Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sinking Lands - Disputes Overshadow Looming Crisis

The island of New Moore (also called South Talpatti island) in the Sunderbans in the Bay of Bengal is now completely underwater. Uninhabited, it's just one of many others that may not welcome the next century above the water. New Moore island was claimed by both Bangladesh and India for the past thirty years and there has been no resolution in the dispute with both parties staunch on their claim. But now that the island is underwater, there's nothing more to claim.

The sinking of New Moore island (left, where it used to be) is blamed on global warming. Current measurements place the rising of sea level in the Bay of Bengal at .2 inches every year. Until the year 2000, the rate was only at .12 inches per year. Researchers at the School of Oceanographic Studies at Jadavpur University in Calcutta say that the rise is alarming because Bangladesh is one of the countries seen to be harshly affected by the rising bay in the next fifty years when the local sea level reaches 1 meter. When that time is reached, scientists predict that 18% of the country's coastal area will be submerged, affecting 20 million people.  

Other countries and territories will of course also be affected and the number of people worldwide who will lose their homes will definitely rise; there's the Maldives (left) - a vacationer's paradise, the city of Rotterdam - which is a few meters below sea level, Maputo - the capital of Mozambique, and the Philippines - with over 7,100 islands. There are many more all over the globe and even now, the encroachment of the sea into human habitats is creating a lot of pressure on governments already struggling with population management, resources, and territorial claims. 

In the Philippines, there are the disputed Spratley Islands (left), some of which are claimed by other Asian countries like China. If sea levels will indeed rise one meter in fifty years, these islands will probably be underwater and all the effort and resources put into claiming and guarding them will have been for nothing (unless they start anew claiming territorial responsibility). But then that would still not help. It would be better if they pool resources to provide a solution to the impending problem of relocating people who will lose their homes and livelihood when the sea claims them. 

Back in the Bay of Bengal, other islands (left; encircled, top) are expected to go underwater soon. Some of them are still disputed territories but are inhabited, unlike New Moore. In spite of the warnings made by the scientific community, it seems that the disputes take precedent over the impending problem of relocation when the sea claims the islands. Of course, there's the even larger problem of millions of people once coastal towns and cities of Bangladesh become submerged.  

It would seem far-fetched, but the governments of countries like Bangladesh, India, The Maldives, and the Philippines, must already have laid down plans on what to do when rising sea levels bring problems to coastal areas. Let's hope that the scientists are wrong, but what if they are right? It seems  the world is headed to more flooding based on what's been observed and measured. 

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Turn Trash into Products that Sell and Save the Earth

A lot of people ask how they can help save planet earth. They really don't know how to start, and sometimes, they don't even know why the planet is in danger. Well, our home is in danger because it's being destroyed and it's resources, which are really abundant, are being used to create artificial products that produce pollution that is damaging to the environment and the life in it, and this includes people. We all know how bad garbage dumps can be especially if they are not managed properly.

For countries like the Philippines that currently do not have the technology to handle the recycling of wastes like those that come from dumps, it's up to the people to do something and recycle trash on their own. It's a fact that there's gold in trash and if you know how to be creative, you can make quality products that are actually bestsellers in upscale markets. Consumers are becoming environment-conscious and they know that if they buy products made from discarded materials that they are helping in their own little way in saving the planet.

A good example of someone who does her job well in making good things out of garbage is Jane Walker (left), who is known as the "angel of the dumps" in Manila in the Philippines. She's the founder of the Philippine Christian Foundation in Manila. The organization used to get funding solely from corporate donations and it wasn't enough for it to fulfill its mission. Walker decided that the foundation had to earn money on its own. She saw the solution in the trash that was beside the poor community the foundation served.

Now, Walker has devoted herself to helping the underprivileged who live around a huge dump site called Smokey Mountain, by giving them jobs to make fashion jewelery, bags, and other products that are very much in demand in London.

The base materials of these products, similar to the one pictured at left all come from sanitized trash, such as glossy paper, from the dump site. Walker calls these products "trashion." She said her products were so sought after in London that she had to turn down three shops that wanted to order because she couldn't keep up with the demand. The foundation's website (left), details the work done for the people living in and around the Manila dump site.

The families that work for Walker's foundation earn around $65 a month. It's not much, but it's actually a lot more that what they would earn from simply salvaging trash to sell to junk shops. The truth is that $65 is good enough for these poor people to raise their standard of living and have a sense of accomplishment and worth that they did not have before. Walker gave them hope, happiness, and a means to survive and secure their future. All that from trash other people threw away.

Walker also helps save the environment by lessening the amount of trash that go into the dump sites that would otherwise become toxic blights in the landscape. Her efforts also raise awareness among people who are not educated enough about environmentalism. The word about her work will certainly spread around the world and more people will realize the value of recycling trash.

Jane Walker is a former publishing executive from Southampton, England who gave up the good life in 1996 to help the poor people in Manila. She had been honored at the at the 54th annual Women of the Year Lunch in London.

Here's a little documentary on Jane Walker's work in Manila.

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