By Roi Lomotan
“The lesser you use your trash whether it’s one plastic bag (or) one sachet, you lessen the 60 billion sachets. You lessen the 16 billion plastic bags and that makes a big impact.”
This how Miss Earth 2014 Jamie Herrell encouraged young people in this city to protect the environment during her presentation at the recently held Geoskwela event at the Luce Auditorium, Silliman University (SU).
The Filipino-American beauty queen was referring to a report from environmental group GAIA which noted that there are 60 billion plastic sachets and 16.5 billion transparent plastic bags or commonly known as plastic labo used and disposed in the Philippines annually.
“You have to remember it’s a ripple effect. When you started everyone else will follow. Never think that you are student and you cannot be taken seriously – No! Because the children, the students are not only the people of tomorrow but they are also the people of today. Everything you do right now can make an impact to the world,” Herrell advised the Dumaguete youths.
Hundreds of students from Silliman University and other academic institutions attended the activity.
Joining Herrell in tackling the relevant issues concerning the environment during the Geoskwela are SU student and co-founder of student – lead Project Balod marine conservation workshop Rhyn Escolana, SU Professor and “Balik Scientist” of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Dr. Jorge Emmanuel, and Energy Development Corporation (EDC) Strategic Initiatives, Legal and Regulatory Office (SILRO) Head Miguel Lorenzo De Vera.
The Miss Earth title-holder also discussed her personal advocacy: “Think Twice” Campaign which teaches the public to think twice and find alternative ways of protecting the environment even through practical means of disposing of trash properly and in conserving energy and water resources.
She also urged the youth to be proactive and not reactive in terms of protecting the environment particularly in addressing the garbage and plastic problem of the country.
In a similar note, student leader Rhyn Esolana also encouraged young people to be re-thinkers in using plastics.
“I want you to be re-thinkers. Re-think if you want to use plastic. When you go to a store, do you really need to put that ballpen, put that notebook inside a plastic when you can put it in your back or you can just walk away with it?” Esolana said.
Esolana also gave a talk on his advocacy in protecting the seas noting his concern on the going trend of increased plastic production and decreased fish production in the country which could result to more plastics than fishes in the ocean in the year 2050.
The student leader emphasized that it is important to take care of the environment, especially the seas, to ensure food security, livelihood, and human health.
“We all have to think about the now. We have to take care of ourselves. Save ourselves. Love the environment. If we look after the sea, it will look back after us,” Esolana said.
Esolana also told his fellow youths to participate in local movements that advocate for environmental protection.
In relation also to the threats posed by plastic pollution in the marine life, Dr. Jorge Emmanuel shared that micro-plastics are now seen in seafood.
Dr. Emmanuel explained that micro-plastics come from the large pieces of plastics that people throw away in the ocean which eventually broke down to tiny pieces which can be consumed by marine animals unintentionally. These will remain plastics until 100 years.
Dr. Emmanuel disclosed Negros Oriental State University (NORSU) made a study on the seafood caught in southern Negros which showed that a large percentage of seafood have micro-plastics.
He also noted that micro-plastics have the capability to attract toxic chemicals.
“Just like the loss of biodiversity, the massive amount of plastic wastes, wastes in general, and the chemical contaminants also spread on our earth is also an existential threat to us,” Dr. Emmanuel told his audience.
Apart from discussing the potential threat of plastic wastes to humans, Dr. Emmanuel also talked about the existential threat of climate change.
Dr. Emmanuel also highlighted the need to go to renewable energy to bring down the level of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions in the country.
EDC’s SILRO Head Miguel De Vera agreed to this saying “The best we can do now is to transition to renewable energy slowly and adopt low carbon technology practices as they become available.”
De Vera also imparted some information on the benefits of utilizing renewable energy resources like geothermal energy which he described as a clean and stable energy source.
Moreover, he also shared the company’s commitment to preserving the forest covers as part of its thrusts on environmental sustainability.
Geoskwela is an initiative of the renewable firm Energy Development Corporation (EDC) which aims to bring the young people closer to experts, academicians, and inspirational figures who share the advocacy of environmental sustainability and utilization of clean energy.
“With initiatives such as Geoskwela, sustainability and environmental advocacy are more effectively entrenched in the grassroots level of academic communities and student bodies – ensuring that a greener and more stable energy future is a brighter prospect today more than ever,” said Norreen Bautista, head of EDC’s Corporate Social Responsibility Group in Negros Island.