Filipinos are known for being close family oriented. Every weekend, members of the family gather together to share experiences, problems and successes in their daily activities. Our family is not an exemption, we usually have a small “salo-salo” every Sunday and talk about memorable events that transpired during the week. One occasion, my grandmother shared an exciting experience to us. She told us that when she was still young her place was very beautiful. She lived in Tanay, Rizal where the heavily forested Sierra Madre Mountain Range is located. Every morning, the cold breeze of fresh air and the sound of flowing river beside there home awaken her. How I wish I could experience living in such a paradise! This remains a dream for me, for you and for the future generations.
According to the holy bible, “Man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.” This observation of Prophet Job is correct that human species is born unto trouble. On all sides of the world, we see violence, poverty, graft and corruption, pollution, deforestation, overpopulation, and so on, endlessly. We wonder what brought the world and the humankind into this deplorable condition. This prompted me to write this paper on one of the crucial environmental problem that we are facing: illegal logging.
Forests in the tropics have a rich biodiversity. More than fifty percent of all the plants and animals in the world are to be found in the rainforests. More than 3500 species of plants and animals! The constantly high temperatures and the continuously high humidity in the tropics make this biodiversity possible. The temperature is in most tropical rainforests between 25 and 35 degrees Celsius. Unfortunately, the forests are threatened. David Orr correctly observed that “ if today is a typical day on planet earth, we will lose about 30,000 hectares of rainforests, or 1200 hectares per hour, or 21 hectares per minute.” Worldwide only twenty percent of the original tropical forests is left. The deforestation has to be stopped to save the biodiversity and the productivity of the forest as a natural resource. If not, there will be no rainforest left in 2015.
What is illegal logging? Illegal logging is not always a clearly defined term, but can be described as forestry practices or activities connected with wood harvesting, processing and trade that do not conform to law. According to the Wikipedia Online Encyclopedia, “Illegal logging is the harvest, transportation, purchase or sale of timber in violation of national laws. The harvesting procedure itself may be illegal, including using corrupt means to gain access to forests; extraction without permission or from a protected area; the cutting of protected species; or the extraction of timber in excess of agreed limits.” Illegalities occur right through the chain from source to consumer, the harvesting procedure itself may be illegal, including corrupt means to gain access to forests, extraction without permission or from a protected area, cutting of protected species or extraction of timber in excess of agreed limits. Illegalities may also occur during transport, including illegal processing and export as well as misdeclaration to customs, before the timber enters the legal market. We can separate “illegal logging” in three main situations. First in line are activities with pure criminal nature. This includes logging without official permissions, timber theft, falsification of documents, usage of violence against local inhabitants, gross law violation by authorities and corruption. Next are mass illegal activities in forest by poor people, looking for satisfaction of their basic needs – food and fuel. Some of these practices are forest infringement, forest conversion for agricultural usage and illegal trafficking. Last are activities due to lack of law enforcement.
Unlawful cutting of trees has devastating impact on the world’s forest. Its effects includes declination of forest resources which causes loss of biodiversity, instability and massive erosion of upland soil, serious damage to our river and underground freshwater ecosystem, flood and fueling climate change. In the Philippines, decades of illegal logging contributed to the devastating wrought by storms. With thousands of innocent people lost their lives due to floods and landslides, the worst among them being the tragedies in Ormoc, Leyte in 1991, Aurora and Quezon Provinces in December 2004, and St. Bernard, Southern Leyte last February 2006, as well as all other ecological disasters through the years, blame has fallen on illegal loggers who have stripped hillsides bare and turned green forests into death traps.
Are we blind or are we acting like a blind? The crime of illegal logging has already destroyed much of the original forests in the Philippines. This rampant illegal logging has afflicted many parts of the country – destroying the livelihood of many Filipinos, threatening biodiversity and causing environmental hazards. A decisive action is urgently needed to secure the future of our children. We must oppose all forms of forest destruction and remain vigilant and committed to protect our national patrimony.
A critical analysis of the issue enabled me to come up with “CELL” as a solution to this environmental problem.
· Cultural Transformation
Mudslides, especially in a national park, do not happen if the mountains have adequate forest cover. Why were the trees removed? It is because illegal logging is rampant. And why is it rampant? Because the culture of short-term benefit for narrow individual interests is stronger than the culture to preserve the diverse ecological and economic benefits of a primary forest. Because the culture of corruption, benefiting powerful economic and political interests, is more powerful than the culture of a country governed by decent behavior and an adherence to just laws. Those who want to stop the hazards of illegal logging need to go beyond the obvious. They need to go beyond paper calculations and policies and move into the uncharted territory of cultural structures, resistance and transformation. Culture may be hidden and invisible. But its workings nevertheless have an inexorable logic that has large-scale societal impacts. A culture of destruction cannot simply be wished away. One has to introduce a new and more powerful cultural framework, including operational norms, to create the necessary development infrastructure to overcome illegal logging and stop the hemorrhage of nation’s coffers (Nicanor Perlas).
Environmental education is vital to the survival of the Philippines. The people need to know that their actions are having a detrimental effect on the forests and environmental regulations are necessary. A main problem with environmental regulation is that people only see regulation as a limitation on their livelihood. Environmentalists and government officials must show that regulation is actually an attempt to preserve the forests to ensure that wildlife will continue to supply a sustainable future. Unfortunately, environmental education is not wide spread. Environmental education is needed to make people think about the future and ways to prevent irreversible destruction of our forests.
Principle 11 of Rio Declaration on Environment and Development Provides that “ states shall enact effective environmental legislation. Environmental standards, management objectives and priorities should reflect the environmental and developmental context to which they apply. Standards applied by some countries may be inappropriate and of unwarranted economic and social cost to other countries, in particular developing countries.”
The current forestry policies are best interpreted and analyzed in relation to the People’s Power Revolution (EDSA) in 1986 combined with the emergence and upsurge of environmental consciousness and influential media (Fairman 1996). Except for the Revised Forestry Code of 1975 (PD 705), most of the policies were enacted after 1986. The 1987 Philippine Constitution, the highest law of the land, lays down the tenet of natural resources management. The Executive Orders (EOs) during the first year of the Aquino administration carried executive and legislative mandates in support of forestry policies. The Republic Acts (RAs) by the Philippine Congress from the Aquino to the Arroyo regimes reflect deeply rooted concerns from the lawmakers and the executive branch on how the Philippines could conserve its forest resources and support sustainable natural resource development and management(www.fao.org).
· Love of Nature
In the Orthodox temples people sing, trying to convince God that He is “forbearing and merciful”… But would it not be better if they give up this useless occupation and start living in accordance with God’s Principle of Love themselves? But this is impossible without Compassion for all people and every living creature, including ants, worms, plants, and many others… (Vladimir Antonov)
Among all creatures, humans are the only ones made in God’s image and have been given the right to have dominion over all His creations (Book of Genesis). Being the most intelligent and gifted with reason, humans are capable of manipulating creation to their own advantage. Yet, creation exists not to be ravages or abused but to be taken care of. Humans cannot exist without nature. They are co-natural with the environment they live in. If the environment they live in is destroyed, with it will go Homo Sapiens.
Earth is a very small part of the universe, but it is our home. It provides the resources that support our modern society and the ingredients necessary to maintain life such as trees. We must learn to love, conserve and protect it.
“Nature and revelation alike testify of God’s love. Our Father in heaven is the source of life, of wisdom, and of joy. Look at the wonderful and beautiful things of nature. Think of their marvelous adaptation to the needs and happiness, not only of man, but also of all living creatures. The sunshine and the rain, that gladden and refresh the earth, the hills and seas and plains, all speak to us of the Creator’s love. “ – Ellen G. White