Monday, May 26, 2014

Systems Model of Human and Political Ecology

by Antonio C. Antonio
February 4, 2013

According to A. Terry Rambo, the Human-Environment Interaction model are influenced by fluxes occurring among entities in a social system, among entities in a biophysical ecosystem and across the social systems and ecosystems.  Rambo likewise enumerated four distinct relations between social systems and ecosystems, namely:

  1. Inputs from the ecosystem into the social system;
  2. Inputs from the social system into the ecosystem;
  3. Changes in the institutions making up the social system in response to inputs from the ecosystem; and,
  4. Changes in the ecosystem in response to inputs from the social system. 

Rambo’s Human-Environment Interaction model, however, lack at least two theoretical points, namely:

  1. It assumed that the interactions among elements of the social and ecological subsystems are distinguishable from the interactions of the two subsystems; and,
  2. It is vague on how materials, energy, and information flow across elements within each subsystem.  With these inadequacies, Rambo’s Human-Environment Interaction model could not account for (a) how elements of social and ecological systems may interact with each other directly and (b) how materials, energy and information flow across elements of social and ecological systems and how they are distributed within each system. 

Another Human-Environment Interaction model, Political Ecology, may apply where the previous models cannot.

Political Ecology is the flow and distribution of power among individuals and groups in a human population.  Power, in this case, is defined as the capacity to determine how resources are allocated among individuals and groups.  The Political Ecology model assumes that there is continuous flux of materials, energy and information across two subsystems in the environment.

To best describe Systems Model of Human Ecology and Model of Political Ecology, I have chosen the Philippine political succession system with reference to changes in leadership of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).  As Rambo and Dr. Ben Malayang III used the forest to prove their cases and studies, I chose the government agency specifically tasked to care for and protect Philippines forests… the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

It would be noted that during the Pre-Martial Law era, our Presidents have a fixed term of office of four years plus one re-election.  Post EDSA Revolution (1986) era however changed this to only a term of six years with no re-election with the enactment of the 1986 Constitution.

Philippine society is dominated by politics.  Dominant political parties are successful in seating their chosen leader/candidate in Malacanang Palace.  As such, these political parties, headed by the President of the Republic are bestowed with the power of governance or the power to decide on the flow and distribution of energy, information and material.

Democratic countries differ with communists, socialists and authoritarian countries in this aspect.  In these countries, power resides with the members of a dominant political party that, among themselves, choose their leader.  Elections, therefore the power to choose leaders, are not the natural order of political events.  This is not a condition set by the Political Ecology Model.  The model emphasizes the free will of members of a community to exercise their right (and power) to select their leaders.

When the power to choose the leader lies in the members of the community, the turnover of political administration become structured and regular.  Listed below are our Presidents and the DENR Secretaries who served under them:

  • President Ferdinand E. Marcos – Jose J. Leido, Jr. (1974 to 1981); Teodoro Q. Pena (1981 to 1984); and, Rodolfo P. del Rosario (1984 to 1986)
  • President Corazon C. Aquino – Ernesto M. Maceda (1986 to 1986); Carlos G. Dominguez (1986 to 1987); and, Fulgencio S. Factoran, Jr. (1987 to 1992)
  • President Fidel V. Ramos – Angel C. Alcala (1992 to 1995); and, Victor O. Ramos (1995 to 1998)
  • President Joseph E. Estrada – Antonio H. Cerilles (1998 to 2000)
  • President Gloria M. Arroyo – Heherson T. Alvarez (2000 to 2002); Elisea G. Gozun (2002 to 2004); Michael T. Defensor (2004 to 2006); Angelo T. Reyes (2006 to 2007); Jose L. Atienza, Jr. (2007 to 2009); Eleazar P. Quinto (2010 to 2010); and, Horacio C. Ramos (2010 to 2010)
  • President Benigno S. C. Aquino III – Ramon J. P. Paje (2010 to present)

In the last thirty nine years, we have experienced being ruled by six Presidents and seventeen Secretaries of the DENR.  From 1974 to the present, we have had a new president every six years and a new DENR Secretary every two years on the average.  This is probably a non-issue if all of them shared the same style of governance and, therefore, a continuous flow of harmonized and consistent policies.  Unfortunately, this is not the case.

Cabinet Secretaries are supposed to be the chief adviser to the President and the implementor of the will of the President… they are even, so often, called the “alter egos” of the President.  The advices they give the President, however, are influenced by several factors.  Such as:

  1. The sector the secretary comes from (political, academe, business, etc.);
  2. The influence/lobby group that was vital in his appointment as cabinet secretary (religious, business, community, etc.);
  3. The culture of the group he represents and comes from; and,
  4. (Sometimes) Monetary and political power considerations.

Policy direction and governance are often based on the above-mentioned criteria.  Their biases also often come into play.  A DENR Secretary who comes from the political group will always make politically-motivated decisions; an appointed secretary coming from the academe will come up with decisions that are found in books; a technocrat will think about doing things in a more structured research-based manner, etc.

The Political Ecology model of Human-environment Interaction is right to assert that the ultimate power is bestowed upon the population.  When the populace is no longer satisfied with the manner of governance, their leaders (the Presidents in our case) are no longer voted back into office or taken out of office within their respective terms.  As in the cases of Presidents Marcos and Estrada, they were both ousted by “People Power” I and II.  As a consequence, del Rosario and Cerilles had to resign their appointments as Secretaries of the DENR.  On the other hand, DENR Secretaries Fulgencio Factoran, Victor Ramos and Horacio Ramos had to go since the terms of office of their principals have ended.

Just my little thoughts…

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