Tag Archives: environmental view

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.

©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

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.


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.

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.

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.


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.


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

14 Uses of Metals, Mining and Its Environmental Impact

What are the benefits of mineral mining and how does it affect the environment? How can environmental management maintain the ecological benefits derived from a healthy environment?

The extraction of valuable minerals from the earth has been a major preoccupation in many countries because of the society’s need for different kinds of metals to sustain economic growth. Metals have become a significant factor in the development of human society as these are closely associated with production of consumer items, facilities, transportation, among others that make life convenient to people.

14 Specific Uses of Metals

Specifically, valuable minerals serve as vital components of the following things that make life easy or convenient to people:

  1. computers that play a very significant role in today’s modern age,
  2. cars that bring people to their destination,
  3. airplanes that transport passengers across places and guard the country’s boundaries,
  4. railroad tracks and trains that bring masses of people from one place to another,
  5. ships that ferry people across the seas,
  6. farm machineries that make possible high volumes of crop production,
  7. cellphones and wires that facilitate communication between people,
  8. satellites that monitor the weather and aid in the study of the earth,
  9. construction materials for sturdy buildings and homes,
  10. appliances that make life convenient in homes,
  11. streetlights that illuminate the streets,
  12. kitchen wares for homes and restaurants,
  13. production of robots for various uses, and
  14. dams to supply the water and electricity needs of populated areas.

The list of the different uses of metals could go on and on among which the computers stand out as these have significantly affected modern living. Although advanced computer technology suggests that glass (fiber optic cables) will replace metals in the near future, currently, these are just indispensable.

Without metals all the above services will not be enjoyed by people. Because of metals, life has become much more convenient to man.

The Need to Mine and Its Environmental Impact

To keep on enjoying the benefits derived from metals, there is a need to mine these minerals from the earth. This is not easy, as it would take a lot of effort and cost to remove the valuable minerals from the metal ore. The ore is a naturally occurring solid material from which metals are extracted. From extraction to processing, mining activities have significant environmental impact.

Many environmental groups are against mineral mining because of its environmentally destructive impact. It spoils the ecological benefits humans derive from the environment like clean water, clean air, productive land, among others. Health-related concerns arise due to mining impacts on water brought about by acid mine drainage and increased soil erosion due to forest removal. Air quality is compromised due to increased emission of particulate matter. Soil quality deteriorates because of increased heavy metal input.

acid mine drainage
acid mine drainage A defunct, unrehabilitated copper mine upstream in the remote island of Balabac, Palawan caused this bluish coloration, due to copper sulfate, of the stream bed. Locals noticed this occurring for more than 30 years.

The Need for Effective Environmental Management

While there are negative impacts to the environment as a result of mineral mining, the benefits must be weighed against the cost. Both the environment and metals are important to human life. This is the essence of environmental resource management.

Thus, there is a need to manage the interaction between mining as an important activity of human society and the environment. For this reason, environmental impact assessments are made before starting a mining project so that decision makers are best informed as to what steps to make to sustain the ecological benefits that a viable environment provides. While the mining activities are going on, periodic environmental monitoring is conducted, and finally, when mining is no longer profitable, proper restorative measures are undertaken. These actions will prevent environmental disasters from taking place.

©Patrick A. Regoniel 19 May 2014

What is the Difference Between Preservation and Conservation?

Are you confused or unsatisfied with current definitions to differentiate preservation from conservation? Here is a step-by-step approach to deciphering the nature of these concepts.

While the terms preservation and conservation have been used almost alternately when talking about environmental issues or matters, there is a distinction between these two words. Preservation is different from conservation.

How are these two resource management approaches different from each other? This article aims to clarify these two concepts in the light of available definitions and practices.

Definition of Preservation

Merriam-Webster defines preservation as ‘to keep safe from injury, harm or destruction.’ The term preservation was derived from Latin prae– + servarePrae- is the archaic variant of the prefix pre– which means before, earlier or prior to. Servare is the present infinitive of servō, which means ‘watch over, maintain, protect, keep, guard, save, or store.’ Therefore, the two Latin words taken together and to encompass all the descriptions of preservation means:

  • to watch over,
  • to maintain,
  • to protect,
  • to keep,
  • to guard,
  • to save, and
  • to store.

Based on these definitions, in the environmental context, preservation calls for a ‘no touch’ policy, to keep whatever existing natural resources there are, to its present condition. The emphasis is on maintaining the integrity of the natural resource. Strict protection implied for a defined period anticipates the value it can give to present, as well as, future generations.

hunting effect
hunting effect Consequence of overhunting.

As a matter of government policy, for example, it may set aside and declare a forest as a protected area. One of the features of a protected area is the core zone. The core zone is that specific area with defined boundaries where no use is allowed at all. This area then gets preserved and able to carry out its ecological functions. Thus, it can serve as a natural water reservoir, habitat for wildlife, erosion prevention, flood control, carbon storage, oxygen production, buffer against storms, maintenance of soil fertility, among others.

A game preserve is another example. People are prohibited from hunting game in that region to allow a species with a depleted population to recover. Hence, it is a ‘no take’ zone in view of making it available in the future.

To synthesize everything, preservation, therefore, can be defined as a natural resource management approach advocating non-utilization of a natural resource. This approach views a sustainable flow of benefits that can be enjoyed at present or protecting a resource for future use.

Definition of Conservation

Using Merriam-Webster’s definition, conservation means ‘to keep (something) from being damaged or destroyed.’ This word sounds similar to preservation. But another definition says, ‘to use (something) carefully to prevent loss or waste.’ The latter appears to be a better definition that distinguishes conservation from preservation.

In other words, conservation does not only aim to keep natural resources from being damaged or exploited but to use them optimally. There is the incorporation of the ‘wise use’ policy in this natural resource management approach. Benefits accrues while resources stay the same. Resources are used sparingly or wisely so that they are still available in the future. Conservation emphasizes the use of the natural resource.

The resources subject to conservation may be renewable or non-renewable. For example, you can say ‘conserve water’ or ‘conserve oil or fuel’ but you do not say ‘preserve water’ or ‘preserve oil or fuel.’ Water is a renewable resource whereas oil or fuel is non-renewable or exhausted with use. The use of the latter resource relates to pollution.

Another good definition of Merriam-Webster is that conservation is ‘planned management of a natural resource to prevent exploitation, destruction, or neglect.’ This definition adequately captures the role of man as a resource manager. This definition suggests that conservation is a broader concept compared to preservation. A planned management can incorporate preservation, protection, wise use, maintenance and reduction of the ill effects or negative externalities associated with its use.

Conservation, therefore, can be succinctly defined as a natural resource management approach that seeks to attain sustainable or prolonged use of natural resources with minimal environmental impact.

The two approaches described reflects philosophies in natural resource management. While there may be a difference in terms of the approach, the result is to achieve a sustained enjoyment of benefits.

© 2013 September 21 P. A. Regoniel

Cite this article as: Regoniel, Patrick (September 21, 2013). What is the Difference Between Preservation and Conservation? [Blog Post]. In SimplyEducate.Me. Retrieved from https://simplyeducate.me/2013/09/21/what-is-the-difference-between-preservation-and-conservation/

How is Human Psychology Related to Environmental Sustainability?

Is there a relationship between human thought processes and environmental sustainability? This article illustrates how people’s beliefs can help preserve the environment.

Taking off from the definition of psychology, there is a connection between psychology and environmental sustainability. The Free Dictionary defines psychology as the study of the thought processes and behavior of humans in their interaction with the environment. The way humans think or regard the environment, influences his behavior towards it and vice-versa.

How can human thought processes lead to environmental sustainability? Let me explain the connection by narrating a short story. This is about a supernatural occurrence that shaped a community’s behavior towards an island. This prevailing belief among the fisher folks helped preserve a coral reef for many years.

The Enchanted Island of Marangas

Several years ago, a fisherman docked on the rugged terrain of Marangas Island to take a brief rest from a busy morning doing his usual fishing routine. After pitching the small anchor into the shallow waters, he waded towards the shore while pulling his small boat along with him. He tied one end of the rope at the bow to a sturdy rock offshore to keep the boat from swaying wildly in the wavy, afternoon waters.

He looked for a place to rest in the narrow island. Despite the island’s rocky nature, he found a sandy spot under a tree. He took his late lunch and prepared to take a nap.


The fisherman was on the verge of sleep when, out of the corner of his eye, he figured something moving among the rocks. Something long and alive wriggles towards his direction. This was followed by another one, then another. Then he realized, it was a den of snakes! And the snakes are making their way towards him. All his life, he never saw such a multitude of snakes. 

The poor fisherman frantically snatched his belongings and ran towards the boat. He rowed with all his might without looking back. He was so frightened that he forgot to lift up his anchor until it dragged and get snagged in a massive growth of coral reef. After cutting the rope quickly, he rowed so hard that his boat seemed like a speedboat racing towards the mainland.

The story spread like wildfire in the small fishing village taking twists and turns that made the story even more dramatic. A farmer further fanned the flames of intrigue and awe when he recounted that once, he left a herd of goats in the island and lost them all without a trace.

The people thought the island is occupied by evil spirits. From that time on, the fishers avoid the island and regard it with fear in the belief that the island is enchanted.

A Healthy Coral Reef Environment

What has this enchanted island story have to do with environmental sustainability? Here’s the explanation.

Since fishers dare not approach the island to do their usual fishing activities, the coral reef surrounding that island remained untouched for many years. As result, a healthy coral reef environment thrived. The area was preserved from the rampant illegal fishing activities that plagued many islands dotting the bay.


I witnessed such amazing underwater environment when I prodded a reluctant fisher guide to bring my team of SCUBA divers to the island so we can have a glimpse of the corals underneath. At right is a picture of one section of the reef showing a large tabulate coral with sergeant majors swimming above fragile branching corals. The whole reef was virtually intact despite its closeness to the mainland. 

The Environmental Perspective

The environment is defined as the tangible and intangible things around us. Tangible things are those that we normally perceive with our five senses. Intangible things include people’s norms, values, and beliefs that exist and influence people’s behavior.

Based on this definition, the belief that supernatural beings exist in the enchanted island dictated how the fisher folks regard the island. They avoided the island thinking that they might displease the evil spirits. This kept the island’s surrounding coral reef intact. Hence, environmental sustainability is assured as the healthy coral reefs provide a viable, productive habitat for marine life dependent on it for sustenance.

This story is similar to the Balete tree story. Respecting people’s beliefs by keeping it that way despite its ridiculous, irrational or illogical nature can have some positive benefits. Superstitious beliefs help preserve the environment.

© 2013 August 30 P. A. Regoniel

Environmental Perspective in Action: The Balete Tree Story

Why are balete trees treated with fear by folks in the Philippines? How can this fear be harnessed to preserve or enhance the ecosystem and maintain its integrity? Read on to find out.

People’s beliefs comprise the environment that can determine or predict their behavior. Although intangible, unseen objects take real form in people’s lives and cause them to behave in ways that can help maintain ecosystem integrity. An example is provided below to illustrate this point.

The Balete Tree and Enchanted Beings


In a tropical tree like the Philippines, the balete tree (Ficus sp.), is believed to be a favorite abode of supernatural beings. The tree is believed to be enchanted and inhabited by the so-called encantos or encantados, beings living in a different plane but who can appear to those they desire at will.

People avoid the balete tree by any means possible, afraid that they would be placed under  a spell of misfortune. Many folks testify that they contracted unexplained illnesses such as rashes that would not heal, beings that show themselves to them although unseen by others, monsters that frighten the wits out of them, among others of similar nature.

They attribute these afflictions to supernatural beings because they happened to pass by or approach a balete tree. As a result, nobody would dare approach a balete tree for fear that they will become victims of unseen beings.

The Significance of Balete Tree to the Environment

A balete gradually works its way around a host tree.

What has people’s beliefs got to do with environmental integrity? I provide an explanation below on how this works.

Since people do not want to approach nor touch nor cut down any balete tree, forests where these trees grow will remain intact or exempt from logging activities; provided, of course, that those who perform the logging activities believe in such lore or superstitious belief.

Environmental managers can build upon this prevailing belief among many people in the rural areas to maintain natural resource integrity. For example, a target reforestation area may be planted with balete to ward off intruders and to serve as buffer against unsustainable economic activities. Surrounding the whole area with balete trees can keep poachers and illegal loggers away.


The above description advances the idea that intangible things are important parts  of the environment because they are perceived real by many people. When people get baffled by unexplained events or circumstances that may or may not be related to their proximity to balete, this further reinforces their belief. It is a reality in one’s mind that dictates his actions. This is an important environmental concept that must be borne in mind by students taking up environmental science.

You may read further interesting discussions on how man’s perspectives can influence his action in “Five Environmental Perspectives: How Man Treats the Environment“. This article discusses how human actions can be categorized into 5 different environmental perspectives that serve as “lenses” for evaluating man-environment relations.

© 2013 January 6 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 (December 3, 2012). Malthusians vs Cornucopians: A Contemporary Perspective on Population Growth [Blog Post]. In SimplyEducate.Me. Retrieved from https://simplyeducate.me/2012/12/03/malthusians-vs-cornucopians-a-contemporary-perspective-on-population-growth/