Yes, it’s recess time for the US Congress, and there are some red faces in Congress because the Wall Street Journal and the local newspaper in Seattle just noticed a cushy trip to the Galapagos, the Great Barrier Reef, and the South Pole as a fact finding trip to discover “global warming”.

One would think that evidence of “global warming” is present all over the globe, but the trip was partly to enable the congressmen and their families to see it for themselves, by snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef.

  Mr. Baird said he wanted to see evidence of coral bleaching, which some scientists say is caused by higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere….The tab for two days in Australia was more than $50,000, according to the travel-disclosure form. According to the document, the lawmakers spent $32,000 on hotels and meals, $7,000 on transportation and $10,000 for “other purposes.

Ah, to quote Mel Brooks: It’s good to be the king.

But, Congressmen, the next time you want to do a fact finding trip, could I suggest you visit us in the Philippines?

We can provide you with all sorts of ecological disasters to warm the cockles of your heart, and still manage to save the US taxpayer money at the same time.

For example, a lot of you probably think the Philippines is a rustic place, where the dirt roads are lined with picturesque bamboo huts. Ah, living in harmony with nature, keeping our carbon footprint low…or maybe not.

Nowadays, thanks to land reform, most of the small farmers own their own land, and now have small concrete block houses with tin roofs, electricity, and a TV antenna to show they now are the proud owner of a television. How can farmers afford a Television? The trick is to pool one’s salary with other family members, and then buy a used Korean TV from a local vendor, and watch recent films (pirated via China) on a used VCD player.

See, you can learn first hand about land reform and copyright violations in Asia at the same time.

Another aspect of global warming is the methane produced by traditional rice farming methods.

Yes, there are still waterbuffalo grazing in the fields, and women planting rice seedlings by hand in the prepared fields, but the dirty little secret is that using a hand plow (sort of a large roto tiller) to prepare the fields saves a lot less back breaking labor for the farmers.

Why is this important?

Because a lot of global warming is caused by flooding rice fields, the traditional way to kill weeds. Talk with our local experts on the debate about the pros and cons of modern insecticides/pesticide rice farming that needs less flooding of rice paddies versus traditional organic methods that produce more methane (a greenhouse threat).

We could teach you a lot about the green revolution, the advantages of organic rice and vegetables, and the economics of importing cheap rice from Viet Nam to feed the cities, while converting local farms to vegetable fields. But we can also tell you about the downside of globalization. For example, the big controversy right now is anger against onions being imported from China and Europe that underprice local farmers.

From BCCC Gapan Photo Blog

We could also show you our town.

The picturesque outdoor market is still there down the street.–indeed, it is literally right down the street. You see, the market mysteriously burnt down two years ago, so the vendors simply moved onto the sidewalks and side streets to sell their wares until the mayor could build his new clean market.

So simply by walking down the street, you have a first hand look at both political corruption and the problems of sanitation in the third world.

If you walk or drive down main street, you will notice a line of six foot sandals. Yes, it’s the yearly Sandal festival. One of the ideas to promote jobs in small towns is the “one town one industry” idea, and our town has gone from a rice selling town to one that makes high fashion sandals.

From tradefair cabanatuan july 4 2009

But if you look at what people are wearing, you will find the poor are all wearing cheap “flip flops” from China. Again, a lesson on the downside of globalization.

Of course, maybe you prefer to visit the famed rice terraces in Banaue, and the beautiful city of the Pines, Baguio. And maybe the eco park around Mt Pinatubo. All of these places are within a few hours drive our our town.

Alas, there was a typhoon (aren’t all typhoons caused byglobal warming?) so Baguio was under a state of emergency, and some tourists just got killed from a mudslide hiking on MtPinatubo. That mudslide was due to the lahar, which is still a problem, but a lot of the other mudslides are caused by illegal logging and unsafe mining practices, both of which are major ecological problems in South East Asia.

But, of course, I see your real interest is in the destruction of coral reefs from global warming.

So I suggest you go on a side trip for snorkeling on beautiful Palawan.

Lots of dead coral there, but not just from global warming: it’s from dynamite fishing.Well, people have to eat, and for awhile Palawan had a bad reputation because back in 2001 some tourists were kidnapped from a resort there, and only recently has that beautiful island become a tourist haven again ..or maybe not. The AFP just killed a couple of terrorists trying to set up a base in the southern part of the island.

So, you see, Congressmen, if you come to the Philippines, not only can you learn about global warming, but you can learn about globalization, the effect of onion smuggling, and agricultural subsidies that hurt poor third world farmers, how organic rice production  increases methane emissions, and the threat to the rain forests by loggers, but if you are lucky, you might get a first hand look at the War on terror.

So, next time, don’t go to fancy hotels. Come to the Philippines, and you actually might learn something that you won’t learn about in $300 a night resort hotels.


Note: This article is “tongue in cheek”…the resorts in the Philippines are excellent. But I am pointing out that US Congressmen need to get out of the first class hotels to really learn about the problems of ecological destruction.


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


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