Monday, September 21, 2015

Addressing the Pollution Problem

By Anton Antonio
September 22, 2015

The biggest challenge for pro-environment advocates is simplifying and narrowing down complex environmental concepts to terms and forms easily understood by people.  Let’s take “pollution” as an example.  It would be easy to simply define pollution as “the presence in or introduction into the environment of any substance or matter that has harmful or poisonous effect.”  This might be simple… but if asked about “the levels of approach to pollution control”, things suddenly becomes complex especially to the untrained mind in environmental science.  This is the pitfall where most environmental advocates get trapped.  More often, their failure to make things simple becomes the impenetrable wall that separates them from their target audience… and, therefore, also failure in delivering desired messages. 

So the challenge is to narrow down “the different levels of approach to addressing pollution” in terms that are simple, easy to understand and less intellectually stressful… so here goes…

There are three levels by which pollution could be addressed:

One:  The INDIVIDUAL level.  The individual level involves individuals as well as the family.  This level has a lot to do with individual lifestyle and household practices.  Avoiding luxury without sacrificing quality of life is a key element on this level.  Pollution can be managed at this level by: Individual --- (a) taking the bus instead of driving a car will help in minimizing carbon emission, (b) taking shorter shower baths to conserve water, (c) using the electric fan than the airconditioner will save on energy capacity requirement, etc. --- and Household --- (a) household waste segregation and disposal, (b) using graywater in cleaning cars or other household cleaning needs, (c) turning off unnecessary lights, etc.  There really is a long list of pollution control initiatives from the individual and household level.

Two:  The COMMUNITY level.  Magnifying the individual and household pollution initiatives will bring us to the next level which is the community.  This time, however, we could use “carpooling” (meaning:  an arrangement among a group of automobile owners by which each owner takes turn to drive others in the group to and from a designated place) as a larger example than choosing to ride the bus than drive a car.  It is pleasing to note that organized groups such as civic groups, associations, foundations and many other non-government organizations (NGOs) have joined community pollution control initiatives which have boosted efforts on the community level.  Most have adapted the NIMBY Syndrome as a basic strategy.  “Sometimes we come across words that we don’t understand, don’t make sense or even strange to us.  One such word is “nimby”.  Well… the term “nimby” is actually not a word but an acronym which stands for “Not In My Back Yard”.  As it progressed in usage, NIMBY became a descriptive term to express acceptance of the need for something but this something is something one doesn’t want near one’s home… therefore, not in my back yard!  Nimbies are persons who would normally say: “You could have or do anything you like so long as it’s nowhere near me.” (Antonio, 2014)

Three:  The INDUSTRY level.  The industry sector has been the most effective level in pollution control so far.  Perhaps it is because employees are easier to manage and “coerce” (for lack of a better word) to follow pollution control initiatives by companies that have embraced and integrated pro-environmental programs to their corporate and business plans.

Four:  The NATIONAL level.  At the national level, pollution control is done through legislated environmental protection laws.  The government agency primarily tasked to implement environmental laws is the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB).  Through requirements such as the Environment Compliance Certificate (ECC) and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) the DENR-EMB manages and monitors ecologically sensitive projects and programs.

Five:  The INTERNATIONAL level.  At the international level, pollution control policies are formulated through protocols, conventions, treaties, etc.  Examples of such meetings are the World Conference on Environment and Development (WCED) or the Earth Summit, The United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development or the Montreal Protocol, etc.  The most significant document that has been crafted on pro-environment initiatives is Agenda 21.  In the Philippines, we also have a counterpart document known as Philippine Agenda 21.

I hope these discussions served to simplify “the different levels of approach to addressing pollution” and increased awareness on addressing the pollution problem.

Thoughts to promote positive action…

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Antonio, A. C., (2014). “The NIMBY Syndrome”.  Retrieved on September 22, 2015 from

Antonio, A. C., (2015). “The Pitfall of the NIMBY Syndrome”.  Retrieved on September 22, 2015 from

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