Thursday, January 29, 2015

It's Environmentalism Shining Through

by Antonio C. Antonio
January 27, 2015

Some three years ago, I took part in a quantitative and qualitative survey and study to measure the level of awareness people have on environmental issues and concerns.  The results were not too encouraging.    Sadly, we arrived at a single digit figure on the percentage of people who are “somewhat” aware of matters concerning the environment.  Sadly, again, the very insignificant percentage of people with a relatively high level of awareness are knowledgeable only of the mundane things about the environment; the superficial events and pro-environment activities that they have experienced so far --- tree planting, waterways clean-up, street and neighbourhood clean-up, waste management, etc.  It is a modest start and I am not saying that the knowledge level is something we should not be proud of.  There is, however, more room for improvement.

The major reasons for our environmental malaise that influences the low level of environmental awareness are ignorance, lack of education on environmental science and lack of information on the environment that goes around.  Our study group came to the conclusion that a workable systems approach was in order.  We were all unanimous that the IEC (Information, Education and Communication) Approach will be the best strategy to propagate more information to most people… therefore, augmenting the lack of information on the environment that circulates.  We also agreed that our best platform to use would be social media.

A lot of little specks of information still needs to be communicated to a wider audience but starting at modest means and targets will also be effective.  I believe that people have to understand “why” there is a need to protect, conserve and develop environmental resources so they would better appreciate what they are doing (tree planting, clean-ups, waste management, etc.) and still plan to do.  The purpose, in this case, is more important than the mindless action sometimes being undertaken.

Environmentalism is a broad philosophy, ideology and social movement regarding sustainable development and social justice.  Most people skipped the theoretical part of environmentalism and went straight to pro-environmental activities.  This action, I believe, is not sustainable without the basic knowledge and understanding why things should be done.  It is for this reason that we maintain that some degree of review on the basics of environmental science will be beneficial in the long haul.

There is an old Chinese adage that says: “One step backwards; two steps forward.”  This statement is quite confusing but could logically be explained.  Imagine yourself facing the direction you wish to move… then turn around and take a step backwards… then turn around again.  You did make a step backwards but actually gained two steps forward from your original position and direction.  I believe this is applicable in our case.  We might seem to be retrogressing with the use of our IEC Approach but this is just a small short-term sacrifice for a sustainable long-term goal.  Eventually people will begin to realize, understand and appreciate the “why” in what they want to see happen.  In my simple mind, this will be more enlightening and perhaps later, we could say:  “It’s Environmentalism Shining Through!”

Just my little thoughts…

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Culture: An Adaptive Mechanism

by Antonio C. Antonio
January 26, 2015

What do we mean when we say “Culture is an adaptive mechanism”?  With this, we simply mean that man has traditionally used culture to adapt to his environment.  Culture is the adaptive mechanism that allows a society to survive in his chosen environment or adjust to the constant changes in his environment. 

It is said that between man and his environment is culture.  And the basic function of culture is to guarantee that man survives in whatever environment he chooses to be in.  Each culture has a unique and peculiar way of adapting to a specific environment.  And each culture tenaciously attempts to strike a sustainable balance between society and resources.

In an upland or forest landscape, there is an absence of modern technologies.  What uplanders have are indigenous knowledge commonly held with cultural traditions and practices.  But even with the lack of modern technologies, indigenous knowledge and culture is flexible in adapting to change.  Ruled by the need to survive, culture becomes the adjustable and flexible parameter that is used in adapting to an ever-changing environmental landscape.  Perhaps, the absence of modern technologies in the uplands, makes it possible for the upland dwellers to hold on to culture as a means of survival.  We could say this again… “Culture: An adaptive mechanism.”

Just my little thoughts…

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Earth Summit Agenda 21

by Antonio C. Antonio
January 24, 2015

Agenda 21 is the framework for sustainable development (SD).  It presents an environmental management strategy that seeks to protect the environment.  The strategy is derived from the agreements reached by over 200 nations (and an even larger number of civil society groups) who met in the United Nations’ Conference on Environment and Development (or UNCED, but which is more often referred to as the Earth Summit) held in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) in 1992.  In that Summit, the consensus was reached that the environment should be viewed as a support system for society and its economy.  It needs to be protected and carefully nurtured, to ensure that it continues to provide support to society in the long-term.

Agreed upon at the Earth Summit are the four principles of managing the environment in relation to achieving economic growth.  These are:

EFFICIENCY – Resources are not to be over-exploited.  Neither should they remain unutilized.  Utilization must prescribe to full restoration.  It must aim at achieving a high marginal return sufficient to “pay back” the costs of utilization and the value of the resources being utilized.

SUFFICIENCY – Resources are to be used only for absolutely necessary ends.  Their use must aim for the biggest marginal returns.  Accrued gains from using a resource must entail the use of minimum unit of the resource.  It must not exceed the minimum needed to support a necessary end.  This principle involves a two-tier concept of (1) minimizing needs and (2) satisfying the most of a minimized need with the least resource being used.

CONSISTENCY – Ecosystems are to be managed to be compatible with each other.  The management of watersheds, for instance, need to be deliberately constrained so as to impair the functioning of downstream ecosystems (like wetlands and mangroves).  A “landscape” (or system of ecosystems) approach is preferred to a single-ecosystem management style.  Ecosystems are recognized as not “stand alone” chunks of Nature.  They constantly receive and direct materials, energy and information across each other, in a constant flux that create the conditions of a whole environmental system (martin, 1999).  They affect each other; thus, they need to be managed as a single super system.  Consistency requires that resources used be based on the strengths and weaknesses of a system of related ecosystems, including their human components.  Resource use must be constrained by the weakness of the weakest ecosystem in the landscape.

PRECAUTION – If the potential threats posed by an economic activity to ecosystems are serious, or where the environmental damage due to it is expected to be irreversible, precautionary or mitigating measures should be undertaken.  Lack of full scientific certainty that the threats or damage will in fact occur, is not a reason for postponing measures to prevent their occurrence.  Gambling with the environment is not advised, particularly if the stakes are high.

The foregoing information on efficiency, sufficiency, consistency and precaution were lifted from the book of Dr. Ben S. Malayang III entitled “Socio-Cultural Principles of Human-Environment Interactions”.  These principles included the ecological and social components to address our present and future needs as contained in the Earth Summit Agenda 21.

Just my little thoughts…

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Monday, January 26, 2015

The Atmosphere

by Antonio C. Antonio
January 24, 2015

So far, the Earth in the only known planet that has an atmosphere that is capable of supporting life.  It now becomes a saddening fact that we have largely taken our atmosphere for granted.  More often, the only time we become concerned about the atmosphere is when the weather and pollution indices are bad.  The only time we show concern for the atmosphere and the environment in general is when global warming rises to the level that makes life unbearable, climate and weather patterns change for the worse to the point where countless lives are lost, and basic life support system Mother Earth provides has degenerated to a point where diseases are very common occurrences.  It should be noted that these disastrous effects are caused by anthropogenic activities.

The atmosphere is composed of four distinct layers or atmospheric zones of contrasting temperature.  The difference in temperature is caused primarily by the variation in solar energy absorption.  A clear understanding of the characteristics of these atmospheric zones will help us understand atmospheric functions.  The following are these thin layers of air in the atmosphere:

TROPOSPHERE – The troposphere is the lowest layer of the Earth’s (or nearest to the Earth’s surface) atmosphere and site of all weather conditions on Earth.  The troposphere is bonded on the top by a layer of air called tropopause which separates the troposphere from the stratosphere and on the bottom by the surface of the Earth.

STRATOSPHERE – The stratosphere is the second major layer of air in the Earth’s atmosphere which is above the troposphere and below the mesosphere.  It is stratified in temperature with cooler air below that gradually warmer layers of air farther up or away from the surface of the Earth.  Air temperature in this layer is stable although it increases with higher altitude.  Ozone is produced by lighting and solar irradiation of oxygen molecules.  It should be mentioned that ozone protects life on Earth by absorbing most solar and ultraviolet radiation from the sun that passes through the upper layers of the atmosphere.

MESOSPHERE – The mesosphere is the layer of the Earth’s atmosphere that is directly above the stratosphere and directly below the thermosphere.  The mesosphere is located about 50 to 85 kilometers above the Earth’s surface.

THERMOSPHERE – The thermosphere is the layer of the Earth’s atmosphere directly above the mesosphere and below the exosphere.  In this layer of air in the atmosphere, ultraviolet radiation (UV) causes ionization.

EXOSPHERE – The exosphere is the uppermost region of Earth’s atmosphere as it gradually fades into the vacuum of space.  Air in the exosphere is extremely thin and in many ways it is almost the same as the airless void of outer space.

The layers of air in the atmosphere protects the Earth’s surface from abnormal exposure to solar radiation and foreign bodies coming from outer space.  Smaller meteors and meteorites burn up as they hit the exosphere and are reduced to smaller masses before they hit the Earth’s surface.  Protecting and supporting life forms on the surface of the Earth is the main function of the atmosphere.

Just my little thoughts…

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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Social Theory

by Antonio C. Antonio
January 5, 2015

Social Theory is a collective reference to different explanations of why humans behave the way they do under certain conditions.   Social Theories are also defined as frameworks of empirical evidence used to study and interpret social phenomena.  Social scientists use social theories as tools to relate to historical debates over the most valid and reliable methodologies (therefore: positivism and anti-positivism) as well as the primacy of either structure or agency.  It might be a good exercise to fit a description to the following key words related to Social Theory:
  • Social Interactions – What humans do among themselves.
  • Social Arrangements – How humans function in relation to each other.
  • Social Order – How humans organize themselves.
  • Social Standing – A location a human occupies in a specific group.

These key words are always described to be “human” situations, actions and interactions, and structures.

“Environmental science is a multidisciplinary academic field that integrates physical, biological and information sciences to the study of the environment, and the solutions to environmental problems.  Environmental science is a discipline that attempts to understand and explain environmental issues and tries to find solutions to problems caused by the interaction of human society with the natural world.  It is a composite science that draws knowledge from the natural sciences and the social sciences such as economics, political science and sociology.” (Antonio, 2015)

A more common question is why does the study of the environment and natural resources have to include human studies… therefore: social studies?  Social sciences (economics, political science and sociology) are part and parcel to the study of the environment and natural resources.  And in Environmental Science, being a multidisciplinary field, one cannot do away with Social Sciences and Social Theory.

Just my little thoughts…

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Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Three Pillars of Upland Governance

by Antonio C. Antonio
January 20, 2015

In the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) Framework, there are three main actors in upland governance; therefore, (1) The Government; (2) The Private Sector; and, (3) Civil Society (Antonio, 2015).  The FAO Framework recommends the necessary institutionalization of at least three pillars of upland governance, such as:

1.     POLICY which provides the institutional, legal and regulatory framework.  A policy is a course or principle of action adopted or proposed by a government, party, business, or individual;
2.     PLANNING which comprises the detailed planning and decision-making processes.  Planning is also the process of making plans for something; and,
3.     IMPLEMENTATION that highlights the need for effective enforcement and compliance.  Implementation is the process of putting a decision or plan into effect/execution.

In institutionalizing these three pillars of upland governance, sustainability should be the underlying reason.  Sustainability, in the world of natural science and environment, is the preservation and development of natural resources for use of the present and future generations.  Sustainability gives purpose and meaning to the three pillars of upland governance.

Just my little thoughts…

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Knowledge, Belief and Commitment

by Antonio C. Antonio
January 22, 2015

The essential components of an advocacy, environmental advocacy included, are knowledge, belief and commitment.

“Knowledge are facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education and the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.  It is also the awareness or familiarity gained by experience of a fact or situation.”  (Antonio, 2015)  A working knowledge of the environment and natural resources management; a firm belief that our environmental advocacy is good for the present and future generations; and, total commitment to the cause of environmentalism are the vital components of an environmental advocacy.  Anything less will not work.

In addition to the three components I already mentioned, another important component, according to Prof. Janet Martires of the University of the Philippines OU, is ACTION.  I really do not have much trouble agreeing with her.  Action, in this case, is the catalyst for actual change… and action would connect the dots and complete the circle of knowledge, belief and commitment.

Just my little thoughts…

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Solar Energy

by Antonio C. Antonio
January 8, 2015

What is solar energy?  Solar energy comes to earth from the sun as photons (particles of light energy) of electromagnetic waves ranging from short to long wavelengths.  Solar energy is also an important source of renewable energy using a range of ever-evolving technologies that harness radiant light and heat from the sun.  Such technological applications at present are solar heating, solar photovoltaics, solar thermal energy, solar architecture and artificial photosynthesis. 

Solar energy that reaches the earth’s surface is approximately 4% ultra violet, 44% visible light, and 52% infra red and long waves.  The higher and more intense energy wavelengths are screened out by the ozone and oxygen in the atmosphere while most of the infrared radiation is filtered by water and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere before it reached the surface of the earth.  This is just to highlight the important role the ozone layer plays as it is being depleted by chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) which is an organic compound that contains only carbon, chlorine, and fluorine, produced as a volatile derivative of methane, ethane and propane.

Solar energy can be converted into solar power which is a renewable source of energy.  Solar energy comes in either passive solar or active solar depending on the method of capturing, storage and distribution of solar energy.  Active solar techniques include the use of photovoltaic systems, concentrated solar power and solar water heating to harness the energy.  Passive solar techniques include orienting buildings and other man-made infrastructure to the sun, selecting materials with favourable thermal mass or light dispersing properties, and designing spaces that natural cross ventilation and circulation of air.

Here is a wrong notion on solar energy… Although solar energy is a welcomed alternative energy source, climate change is also being attributed to solar energy.  The depletion of the ozone layer through the introduction of CFC in the atmosphere by humans causes more radiation to reach the earth’s surface; which, in turn, should be the reason for global warming and changes in the earth’s climactic conditions.  Climate change is largely anthropogenic or man-made and is never directly caused by solar energy.

Just my little thoughts…

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Worldviews on Landscape

by Antonio C. Antonio
January 7, 2015

The term “landscape” (as a noun) is defined as all the visible features of an area of countryside or land, often considered in terms of their aesthetic appeal; and (as a verb) pertains to the improvement of the aesthetic appearance of (a piece of land) by changing its contours, adding ornamental features, or planting trees and shrubs.  A landscape, however, may represent many things to a particular person depending on his background, tradition and discipline orientation.  This is the reason why people have different worldviews on landscape.

A person educated in the discipline of landscape architecture and design will always view landscape as having the following properties… (1) people, (2) softscapes and (3) hardscapes.  Softscapes are the biological component; therefore, the people, plants and animals that use the landscape as their home and source of food.  Hardscapes are the man-made infrastructure on the landscape which are basically made of cement, metal and wood.  An engineer, however, will always see landscape as a specific site where he is to build an infrastructure or hardscape.

A person schooled in the natural resources will have a tendency to view landscape as more than the hardscapes, softscapes or even the infrastructure both in a general sense as well as in specific terms.  An allied study in natural science, landscape ecology is a multidisciplinary academic discipline that deals in the science of studying and improving relationships between ecological processes in the environment and particular ecosystems.  This is done within a variety of landscape scales and the development of spatial patterns.

Most ordinary people will view landscape as a small household garden lay-out and design for aesthetic purposes.  Quite different from the other worldviews already discussed, it is the most popular and accepted one.  Afterall, worldviews (defined as a particular philosophy of life or conception of the world) are subjective and depend largely on culture, tradition, background and academic orientation of the holder of such worldview.  Tolerance, not necessarily acceptance, should be the ideal order in dealing with the different worldviews on landscape.

Just my little thoughts…

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Upland Ecosystem Management

by Antonio C. Antonio
December 26, 2014

The four basic and fundamental principles of management --- therefore, (1) planning, (2) organizing, (3) directing and (4) controlling --- apply in most organized (or even individual) endeavours.  Upland ecosystem management, however, has additional peculiarities that also need to be considered.  These are…

IDENTIFICATION OF LAND USE MANAGEMENT GOALS – The hardest part in identifying the land use management goals is who will identify them.  Participatory management will be the best strategy in this case.  Indigenous knowledge plus production technologies should be the perfect combination in the planning stage.  The use of the land could be translated into explicit objectives and directions.  In the center of the plans and programs should be the upland dwellers whose members are often referred to as “the poorest of the poor”.  Sustainable development (described as the calibrated utilization of the same natural resources between present and future generations) should also be the centrepiece of such land use management goals.

IDENTIFICATION OF THE CAPABILITY OF THE LAND – An inventory of available productive resources and the identification of constraints and opportunities present in the resource environment are vital components in determining the capability of the lands.  The limitation f the land is another important consideration in planning land use management goals.

IDENTIFICATION OF AVAILABLE PRODUCTIVE RESOURCES – Identifying the available productive resources is crucial in the sense that it focuses on the productive capabilities of the land relative to the resources and potential for growth and development.  This includes the management of the human-based inputs such as labor, capital and technology.  The main objective of this task is to create a list of resources and the potentials of the land as well as a management system for such so that the proponents can visualize the total resource capability.

IDENTIFICATION OF CONSTRAINTS AND OPPORTUNITIES – In a SWOT analysis, “opportunities” and “threats” are considered “external environments”.  Threats and opportunities must also be inventoried, not only the “strengths” and “weaknesses”.  Knowledge of the economic environment will give planners a better view of the financials (capital and credit) and market.  The social and political environments must also be identified and studied so that they do not become impediments in the realization of the set goals.  A working knowledge of the indigenous and technical environments is also a must established to blend traditional with modern worldviews.  The biological environment also needs to be seriously considered as ecological concerns are also paramount.  Pursuing management goals are best anticipated by determining the total resource environment.

IDENTIFICATION OF THE VARIOUS OUTPUTS – Identifying the various goods and services (outputs) relative to the cost and, more importantly, the environmental stress (degradation, soil erosion, etc.) must also be identified.  Again, it is important to look at the “sustainability” of such environmental intrusion.  Sustainable Management is the utilization of resources by the present generation while leaving the same amount of resources for the productive use of the next generations.  The identification of the optimal mix of goods and services is largely an economic problem whose solutions may be mathematical in nature.  Operations research tools are usually used in this task.  An analysis must be performed to determine the economic feasibility and ecological soundness of the land use management strategy.

MONITORING AND EVALUTION – Oversight functions should be an integral part of any management strategy.  This will allow for re-direction and recalibration of the entire program to attain optimum level of success.

All these, plus a few others you may know, are the peculiar additions to accepted management systems which apply to upland ecosystem management.

Just my little thoughts…

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Monday, January 19, 2015

Types of Environmental Resources

by Antonio C. Antonio
January 6, 2015

Are natural resources and environmental resources one and the same?  To some degree, they are the same… but, strictly and technically speaking, they are not the same.  So how do we now differentiate natural resources as opposed to environmental resources?

A resource is anything that serves a need and is useful and available at a particular cost.  It is important to note that all living organisms get all their resources needs from the environment.  The difference between natural resources and environmental resources is that natural resources are provided by Mother Earth or by Mother Nature while environmental resources are resources that can be taken from the environment.  Additionally, natural resources are the actual and potential resources (goods and services) supplied by nature while environmental resources are resources (goods) that can be taken from the environment.

It is also very important to note that there are two types of environmental resources… renewable and non-renewable.  Renewable resources are resources that can be replaced by the environment as long as it is given reasonable time to regenerate before extracted again.  Examples of renewable resources are the living organisms that are part of the food chain.  Non-renewable resources are resources whose supplies are finite or replaced by the environment in an excessively long period of time that is outside the lifespan of man.  The most common examples of non-renewable resources are coal and other fossil fuels.

The utilization of either renewable or non-renewable resources should be within the limits of sustainability… without which will certainly bring us long-term problems from short-term gains.  Understanding the needs of the future generations should be the paramount concern of the present generation.  Without a balanced and sustainable utilization of natural and/or environmental resources, there really is no sense knowing that there are two types of environmental resources.

Just my little thoughts…

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Sunday, January 18, 2015

The World Conservation Strategy

by Antonio C. Antonio
January 1, 2015

Preservation is synonymous to protection, safeguarding and safekeeping.  Preservation, as an environmental term, focuses on the preservation, protection or restoration of the natural environment, natural ecosystems, vegetation and wildlife.  Towards this end (preservation of nature and natural resources), a wide range of political, legal, social and scientific strategies have been adopted by societies and governments throughout the world.  Such efforts towards preservation gave rise to the following conservation objectives:

1.     Planned use of natural and environmental resources of the planet;
2.     Preservation of maximum number of different plant and animal species in order to retain the genetic resource base of the biosphere; and,
3.     Provision of recreational facilities in landscapes largely unaltered by recent advances in technology.

These conservation objectives form the core principles in the world conservation strategy.

Just my little thoughts…

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Public Policies Concerning the Uplands

by Antonio C. Antonio
January 14, 2015

Most countries, whatever form of government they have, are governed by laws, rules and regulations, and public policies.  The Philippines, having the democratic form of government, has a Constitution which serves as the fundamental law.  Economic development plans and programs are implemented through different directives promulgated through republic acts, executive orders, department orders, implementing rules and regulations, etc. and which are generally known as public policies.

In the uplands, most public policies are focused towards the socio-cultural and economic upliftment of the upland dwellers and the protection, development and utilization of resources found there.  The following are examples of such public policies:
  • REPUBLIC ACT NO. 7942: “An act instituting a new system of mineral resources exploration, development, utilization and conservation.”
  • EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 79: “Institutionalizing and implementing reforms in the Philippine mining sector providing policies and guidelines to ensure environmental protection and responsible mining in the utilization of mineral resources.”
  • EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 23: “Declaring a moratorium on the cutting and harvesting of timber in the natural and residual forests and creating the anti-illegal logging task force.”
  • PRESIDENTIAL DECREE NO. 705:  “Revising Presidential Decree No. 389, otherwise known as the Forestry Reform Code of the Philippines.”
  • REPUBLIC ACT NO. 8371: “An act to recognize, protect and promote the rights of Indigenous Cultural Communities/Indigenous Peoples, creating a National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, establishing implementing mechanisms, appropriating funds therefore, and for other purposes.”
  • REPUBLIC ACT NO. 7160: “An act providing for a Local Government Code of 1991.”
  • REPUBLIC ACT NO. 7586: “An act providing for the establishment and management of national integrated protected areas system, defining its scope and coverage, and for other purposes.”

In some cases, public policies are repetitious and overlapping… sometimes, even outdated and irrelevant.  Given all these possibilities, it becomes imperative that public policies are often reviewed for the necessary amendments and update so they conform to the ever-changing needs of people.  Public policies on the environment and natural resources should not only apply to the lowlands… but also to public policies concerning the uplands.

Just my little thoughts…

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Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Significance of Culture

by Antonio C. Antonio
January 6, 2015

The employees of one of the biggest corporation in the Philippines will always greet each other “good morning” even at 4 in the afternoon; and we say it’s part of their corporate “culture”.  When a person is amiable and nice, we say it’s part of his “culture”.  When people are rude and ill-mannered, we say it’s part of their “culture”. When someone is ugly, we say it’s part of his “culture” (laughs).  So what then is “culture” or, more precisely, what is the “concept of culture”?  Sounds daunting, isn’t it?

The term “culture” is defined as:
  • The cumulative deposit of knowledge, experience, beliefs, values, attitudes, meanings, hierarchies, religion, notions of time, roles, spatial relations, concepts of the universe, and material objects and possessions acquired by a group of people in the course of generations through individual and group striving.
  • The systems of knowledge shared by a relatively large group of people.
  • Communication, communication is culture.
  • In its broadest sense, is cultivated behaviour; that is the totality of a person’s learned, accumulated experience which is socially transmitted, or more briefly, behaviour through social learning.
  • A way of life of a group of people --- the behaviour, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept, generally without thinking about them, and that are passed along by communication and imitation from one generation to the next.
  • Symbiotic communication.  Some of its symbols include a group’s skill, knowledge, attitudes, values, and motives.  The meanings of the symbols are learned and deliberately perpetuated in a society through its institutions.
  • Consisting of patterns, explicit and implicit, of and for behaviour acquired and transmitted by symbols, constituting the distinctive achievement of human groups, including their embodiments in artifacts; the essential core of culture consists of traditional ideas and especially their attached values; culture systems may, on the one hand, be considered as products of action, on the other hand, as conditioning influences upon further action.
  • The sum total of the learned behaviour of a group of people that are generally considered to be the tradition of that people and are transmitted from generation to generation.
  • A collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another.

Environmental studies take into account all the elements in an ecosystem… therefore, abiotic (non-living) and biotic (living) elements including, most specially, man.  It is in man that culture plays a distinctive and influential role.  “Culture”, therefore, plays a significant role that defines the dynamic interaction between man and his environment.  This is the significance of culture.

Just my little thoughts…

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Laws of Thermodynamics

by Antonio C. Antonio
January 6, 2015

In environmental science, it is inevitable not to talk about the energy flow in an ecosystem.  The primary source of energy in the biosphere is the sun.  The energy that the sun provides is in the form of radiation; usually light and thermal or heat energy.  Light triggers photosynthesis while heat energy causes movement of molecules.  Energy flows are lost in the process but not before it performs work in the ecosystem such as in the metabolism of living organisms and their growth and reproduction.  While some energy is expended, some energy, on the other hand, gets stored.  The expenditure and storage of energy are governed by the Laws of Thermodynamics.

Thermodynamics is the branch of physical science that deals with the relations between heat and other forms of energy (therefore: mechanical, electrical or chemical energy) and, by extension, of the relationships between all forms of energy.  The Four Laws of Thermodynamics define fundamental physical quantities (therefore: temperature, energy and entropy) that characterize thermodynamic systems.  The laws describe how these quantities behave under various circumstances and forbid certain phenomena (such as perpetual motion).

The Four Laws of Thermodynamics are:

ZEROTH LAW OF THERMODYNAMICS – If two systems are in thermal equilibrium respectively with a third system, they must be in thermal equilibrium with each other.  This law helps define the notion of temperature.

FIRST LAW OF THERMODYNAMICS – When energy passes, as work, as heat, or with matter, into or out from a system, its internal energy changes in accordance with the Law of Conservation of Energy.  Equivalently, perpetual motion machines of the first kind are impossible.

SECOND LAW OF THERMODYNAMICS – In a natural thermodynamic process, the sum of the entropies of the participating thermodynamic systems increases.  Equivalently, perpetual motion machines of the second kind are impossible.

THIRD LAW OF THERMODYNAMICS – The entropy of a system approaches a constant value as the temperature approaches absolute zero.  With the exception of gasses, the entropy of a system at absolute zero is typically close to zero and is equal to the log of the multiplicity of the quantum ground state.

The Laws of Thermodynamics are important fundamental laws in physics and they are applicable in other natural sciences.  These Laws of Thermodynamics, seemingly hard to comprehend by ordinary minds, are essential and inevitable parts in environmental science.  This is the reason why, in the broader sense of environmentalism, there is a need to create some degree of awareness on the Laws of Thermodynamics.

Just my little thoughts…

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Keywords in the Study of Ecology

by Antonio C. Antonio
January 14, 2015

The study of environmental science is a multidisciplinary academic field that involves both natural and social sciences.  My idol, Dean Inocencio E. Buot, Jr. of the Faculty of Management and Developmental Studies of the University of the Philippines OU, often says that for one to be successful in the study of ecology, one has to even be “pakialamero” or nosey. His statement typifies the broad nature of this particular realm of study.  Daunting and intimidating as it is, there are ways to keep it simple… perhaps, internalize an inter-connected and interrelated series of keywords, such as:

SPECIES – A group of living organisms consisting of similar individuals capable of exchanging or interbreeding.  Successful mating is used as the criterion for delineating individuals of the same species from another.  There are roughly half a million species of plants and several million species of animals in the world most of them found in the tropics.

POPULATION – Population is defines as: (a) All the inhabitants of a particular town, area, or country; (b) A particular section, group, or type of people or animals living in an area or country; (c) The specified extent or degree to which an area is or has been populated; and, (d) Population is a distinct group of individuals of species that live and interact in the same geographical area.  Examples of plant populations are cogon grasses in a grassland area, as distinct from the populations of “talahib” or colopogonium… in these plant populations live populations of grasshoppers, snakes and other animals in the same grassland area.

HABITAT – Habitat is defined as: (a) The natural home or environment of an animal, plant, or other organisms; (b) A person’s usual or preferred surroundings; and, (c) The specific place or area where organisms or populations live in the physical environment.  We actually have two main types of habitat, which are: (1) Terrestrial or land based habitat; and (2) Aquatic or water based habitat.

COMMUNITY – Community is defined as: (a) A group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common; and, (b) A feeling of fellowship with others as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests and goals.  Different populations comprise a community that live and interact with one another in a given space at a given time.  In the forest we have different communities of plant and animals which comprise the biotic communities of the forest.

ECOSYSTEM – An ecosystem is a biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment.

BIOME – A biome consists of many ecosystems taken together in a large terrestrial area of the planet earth.  Biomes are identified and classified according to their dominant vegetation type and their associated animal and microbial components.

TROPICAL FOREST – A tropical forest is a type of forest found in areas with high regular rainfall and no more than two months of low rainfall; and consisting of a completely closed canopy of trees that prevents the penetration of sunlight to the ground and discourages ground-cover growth.  A tropical forest is dominated by hardwood species belonging to Family Dipterocarpaceae, Leguminosae.  Tropical forest can be found in three continents: (a) Southeast Asia including the Philippines; (b) Tropical Africa; and, (c) Central and South America particularly the basis of the Amazon River.

BIOSPHERE – A biosphere is the totality of all the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems in the world.  It is the regions of the surface, atmosphere, and hydrosphere of the earth occupied by living organisms.  It is the thin layer of the air, soil and water at the interface of the planet’s surface and its atmosphere where life forms exist.

In a nutshell, all these general terms is ecology simply based on the preceding keywords in the study of ecology.

Just my little thoughts…

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Scope of Environmental Science

by Antonio C. Antonio
January 2, 2015

Environmental science is a multidisciplinary academic field that integrates physical, biological and information sciences to the study of the environment, and the solutions to environmental problems.  Environmental science is a discipline that attempts to understand and explain environmental issues and tries to find solutions to problems caused by the interaction of human society with the natural world.  It is a composite science that draws knowledge from the natural sciences and the social sciences such as economics, political science and sociology. 

Ecology forms the central core of environmental science as a discipline.  However, in environmental science (or, particularly in ecology), man is treated not only as a biological organism, but as a social entity.  Environmental science involves the application of ecological principles in studying the effects of human activities on the environment. 

Environmental science is both the “cure” and “prevention” of environmental problems. This is the scope of environmental science.

Just my little thoughts…

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The Problems of Upland Communities

by Antonio C. Antonio
January 7, 2015

Upland dwellers are the most problematic communities in the Philippines.  They have too many plus one more problem than the other segments of society.  These are:

POVERTY – Upland communities are considered to be among the poorest of the poor in the Philippines.  Most upland dwellers live below the poverty line.

UPLAND POPULATION INCREASE – The increase in upland population is caused by the natural increase in upland dweller population plus upland migration.  These causes exert tremendous pressure on land availability and upland resources.  (For more information, you may want to click on this link:

ECONOMIC CONDITION – The main economic activity in the uplands is upland farming.  The most common crops are rice, corn and root crops.  As upland dwellers are kitchen-oriented, most of their farming produce is used for home consumption.  Surplus is often used for barter or cash sale, especially during the off-season (Sevilla, 1994).  Secondary crops include fruits such as bananas, mangoes, coffee, coconut, citrus, etc. and vegetables.  Some upland dwellers engage in other income-generating activities like forest products gathering, working as hired labourers, backyard livestock and poultry raising.  Home-based cottage industry activities such as basket, broom and mat making, pottery, beadwork and wood carving are also common.  These economic and/or livelihood activities are however insufficient to meet daily expenditure needs.

HEALTH – Many upland dwellers suffer from malnutrition.  Upland diets, heavy on carbohydrate (from the rice, corn and root crops), are very low on protein and other nutrients.  Goiter is the most common disease because of iodine deficiency in their normal diet.  Headaches, fever, colds, malaria, tuberculosis, gastro-intestinal disorders, respiratory and skin diseases, diarrhea and water-borne parasite are the other common health issues and concerns.  Lack of personal hygiene, human waste disposal systems, unsanitary practices and safe water sources account for the high incidence of diseases in the upland.

EDUCATION – Poor roads conditions or the non-existence of roads makes it hard for teachers to conduct regular classes.  More often, education is sacrifices whenever there is conflict between farm work and going to school.  Upland parents could not also afford to send their children to school.

DWELLINGS AND FACILITIES – Common upland dwellings are single-room houses made of light materials --- nipa, bamboo, cogon, thatch, sawali or wood.  Upland dwellers usually use rivers, creeks or springs as water sources.  Most upland communities use kerosene for lighting and fuelwood for cooking.

TRANSPORTATION – The usual complaint of lowlanders in missions to assist the upland communities are: (1) The poor road conditions or the absence of roads and bridges; (2) The lack or absence of available public transportation.  Motorcycles, with very limited carrying capacity, are the transport norm; (3) The rainy season which isolates the upland communities from the rest of the world.

LAND TENURE – Upland areas are largely considered as inalienable public domain which means most upland communities have no ownership rights over the land they till and live in.  The fact that upland dwellers do not own land plus the nomadic lifestyle and slash and burn agriculture of some indigenous peoples in the upland has resulted to soil degradation.

ACCESS TO CREDIT – Upland dwellers do not have access credit institutions.  Their land tenure situation makes it impossible for them to avail of loans since they cannot meet the collateral requirement.  Their lack of education, illiteracy and ignorance makes it hard for upland dwellers to enter into loan and credit agreements; and the strict conditions attached to such agreements.

FARMING AND AGRICULTURAL SYSTEMS – Upland farmers more often limit themselves to the production of staple crops such as upland rice, corn, root crops, fruits and vegetables.  Backyard livestock raising (goats, cattle, chicken, etc.) is also common.  These farming and agricultural systems, however, could be considered marginal because of the absence of modern agricultural technology but traditional indigenous farming knowledge.

Reading these nutshell descriptions of the problems of upland communities will certainly give us a feeling of concern.  Doing a little bit more research, reading understanding on the life and living conditions of the upland dwellers will probably reveal more than the above-discussed problems.  What other dire additions should be added to the problems of upland communities?

Just my little thoughts…

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Monday, January 12, 2015

Models and Theories

by Antonio C. Antonio
January 8, 2015

Quite often, some words are interchangeably used such as the terms “model” and “theory”.  These two terms, in concept, dramatically differ in terms of how they propose to understand a phenomenon.  Although both are often based on empirical observations (analysis and data), models are descriptions of possible causes and effects of a theory while theories are explanations of why a phenomena will occur.  A model is a system or thing used as an example to follow or imitate while a theory is a supposition or a system of ideas intended to explain something, especially one that is based on general principles independent of something that needs to be explained.

Models and theories are readily distinguished from each other in how they provide parameters for understanding an event or phenomenon.  They are similar in terms of both being conceptual constructs of events and phenomena.  In some instances, models are based on theories.

Some degree of care and discernment should really accompany the use of the terms models and theories.

Just my little thoughts…

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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Protecting Protected Areas

by Antonio C. Antonio
January 4, 2015

“How are protected areas actually protected?” is a sensible question.  There are principal international conventions and agreements relating to protected areas. These are: (1) The Convention on Biological Diversity or Earth Summit; (2) The World Heritage Convention; (3) The Ramsar or Wetlands Convention; and, (4) The Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals or Bonn Convention.  These conventions and agreements form the rock-solid foundation for the protection of the environment in general.


The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as the Rio Summit, the Rio Conference and the Earth Summit was a major United Nations conference held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June 3 to 14, 1992.  172 governments participated with 116 sending their heads of state.  Some 2,400 representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGO) attended with 17, people at the parallel NGP Global Forum.  The issues addressed included: (a) Systematic scrutiny of patterns of production particularly the production of toxic components such as lead in gasoline, and poisonous waste including radioactive chemicals; (b) Alternative sources of energy to replace the use of fossil fuels which are linked to global climate change; (c) New reliance on public transportation systems in order to reduce vehicle emissions, congestion in cities and the health problems cause by polluted air; and, (d) The growing scarcity of fresh water.  An important achievement was an agreement on the Climate Change Convention which in turn led to the Kyoto Protocol.  Another agreement was to “not carry out any activities on the lands of indigenous peoples that would cause environmental degradation or that would be culturally inappropriate”.  The Convention on Biological Diversity was opened for signature at the Earth Summit and made a start towards redefinition of measures that did not inherently encourage destruction of natural ecosystems.  In 2012, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development was also held in Rio de Janeiro and is commonly called Rio+20 or Rio Earth Summit s2012.  The Earth Summit resulted in the following documents: (1) Rio Declaration on Environment and Development; (2) Agenda 21; (3) Forest Principles; (4) Convention on Biological Diversity; (5) Framework Convention on Climate Change; and, (6) United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.


The Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage is a successful global instrument for the protection of cultural and natural heritage.  The World Heritage Convention was adopted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) General Conference at its 17th session in Paris, France on November 16 1972.  The Convention came into force in 1975.  The World Heritage Convention aims to promote cooperation among nations to protect heritage around the world that is of such outstanding universal value that its conservation is important for current and future generations.  States that are parties to the Convention agree to identify, protect, conserve, and present World Heritage properties.  Concerned countries recognize that the identification and safeguarding of heritage located in their territory is primarily their responsibility.  They agree, amongst other things, as far as possible to: (1) Adopt a general policy that aims to give the cultural and natural heritage a function in the life of the community and to integrate the protection of that heritage into comprehensive planning programs; (2) Undertake appropriate legal, scientific, technical administrative and financial measures necessary for the identification, protection, conservation, presentation and rehabilitation of this heritage; and, (3) Refrain from any deliberate measures which might damage, directly or indirectly, the cultural and natural heritage of other parties to the Convention, and to help other parties in the identification and protection of their properties.  The World Heritage Convention is administered by a World Heritage Committee which meets annually and consists of 21 members elected from those States that are parties to the Convention.  The Committee’s main tasks are to: (a) Decide on the inscriptions of new properties on the World Heritage List; (b) Discuss all matters relating to the implementation of the Convention; (c) Consider requests for international assistance; (d) Advise member countries on how they can ensure they meet their obligations under the Convention to protect World Heritage Properties; and, (e) Administer the World Heritage Fund.


The Ramsar Convention or the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable utilization of wetlands while recognizing the fundamental functions of wetlands and their economic, cultural, scientific and recreational value.  It is named after the City of Ramsan, Iran where the Convention was signed in 1971 and came into force on December 21, 1975.  The Ramsar definition of wetlands is fairly wide to include areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed 6 meters as well as fish ponds, rice paddies and salt pans.  The Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance now includes 2,000 Sites (called “Ramsar Sites) covering 200 million hectares.  Presently there are 168 contracting parties from 21 initial signatory nations in 1971.  The state parties meet every three years as the Conference of the Contracting Parties, the first held in Cagliari, Italy in 1980.  The headquarters is located in Gland, Switzerland.


The more common abbreviation of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals is the Conservation on Migratory Species but others prefer to call this convention the Bonn Convention.  The convention was named so since it was signed in 1979 in Bas Godsberg, a suburb of Bonn, Federal Republic of Germany.  The Bonn Convention aims to conserve terrestrial, marine and avian migratory species.  It is an intergovernmental treaty concluded under the United Nations Environment Programme concerned with the conservation of wildlife and habitats on a global scale.  The Bonn Convention is the only global and UN-based intergovernmental organization established exclusively for the conservation and management of terrestrial, aquatic and avian migratory species.  As of November 2014, there are 120 Parties to the Convention.

There are other international agreements, conventions and protocols plus local initiated laws, rules and regulations that concern protected areas, but this four conventions form the nucleus of environmental protection.  This is not to say, however, that the others are less important; but these are “it” when it comes to protecting protected areas.

Just my little thoughts…

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Saturday, January 10, 2015

Reasons Why the Uplands are Important

by Antonio C. Antonio
December 28, 2014

There are several reasons why the uplands are important.  Please allow me to mention the more significant ones.  The uplands provide…

PRODUCTION – The uplands are suitable areas to grow agricultural crops, wood products, non-wood and other plant products.  It is also where fresh water source is stored.  The upland, because of the relatively cooler weather is a good place to raise livestock.  Mineral resources can also be found in abundance in the uplands.

PROTECTION – The uplands provide natural wind breaks for the many typhoons that visit our archipelago.  The forests in the upland protect the low-lying areas from floods.  Carbon sequestration functions most efficiently in the uplands… considered an intangible benefit but a most important function of the uplands.

EDUCATION AND SCIENCE – In the realm of science and education, the uplands provide the following functions: (1) Plant and animal habitats; (2) Research for a wide collection of plant and animal species;  (3) Can be an effective ecological monitoring zones; (4) Research on ecosystems and organisms; and, (5) Environmental education.

AESTHETIC AND RECREATION – Artists draw inspiration for their arts and craft in the uplands.  It is also a place for relaxation, outdoor recreation activities like camping, bird watching, and hunting.

SOURCE OF LAND – The upland is the traditional habitat of indigenous peoples, government resettlement areas and reserve area for migration.

Together with other reasons you know and I might have missed, these are the reasons why the uplands are important.

Just my little thoughts…

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Friday, January 9, 2015

Categories of Protected Areas

by Antonio C. Antonio
January 1, 2015

Categorizing protected areas is important to set the specific purpose by which such areas are deemed for protection and conservation.  The Conservation of Nature (IUCN) came up with a system of classifying these areas.  The IUCN is now popularly called the World Conservation Union which is the umbrella organization of conservation agencies and institutions.  In 1978, the IUCN, through the IUCN General Assembly, developed and ratified a system of categories of protected areas which encompassed a wide range of protected/conservation areas.  These categories are as follows:

Category I-A: STRICT NATURE RESERVE is a protected areas managed mainly for science.  An area of land and/or sea possessing some outstanding or representative ecosystems, geological or physiological features and/or species, available primarily for scientific research and/or environmental monitoring.

Category I-B:  WILDERNESS AREA is a protected area managed mainly for wilderness protection.  A large area of unmodified or slightly modified land, and/or sea, retaining its natural character and influence, without permanent or significant habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural condition.

Category II:  NATIONAL PARK is a protected area managed mainly for ecosystem protection and recreation.  A natural area of land and/or sea designated to: (1) Protect the ecological integrity of one or more ecosystems for present and future generations; and, (2) Exclude exploitation or occupation inimical to the purpose of designation of the area, and provide a foundation for spiritual, scientific, educational, recreational and visitor opportunities, all of which must be environmentally and culturally compatible.

Category III:  NATURAL MONUMENT is a protected area managed mainly for conservation of specific natural features.  An area containing one, or more, specific natural or natural/cultural feature which is of outstanding or unique value because of its inherent rarity, representative or aesthetic qualities or cultural significance.

Category IV: HABITAT AND SPECIES MANAGEMENT AREA is a protected area managed mainly for conservation through management intervention.  An area of land and/or sea subject to active intervention for management purposes so as to ensure the maintenance of habitats and/or to meet the requirements of specific species.

Category V: PROTECTED LANDSCAPE AND SEASCAPE is a protected area managed mainly for landscape and seascape conservation and recreation.  An area of land, with coast and sea as appropriate, where the interaction of people and nature over time has produced an area of distinct character with significant  aesthetic, ecological and/or cultural value, and often with high biological diversity.  Safeguarding the integrity of this traditional interaction is vital to the protection, maintenance and evaluation of such an area.

Category VI: MANAGED RESOURCE PROTECTED AREA is a protected areas managed mainly for sustainable use of natural ecosystems.  An area containing predominantly unmodified natural systems, managed to ensure long term protection and maintenance of biological diversity, while providing at the same time a sustainable flow of natural products and services to meet community needs.

A clear understanding of these categories and their distinctions (similarities and differences) will make people more aware why there is a need to set these categories of protected areas.

Just my little thoughts…

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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Interrelated Component Parts of Cultures

by Antonio C. Antonio
January 8, 2015

Culture is oftentimes considered a vague concept.  However, some anthropologists say that culture is a clear and firmly structured system of concepts that even has component parts.  The following are the interrelated parts or components of cultures according to one of my favourite professors, Daylinda Banzon-Cabanilla, in her book “Cultures and Societies in Typical Forest Ecosystems”:
  1. Ideology refers to a society’s beliefs, attitudes, values, knowledge, and information.  Some anthropologists consider ideology and worldview as synonyms.  Others even think of ideology as the entirety of culture.  Ideology includes religion, science, and magic.  It can refer to pro-Erap political programs, the moral values of movie stars, and the environmental attitudes of scientists.
  2. Techno-economy is a society’s production, consumption and distribution of goods and services.  Most anthropologists would just call this component “economy”, but to emphasize technology others use the hyphenated word.  Techno-economy includes livestock raising, food sharing, marketing or trading of corn, stockmarket transactions, and ATMs.
  3. Social organization consists of social units and their patterns of interaction.  You can also call this component “social relations” or “social structure”.  This includes the way individuals and groups in the society interact.  Formal organizations such as NGOs as well as institutions such as marriage, family, and kin groups are types of social organizations.  Societies are also seen as organized along age, sex, gender, ethnicity, and class dimensions.
  4. Environment includes both biophysical (local climate, terrain, flora and fauna, natural resources) and social (neighboring societies) environments.  It includes both natural and human-made surroundings.

Again, culture (defined as the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively) may still appear to be a bit confusing even with the interrelating component parts of culture.

Just my little thoughts…

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