Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Twisted Sense of Righteousness

by Antonio C. Antonio
July 5, 2014

Man is just about the only creature on earth who cuts trees, make paper out of them, then writes “Save the Trees” on the paper.  Ironic, isn’t it?

Most of us have noticed that a lot of supermarkets and grocery stores have started to use paper bags instead of plastic bags.  Others even come up with notices encouraging their loyal patrons to bring their own bags so that they are not charged for the paper bag.  But when asked why they suddenly shifted from plastic to paper bags, they would say that it has been decreed by the Local Government Unit (LGU) through a municipal or city ordinance that required them to refrain from using plastic bags.

The LGUs should be commended for finally caring for the environment… at least in the field of solid waste management and flood control.  It should be noted that flooding, especially in Metro Manila, is generally caused by too much non-biodegradable waste in waterways.  Regulating the use of plastic bags is a worthy endeavour.  However, when asked about the sustainability of banning the plastic bag and the added pressure on forest and timber resources, they seemed not to care or understand the environmental issues involved.  It becomes apparent that ordinances are designed and implemented solely for political purposes… therefore, whatever is popular and could earn politician advantages in the next election is the only consideration.

In the previous paragraph, I mentioned “sustainability” of the use of paper bags and “added pressure” on forest and timber products.  In the seemingly myopic views of the LGUs and their sitting political lords, this is a non-issue so long as their “ban plastic bags” project endeared them to the voters.  They would not care less if this local government measure created some other environmental problem.  Understanding the repercussions of our actions should also be considered.  Not wanting to sound cynical (meaning: a belief that politicians are people who are generally selfish and dishonest) or like a prophet of doom, there has to be a middle ground in promoting the use of forest products vis-à-vis banning plastic products.  Forest and timber products are renewable resources but the production (or specifically the “growing” time) is quite long… at least 8 to 10 years for softwood species that are used in processing paper. 

If paper bags are better environmentally friendly products over plastic bags, so be it.  But we should also realize that the bigger problem is how to create a sustainable supply chain of raw materials that nature provides and consumer products.  Equally important is a steady supply of raw materials (therefore, trees) to fuel the demand for consumer goods (therefore, paper).  There should be a little bit more dynamism in institutionalizing plans and programs… perhaps, a longer and wider-ranged consideration of other factors involved such as (a) tree plantation establishment, (b) reforestation, (c) establishing a network to gather reclyclable materials, (d) reuse, recycling and re-processing of used paper, etc. which will ease the pressure on the existing forests.  There really is more to just simple “utilization” of our natural resources.  Unfortunately, the LGUs are silent on these or, perhaps, simply do not care.

It’s just utterly sad when LGUs together with their popular executives postulate ordinances that are (in truth) very short-sighted.  They make so much noise about caring for the environment without realizing that caring for Mother Earth cannot be used as a political punchline… or this simply becomes a twisted sense of righteousness.

Just my little thoughts…

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