Sunday, March 16, 2008

Can environment power unseat Gloria?

The semester is almost over and last Friday I gave my summing up lecture to the undergrads. The undergrads signed up for my Environment and Society course.

The semester started with us learning how to think scientifically. This requires objectivity and an empirical outlook. Then we studied the basics of the environment sciences. Matter and Energy cycles in the planetary environment. All we humans do are built upon this concept. Political,economic, agricultural, social and technological systems are built on environmental systems.

We may fail to realize that environment is major factor in socio-political and religious change. We are so fixated on Jun Lozada and Cory style People Power. Environment Power can really shake things up!

So at the end of the sem, we integrate the paradigms and relate this to what happening now in the Philippines. My lecture really focused on the environmental warning signs that Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has to heed if she wants to last until 2010 when her term ends. The Roman Catholic Hierarchy also has to take heed.

This is the environmental "writing on the wall". The Chinese have a saying about the Emperor losing the mandate of heaven. In Chinese history, the presage of the mandate is reallymajor environment changes.

The first scribble on the wall relates to food security. There is now talk of importing rice from countries like Cambodia (incidentally is also hit by capricious climate patterns) and the US. Rice prices are expected to shoot up following closely the increasing cost of energy. Increasing rice prices are so related to our major environmental problems of declining freshwater resources and soil quality. Coupled with unsustainable land development policy that favours the rich, we may see a recipe for social disaster.

The second scribble on the wall is the Roman Catholic and Arroyo administration's denial of the population problem. This is linked with food security obviously.

The third scribble on the wall is declining water quality. We are now seeing the rising incidence of water borne diseases even in first class urban areas like Calamba.

There are other scribbles such as increasing poverty, increased incidence of vector borne diseases etc.

There are just three of the 12 global environmental problems listed by the biogeographer Professor Jared Diamond. The 12 are major diagnostics for the possible collapse of a socio-political system.

Diamond has cited many instances of the result of environmental deterioration and political collapse.

I agree all of the revolutions that we recall were presaged by major environmental changes. The tipping point for political collapse is lack of food security.

The Catholic bishops also need to realize that the Reformation (which pulled the rug from under them, making them lose much of their spiritual and temporal suzereinty) was presaged by poor harvests as a result of cold winters.

What is Mrs Arroyo's game plan? The Bishops?

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