Accountant advocates for ‘environmental crusade’

“We need to do something!”

Almost a month ago, I got to visit one of the celebrated tourist attractions in Zamboanga, the Great Sta. Cruz Island, known for its pink sand. It is not really pink per se, but if you take a closer look of its sand, you’ll definitely see pink particles scattered on it. It has been said that these are dead corals broken into pieces caused by the irresponsible dynamite fishing in the area, let alone by global warming.

It is a big enigma that it is primarily because of the pink sand that the island is known for, pink sand which when examined is tantamount to the outcry of the environment.

That very night, I also chanced upon a friend whom I haven’t talked to for almost a year. We discussed anything under the sun – both profane and profound. We talked about life, jested some of our mutual friends, and of course shared the things we feel passionate about – the environment included. Hence, before we parted ways, he adamantly recommended that I watch Chasing Corals – a documentary about the beauty and chaos of coral reefs.

Truth be told, I almost forgot about it. Not until when we celebrated the #EarthHour2018.

I have always loved watching documentary films especially those of Kara David’s and Howie Severino’s, but this one is for the books, being the first foreign documentary film I’ve watched. And it is an understatement to say that it is disturbing. It is poignant. Heart-breaking. But equally moving.

The film is opened by Richard Vevers with a very powerful statement, “Most people stare up into space with wonder. Yet, we have this almost alien world on our own planet just teeming with life.” That was engaging enough to make us realize that there is that life underneath that we need to notice. Life underneath that we need to help. Life underneath that co-exist with us.

Vevers, a former London advertising executive who left his job to advocate for the world’s oceans, discovered that the mass global bleaching event is imminent and eventually decided that the best service he can provide the undersea universe is to photograph the bleaching as it happens in order to alert the world about the crisis.

Like any good marketer, he knows that he has to communicate this complex phenomenon in engaging, succinct ways to prompt audiences to take action. Except in this film, the action is not buying a product but rather saving the planet.

The film tracks the worldwide disappearance of coral, a crucial part of ecosystem sustaining the marine life. I never thought it is that devastating. It is heart-rending to see the corals succumb to an invisible menace. From the colorful shade of magenta and ochre, they suddenly turn to blue and purple and green before fading to bright white. The bleaching event that was documented in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia has been the longest, deadliest, and most widespread in history.

And the fact is this is an environmental tragedy of our own making. If we don’t address the warming of this planet, we will lose this ecosystem and millions of people will suffer.

I am writing this because for one I want to help the team behind the film to spread the word about this chaos that is happening underneath. The footage shows how problematic it is to set up time-lapse camera rigs underwater to document the bleaching. It was unsuccessful that they have to dive with special cameras to meticulously record the day-to-day changes on the ocean floor. The output of that passion has to be communicated.

Second, I am also deeply moved by what Dr. John Veron (the world’s foremost expert on coral reefs) said in the film, “The least I can do is to influence people because I just have to. Otherwise, I won’t like the person I will be when I am old”.

And to influence is to speak up, to make a compelling noise. I believe this is not anymore an issue whether there is climate change or not, it’s about having the discernment to know whether it’s going to be bad or really bad.

Nonetheless, on a brighter note, it is always possible to change the rate at which our planet is changing or warming. And that is still within our power today. It is not like we don’t have the money or the resources or the brains. We just have to give it a shove.

Advocating for the environment requires personal commitment, it is a ‘crusade’ that each one of us needs to undergo.

We can always start in our own small ways. Healing this ailing planet starts in us. By simply trimming our waste or eating wisely by avoiding processed food. By simply pulling the plug because the idle load still uses energy even if it’s not charging. You can also start bringing your own eco-bag when buying not only in the mall but even in the wet market. Or by resorting to metal straw while sipping your favourite drink as well as bringing your own metal chopstick while eating that sashimi or sushi. You can also change the light bulbs in your home to compact flourescents or LEDs because the latter actually use up 80% less energy than the conventional incandescents, cheaper also in the long run. For women, please take shorter shower if you can; for men, let’s please use those eco-friendly urinals because saving water can help reduce carbon pollution.

Most of all, speak up. The more we communicate, the more will be involved in preserving our shared natural resources. Know that your voice has power friend. Silence has no place in this ailing nation.

Let us all be reminded that we are part of this ecosystem. Let us make an effort so that our children and the next generation will still experience the beauty of greens and blues we lavishly enjoy today. It will only happen if we will do something to protect and preserve this planet.

P.S. I hope that the LGU of Zamboanga or the City Tourism Office (if that exist) will also give an orientation to the tourists of the Great Sta. Cruz Island about the history of the pink sand. The pink sand is not just meant to be celebrated, it is meant to be communicated. That way, we’ll never know how many tourists will be disturbed and might as well take action as they go back to their respective places.

Jerome Cuyos CPA, is a registered accountant. Aside from ensuring that his financial sheets are balanced, he also advocates for health and environmental causes in the country.


Don’t reach for the dolphins, starfish . . .

“Until one has loved an animal,
a part of one’s soul remains unawakened. –
Anatole France

Every one of us has the moral obligation to protect the environment and all the creatures in it. As stewards of God’s creation, it is our duty to speak and dissent even no one is listening, even it is painful and bitter, against any acts that malign, disrespect and rape these beautiful treasures which are bestowed upon us.

Last week, I visited a popular tourist attraction in North Luzon. I enjoyed swimming and while observing a group of people diving, running and eating. What made my heart cried-out was when a young woman picked a couple of red and orange starfish and had picture taking with the poor, defenceless animal under the scorching heat of the sun. After which, she returned the starfish in the water as if it was a piece of rock.

It was so wrong. It shall not pass.

Marine animals like the poor starfish deserve respect. Just imagine you were sleeping then someone lifted you out of bed to take photos. How would you feel?

Touching and disturbing marine sea creatures causes stress which can alter their physiological processes. In fact, when you lift a starfish out of the water and expose it under the sun, you caused an alteration of its biofilms that protects it from toxic substances.

Congratulations the lady just killed a starfish!

We could have prevented this if we have proper environmental knowledge. An awareness campaign should be intensified especially during summer and must be a part of any briefing procedures in tourist destinations.

But all is not lost for us. As humans we can step-up. We can correct our mistake before it’s too late.

Finally, I want to quote Justice Marvic Leonen of the Philippine Supreme Court in his concurring opinion on a landmark case between marine creatures in Sea Scape Tanon and the Philippine government. He said:

“We honor every living creature when we take care of our environment. As sentient species, we do not lack in the wisdom or sensitivity to realize that we only borrow the resources that we use to survive and to thrive. We are not incapable of mitigating the greed that is slowly causing the demise of our planet. In this way and with candor and courage, we fully shoulder the responsibility deserving of the grace and power endowed on our species.”



Use of sky lanterns must stop

It is inhumane and irresponsible to light and send sky lanterns without knowing that every single piece of it has the potential to kill an innocent animal. These lanterns are more than stray bullets, these are like nuclear warheads that can wipe out hectares of forest, rice fields and or mangroves if done near a coastal area. While lighting a sky lantern is an exciting experience, its aftermath is lethal.

Once the debris of the sky lantern falls into the water for example, animals like sea turtles could mistakenly identify it as food. Once eaten, the remains of the sky lantern can block the digestive tract of the poor and soon to be extinct animal, leading to its untimely demise.

On a separate note, if the sky lantern falls into a dry forest, it will unleash a torrential fire that can burn anything within the area. Either way, sky lantern is dangerous and unforgiving regardless where the debris settles.

No amount of celebration can justify lighting a sky lantern. Knowing these two main points alone, a sane and responsible man will immediately dismiss his plans to light any lanterns because it is detrimental to the environment.

Soon as we light the lantern, let us remember the number of sea turtles, and any marine creatures with the same right to life like ours, whom we killed because we are unreasonably insensitive and arrogant.

Let us remember their noble sacrifice, because again, as human, we failed our posterity for believing that our happiness carries more weight than the lives of animals.