Category Archives: Environment

Posts about the environment.

Intangible Things as Institutions Towards Attaining Environmental Sustainability

How can people’s beliefs help keep the environment from destruction? Is there a relationship between intangible things and environmental sustainability? This article shows how indigenous people’s thoughts, beliefs or cultures contribute to environmental sustainability.

The environment is defined as the totality of tangible and intangible things that surround us. Those things that can normally perceive by our five senses are considered as tangible things while things like norms, values, beliefs, culture and traditions are some of the intangible things that greatly influence one’s behavior.

The Pala’wan, an indigenous group of people once living in the hinterlands of Palawan Island in the Philippines, are usually known for these things. They have lots of beliefs and practices that they kept for thousands of years as part of their culture. These beliefs and practices are linked with the environment. Thus, they managed the natural resources effectively.  Their ways are  compatible with the environment as they adopt simple living (Docto, 2008).

The Pala’wan‘s cultural identities, social and spiritual relationships are deeply originated in their area and they believe that the environment is governed by gods and goddesses. In this way, they contribute to the conservation and protection of the environment for they respect their sacred resources (Tauli-Corpuz et al., 2010).

Fear of Owls and Night Herons

The Pala’wans are afraid of birds such as owls and night herons, locally known as “gukgok” and “tikwara,” respectively.

What really are the beliefs of the Pala’wans about these species? What causes them to cringe with terror as they hear the sound of these birds?

Let us take a deeper look on these unfounded fear among the indigenous peoples (IPs).

Do not Touch, Catch nor Even Mimic the Calls! You Better Hide Instead!

Through an interview with my dad, I’ve found that the Pala’wans who generally live in the remote areas of southern Palawan, particularly in Quezon and Rizal, harbor the fear of the Rufous Night-heron and the Palawan Scops-owl.

They should not touch, catch or even mimic the calls of these birds, particularly the owl, for they will suffer once they do. They should hide whenever they hear these creatures.

Although my dad is a Pala’wan, and of course I’m a Pala’wan too, we do not subscribe to this belief. However, the IPs in Quezon and Rizal still adhere to this belief; and I know that these beliefs helped conserve the natural resources of the place.

What is the Belief about the Rufous Night-Heron (Nycticorax caledonicus)?
Night Heron
Night heron. Picture modified from Frank Schulenberg@Flickr.com (cc)

The rufous night-heron, locally known as “tikwara,” is believed to be owned or is a pet of an unseen person. Anyone who dares touch, catch or even imitate the sound that this bird makes will get sick, and even die as a result.

A curse befalls a person if he violates this rule. To be relieved of this curse, he needs to consult an albularyo (a local medicine man) to humbly ask for forgiveness. He goes through a series of rituals; and this is the only remedy to stop the evil consequences.

18 Species of Insects from a Ceiling Lamp

This article demonstrates how deviating from a dull routine can lead one towards discovery. Find out how a little shift in one’s behavior can produce unusual information.

One night, I noticed that the ceiling lamp over our dining table got dimmer than usual. When I looked up, I saw that the central part of the lamp had a dark shade of dirt that blocked the light from going through the glass cover. Ah, the pesky insects once again got trapped on the concave part of the round plate of glass.

I got an aluminum ladder and carefully removed the rounded nut of one of the three bolts that pinned the glass covering metal holder. When I held down the glass, the following mass of winged insects attracted by the light at night greeted me.

insects
A mass of insect remains inside the glass cover of the ceiling lamp.

Instinctively, I walked towards the door to get rid of the “dirt” and clean the glass covering. On second thought, however, I paused and contemplated if I can make out something out of this mass of apparently insignificant stuff.

I went out the other door towards the porch and laid the chaotic array of broken wings. As I did so, distinct shapes and sizes of insects came into focus as I ran my fingers through it.

The picture below shows the 18 species of winged insects that I discovered from the messy collection.

insects
Species of insects sorted out from a mass of insect parts taken from the ceiling lamp.

The pile of material consisted of wasps, moths, winged termites and ants, moth, beetles, flies, plant bugs, among others. All of the identifiable stuff are insects except no. 17 which is a shed lizard skin. This indicates that lizards fed on most of the insects attracted by the light as they get trapped inside the glass cover.

Reflections from the Discovery

As we always try to find meaning to what we observe, I posed a question in my mind on the relevance of the things I’ve found. Are the things I’ve found of any value at all?

While this discovery may not be a ground breaking one, I believe that I have supplied information found nowhere else in print or online. This information may be of special significance to an entomologist.

From what I could make out from this discovery, the collection of insects in the glass covering of the ceiling lamp represents the diversity of living organisms next to our place lying next to forested lots. These insects live and die in the often inundated “bangkal” (Nauclea orientalis) forest once marked by termite mounds. These insects compose the forest ecosystem as intermediaries of nutrient cycling. They are agents that transport nutrients all over the place. Without insects, nutrients remain in the soil and will not be made available in the chain of predator and prey interactions. And these interactions influence human life (see the mango weevil story).

How significant are these insects to me? Well, they took my attention that made me climb a ladder, took pictures, and clean the glass cover of the ceiling lamp when I should have been out somewhere. It has sparked a chain of events that changed my usual routine and made online presence through this musing. And I gained enjoyment from my writing activity.

This is an exercise of being unconventional in one’s thinking. I broke a simple routine of just cleaning the “dirt” from the ceiling lamp. Being unconventional leads to discovery.

© 2014 September 21 P. A. Regoniel

Balabac Mousedeer: Is it a Mouse or a Deer?

Have you heard about or seen the Balabac mouse deer lately? How does it look like? Is it really a mouse or a deer? For those who are not familiar with this unique species of animal, this article is for you. Read on to find out answers to these questions.

In one of the remote islands of the Philippines, there exists an animal called pilandok or the Palawan mouse deer. Pilandok looks like a deer, but its small size at birth approximates that of a mouse. This may be the reason people call it a mouse deer. When mature, however, it’s way too large to be called a mouse. It can grow to 50 cm from the head to the base of the tail, five times bigger than the biggest mouse.

The term “mouse deer” is a misnomer because, in reality, this mammal belongs to the Chevrotain family. In French, chevrotain literally means “little goat.” Thus, it is neither a mouse nor a deer although the latter gains more semblance.

Judge by yourself where this animal should be classified by the way it looks below.

mouse deer
A mouse deer in captivity shown with its food, a fig species locally called tubog. The owner said the animal was captured while browsing for food near the coast. Photo © 2014 P. A. Regoniel

Do you agree that it looks more like a goat than a deer? Or would you rather call it a mouse?

Notice that the pupil of eye of the mouse deer is oriented horizontally. This feature characterizes goats, hence, confirming the observation that it should not be classified as a deer but to another family, i.e., the Chevrotain. This eye orientation indicates that the animal is active at night.

The mouse deer in the picture was captured way back in 2006 in Balabac Island. Allegedly, a group of locals cornered the confused mouse deer while trying to find food along the seashore amidst large stands of the firefly mangrove, Sonneratia alba. Its favorite food is a species of fig called tubog shown in the picture above.

The animal was difficult to find even while some people say it is commonly encountered along the road. In fact, the  International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies the Palawan mouse deer as an endangered species. Being endemic to islands of Balabac, Bugsuk and Ramos Islands at the southwest part of Palawan Island (see map below), its remaining population is threatened by encroachment to its habitat as well as human consumption of its delicious meat.

mouse deer distribution
Population distribution range of the Balabac mouse deer in the Province of Palawan.

Another threat is that nobody has done a population study yet as far as I am concerned. Nobody exactly know how many of these animals are still in the wild. Further, according to IUCN, research is needed on its habitat requirements, threats and conservation needs.

A comforting fact is that the mouse deer are r-strategists, meaning, they reproduce fast once allowed to do so. By the time I get back to Balabac Island again, I hope to see more of them and take better pictures and videos.

Do you have additional information you want to share about the Balabac mouse deer? Write me and I’ll feature your contribution.

Reference

Oliver, W., Matillano, J. & Widmann, P. 2008. Tragulus nigricans. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. . Downloaded on 10 September 2014.

© 2014 September 10 P. A. Regoniel

Three Simple Facts About Jellyfishes

How long does it take for the jellyfish to stay alive out of sea water? Do jellyfishes melt in the rain? What ecological role do jellyfishes play in the marine ecosystem? These are three questions answered in this article. Read on to find out.

The trip to Kitu-Kito, a tourist destination north of Puerto Princesa, on board a raft made of large PVC tubings, appeared to be uneventful until tiny blobs of jellyfishes of different sizes gained our group’s attention. While a scourge to swimmers, the jellyfishes became a subject of photographic interest for me.

Various sizes of jellyfishes bob out of the water, from 5-inch diameter ones with venomous tentacles to the cute, half-inch juveniles. Here are two of them:

jelly fishes
Two jellyfishes swim about in the food container filled with water.

How Long Can Jellyfishes Stay Out of the Water?

Taken by curiosity and instinctively, our boatman caught one of the jellyfishes and placed it on the front edge of the raft. The transparent jellyfish helplessly throbbed just like a heart on the wooden surface indicating that it is alive. Its gelatinous bell (its head) looks edible.

The taste of nata de coco flashed in my mind. I had that urge to slice and eat the chewy head.

I wonder if it tastes like nata de coco? Are jellyfishes edible? The boatman said, “Yes, it is.”

The jellyfish, in fact, is a delectable delicacy in Asia. These are dried, preserved and shipped to restaurants in Japan, China, and Thailand. But I never had the chance to taste it and will not venture to do so unless everybody is eating it.

jellyfish with tentacles
The jellyfish looks like nata de coco, a chewy, translucent, jelly like foodstuff produced by the fermentation of coconut water.

“How long can jellyfishes survive out of the water?” asked one of my friends. Being a biologist, and, not knowing exactly how long it will take for these animals to stay out of the water, I retorted, “Let’s use a timer to find out.” And so we did.

Glancing once in a while and observing the jellyfish for its tell-tale throb of life somewhere in the middle of its body, we waited until no discernible movement to indicate life is evident. After a while and looking at my watch’s timer, I blurted out to the group: “48 minutes.”

Now we learned that jellyfishes could survive that long out of sea water. If it does not return within that period to the deeper parts of the sea during the rush of sea water towards low tide levels, then it gets isolated and fried under the sun or get dehydrated. Thus, it somehow distributes nutrients along the coastline as it becomes a part of the beach ecosystem food chain.

Do Jellyfishes Melt in the Rain?

Another question sprang up. “Is it true that jellyfishes melt when out of the water and exposed to the rain?”

Honestly, I could not think of a good reason why jellyfishes will melt in the rain. They’re not ice cream or made of ice. I have heard this wrong notion on many occasions. And so I simply said, “I don’t think so,” explaining a bit about the composition of animal tissue.

As if to confirm my point, by sheer coincidence, it rained that afternoon despite the generally fair weather in the morning. The raft shook with every gust of wind that pass our way and alarmed almost everyone. I have been through this situation many times in the field and I feel confident that the wind will settle in a few moments.

The raindrops fell on the jellyfish, washing it through and through. The jellyfish, of course, did not melt. It’s still there.

3. Ecological Value of Jellyfishes

Jellyfishes form part of the marine food chain. They prey mainly on the zooplankton. In turn, they are favorite diets of sea turtles. Thus, they help stabilize the marine ecosystem.

Transparent plastics thrown into sea water sometimes get mistaken for jellyfishes. This is the reason many sea turtles die as plastics block their gut and keep them full when, in reality, they are without food in their stomachs.

© 2014 September 8 P. A. Regoniel

Unconventional Solution to Water Scarcity in the Small Islands

Water scarcity in the small islands is a paramount problem that recurs yearly. Climate change appears to make this worse as rains no longer provide enough to replenish groundwater sources. Is there a technological solution to this problem? This article explores the issue in the light of personal experience.

One of the pressing issues of today’s modern world is the depletion of natural freshwater sources. This problem is especially true in small islands where people settled and gradually depleted the water reserves as the island’s population increases due to both in-migration and natural reproduction.

Water scarcity occurs when the carrying capacity, that is when water consumption exceeds the island’s capacity to replenish its store of water. Unless people living in the islands are well aware of this possibility, exceeding the island’s capacity to regenerate its freshwater sources is the eminent, expected result of too many people living in the island.

Solution to Water Scarcity in the Small Islands

A few days ago, this issue has come into play as I was one of those requested by a local government institution tasked to ensure sustainable development in the province. Together with stakeholders from island municipalities, we discussed the environmental concerns of people living in the islands. I was part of the sociocultural sector group that deliberated threats to resource sustainability in the islands.

One of the major concerns of the island communities is the lack of water particularly on those days when rains that replenish the groundwater sources are not available. Some of the people have adapted to this condition by designing structures to catch rain water and store these for use during the dry months.

alone in the island
Beneath the small island is a rich diversity of marine life, human artifacts, among others.

This approach seems to go well, but people complaining about water scarcity means that the issue still bogs them. For those who cannot afford to build large structures to keep them sufficiently supplied with freshwater, this is a real problem; except on those cases where an enterprising member of the population undertakes an unconventional solution that trickle down to the public. I describe this simple but working solution below.

Piped Fresh Water from Abundant Water Sources

Several months back, while searching for a place where our research team can take a bath in Bulawit, one of several islands in northern Palawan, I met an ice-manufacturing businessman. He has a considerable stock of freshwater in large tanks in his house despite the difficulty that other communities in the other islands experience.

We inquired a little about this maverick in the midst of freshwater scarcity, and we discovered that he figured out a simple solution to the perennial freshwater problem many people in the community encountered.

woman fills up container
A woman fills up a container with freshwater in Bulawit or New Colaylayan.

With an air of confidence, he explained to us that a few years back, he looked for a good source of freshwater in the adjoining islands and laid down PVC pipes underwater from that place to his house funding everything by himself!

He made a good business out of it. He supplied the freshwater needs of other people in the community for a small fee. He converted a problem into an opportunity. No wonder he’s the richest man in the island.

Is the Businessman’s Solution a Sustainable One?

If the businessman continues to run his water business for some time, chances are, the source of freshwater will get depleted as more people avail of piped water he draws out from the other island assuming natural increase in island population through time. However, if better technology becomes available before the water carrying capacity of the island is exceeded, such as the discovery of a low-cost desalination system or efficient water recycling system, freshwater availability should not be a problem.

Alternatively, natural, long-term remedies such as reforestation or watershed enhancement will help slow down water runoff and help increase the groundwater storage. Without these measures in place, situations such as that in Nangalao Island, will continue to persist.

If all else fails, the only long-term solution is for the people to leave the small islands and live in large islands or continents where freshwater abound.

© 2014 September 6 P. A. Regoniel

Solution to World Hunger: Eat the r Strategists

How can world hunger be resolved? The answer: through eating the r strategists! What are r-strategists and how can these animals help relieve pressure on animal populations that traditionally serve as human food? This article explores the possibility of consuming alternative food sources. 

The increasing demand for food of 7.2 billion people in the world puts pressure on conventional food sources. Thus, there is a need to explore alternative food sources. Scientists recommend the consumption of animals called r-strategists.

What are r strategists?

The so-called r-strategists are animals that reproduce so fast that chances for their populations to get depleted is much lower compared to other animals. These animals can live in unstable environments, meaning, situations and conditions where animal populations are under threat. The adaptive evolution is to have so many of their own kind. Thus saith the r/K theory that became popular in the 1970s.

For better understanding, let me define the r and the K in the r/K theory.

The r/K Theory

The r in the theory refers or comes from the word “rate.” This word reminds us to think about the rate of reproduction by which animals of this group propagate. These animals rapidly reproduce to compensate for their small size which easily become prey to other animals in the higher echelon of the food chain. And each of the offspring get less or no parental care. They can also easily adjust to environments that fluctuate. This adaptation strategy increases their chance to survive as a species.

aphids and ants
Ants and aphids are r-strategists because they rapidly reproduce and are small. These two organisms exhibit mutualism: the aphids provide the sugary honeydew they obtain from the guava to the ants while the ants provide them protection from their predators like the ladybugs (see an interesting ant defense here: http://www.pbase.com/antjes/lady_bug)

Meanwhile, the K in the theory refers to “carrying capacity.” In contrast to the r-strategists, animals that belong to this category undertake controls to their population by remaining close to the carrying capacity of their habitat. They adopt efficiency in resource use to maintain sustenance or adequate resources for each of the individuals in the face of scarce resources.

The carrying capacity of the habitat must not be exceeded to ensure the survival of these species. Thus, the K-strategists reproduce slowly, nurture their young, have larger bodies, and smaller in number compared to the r-strategists. These animals lie belong to the higher rung of the food chain, serving as “pools of nutrients” that can live in a stable habitat for a long time.

binturong
The bearcat Arctictis binturong is a K-strategist because gestation takes about 90 days and the average number of offspring per year is only two.

While recent theories like the Life History Theory supplanted the r/K theory, the terms r– and K-strategists are still used by scientists as this theory appears to be a necessary step in the study of animal adaptation to their environment. If you try to apply this theory by looking at the way animals propagate, it just makes sense. Small animals tend to produce more of their kind while the large animals reproduce slowly.

There are , however, always exceptions to any rule. For example, the bivalve Icelandic quahog (also known as black clam, Islandic cyprine, or black quahog) can live for more than 400 years! Also, the relatively small fish called orange roughy reproduce only upon reaching 20 years of age. And these fishes are estimated to live 149 years! This is the reason these fishes were not able to easily regain their population when their populations were subjected to intense fishing pressure in New Zealand, Australia and Namibia because of their popularity as food.

r-Strategists as Food?

hen and chicks
A free-ranging mother hen provides protection to its chicks.

Generally, the animals that are found acceptable by society to eat today are essentially K-strategists. These include meat coming from cows, swine, goat, chicken, among others. The last one, however, appears to lean on the r-strategists because of their short life span. Besides, these birds are domesticated and their growth is hastened to serve increasing fast food consumption demands.

We do eat fishes that are mostly r-strategists although we tend to consume too much of the wild populations. Thus, controls towards sustaining the population of these marine organisms are instituted in most countries  with intense fishing efforts.

Other r-strategists that are considered pests because of their great numbers may be considered as general food sources. For example, places like Thailand have exotic foods or foods that are generally regarded bizarre by people from other countries. These include fried crickets, earthworms, scorpions, steamed bugs, cockroaches, ant eggs and all sorts of bugs. These are all r-strategists since they reproduce rapidly but many find unpalatable despite their respectable nutritional value.

These pests are abundant in areas where people suffer malnutrition and lack of food. Is it time that these animals become a normal part of the diet? This may be the solution to world hunger. That is, if hungry people have the guts to fill their stomachs with such wiggly, wriggly and critty creatures.

Anyone ready to eat a crunchy and creamy cockroach?

References

Reznick, D.; Bryant, M. J.; and Bashey, F. ,2002. r-and K-selection revisited: the role of population regulation in life-history evolution. Ecology, 83 (6): 1509–1520. doi:10.1890/0012-9658(2002)083[1509:RAKSRT]2.0.CO;2

Schleif, M. 2013. “Arctictis binturong” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed September 01, 2014 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Arctictis_binturong/

© 2014 September  2 P. A. Regoniel

BioBlitz of a Disturbed Mangrove Ecosystem

Can a three-hour Bioblitz yield useful information? This article highlights the results of a quick trip to a coastal fringe. See what flora and fauna could thrive in a disturbed mangrove ecosystem.

The past two weeks had been quite busy for me as I try to keep up with two graduate and two undergraduate subjects in the university. One of those undergraduate subjects is titled marine methodology.

As an initial step in field exploration, I introduced my students to BioBlitz, a survey method where they have to record all living species within a designated area at a given period of time. The laboratory period for the class is only three hours every Friday so I designated a nearby mangrove area as the site for the activity. I intend to conduct the usual 24-hour duration BioBlitz when we go out in the field in the coming months. At best, it is only a taste of field work.

The Water as Convenient Waste Basket

We walked off at around 7:30 in the morning down to the eastern coastal fringes of the university where a clump of mangroves had grown quite well. I cautioned them to apply OFF lotion to ward off pesky mosquitoes and sandflies common in these forests. They also need to wear old shoes, sneakers or boots to keep their foot safe from shards of glass, nails or similar objects that we might step on. Incidentally, the back portion of some buildings had become dumping grounds for waste materials including bottles, old papers, and assortment of things in the office. I wonder if the administration knows about this undesirable practice.

We negotiated a slippery trail down a steep slope and were greeted by lots of floating waste carried by the waters probably from nearby places. An ordinance prohibits indiscriminate throwing of wastes but then the scene shows something is amiss in people’s attitude. The ordinance seems to work only in visible areas but not in the city’s waters.  I thought I’d spearhead a  coastal clean up and massive information campaign to prevent such build up of waste that lowers the quality of the environment.

floating waste
An assortment of floating waste materials consisting of old slippers, biscuit wrappers, shampoo sachets, instant drink pouches, old toys, sando plastic bags, empty lotion bottles, among others.

With BioBlitz in mind, we proceeded to the shallower regions of the mangrove ecosystem to inventory whatever we could find. It was high tide at 8 o’clock so we have to contend with the limited muddy strip where we could walk without fully submerging our waists. Everyone was mindful that they still have to attend their next class at 10:30 am and had to avoid getting wet all over.

Plant and Animal Species in the Narrow Stretch of Mangrove

Xylocarpus flower
Flower of Xylocarpus granatum.

I lectured on some species of mangroves and their peculiar  characteristics. Notable among these mangroves is Xylocarpus granatum, the monkey puzzle mangrove, easily identified by its pomelo-like fruit and chocolate brown petiole. The other mangrove species we found were the common stilt-rooted Rhizophora spp. , Lumnitzera littoreaAvicennia sp., and Sonneratia sp. We also noted mangrove associates like Nypa fruticans, Heritiera littorea, Excoecaria agallocha, Acrostichum aureum, and Pandanus sp. Just next to these mangroves and their associates are large trees of bangkal (Nauclea orientalis) growing at the slopes.

Below are pictures of macroorganisms found in that narrow stretch of mangrove:

marine macroorganisms
Mangrove macroorganisms (clockwise): beetle, marine cockroach and spider, cricket, mudskipper, sea slater, and sea snail.

I saw a crab but this quickly dipped underwater when I approached it. What was left was an indiscernible picture of the crustacean.

Despite the short duration of our quick survey, we had an actual glimpse of the mangrove ecosystem and its component flora and fauna. The students surely have learned to appreciate the mangrove ecosystem and came up with ideas on how they could unravel more information from what they have personally experienced; that learning and enthusiasm showed up in their field report.

© 2014 July 14 P. A. Regoniel

Turning Ocean Cleanup into a Reality

It is common knowledge that approximately 71% of the earth’s surface is made up of ocean water. Unfortunately, these vastly large bodies of water are also collecting devastating amounts of manmade pollution in the form of debris and plastics.

Over time, circular oceanic currents pull the litter into large floating mounds due to the fact that most of the pollution comes from non-biodegradable materials such as plastic, which does not wear down. Sometimes a trash island is created, such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, that spans hundreds of miles.

Resulting consequences of this ocean pollution include 14 billion pounds of additional marine trash a year, as well as 100,000 mammal deaths and 1 million sea bird deaths per year. If we keep on this path, the future of this planet could be headed for despair.

oceans

Even though cleaning up such drastic amounts of debris and plastics is no easy task, there just might be a new breakthrough that could lead us in the right direction.

The New Solution

A new contraption has been devised that can be thought of as an effective rehab for our oceans. Not only would this plan work to clean up the floating trash, it would also take the plastic materials and recycle them into something useful.

19 year old Boyan Slat from the Netherlands has designed a floating structure that would essentially sweep the marine debris into a metaphorical dust pan. The engineering student and his team are on a mission to raise the $2 million needed to build the contraption, even going as far as developing an in-depth feasibility study to lay everything out in the open.

Simply put, the device would consist of numerous floating “V” arms that would collect and push debris to collection points. Trash could be collected up to 3 meters below the surface, which wouldn’t harm marine animals in the process since they could still pass underneath the contraption.

Estimated analysis by Slat and his team shows that approximately 65 cubic meters of debris would be funneled deeper into the device each day, which could then be collected and extracted every 45 days. Ultimately, the plastics could then be recycled and converted into new products, instead of floating in harmful trash patches in the water.

Will it Work?

Though only time will tell, the ocean cleanup contraption looks extremely promising and could very well be one of the greatest innovations to tackle such a major issue. Not only would the amount of floating trash piles in the oceans be reduced drastically, but also marine animal deaths would be reduced.

Additionally, the extracted plastics being recycled into different products would not only help to offset the costs of the machine, but also promote sustainable practices. In addition to cleaning up the already present trash with Slat’s contraption, governments will also need to be much stricter when it comes to the use and recycling of plastics going forward in order to keep oceanic debris piles at bay.

Even though tiny particles less than 0.1 mm would not be caught with this tool, the larger pieces can be collected before they break down into the smaller, harder to extract particles. Regardless of the downfall regarding these tiny particles, money has already been coming in from crowd funding meaning the ocean cleanup team and their contraption could very well turn their project into a reality in the near future.

Negative Externalities of Fumigation in Poultry and Piggery Operations

What is a negative externality? Appreciate the importance of knowing and understanding externality, an environmental economics concept, by reading this article.

In environmental economics, one of the interesting and useful concepts discussed is externality. And I was reminded of this concept when I took a trip, together with friends and family, to Kitu-Kito. It is an ideal spot to spend quiet time or to commune with nature . The place can be accessed within 30-minutes of leisurely driving from the City of Puerto Princesa.

It’s a holiday so we thought of having a picnic on board a raft made of large PVC pipes that a motorized boat tows along a river towards the open, deeper parts of Honda Bay. We did a similar trip several months back—but without the flies.

Why so Many Flies?

What reminded me of the externality concept? Well, I noticed an unusually large number of flies swarming at our food. We have to keep the food containers closed.

I asked why there are so many flies that day. The pests somewhat curbed our appetite because we all know that flies are harbingers of many kinds of diseases.

According to Penn State University (2014), flies transmit at least 65 diseases to humans. Flies leave pathogenic organisms in excretions upon alighting on food.

This is disturbing as this would mean that we might ingest contaminated food because of flies landing on our meal and doing their nasty behavior of regurgitating or excreting things that we don’t want. Getting ill means lost work hours or lost opportunity to do other important things.

flies on plate
Flies on plate after lunch.

Just curious what could have caused this large number of flies to come and pester us, I asked the group if anyone knows why. Then our boatman said, “This happens every time those guys operating the poultry and piggery in the upland spray fumigants to get their farm rid of flies.

“Ah, that’s an excellent answer to my question. ” I nodded indicating my enlightenment. Everybody new to the place sure learned something that day.

Negative Externality of Fumigation

Flies pestering our meals is a negative externality of fumigation.

The externality in the foregoing short narrative are flies swarming the neighborhood when fumigants are in effect. They were not killed on the spot but escaped from the poultry and piggery farms. Their eggs and larvae must have been killed but the adults are scot-free—and posed danger to neighboring houses and, us, picknickers.

The escaping flies that potentially bring diseases with them is a side effect of fumigation in the poultry and piggery farms. This is a negative externality that is not reflected in the cost of services involved in the operation of the farms.

To internalize the externality or to correct the inequality in benefits as a result of the operation, the poultry and piggery farm owners should pay parties affected by their activities. They should pay us for lessened enjoyment of the sea scape and the cool breeze because we have to contend with the flies that pester our meals.

How much should they pay us? This concern requires the conduct of a study. If we complain about the negative effects of the poultry farm, we should show the link between their operation and the unusual number of flies that affect third parties like us. Also, the owner of the farms should ask us and the neighborhood how much we are willing to accept as compensation for the nuisance.

Read more about externality in the following article:

Externalities: the Mango Grower and the Beekeeper

References

Pennsylvania State University, 2014. House flies. Retrieved June 21, 2014, from http://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/house-flies

© 2014 June 21 P. A. Regoniel

What is an Environmental Champion?

 This article defines environmental champion. What does it take to become one? An example is provided.

Several years back, I was tasked to deliver a talk in front of colleagues and students about environmental champions. Despite being in the environment field for so long, it was my first time to encounter such word. Understanding is best achieved if uncommon words like this is first defined.

I browsed the web to find out if someone wrote about this term. However, I didn’t exactly arrive at a straightforward definition that I could cite. And I realized the use of this word is not common. I consider situations like this as an opportunity to enrich the web with my own definitions, founded on my understanding of how the word was used.

What is an Environmental Champion?

The only definition I got of an environmental champion is a snippet of a link to the dissertation of Molly MacGregor, a PhD candidate in Brown University, who placed the definition in her vocabulary terms. When I clicked the link, a notice says the page is non-existent. Nevertheless, I could read the first few lines of definition under that link.

Here’s the definition:

An environmental champion is an energetic person who has environmental experience and knowledge who is willing and able to lead a group in an environmentally responsible direction.

I sought to confirm such definition with other references. The truth is, I was looking for a more elaborate discussion of the term. I arrived at another one, again coming from a university. Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, describes an environmental champion, in the university’s context, as an advocate for good environmental practices. He is passionate, interested and willing to learn about the environmental issues that impact at local, national, and global levels. The Champions are part of a network of volunteers who have a keen interest in doing their bit to reduce the environmental impact of the University.

sustainable

So, what is common at least in these two definitions? The bottomline is that environmental champions are those people who care for the environment as evidenced by their actions. These are people who are worthy of emulation because of their remarkable environment-friendly achievements.

Simply put, an environmental champion, therefore, is a person who advocates and practices good environmental practices.

Example of an Environmental Champion

Eugenio Paden is an example of an environmental champion. Why is he considered one? The following is his story:

Eugenio Paden is a fisherman in Banacon Island in the province of Bohol in the Philippines. He observed that when mangrove propagules fall into the mud, they start to grow. This gave him the idea that mangroves can be directly planted or seeded.

Driven by his desperate need for a continuous source of firewood and wooden poles for his nipa hut and fish corral, he embarked on a mangrove (Rhizophora stylosa) reforestation project on his own. This appeared to be a crazy venture for the simple yet determined fisherman at the outset.

Ten years later, he made a break. He started harvesting the fruits of his labor. The 20-hectare man-made mangrove plantation yielded him cash from selling firewood and wooden poles for housing. The economic incentive prompted his fellow islanders to follow his footsteps. Thus, the 448 hectare man-made mangrove plantation in Banacon Island that became a tourist spot was born. It is also a sustainable source of crabs, shrimps, shellfish and fish that supply the community’s food needs aside from serving as a buffer against storms.

To learn more about what an environmental champions do, check out Queen’s University’s website and be a champion of the environment.

Reference:

MacGregor, M. n.d. Vocabulary terms. Retrieved March 12, 2014 from http://envstudies.brown.edu/oldsite/Thesis/2004/Molly_Macgregor/Extra%20Pages/Vocabulary_Terms.htm

©  2014 June 21 P. A. Regoniel