Eds.). Chapter 18. Pp/ 617-652.

Siriamornpun, S. and P. Thammapat (2008). Insects as a Delicacy and a Nutritious Food in Thailand.  Thailand: International Union of Food Science and Technology. p. 1-9.

West Africa Trends Team (2014). Bushmeat and the future of protein in West Africa. West Africa Trends Newsletter, Issue 9. African Center for Economic Transformation. p. 8-13.

©2014 November 27 Shellemai A. Roa

Facts About the Goliath Grouper

Have you ever encountered a Goliath grouper while snorkeling or SCUBA diving? How does it look like? How do these magnificent fishes reproduce? Are they really big as their name “Goliath” suggest? Are they aggressive? This article answers these questions. Read on and learn about the Goliath grouper.

During one of my SCUBA diving spree in Apulit Island, a popular tourist destination north of Palawan Island in the municipality of Taytay, I met the Goliath grouper. I learned about it from a buddy diver who excitedly told me to go diving with him upon a prompt from a classmate in high school who happened to be the mayor of that town. That day actually was our high school reunion day in that isolated, white-beach a few nautical miles from the town proper.

Probably, I am lucky that the Goliath grouper (Epinephelus quinquefasciatus) I encountered several minutes when I plunged into the water was still a juvenile.  But it’s already unusually bigger than the common reef fish I see.

Behavior of Goliath Grouper

I brought with me my automatic Nikon camera encased in a plastic casing to make it water-resistant as taking pictures is a pleasure for me each time I travel. I grabbed the camera hanging by a tough nylon string around my wrist, and took a video of the Goliath grouper following my buddy. Midway the video, a grouper swam by my side then approached me with another one. You can see it below:

How big can Goliath groupers get? The ones above are just juveniles or young ones that could grow to as long as six feet. And they could weigh more than 300 kilograms! The one I saw was about two feet long.

Despite the huge size of the Goliath grouper, they seem to be docile fishes although there are reports that they do attack humans. I saw one video that says so but analyzing the situation, I thought the reason was mainly to feed, not really to attack. Here’s the video of that alleged Goliath grouper attack:

Do you agree with my observation? The moving fins attracted the grouper thinking probably that it was its prey and snapped on it. The prey was the speared fish, not the SCUBA diver who is holding the spear with the fish. It is also possible that the Goliath grouper thought the man as its competitor thus snapped on the competitor’s “tail” and swam away with its booty.

What is the life cycle of the Goliath grouper?

Goliath groupers rely on the protection of the mangrove forests because after their eggs hatch, they settle in the mangrove litter and roots. Thus, the mangroves are crucial in their survival because mangroves serve as microhabitats that prevent predators from eating the very young juveniles. When the juveniles are older, they migrate to the coral reefs and stay there for more than 40 years. When they are old enough to reproduce, the Goliath groupers migrate and spawn into the deeper water column, fertilize the eggs which then are carried by the current, hatch then drift in the currents for 30 to 80 days (Fig. 1).

Goliath grouper
Fig. 1. Life cycle of the Goliath grouper (Illustration by Jane Hawkey, IAN Image Library (ian.umces.edu/imagelibrary/)

The cycle shows that everything is connected to everything else. If something disastrous like oil spill that kills the larvae of fish like the Goliath grouper or makes the mangroves unfit for habitat to fish, then there will be lesser fish available for people to see and enjoy (if they are SCUBA diving or snorkeling tourists) and consume. I wouldn’t have seen the Goliath grouper at all.

The nearshore environment is a fragile one that should be protected or conserved considering the highly complex life that intertwine in mangrove ecosystems. The Goliath grouper is only one of the rich diversity of life that support man.

©2014 November 26 Patrick Regoniel

Malthusians vs. Cornucopians: A Viewpoint on Population Growth

The prospects of human population growth may be viewed using two perspectives: the Malthusian and the Cornucopian. The latter views the growth positively; they believe that the larger the population, the better. On the other hand, if it is viewed negatively, this now take on the Malthusian viewpoint where the growth is associated with problems.

The Malthusian Point of View

This principle was named after Thomas Malthus. He believes that once a population increases, more resources are needed to support the growing demand of people. The food becomes insufficient since production could not keep up with the needs of an increased number of people.

Uncontrolled population is a major reason that causes environmental degradation. The theory looked unto resource depletion; degradation of soil, mineral and fuel; famine, crimes, and wars as a result of increased competition in availing of scarce natural resources.

However, the predicted scenarios through time under this theory have some contradictions with the existing population data. Thus, a new thought arose that explains the economic development despite of population growth. Thus, the Cornucopian’s principle started to develop.

Contrary to Malthus’ expectations, the scholars believe that population increase is neither a problem nor harmful to human life. Indeed, it leads to a more developed economy for there is greater number of people who can think and make new inventions.

The Cornucopian’s Principle

The continuous development of technologies from different areas worldwide and the application thereof is the main foundation of this principle. The Cornucopians believe that advances in technologies can give and sustain the needs of the society. The rapid increase in population is positively viewed: more population produces more ideas. Through these, a lot of high technologies and new inventions of systems and devices are carried in to address the problems with increasing human demands as well as improve life. In addition, this view believes that there are enough sources of matter and energy on the earth to cater the rising number of population around the world. So, an increase in food consumption is not an issue.

People become experts and specialized in their fields of interest thus are able to respond efficiently and effectively in the arising problems of society. For instance, advanced technologies in food production helps a lot since more food are produced using new systems.

The Current Reality: Growing Population Affects the Environment Negatively

Many inventions, technologies and new systems are continuously booming. Yes, these help the human beings to cope with the arising human problems. So, the Cornucopians’ thinking has a point.

On the other hand, the Malthusian perspective appears more reliable for we observe that increasing global population lead to increased use of natural resources to meet the growing economic demand. This results to environmental degradation as predicted by Malthus.

We have limited resources. Scarcity on food resources becomes common in many developing countries like Africa and Asia. The report of Food and Agriculture Organization, referred to as the 2013 Global Hunger Index (GHI) from 2008-2012, shows that the global hunger situation has improved since 1990. However, despite the progress made, the level of hunger in the world remains serious in which 870 million people still experience hunger (IFPRI, 2013).

Manila at nightime
Manila at night (©2014 P. Regoniel)

The pollution emitted from  production and consumption of natural resources regardless of technological advantages has negative impacts on the ecological aspects of environment especially on the health of human beings. In addition, due to anthropogenic activities, the climatic condition on a global scale is also affected.

Mobility of people affects the ecological condition of the environment. Encroachments of many lands in rural areas for expansion as identified for commercial establishments and different businesses happen. Settlers, then, in these occupied areas move to higher zones or transfer to other places. Environmental degradation, especially in the forested areas, then happens due to the disturbances brought by new settlers (Grimm et al., 2008; Fragkias et al., 2012).

How’s My City?

Population growth is also observed in the City of Puerto Princesa. The total inhabitants of the City in late 1870s was only 573 while the recorded population in year 2010 based on the latest census of the National Statistics Coordinating Board (2010) was 222,673; an increase of 38,760.91% was observed.

During early 1970s to 1990s, the City has 24 urban and 42 rural barangays. However, the classified urban villages around year 1998 until now increased to 35 barangays, while the classified rural regions decreased to 31 barangays.

Since not all families can afford to have their houses in designated areas of the government, some opted to settle in nearby coastal areas that resulted to squatting. Based from the conducted surveys of informal settlers by the city government during 1993 to 2005, there was a total of 5,326 households in 21 coastal areas of the City and 4,999 from various areas.

In order to solve the problem in housing and squatting, the local government launched a City Housing Program in 1993. One of the identified resettlement sites was Barangay Sicsican (CPDO, 2007).

The traffic situation is worsening in urban areas of the City along Rizal Avenue, Malvar Street and within the National Highway of Barangay San Miguel and San Pedro (CPDO, 2007). In year 1985, the Bureau of Land Transportation, Puerto Princesa Branch (1992) registered a total of 2,989 vehicles generally composed of motorcycles and tricycles. There was an increase of about 1,241.39% or 37,105 in year 2012 (40,094 registered vehicles) from year 1992.

Those are just some of the evidences that the Malthusian Theory may be the right after all.

References:

City Planning and Development Office (2007). Socio-economic and physical profile. Puerto Princesa City. Philippines.

Fragkias, M., et al. (2012) Typologies of urbanization projections, effects on land use, biodiversity and ecosystem services. Chapter 7, p. 30-41.

Grimm, N. B., et al. (2008) The changing landscape: ecosystem responses to urbanization and pollution across climatic and societal gradients. 6(5) p. 264–272. Available: www.frontiersinecology.org

International Food Policy Research Institute (2013). Global Hunger Index. The challenge of hunger: building resilience to achieve food and nutrition security. Available: http://www.ifpri.org/sites/default/files/publications/ghi13.pdf. Retrieved on 8 September 2014.

Land Transportation Office-Puerto Princesa City Branch (LTO-PPC)(2012). Number of registered vehicles (2001-2012). Puerto Princesa City. Philippines.