Monday, December 19, 2011

Pater Dolorosus


"Mindanaoan" posted this Twitpic of a weeping father cradling his dead daughter in the wake of the tragic floods that sank Cagayan de Oro city as a result of tropical storm Sendong (Washi) last Saturday evening. The little girl I presume is just a wee bit over two years of age. This is the age of temper tantrums and delightful innocence. Those of us who have children will know. The pain of small children taken from us at this age is unfathomable.

And so the photo broke my heart into a million pieces and that too of Mindanaoan. But this is the nightmare that I am waking up to. Environmental catastrophe is now at hand and there are no easy solutions. Whether this be a flash flood (which is the most dangerous of natural hazards) or even the chronic air pollution poisoning Metro Manila, people will die and most tragically children will die.

The photo is reminiscent of Roman Catholic iconography of the Mater Dolorosa or the Sorrowful Mother. Dolorosum (neutral gender) is the Latin adjective for sorrows but the Latin has more gravitas and thus much pain as compared to the English translation. The Sorrowful Mother however especially as seen in Michaelangelo's Pieta (Pity in Italian) is serene since she knows that salvation has been bought by the death of her Son. In three days her Son will destroy death. She knows this since Simeon had foretold this in a prophecy

But not for this Pater dolorosus. Death is all around but where is salvation? In a church or in Malacanang Palace or the Impeachment court?

Roman Catholic tradition lists the Seven Sorrows of Mary and this was a popular medieval devotion which we have somewhat lost. Perhaps we can have the Seven Sorrows of the Philippine Environment

1) Poverty and income inequity
2) Malthusian resource use
3) Mining
4) Loss of the forests, mangroves, reefs and sea grasses
5) Sedimentation
6) Climate change
7) Environmental refugees 

[Note that I do not include overpopulation as bandied by pro RH advocates. The problem lies deeper than that and is really more on the first sorrow. Like the great scientist and biogeographer Alfred Russel Wallace, posited a century ago in contrast to mistaken application of Darwinian theory, simple fertility control is too simplistic a solution to population and environmental issues]

This pater dolorosus has now become part of the 7th sorrow, while the government tries to make cash out of the 3rd sorrow.

As an environmental practitioner, people have asked me so many times and most recently a group of medical doctors "What can we do?"

We can do something but it would entail sacrifice. The Virgin Mary had to undergo her sacrifice for the redemption that came.

There is hope still.

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