Category Archives: Environmental Issues

Contemporary issues about the environment.

Cultural Diffusionism: Makeshift Mini-Hydro by the Indigenous People of Sitio Bohoy

Technology can reach remote places and change the way of life of indigenous peoples. Here is an example of cultural diffusionism and acculturation in Sitio Bohoy, a remote place where once G-string clad Pala’wans reside.

I never expected to see a trace of technological innovation in a very isolated place like Sitio Bohoy in the far-south of Palawan Island in the Philippines two years back. More so aware of the fact that those who employ such technology belong to the indigenous people, the Pala’wans, who were once wearing G-strings the last time I recalled seeing them.

How the Mini-Hydro Came to Be

Boyet, a member of the Pala’wan tribe, came up with his own version of the mini-hydroelectric power station to provide electrical power to 15 houses in his community. Together with his friends, he built a dam in a nearby stream made of indigenous materials plus junks he could lay his hands on from the materials recovery facility of a nearby mining company.

The makeshift mini-hydro dam pooled water and produces power when water is released through 6-inch corrugated PVC pipes at the main source, then smaller pipes downstream to increase water pressure. This series of big and small pipes are joined together by rubber strips, probably from worn-out rubber tires of vehicles. A two-inch GI pipe at the end of the pipeline hits the home made turbine attached to a generator that consequently produces electricity at the onset of darknesss until 10 pm. Occasionally, along the length of the pipeline, holes with small hoses inserted in it supply water in the adjoining farms.

makeshift dam
A dam made of sacks, sticks, poles, gravel and sand and reused materials from the junkyard of a mining company in Sitio Bohoy.

Is the mini-hydro an original invention? Of course not, but it arose through simple diffusion of technology.

When our group asked him how we was able to conceptualize the mini-hydro, he simply said “I saw it on TV.” His large television set, presumably one of those cheap, surplus televisions from Japan, once gets its power from a 12-volt truck battery. Now, the electricity generated by the mini-hydro powers the television including a karaoke. This turned the once quiet nights of the community into nights of singing and merrymaking.

Cultural Diffusionism and Acculturation

What struck me upon seeing the makeshift mini-hydro is the influence this technology can impose on the culture of the indigenous tribe – the Pala’wan. Technology diffused to this community through the television gradually worked its way into their way of life, changing their once unique heritage of cultural mores and beliefs.  This is a classic example of cultural diffusionism, defined by Titiev (1958:446) as the spread of a cultural item from its place of origin to other places.

I bring up this issue remembering the discussion I had with an anthropologist during one of the training I attended two years ago. She said that she would like to study the indigenous tribes of Palawan. But I said, those indigenous groups no longer exist, knowing that many of them intermarried with immigrants and citing this particular story.

The Pala’wans have already been acculturated. Theirs is a polluted culture. Wouldn’t you agree?

Reference:

Titiev, M. (1958). Introduction to Cultural Anthropology. New York: Henry Holt and Co.

© 2013 July 6 P. A. Regoniel

Household Adaptation to Climate Change in the Philippines

How do marginalized people living in vulnerable coastal communities adapt to the effects of climate change such as sea level rise? What is an example of this adaptation at the household level? The following article describes one of these interesting adaptations and its implications.

One of the interesting aspects of research is discovering something new. Although a phenomenon has been there for a long time, it becomes a relevant point of interest once its occurrence is viewed more keenly and becomes a subject of discussion.

Take for instance the cross-country research our group conducted last year in the coastal areas of the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam to document the effects of climate change. One of those inquired in the investigation looked into the adaptation of marginalized fisherfolks to the hazards brought about by typhoon/flooding, coastal erosion and saltwater intrusion.

What I found interesting in this climate change study are the unique ways by which marginalized people try to cope up with changes in their environment. In this particular case that we studied, the fisherfolks’ adaptation to the erosive effects of waves in the gradually advancing seawater was investigated.

We visited three communities (locally called barangays) to find out if there are any signs of initiatives to mitigate the effects of sea level rise. There, indeed, are several interesting adaptations made by fishermen in the tropical regions such as the Philippines. I relate one below.

Household Adaptation to Sea Level Rise

Below is a picture of a household adaptation in response to rising sea levels that erodes the thin strip of land a few hundred meters wide. A series of temporary and permanent houses dot this habitable portion that lies between the sea and the concrete highway running along the irregular coastline.

adaptation to sea level rise
A makeshift structure built of logs, bamboo slats, stones and sand in Binduyan, Puerto Princesa as household adaptation to mitigate the erosive impact of advancing seawater.

I noticed this ingenious way to keep soil from eroding in the beach of Binduyan, a coastal community lying east of Puerto Princesa in the island of Palawan in the Philippines. It may be a common sight to the uninitiated, but to someone who does research this means a lot.

What were the costs involved?

If you will imagine the time, money (although these materials may have been sourced around) and effort devoted by the person to construct this structure, you will be able to appreciate the significance of this adaptation to the life of the builder. Since we are after economic analysis of household adaptations like this, questions like the following arise in my mind:

  • How many people were involved in constructing the makeshift seawall?
  • How much time did it take them to build such structure?
  • What opportunities did they lose as a consequence of working on the structure (see opportunity cost to understand how important this concept is)?
  • What benefits were gained?
  • Did the benefits justify the cost of construction or was it just a waste of time?

Why would this family go to lengths in constructing this makeshift structure made of local materials? It’s unfortunate nobody was there to ask when we passed through as we walked the beach and note down observations. The owners were out somewhere, probably fishing. But these questions helped us design our questionnaire as this visit was part of our scoping activity.

We measured the height of the whole structure. It is 1.2 meters in height! Did seawater rise that high? How many years did it take to reach that level? What is the distance of the water’s edge at high tide from this house since people living in the area took notice of the rising waters?

Questions Lead to Discovery and Informed Actions

Many questions arise as a result of this simple observation. And these questions will propel you to undertake research focused on your specific concern to contribute to the body of knowledge. That, of course, requires publishing your work for others to learn from. Research findings mean nothing if left unpublished.

You may download and read the results of the study I mentioned above from the WorldFish website. It is titled “Economic Analysis of Climate Change Adaptation Strategies in Selected Coastal Areas in Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam.” It is hoped that the findings of this research will aid policy makers in coming up with actions to mitigate the effects of climate change thus reduce costly damage to vulnerable coastal communities.

© 2013 June 30 P. A. Regoniel

Malthusians vs Cornucopians: A Contemporary Perspective on Population Growth

Human population growth can be seen either positively or negatively. If you view population growth positively, then you adopt the Cornucopian viewpoint while if you view population growth negatively and associate this growth with problems, then you essentially adopt the Malthusian perspective. Read further to find out who’s the winner in the population growth debate.

There are two major schools of thought about the increase in global human population. One perspective on population increase adopts a pessimistic viewpoint whereas the other views population increase in an optimistic manner. These are the Malthusians and the Cornucopians, respectively.

What the Malthusians Believe

The Malthusians are adherents of Thomas Malthus, an influential British scholar who popularized the pessimistic view of population increase. This viewpoint assumes that more population means more mouths to feed, thus more resources to support that need. The food required to fill this need will not be enough as food production could not keep pace with population increase. This belief is now popularly known as the Malthusian Theory.

Uncontrolled population growth inexorably results in environmental destruction. The ultimate scenario of the Malthusian theory would be wars, famine, resource depletion, among others as a result of competition for dwindling natural resources.

The Malthusian theory was popular and persisted through time but the doomsday scenario predicted by the theory did not materialize since the worldwide population grew by leaps and bounds. This position seems laden with flaws as data on the population-resources relation have shown outcomes that are contrary to expectations. As a result, new schools of thought arose that try to explain the trend of development despite continued and exponential human population growth (see how the population grew from 1CE to the present 7 billion people in less than six minutes).

One among the group of scholars who advanced their argument contrary to Malthus’ expectations believed that population growth need not be detrimental to the quality of human life. In fact, a greater number of people can even lead to positive results. This latter group of scholars is called the Cornucopians.

What the Cornucopians Believe

The Cornucopians are those who believe that advances in technology can take care of society’s needs. An increase in population is viewed positively because with more population comes more brains to generate ideas. These ideas generate technology in the form of modern gadgets, procedures, systems, among others that help address the problems associated with human sustenance and improve people’s quality of life.

People became more specialized in their work thus become more efficient and more able to respond to problems that arise in human affairs. Food production increased greatly as a result of modern, more efficient food production systems. Despite increased per capita consumption, virtually enough could be produced from the bounties of the earth.

There is so much reliance on technology as the human population grows. It seems that this reliance on the technological solution is effective in counteracting the predicted negative externalities (to understand what is an externality read my post titled The Mango Grower and the Beekeeper) of geometric population growth predicted by advocates of the Malthusian theory.

The Current Situation: Negative Consequences of Population Growth Persists

While the Cornucopians may be right as technology appears to keep pace with human problems, there are also instances where the Malthusian perspective may be much more acceptable. Unabated extraction of natural resources to meet the demand of the growing economies of the world appears to approach the dangers predicted by Malthus.

The unrest in many parts of the world, especially among developing nations, manifest the negative consequences of increased population growth. The scarcity of food resources hounds many nations in Asia and Africa. Despite the technological advances in developed nations, the negative impacts of pollution persist and threaten human health.

On a global scale, human economic activities apparently cause climate change due to a continually increasing population that requires extraction of more resources that get processed and disposed into the environment in the form of pollution.

The Malthusian Theory may be right after all.

© 2012 December 3 P. A. Regoniel

Cite this article as: Regoniel, Patrick A. (December 3, 2012). Malthusians vs Cornucopians: A Contemporary Perspective on Population Growth. In SimplyEducate.Me. Retrieved from http://simplyeducate.me/2012/12/03/malthusians-vs-cornucopians-a-contemporary-perspective-on-population-growth/

5 Examples of Psychology Research Topics Related to Climate Change

Are you a psychology student pondering what research topics to pursue in the course of conceptualizing your thesis proposal? This article is tailored right for your needs. You may explore the 5 research topics presented below and come up with your relevant psychology-based research topic on climate change. Specific research questions are offered for your guidance.

I was prompted to write this article because a colleague asked me how her undergraduate psychology students should conduct their study in relation to the key result areas which the university is aligning its research programs, projects and activities. More specifically, she asked what topics could be explored by psychology students in relation to say, climate change adaptation as one of the key result areas.

I initially gave several ideas that students can pursue during the lecture but these ideas still appear to be too general. Or maybe I have not put the topic in clear perspective.

I, therefore, came up with the following specific research topics based on the initial list of topics I enumerated during a brief research orientation lecture with a group of undergraduate students and several College of Arts and Humanities faculty members. The students are currently conceptualizing their research proposal in compliance with the thesis requirement for graduation.

The 5 examples on psychology research topics related to climate change are products of my online search as well as my research experience on environmental research and knowledge gained during my training in the graduate school. Specifically, the following research topics are psychology research topics related to climate change that students can explore.

Of course, they need to do a literature review first to find out which topics and what particular issues were already explored.

Psychology Research Topics Related to Climate Change

I drew out the following ideas mainly from the topics identified by the  American Psychological Association. I rephrased the topics presented in that site to avoid duplication of words as I am conscious of plagiarism understanding that articles written using similar words will impact on the quality of articles written online. I also wrote these questions in such a way that it can be done under local conditions, i.e., relevant to the thrusts and priorities of universities in the tropical regions. But these can likewise be done in temperate countries.

1. How can well-designed environment-directed messages increase people’s behavior that are beneficial to the environment?

recyclingExamples of environment-beneficial behavior will be the three R’s of recycling, reduction, and reuse of materials. I remembered that I wrote an article about an indigenous person who reused otherwise unusable materials from a nearby mining company to build a mini-hydro power plant in a remote place in Bataraza. See how Boyet, the Tagbanua, made use of materials in a materials recycling facility here.

2. Is there a relationship between climate change evidences like sea level rise, warming temperatures, and changing agricultural production to the quality of life of the members of the community?

It would be great to know the relationship of the continuing fluctuations of the weather to people’s quality of life. Will these events be beneficial or detrimental in the long term? Many studies can arise from this simple question alone.

The results of this study will enhance the quality of policy makers’ decisions on those government initiatives that impact on people’s lives. This also streamlines their interest and attention to deal with relevant steps to address the negative effects of climate change.

3. What prevents people from complying with the most efficient and effective policies of government?

It will be interesting to know how people make decisions, whether to follow or not follow the rules and regulations, the ordinances, and the laws that pertain to climate change. What keeps people from complying to these policies and what encourages them to follow voluntarily or willingly?

This is an issue I already discussed in my previous post on research topics about climate change and governance. You may read the article here.

The decision making scenario can actually be represented in a model which will help predict people’s compliance to policies of government. Policy makers will then have a better view of his constituency’s sentiments. This is what people call science-based policy making.

4. Why is there a general concern about nature? What are the reasons behind such interest in conserving or protecting the environment? What can be gained from the environmental programs, projects and activities?

Surely, everybody knows some of the answers. But which of these answers are the foremost reasons why people try to keep the environment intact or at the very least minimize exploitation? You may get exciting answers to the questions posed above.

5. How does climate change as evidenced by unpredictable weather events affect people?

I remembered the disastrous flooding events in Marikina in Manila in 2009 and Iloilo City in the Western Visayas due to Typhoon Frank. The residents of Marikina as well as Iloilo never expected the flooding to occur for so many years. This caused a lot of damages to property and even loss of life.

How do you think those people affected feel? What are in their minds on those times when life-threatening disasters strike? Should they have survived had they been prepared for such unpredictable event? Being prepared matters a lot.

At this point, I do hope that with these research topics more ideas will pop out of your head. You can draw out and remember theories from the lectures given you by your teachers on human psychology that will serve as your theoretical framework as you embark to write down your conceptual framework. If you do not know yet the difference between these two concepts, read my article on the difference between the theoretical and the conceptual framework here.

© 2012 November 19 P. A. Regoniel