By Digoy Fernandez ONE does not have to be a genius to figure that any large city â Metro-Manila, for example â generates a huge carbon footprint by way of car and truck emissions, the generation and improper handling of waste, buildings and homes that are not green enough, and the lack of enough green spaces that can serve as carbon sinks while generating oxygen at the same time. In the case of our own metropolis, short-sightedness on the part of many past administrators would find them making decisions on the basis of expediency rather than the consideration of the longer term suitability of the city as a habitat for man, flora, and fauna. Thus, if a road had to be widened, any tree getting in the way would be immediately cut or destroyed, instead of seeking out a win-win solution where the road could be widened but not at the expense of such trees. Instead of encouraging the practice of separating garbage at the source in each and every single household and institution, we still have unsightly garbage dumps containing all sorts of detritus. This situation is what attracts the scavengers who seek to eke out a living by trying to salvage the recyclable or usable materials from plain garbage. There are already too many environmental problems in the city begging for attention. For now, we will focus on the simple task of seeking empty spaces in the metropolis and converting these into green spaces. As a example, I just have to point out what I have done within my own property and in the alleyway adjoining it. Not to mention the adjoining streets and some of the areas in our village park. Over the years, I have taken to picking up seedlings âmany of them sprouting now that the rainy season has started â and putting them in small pots or containers for future planting activities. Lately, I have tried to obtain more balete (climbing fig) varieties, knowing that these grow very quickly and also attract all kinds of birds. I am still mourning the loss of practically all or our Aratiles trees that were cut down upon instructions by a village official because she found them messy! Aside from disappointing many villagers, their children, and even househelp from the pleasure of picking and eating the nice sweet berry-like fruits of this tree, we also deprived a lot of birds and other living creatures that depended on this link in the food chain. Now that I have whole banks of trees growing in my property, I can enjoy the sight and sounds of many birds that have made our place their own. My friend, the nature habitat specialist Ed de Vera, passed by one day and pointed out that my trees had a whole family of yellow orioles. I see them at various times during the day, together with other birds, frolicking near our fishpond area. It does not take much to create a green space. Even companies get into the act. I saw this in some of the companies like Toyota that have set aside areas for mini-forests in their properties. A green space can range from a few square meters to a few hectares. The idea is to keep the space well planted, using organic methods only, and allowing nature to take its course. That is the logic I used when we set up the mini-forest in our village. We planted the trees close together to simulate a forest environment, and then left nature to weave its magic. Pretty soon we had a combination of tall trees and small saplings in a small space of a few hundred square meters, providing an attractive base for other flora and fauna to take root in. Unfortunately, good intentions can only go so far. A series of unenlightened do-gooders subsequently introduced âinnovationsâ like concrete pathways and even a gazebo into the mini-forest, aside from the sacrilegious act of placing pebbles to act as a floor for the whole forest!!!! The whole purpose of keeping the area as pristine as possible went down the drain. Succeeding teams of do-gooders even used a portion of the mini-forest to âburnâ fallen leaves and twigs, destroying fully a quarter of the area previously planted. This should serve as a lesson to all concerned. Just because one has set aside a green space for plants and trees does not guarantee that it will remain that way. One will have to literally fight the attempts of others who see nothing of value in green spaces. That is why it is also important to choose potential green spaces that will not be used for other purposes. One idea is to utilize those neglected portions of the parks or similar areas that have been set aside by law for green spaces. The area where we live has a large property owned by one of the countryâs better -known families. This property was earmarked for development a few years ago, but residents of adjoining villages objected strenuously. I am hoping that the property remains as is because it has become home to countless numbers of night herons. One can see them start to take off at dusk, heading for Laguna de Bay to do their fishing and eating. They can also be seen at times making the return trip after a satisfying hunt. My friend Ed de Vera and I have been witness to this spectacle many a time, and we never tire of watching the night herons fly off to feed. Another time, I was able to catch a glimpse of some fireflies in the same area, which means that they also made use of the stream traversing the property. There is nothing that evokes memories of days gone by than the sight of fireflies. When the birds, butterflies, moths, bees and hornets, and even bats move in, one will know that he or she had done well with a given green space.
June 2009 Archives
By Digoy Fernandez A few months ago, my kids introduced me to Facebook, and I have taken to the social interaction medium like a fish to water. It took a while, of course, but starting with my neighbors – specifically, their kids – my list of friends gradually spread out to former classmates, old friends, and even new ones who I have been pleased to discover. One of the things that struck me is the love and care many of them show their pets, most of which are dogs. Some even have their dog’s pictures adorning their profile pages. My son, who inherited my love for pets in general, just sent me two amusing threads. One was of a puppy Retriever trying to sleep using a stair step to prop his head, to no avail. The other was of the Boston Terrier Breed, one we have grown to love ever since a bouncing bundle of Boston joy entered into our household four years ago. This little dog of ours has become truly one of the family and even sleeps between my two boys. My friend Wilson Ang of BioResearch is in the business of selling pets to people. But few know that he also has some sort of animal rescue center where he takes in battered or abandoned pets, mostly dogs, and tries to nurse them back to health. I have seen these dogs while walking through their area, and have been struck by their demeanor, wagging their tails and yelping for attention. Dogs truly are man’s best friend and crave for attention and love by instinct. Contrast this with the naturally feral nature of even ordinary household cats, that have to be won over if one is to be trusted by them. There was a time when I could not resist picking up little kittens that had probably been abandoned or appeared lost, and have tried to either raise them or give them to friends. Keeping a couple of “house cats” has certainly helped in keeping the vermin population at lower levels. Last week, my gardener found a baby python and promptly killed it. I was aghast and told him to never do that again, since I could have brought the snake over to the rescue center where it would become a nice addition to the menagerie there. Some of my Facebook friends have invited me to support their causes, many of which have to do with the care of and stopping the abuse of animals. These are easy to support, given my love for animals in general. (Without demeaning the need to stop the abuse of people too!) Many abandoned pets start off as whimsical purchases by people who think that they would just love to have an unusual pet, and then surrender to reality. But abandoning pets by literally throwing them out into the streets is a crime in itself. Not only is the animal left to fend for itself in a hostile environment, but the poor animal adds to the increasing number of strays in the metropolis. It is this thought that has kept me from buying those lovely little crocodiles or boa constrictors.