Saving Forests and Reforestation Can Help Us Save Ourselves from Famine and Pandemics

by Bobby Reyes

Vitex parviflora (Tree vitex, small-flowered vitex, molave) | Photo by Forest and Kim Starr via Wikimedia Commons

Part V: “The Straphanger Goes Global” Series

Yes, saving forests and doing reforestation (by way of memorial-tree parks) can help us (We, the People) save ourselves from famine and pandemics.

This columnist has tried to help complete the education of some policy and decision-makers in addressing the degradation of the environment. But he can do so only by writing articles and a series of commentaries about the need to stop using or minimizing the consumption of fossil fuels. However, many leaders of “We, the People” are the personification of an adage in a rural province in the Philippines. The adage? It says in the Sorsoganon dialect, “Mas maraot pa sa mga buta yon nagbubuta-butahan.” In English, “People that pretend to be blind are worse than those that are really blind.” Another adage among the people of Sorsogon says, “people that pretend not to hear are worse than those that are really deaf.”

On March 20, 2008, this writer came up with an article dubbed “The Filipino Sorsogon ‘Silent Springs’ (With Apologies to Rachel Carson).” Some Filipino-American websites and hard-copy news magazines had published portions of it and even the entire article itself. Curious readers can still browse it at this link.

This journalist published, as early as January 2012, the first of several postings about the threat of famine aggravated by Climate Change. He summarized the postings in this Facebook Note: “How Sorsogon and the Philippines Can Mitigate the Coming Worldwide Famine Caused by Climate Change and Pandemics” at this link.

Please note that the warning by this writer about pandemics came some seven years before the COVID-19 disease turned into a worldwide medical crisis. And coupled with the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine, one of the biggest wheat producers, hunger worsened in many Third-World countries. Eventually, famine will become a worldwide phenomenon, God forbid.

This writer and his friends organized a Facebook group called the “MOLAVE Movement.” It was launched online on May 1, 2013. It was supposed to have a formal launch in Sorsogon Province after that. But due to a lack of public support (especially from elected leaders) and funding, even its soft launch is still to be scheduled.

On June 15, 2020, the said Facebook Group was renamed the “OFW/Overseas Filipino Nation–MOLAVE/’Memorial Trees’ Chapter (OFW/OF Nation–MOLAVE/”Memorial Trees” Chapter).

The “molave” is a tree that is native to the Philippines. It grows in secondary and open primary forests at low altitudes and most or all islands and provinces in the Philippine archipelago. It is also a native tree species to Sulawesi, Timor, and the Moluccas. Vitex parviflora is a plant in the family Verbenaceae, also known as the small flower chaste tree or the molave tree. The name “molave” is from Spanish, derived from mulawin, the Tagalog word for the tree. In Sorsogon Province, it is called the “jamorawon.” However, very few molave trees remain in Sorsogon and other Philippine provinces due to illegal logging.

Our group turned the MOLAVE into an acronym. It now stands for “Multiethnic Outreach for the Lungs (of the World) and Assistance to a Viable Environment.”

“If ten families can plant (for instance) 1,000 cacao trees, each tree will produce cacao beans worth at least 1,000 pesos. That will bring an annual gross income of one-million pesos and lift all ten families from the poverty level of 18,000 peso-income per year to the Filipino equivalent of the middle class.”

The MOLAVE Movement will still find ways and means to help improve the geopolitical and socioeconomic situations. And find, and provide solutions to common problems, develop awareness regarding anomalous and illegal deals, encourage citizen vigilance, and build civic responsibilities and duties, especially in protecting the environment.

Poverty may be eliminated or at least minimized. Many families in the rural areas of the Philippines earn the peso equivalent of one-to-two U.S. dollars per day. If ten families can plant (for instance) 1,000 cacao trees, each tree will produce cacao beans worth at least 1,000 pesos. That will bring an annual gross income of one-million pesos and lift all ten families from the poverty level of 18,000 peso-income per year to the Filipino equivalent of the middle class. The ten farmer families will derive more income from cash crops such as vegetables, root crops like sweet potato, and other food items. Their income (from overseas donors and partners) for maintaining “memorial trees” will become mere bonuses that they can invest more in their respective co-op. And when they have a steady income, they can afford to join a health-maintenance organization (HMO), as discussed earlier in this series. Ergo, reforestation will also usher in affordable universal healthcare. And other social benefits and safety nets.

Using Sorsogon as the pilot province, the group members shall lead in planting (actually replanting) molave and other hardwood shade trees as “Memorial Trees,” similar to what Israel did in planting 6 million trees to honor the victims of the Holocaust.

The members will also be invited to have their respective families or clans part of a project that will become the Sorsoganon version of Ancestry.com. Hopefully, we can also start this “ancestry project” in late 2024 or mid-2025.

The MOLAVE is now merely a Facebook public group. It will eventually collate the postings, and studies, about the “Memorial Tree Parks” (MTP) that we have proposed for specific areas in North America, the Philippines, and eventually in other countries. If (a big IF) the MTP idea becomes Public-Private Partnership. And Private equity will be the investments of public cooperatives and their workers, also organized as co-ops.

How trees and plants can save mankind from pandemics will be discussed more this Sunday.

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