Coastal clean-up

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September 25 was International Cleanup Day. All nations were asked to devote some time to removing trash and garbage from coastal areas, including beaches, coastlines, rivers, estuaries, coastal wetlands, etc.

This day is a very appropriate and timely reminder of what every Filipino should do everyday to keep our surroundings free of unsightly scenery and potentially dangerous areas, thus making our country a healthful place to live.

In the Philippines, the Department of Environment leads in the cleanup activities on this day, with the participation of various government offices, schools, and civic organizations. It is hoped that this exercise ultimately becomes an everyday routine for all of us, and Sept. 25 becomes primarily a day of reflection on the significance of a clean and safe environment, not merely the actual cleaning up process.

In this connection, the environmental education process could begin with schools, colleges, and universities as part of the practical academic work of students at all levels of the education hierarchy.

This way, environmental education is integrated into the curricula, and with continuous practice becomes part of our responsibility as individual human beings. If other countries can do it, why can’t we do it? Why can’t we develop the habit of cleaning our surroundings?

Let’s begin in our homes by seeing to it that we do not litter our streets with trash and garbage. To cite an example: among the most common items lying around us are the non-biodegradable plastic materials. Why don’t we stop using plastics and shift to other materials that are easily degraded, such as paper and buri or pandan bags?

I do not need to emphasize the harm done by plastics, which clog drainage canals causing floods, poison or kill wildlife when ingested, create ugly scenery in public places, and provide breeding spaces for harmful microorganisms.

Let’s not forget at this time that our country suffers from another serious pollution that we ourselves produce–kitchen, laundry, and toilet solid and liquid wastes– which are disposed of in our backyards.

Practically all of us are guilty of this negligence. But we must realize that these wastes are going to affect us sooner or later, through the food chain, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the flood waters we wade in.

I was struck by the cleanliness of the East River in New York City during my recent visit there. With the several millions of people living in New York City, it is amazing that the water of this river has remained very clear and relatively clean.

Contrast this with the dirty, stinking esteros of Metro Manila, and the dirty drainage canals every where in the country!

And one can only ask: Why?

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