Thursday, August 04, 2011

Why a little environmental awareness counts!

Almost every year I teach an undergraduate course in environmental science where towards the end of the semester we discuss relevant issues. In the first half of the semester we discuss and learn about the physical and biological processes that make the environment an interesting thing to observe and in the latter half, we deal with how we poor humans have to deal with a changing environment using our 1) wits and 2) technology!

It is no secret that Metro Manila is one of the most dangerous urban environments to live in. Architects and city planners Paulo Alcazaren and Gerard Lico have written so much about how Metro Manila's unplanned urban sprawl, booming population and bad governance has made the problem worse. The two gentlemen have pointed out that these problems bedeviled Manilans even in the Spanish colonial period, except then, there were only less than a million Manilans compared to the 13-14 million today.

Thus in a time of rainfall shifts, a moderate downpour of 10-15 mm/hr can cause a flood. And in many cases the water rises fast. This was brought home to every city resident during the Ondoy disaster. But it has to be remembered that Manila has had similar events before. And this is where we find poor UP Law student Christopher Lao (and his car)!

Poor Mr Lao! His only fault is that he has little environmental awareness at all. An increased level of environmental awareness is needed if ONE HAS TO SURVIVE Metro Manila (or Boracay, Panglao, Phuket etc)! What I teach students is this: When you see a stretch of open water anywhere and you have to cross it, STOP and take stock of the situation.

Let's say you have to swim to the nearby paradise island from a crummy beach resort and there is a stretch of water. Check first for dangerous currents and for sharks (as well as the outrageous entrance fee)!

Let's say you have to ford a river in the Aussie outback with a Range Rover? Check first for a croc! Steve Irwin ain't with us anymore, mate!

Let's say you have to cross a Metro Manila flood? Check first for manholes, live wires etc.

All these are common sense decisions. A sure sign of idiocy is when one demands that someone tell him/her about common sense!

Lack of environmental awareness means death in many cases. So it pays to be observant and alert.

Perhaps to paraphrase and give a due apology to Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, we should teach ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE IN A GRAND MANNER!

1 comment:

johana mariz said...

Environmental awareness can be understood by people in different ways. On your post, it mainly talks about being aware of the physical environment to “survive” in any place one would go. For people to do something that would positively impact the environment would mean taking up environmental awareness training not just to survive but do something for the environmental issues faced by our generation.