In one of the more absurd articles on the ABSCBN website today is an article that seems happy that Filipinos have a “low carbon footprint”.

This is not to say Filipinos are more environmentally conscious. It just happens that, compared to people of other countries, our lifestyle is generally less energy dependent, according to Antonio La Viña, former undersecretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

The article goes on to say that televisions don’t have a large carbon footprint, but that those naughty kids are texting too much and cellphones are a major problem.

According to NSO data, the number of Filipinos who own cellular phones or a telephone jumped from around 400,000 in 1990 to 2 million in 2000. This figure has more than doubled in the last eight years.

Too true. Even our farmers have access to the family’s cellphone, and in the tiniest village, you can buy ice,, snacks and “cellphone load”.

But the article ignores the real reason that Filipinos have a “low carbon footprint”: it is because too many of them are poor.

Oh, here in Luzon we aren’t as poor as on other islands: Most of our farmers own their own land, thanks to land reform, and a lot of families have family members overseas sending them money. Since 1990, local farm villages have electricity, and many families owntricycles, i.e. motorcycles with side cars which they use to haul produce to market. The reason I say “families” is because here, everything is extended family: you share items with other family members, and help each other. If you don’t have food, you ask a relative. If you need money for medicine, ditto. Need a ride? borrow your brother’s tricycle, or rent a ride from your neighbor. Often the entire family is able to afford school fees etc. because one family member works overseas and sends money home. Without such family cohesion, people would indeed be poor.

The farmers usually eat rice, rice, and more rice. With chicken or pord on holidays, and with fish most other days. Sometimes they raise chickens for eggs, and for fiestas, they buy barbecued pig.  Most of our farmers wives breast feed for the first year, because of the high price of formula, so we don’t expect too many problems from chinese milk.

Traditional houses up to  20 years ago were the norm: Rich people had hardwood houses,  and poorer houses were wood or bamboo with thatch or tin roofs. The house was raised and often the bamboo slats allowed garbage and dirt to sift through the slats, making housecleaning easy. But I haven’t seen many traditional houses for years. With the increase in prosperity, most people have concrete housing, with concrete flooring and with electricity and a small television.

So next to Africa, where I spent several years working in traditional areas,  people have a bit of comfort. They often have beds, televisions, and fans. They may go short of food in preharvest times, but usually there are giveaways from friends, relatives, churches, local politicians, or the federal government subsidies to help with food.

But what keeps people afloat are relatives working overseas. Ironically, if corruption could be controlled, many companies would invest in the Philippines, and the large and skilled workforce could return, with prosperity for all. But for this to happen, a basic change in the feudal/ clan structure will be needed.

Yes, the rich families still control the country, but there is a growing middle class business sector (a large percentage of whom are Protestants, for cultural reasons). But it is “in” for us to read or watch huffing and puffing by the elites in the media to “stop global warming”.Well, okay. But if it means keeping people poor (or giving up my airconditioner and computer) then forget it.

On the other hand, I support other parts of the ecological movement, mainly because pollution from cars in Manila is terrible, and illegal logging on nearby slopes has resulted in landslides and deaths nearby. No, we can’t give up our trucks and jeeps (we need them to haul farm produce) and the reason most people have larger SUV’s is that they have large families and use them for trips. So, like in the US, where a 4wd SUV was a necessity in Oklahoma but only a status symbol in Boston, I’m leery of those imposing all sorts of laws that have little relevance to people’s lives.

One example of outsiders with grandiose ideas on telling people how to life is a UN report that says the world will need to ration meat, sweets, alcohol, and dairy product, and encourage people to buy local foods only, by walking to the shops.

Yup. “we” do that too…no, not we. We have a full time cook who spends two hours a day shopping at the local open air market (and doing a bit of gossiping too).

But anyone who thinks a woman working full time in the UK or US is going back to the “good old days” of shopping on foot for an hour after 8 hours of work, he needs his head examined.

But there is good news.

The reason meat and dairy products produce a high carbon footprint is the animals tend to belch and pass gas: both these emissions are full of the greenhouse gas Methane.

But with scientist working on In vitro Meat, i.e. cloned muscle cells grown in tissue culture, getting rid of the live methan producing animals in the production of cheap meat.

But in the meanwhile, the Australians have a suggestion: Eat Kangaroo.

For some reason, kangaroos don’t emit methane.

Well, it can’t be much worse than dog stew…


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.

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