Neglectful Extremism

HABAGAT fatalities on our side of the border are just two, but tragic just the same. Any death after all is simply one death too many, especially at a time when unnecessary deaths just happen unexpectedly. Even now, another weather disturbance is hovering up in the Batanes. It has been Domeng, then Ester, one after the other.

By all standards, Domeng and Ester aren’t your average super typhoons in the category of the hurricanes that swept up the Carribean island communities last year, yet the misfortune that befell our compatriots in the lowland communities, inundating their respective areas with knee-deep floods, has dampened the Independence Day spirit somewhat. If these are just Habagat-spawned happenings, what more when the real typhoons come? What unparalleled anxiety would be upon us?

Let’s not forget that the landslide in Baguio, right in the heart of downtown, were triggered in a matter of hours when relentless, though weak, rains loosened up the grounds and let loose mud in cascading speed at a construction site. And why was this so? Because the mountain soil atop the site had not been checked efficiently enough? Because construction workers weren’t advised well enough? Because no fair warning was ever raised on the Habagat-induced rains? Because we’d rather leave everything in God’s mercy, rather than giving it our all to be out of harm’s way? Because it’s just early June, right after a short hot summer, and no storm in recent memory has historically besieged our hapless communities so early in the wet season?

Whatever reason anyone advances now, there’s no denying that the tragedy-struck families of two Baguio citizens were so unprepared in meeting their kins’ fate. Neither did the victims feel being at severe risk since the mountain slope above their head had not even been denuded for soil to loosen up and cascade ferociously to sweep up everything on its lethal downward descent. It’s very obvious that incessant rains in a matter of hours have loosened the mountain soil enough to unleash the avalanche of mud from the slopes down at the foothold.

It may be much of a belated post-incident thing, but the Sandico landslide could serve as a sound wake-upper for much of our construction activities now relentlessly going on in many parts of the city. A tardy reaction it may be, but as an old saying goes, better late than never. How about checking up our mountain sides — Kennon Road, Marcos Highway, Naguillan Road to begin with — and examining if mountain soil remains sturdy, stable, and unstressed due to lack of vegetative or even forest cover?

Over and above this, it may lead most of us to think in utter bewilderment — just a little rain that goes on for hours and mountain soil readily gives in and gets into a descending turn? Why has Mother Earth gone extreme, the weather events — big or inconsequential — taking a turn for the worse? Why is nature acting this way and not that way as it has done so in so predictable a way?

We are grimly reminded that we are where we are now due to our own misbehaving ways, repeatedly done since four centuries ago. Have we forgotten that scientists the world over have been warning us that since four centuries ago, what mankind has been doing is to bombard Mother Earth with too much concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, resulting from combustion of fossil fuel principally coal, oil, natural gas, along with deforestation, soil erosion and animal agriculture?

In short, we’ve been abusing our planetary home from way, way back, we’ve been wreaking havoc on our precious ecosystem that has been our lifeline into the future, we’ve been irresponsibly leading a lifetime of extreme profligacy and inordinate greed at the expense of the generations next. By 2047, the earth’s surface temperature would have drastically altered, enough to ignite mankind’s own ill-fated annihilation and extinction.

All is not lost however. Weather events may come and go but we can get over the hump if each time we take heed of nature’s vengeful ways. It may be late in the day, but surely there’s nothing to prevent us from heeding grim warnings about climate change. We can forestall the end of days by the essential ways in which we should lead our own lives.

The urgency is as clear as any sunny day. We must bring down the level of massive pollution now afflicting the planet, now causing oceans to heat up, now spawning much of the extreme weather disturbances that pummel their way into human settlements. This is achievable if we reduce dramatically the greenhouse gas emissions into the earth’s atmosphere, largely spewed out from the toxic fumes fueled by carbon dioxide.

The task is even made much easier if leading polluters that the United States and China have become in just 50 years of wanton misbehavior are brought to heel for their extremely errant ways. At the same time, peoples and leaders in every other place on earth can accept it as their supreme legacy to do today what should have been done many yesteryears ago. Simply stated, it means working today to secure a future of responsible stewardship of the only planet we can pass on to the next inhabitants.

And before we put another needless climate-induced event behind, let’s keep a more vigilant eye on Baguio’s mountain slopes, much of whom have been habituated by us but have remained extremely vulnerable to the next weather disturbance, regardless how Habagat may afflict it. Let Sandico serve as another signature name to keep us mentally alert and active in forestalling unwanted tragedies happen from extreme negligence. Engineering works in highland areas like ours should be done in full respect of the mountainous terrain.

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