Travel Fellowship Home

 

Our Living World is Dying

Stacey Worman, 2006-2007 Michael B. Keegan Traveling Fellow

 

Home

The Fellowship

Former Fellows' Websites

About My Project

Itinerary

Online Journal

Photo Gallery

Learn More

Get Involved

Thank You's

Contact Information

Online Journal

_____________________________________

Date: Februray 21st, 2007

To: Undisclosed recipients

Re: Recipe for Disaster.....

______________________________________

(...following up from last time...)

San Isidro was my first time actually participating in 'international service'. And while I've now seen the importance...for both sides...of having people who render aid and relief services at home and abroad...my experience with super-typhoon Reming, first and foremost, strengthened my belief in the importance of prevention...

We are constantly reminded that man is responsible for the more extreme and unpredictable weather patterns that the world has begun witnessing. But let's not allow ourselves to forget the fact that man also has the power to make the consequences of such extreme and unpredictable weather bouts more or less severe...

Out in the Bicol region of the Philippines...the 'clean-up effort' has been 'impressive' (election time is just around the corner)...but a quick glance at the many coconut trees everywhere which are either uprooted, broken in half, or stripped bare like tooth picks...and even the most aloof passer-by can't help but be reminded of what unfolded there last November. But this "tree of life" reveals much more too...

One night I had a conversation with a local who was born and raised in the area. He shared with me stories of his childhood...stories of how he'd go venturing for the afternoon with his father and brothers, only to find too many fruits of the forest that they often had trouble carrying everything home...

He's now the father of four young boys and the only place they can venture to find anything is down the street to the market. Standing not far from the house where he grew up, it was nearly impossible for me to fathom that where I was standing was once was a tropical rainforest. In my wildest dreams, I couldn't image that the rock hard soil under my feet...once actually supported vegetation besides those now broken coconut trees. But apparently it did...and apparently in the not-so-distant past, all life there human and non-human was lush...

Remings' unprecedented strength captured the attention of the global community...but it was particularly disastrous for the Bicol region, and for many of the communities that Hands On is out there now helping, because of the lahar-slide that its' heavy rains triggered off of Mount Mayon. The harsh reality is that the storm was only one disaster among a whole list of disasters for this country...as (among other things) floods and landslides associated with regular storms are commonplace here, claiming lives and displacing families regularly. And the tragic part is that most of these 'natural disasters' are 'man-induced'...as the once abundant forests are no longer around to buffer any of the shocks that nature deals out...to absorb the water, to shield the wind, and to hold the soil on the steep slopes...

So what makes the Philippines a particularly disaster-full country is not just the more intense super-typhoons which are blowing ashore more often. Rather, today visiting calamities are able to wreck such havoc on this land because -- over the years -- they've increased their vulnerability by destroying their life-shielding, life-sustaining ecosystems. With only 3% of their virgin forests left standing...disasters are just waiting to happen.

The Philippines has taught me that once a country's ecosystems go...everything else eventually follows suit. And over my three months...more than anything...I've been able to feel the direct connection between ecological degradation and human suffering. And so the short-term costs of conservation and trade-offs with development? They sure seem like quite the bargain when compared to the long-term price tag of destruction...

We've made it to Indonesia and final thoughts on the Philippines should be coming...if I can manage to get them straight in my head first...as it's been..to say the least...quite the trip...

Until next time,

Take care,

Stace

____________________________________

February 8th, 2007, Making the Trip....

Janurary 23rd, 2007, Did You Hear the Good News?

Janurary 6th, 2007, I Found it on the Map....

December 17th, 2006, Catch as Catch Can, As Fast as You Can...

December 1st, 2006, My Dream Destination & an Indigenous Filipino Family...

November 8th, 2006, An Old Forest, A Feral Ship, and Discarded Paper...

November 3rd, 2006, It's all Fun and Games Until...

October 17th, 2006, Ends Justifying Means?...

October 4, 2006, Different Industries Down Under...

September 28, 2006, Close Together, Worlds Apart....

September 10, 2006, Final Thoughts, the Life/Work Dichotomy....

September 7, 2006, The Party Eventually Ends...

September 4, 2006, Under the Sea, with Scientific Spectacles...

September 3, 2006, Off the Ship...

August 8, 2006, Back on land, but not for long...

June 24, 2006, Our maiden voyage(s)...

June 19, 2006, Not another mass email...

______________________________________