No Choice

by Juan L. Mercado

With outstretched arms, the 38-meter statue of  “Cristo Redentor”, on Corcovado Mountain, dominates the  Rio de Janeiro skyline..Since 1931,  this Brazilian icon  withstood lightning, bird nests and the occasional vandal. It’s in the  2007 list of the world’s  “seven wonders”.

The  “Redeemer’” re-echoes, in concrete and  :steel, the  ancient vow:  “Whatsoever is done for little ones is done to Me”.  In  Rio below, the  UN Conference on Sustainable Development  heard from  the young.

“You have 72 hours to decide the fate of your children — my children,  my childrens’ children. And I start the clock now”, .17-year-old New Zealander Brittany Trilford told delegates from 190 countries. . “Are you here to save face?  Or are you here to save us?”

Her blunt question echoes in the  “youth bulge” here.  Population  topped  93.2 million last year.  More than  half ( 57% ) are below 20 years of age.  These youngsters’ hormones  are on overdrive. They also tarry in the reproductive bracket longer.  Many are jobless.

But  the Rio+20”  summit closed with kids shut out..The   final  document   shoved into the freezer  key provisions on  provisions on water, universal energy access and doubling renewables by 2030, etc.. The word “encourage” bobs up 50 times ( but )  the phrase  ‘we will’  just five times” noted World Widlife Fund. “The  word  ‘support’  appeared 99 times, but ‘must’  only thrice.” 

Both veterans and novices “wonder if such negotiations  produce meaningful outcomes,” Washington Post commented: “Rio+20 may produce one lasting legacy: Convincing people it’s not worth holding global summits.”

The non-binding declaration “ was a staggering failure of responsibility,”  asserts University of Surrey professor, Tim Jackson.  “( It )  betrayed the vision of a green economy,”  author of Prosperity Without Growth Jackson told the Guardian:  With Peter Victor of Toronto’s York University, Jackson argues for  prodding capital markets to  get behind an alternative investment route.

Failure to budge  beyond  old economic models  is self-defeating, Jackson added. . “It makes no sense to get the London Philharmonic Orchestra to play Beethoven’s ninth symphony faster and faster each year.”

The 2009  climate summit at Copenhagen demonstrated  difficulties of  striking  ambitious deals between so many  disparate countries. Today,  crises  also  clog  the  radar screen.

The “Arab Spring” wilted  as Syria’s  Bashar  al Assad waged war on his  people, with Russian weapons. A missile shattered a Turkish F-4 jet fighter.. Of  7,000 Filipino overseas workers in Syria, 1,643  flew  home. In Europe, “Grexit” is a term heard with increasing frequency as Greece  flounders. Athens could opt out Euro  zone within weeks.

In our backyard, Vietnam slammed  China’s  National Offshore Oil Corporation for auctioning  nine offshore blocks. They  “lie entirely within Vietnam’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone,” Hanoi  bristled.

The Philippines has the same beef   about  Scarborough Shoal,  a triangular-shaped island group of 150 square kilometers. It is  only  124 nautical miles off  Zambales —  well within  Manila’s  EEZ.  Nontheless,  China claims the shoals,  550 miles from it’s coast.

In the post  Rio+20 let down, the Philippines has no choice. It  must  push forward   to ensure  a “green economy” – one  that buffs up human well being and  close the gap between beggared masses  and  miniscule elites.  The odds  include rebels to  oligarchs, who plunder forests and seas at whim, until recently.

Yet, the country has some  things going for it.  Once  the region’s “never-do-well,   the Philippines today  is Asia’s second fastest  growing economy, analysts from Standard & Poor to Hongkong Shanghai bank report.  It  is  getting it’s financial house in order, whittling down deficits  to a manageable 2 percent, adds  Financial Times.

Conviction of the  Supreme Court chief  justice and  detention of former President Gloria Macapagal   Arroyo are  about  “big fish”. Acting chief justice Antonio  Carpio has instituted reforms.  Voters lists in  Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao are scrubbed of  ghost voters. Critics even fume  over how President Benigno Aquino combs  his thinning hair. They  grudgingly admit he is not corrupt.

But  the window of opportunity is small — and narrowing fast  Rising temperatures widened the “Tropical Belt, “ notes Nature Geoscience. The tropics expanded by  2 and 4.8 degrees latitude. As the world warms, edges of the “Belt” —  outer boundaries of  the subtropical dry zones — drift towards the poles.                                                    
Temperature and rainfall changes are altering yields. Affected are politically-volatile crops like corn and rice.  “In the Philippines, rice yields drop by 10% for every one degree centigrade increase in night-time temperature”, BBC’s environment correspondent Richard Black writes.

The slump is regionwide.  Droughts dry reservoirs and flash floods from scalped forests swamp croplands.  Yields  slumped   by 10-20% over the last  25 years. More declines are ahead. How many more Filipinos will need  food, clothing, shelter, schools, etc, when PNoy  steps down in 2016?                                        .

Sea level has risen rapidly as glaciers melt..  Seven out of  10 of Filipinos cluster in coastal areas.  Warmer seas trigger  El Niño episodes. “These caused coral bleaching on massive scales never seen before,” notes Ocean Heritage. Fishermen  reel from the impact.“

Erosion blights  53 percent of crop lands, wrecking the soil that feeds us.. Reversing that  threat will make battling today’s  insurgency seem like child’s play.


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