Category: junie kalaw

Maximo “Junie” Kalaw (1940-2001)

10 years since he passed away, sylvia mayuga reminds his friends, her friends on facebook.  good to remember via Junie 2001, a piece i wrote in december that year for a small family publication remembering his life and death.

environment 9: sustainable devt


Junie Kalaw

Toward the end of this century as of the last one, dramatic changes have taken place under the impact of, among others, the industrial revolution, two world wars, struggles for political independence, the internationalization of economics, and the globalization of mass media.  These forces have had shearing effects on the fabric of political and economic society, some appearing first as part of the solution, even a boon (like pesticides), and only later as a problem.   Through all these changes and upheavals, the structures of oppressive domination have persisted on different levels occasionally changing external form but otherwise entrenched firmly enough in society to continue denying Filipinos and other Third World populations their freedom and autonomy.

Today’s Revolutionary Conditions

Poverty remains the Philippines’ major problem, aggravated by the depletion of our natural resources, the impending breakdown of our life-support systems, and the high rate of our population growth.  With our remaining forests down to less than 800,000 hectares, only 20% of our coral reefs in good condition, 18 major river systems biologically dead, 13 provinces severely eroded, fresh-water reservoirs drying up, and the population requiring 40% more food by the year 2000, we face a critical situation and time is not on our side.

The deterioration of the Philippine environment is traceable to economic activities designed to support the consumption needs of other countries.  Ecological footprints of the development of industrialized countries are to be seen not only in our degraded ecology but also in the waste that is exported back to us.   This historical trail of international trade based on the exploitation of our natural resources by former colonial masters has piled up ecological debts that remain uncompensated.   Sadly, this system of “ecological colonialism” has been institutionalized in the present international economic order.

Highlighting the crisis are new perspectives from ecological economists like Herman Daly and Robert Goodland.  They see our economic system as an open system functioning with the closed system that is our planet’s biosphere.  With the current global economy amounting to about US$32 trillion, we are consuming 40% of the primary production of terrestrial photosynthetic energy from the sun.  This means that in one doubling time, we will be using 80%, a condition that with its attendant waste may exceed the “carrying capacity” of the planet.  Thus it is posited that there is no room for aggregate economic growth and that sustainable economic growth for everyone is not possible.  This raises such issues as the rights of poor countries to their equitable share of remaining clean space, access to their own natural resources, access to information and technology, and bargaining power in markets.  Further, inasmuch as the relationship between rich and poor is a function of power, there is nothing to stop the rich from using this self-same power to maintain their wasteful consumption patterns and perpetuate an inequitable system.

Revolution Based on Reconciliation

Pope John Paul II in Rome calls it a “moral crisis,” the lack of a “morally coherent world view.”  A lumad datu in Mount Apo ascribes it to a foreign belief system that has exiled God to the heavens so that we no longer see God in the trees, streams, mountains, and animals, nor in our fellow humans.  The reference is to the same fundamental gap between our personal ethics and the system’s ethics, and the need for a systems ethics which translates personal decisions in to decisions for the common good.  More concretely, it is the gap between what is an honest living for loggers and what is good for the environment and the common welfare.   The gap is widened not just by plain greed but also by a moral and ethical blindness to, and lack ofcomprehension of, the norms for a just and sustainable functioning of bigger systems.

At its worst, the gap renders futile church teachings on honesty and love for the poor on account of its inability to translate doctrine in terms of land reform or equitable wages or conservation of forest and marine resources.  In the end we realize that we have not yet found our wholeness.  We have yet to manage successfully the integration of personal and social transformation.  The exception was the EDSA Revolution, when a critical mass of Filipinos got their inner and outer values together and created the spiritual and political space that made the sharing of pan de sal across military defenses an operative Communion of the People, and that produced transformative political change, but which, unfortunately, we were unable to sustain.

Nowhere is the fundamental gap between personal ethics and systems ethics more dramatic and disastrous than in the policy of equal access to the benefits of creation.  Whereas in an ecological system life flows, sustaining and fulfilling the lives of all in a process we can call “ecological justice,” in the current system control over and access to life-giving natural resources are awarded to a privileged few — a situation which has produced the poverty and resource depletion that imperils our life-support systems.  Moreover, we have cast the responsibility and accountability for these effects to the impersonal free enterprise and market systems.

The conflict between our economic system and nature’s ecological processes has been a fundamental cause of the destruction of our ecosystems.  While natural systems consist of organic unities such as families, communities, cultures, and ecosystems, we manage to evaluate and reward our economic activities according to functional sectors and enterprise organizations.  We gauge national development by adding the production of these sectors and industries into a gross national product (GNP); not measured are local community welfare and ecosystem enhancement.  This has resulted in a big normative gap between the welfare of corporations, both transnational and national, and the welfare of local ecologies and communities.  The bridging of this gap requires more than just environmental protection measures or community projects by business enterprises.   It requires a whole re-orientation of the way we do business and a re-discovering of the true essence of hanapbuhay, a truly Filipino concept that searches for the life-flow, like the Kalinga concept of wealth that is based on the enrichment of life rather on a life of personal enrichment.  We cannot relegate this revisioning to our economists and government planners alone.  We need to take responsibility for our country’s economic development models, policies, and practices, and to participate in the political processes that will enable us to create a just and sustainable future not only for ourselves but for the generations of Filipinos to come.

Politics, whose primordial function is to serve the welfare of the whole, is the human activity that should be most spiritually informed.  Most efforts at political reconciliation have as their objective the consolidation of power under the ruling regime.  Thus, one presently sees accommodations being made with the forces of he past dictatorship under the pretext of hastening the healing of the nation.  What needs reconciliation and healing is not the gap between contending politicians with vested interests but the gap between their interests and the welfare of the people, between the welfare of the state bureaucracy and the welfare of the environment and local communities.   This requires the relocation of authority from the ideologies of political parties to the reality of the interdependence of life in an ecology; the re-vesting of power from the centralized bureaucracy of state, party committee, and church to persons in communities; the affirmation of the subsidiarity of parts and the ecological and spiritual solidarity of wholes; and the establishment of a local citizenship and a global polity.

It is a reconciliation that needs to find a new concept of security and management of changes in the shift from national security based on militarization and armaments to a “natural” security based on securing clean water, fertile soil, fresh air, and food.  It requires a fundamental re-orientation of power from one based on the accumulation of goods and information to one based on the capacity to make goods and information flow, where power becomes something one does not hold on to but something ope opens up to for the life process to flow in service to others.

Such a reconciliation gives witness to the great lesson of ecology that all life is interconnected and echoes the teachings of all great spiritual traditions that the governance of communities is a sacred task, whether we call it the Christian Mystical Body, the Moslem Uhma, or the Kalinga ili.

Conversion and Renewal

Christian churches are now seeking an alternative to the ruling anthropocentric model of man subduing the earth.  The new theological understanding of creation spans a spectrum of interpretations: the sacramentalist model, where everything is a manifestation of God; the stewardship model, which argues for the sustainable use of power, knowledge, and natural resources; the creative model expounded by Matthew Fox, where God is ever “birthing and nurturing creation”; the Franciscan model of kinship of “brother sun and sister moon”; and the evolutionary model of Teilhard de Chardin and Thomas Berry.  They all have broadened the praxis of faith to include “justice, peace, and Integrity of Creation” and redefined “a spirituality that integrates our faith and our daily lives and all of Creation.”

Here at home, in defense of what we Filipinos call lupang hinirang (beloved country), the Philippine Independent Church recently announced its advocacy of a total ban on commercial logging for 25 years.  Following the Catholic bishops’ pastoral letter “What Is Happening to Our Beautiful Land?” and the involvement of bishops and parish priests in blockading logging trucks on Bukidnon, picketing DENR offices in Nueva Ecija, and apprehending illegal loggers in Cagayan, there is clearly an escalation of activism among Christian churches and a growing concern for the integrity of life on earth.

A more concise expression of the revolutionary message of the Gospel has yet to be made by any church group in the Philippines, but it is important to remember that the times call for a new conversion.   In the past, conversion was brought about by mediation between people and the Divine, or between people and other people.  Today’s need is a mediation between people and nature, a mediation we call “sustainable development.”  It is a conversion that comes from revelations through nature, revelations that link polarities into higher levels of integration and renewal, revelations that affirm the integrity of God’s creation whose truth lies beyond contending ideological positions and is encompassed in an ecology.  It will come from re-remembering what our indigenous Filipinos knew about the sacredness of the land, our lupang hinirang.  It will come from re-experiencing the tradition of nurturing the Earth, our tipan sa Mahal na Ina.  It will come from responding to the biblical revelations to be stewards of the earth.  A conversion where “carrying capacity” becomes the operative term for compassion, and the patterns of community life a metaphor for wholeness.  It will require the devolution of power away from its institutional sites in the bureaucracies of state, party, and even church, and into people in the communities as the locus of the Mystical Body.   It will empower people to participate in the creative act of sustainable development by witnessing the Spirit that runs through all life.

This kind of conversion will gain its meaning from the operationalization of sustainable development strategies, programs, and projects.   It will need to find expression on the level of communities, affirming their cultural identity while cherishing diversity by upholding (1) indigenous rights to ancestral land, (2) equal rights for women, (3) social equity through agrarian, aquatic, and urban land reform, and social forestry, and (4) an ecologically sound economic system that is community-based and exports only ecological surplus or excess carrying capacities.  It will practice the sustainable utilization of natural resources, clean production technologies, and the proper recycling and disposal of waste.  It will come from governance that is based on moral values translated into public good, a democratic participatory process, a system called Pamathalaan — Pamamahalang nakatindig sa sariling taal at nakahandog kay Bathala.

In the final analysis, sustainable development depends on the personal conversion, commitments, and communion of everyone.   It needs a conversion that translates into personal choices regarding what to consume and what lifestyle to live.   In a post-modern age, it will mean making a conscious choice from among the diversity of options brought about by modernization.  Many of these options will be offered by expert systems where people have little control over processes, whether these be biogenetic systems that program the sex of our offspring or communications systems that tell us we are what we consume.  They will involve matters disembedded from space-time locality so that we no longer directly experience the consequences of our actions.  Such will be the landscape of a “post-modern revolution.”  The future will therefore need the wisdom of our historical traditions, the moral anchors of our faith, and our living communion with all people and God’s creation.

Enviroscope, Haribon Foundation Bulletin, December 1993

environment 8: population word war


Junie Kalaw

The raging word war between Catholic Church representatives and the indomitable secretary of health on the topic of condoms as a means of addressingour pressing population problem is turning NGOs red with frustration or green with envy, and the air gray from the swirling dust that has obscured the real issues surrounding our pressing population problem which are: the relationships between population and consumption, population and poverty, poverty and natural resource policies, and between population and human resource development.

A one-sided view of the problem considers population in terms of number of bodies and ignores the fact that these bodies consume food and use energy.  This view dominates even international fora like the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) where rich countries point to the fast rate of population growth of poor countries as the main problem of sustainable development, while poor countries single out the high per capita consumption of the rich countries as the major problem.

To bring the two sides together, a more realistic and dynamic population index would emerge by multiplying each unit of body by the per capita consumption of food and energy.  Thus, multiplying the Philippine 2.4% body count increase per year by a factor of one on both food and domestic energy-use yields a total of 2.5% on both counts.  On the other hand, the US yearly increase of 1.5% multiplied by 6 (the ratio of their per capita consumption of food compared to Filipinos) yields a total of 9%, and 1.5% multiplied by 13 (the ratio of US energy consumption to Philippine consumption) yields a total of 19%. There is a bigger problem, therefore, on the consumption side than on the birthrate side of the issue.

If we are to consider the warnings of environmental economists that our present US$32 trillion global economy cannot continue to grow sustainable in the closed biospheric system of our planet because we are now using 40% of net primary production of energy and that doubling this rate of appropriation by our species might not be possible, it becomes imperative for the rich to reduce their consumption and the poor their birthrates.

The correlation of higher birth rates with poverty is well documented.   There are two major causes: (1) the cultural bias for large families in the belief that more children is an investment for ensuring the survival of the family unit, and (2) the fact that women in poverty have less opportunities for education or options as regards childbearing.  Only when there is a rise in the income level of the poor does the family birthrate decrease.

Obviously, more than controlling poverty, both material and educational poverty need to be addressed to solve the population problem.  Perhaps if church representatives could fight to the death the causes of poverty, they would be performing a better witnessing for all the children of God.  If the church would threaten loggers, big landholders, and politicians with the same intensity they summon vis-a-vis condom-pushers, the country would be better served.

But levity aside, what is distressing is that all the heat the word-war has generated has not reached the core of the population issue, which is the quality of life as expressed in its consumption patterns and lifestyles.  The sustainability of our ecosystems, cultures, and communities ultimately depends on the citizens’ personal choices of what to consume and what lifestyle to develop. Perhaps for the first time in our evolutionary history, our private and personal decisions impinge so critically on public interest.  We need to translate our personal moral values into values for the common good.

If the concern of the church over the immorality of birth control could be expended instead on the quality and justness of the lifestyle of its faithful, then there would be integrity in its moral stance.  If the state could exercise the same determination over social equity and ecological security as on the prevention of birth, governance would be more sustainable.

Church and state have since seen fit to reconcile.  In the normal course of such moves, reconciliation amounts actually to a partition, with the church protecting its moral ascendancy and the state its political primacy.  But while it is necessary to respect cultural and religious differences, poverty is not sustainable and its eradication not negotiable.  As the North-South Commission Report on a Program for Survival puts it:

“While hunger rules, peace cannot prevail.  He who wants to ban war (or for that matter artificial contraception) must also ban poverty.  Morally, it makes no difference whether a human being is killed in war or condemned to starve to death because of the indifference of others.”

14 August 1994

environment 7: denr & the poor

(Why The Poor Will Always Be With Us)

Junie Kalaw

In Mindanao, two years after her historic succession to the presidency, President Aquino, a very religious person, appealed for the help of the citizenry, especially institutions like the church and other non-government organizations (NGOs), in reaching “the poorest 30% of the population,” and offered the work of some monks as a model of what can be done.  Appropriately enough, the monks of the Monastery of the Transfiguration in Bukidnon, where the President made the appeal, are involved in reforestation and adapting farming methods to sloping lands, and literally lived with the bottom 30%.  These Filipinos occupy government-owned “forest land,” do not have access to government agricultural extension-work benefits or credit, and survive off the beaten track taken by the health-services delivery system.  They are under the sufferance of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) which, in its capacity as representative of the state, controls 50% of the country’s land area, all its forests including the flora and fauna therein, and all other natural resources.

In callingfor assistance to the country’s poorest 30%, the President could not have done worse than to refer the matter to the DENR which has always treated these 14 million Filipinos as problems, absurd as that may sound, and not as constituents whose poverty may have developed in them the prayerful habits commonly associated only with the likes of President Aquino and monks.

… The rural development strategy of Philippine policy-makers confirms government’s alienation from the people. The Department of Agriculture, for example, bewails the following:

Trade, tariff, and tax policies which strip agriculture of its attractiveness to private investors;

Monopolies and excessive government regulation of agricultural markets which steal from the farmer his fair share of returns from his produce and foster inefficiencies in the marketing system;

An exchange rate policy that overvalues the peso and thus makes exports less competitive than they would otherwise be in the world market;

The insufficient and declining share of government expenditures going to rural infrastructure and support services needed to pump-prime the rural economy;

These policies combining to create a biased incentive structure which favor the urban and industrial sectors and penalize agriculture and the rural sector.

It might help in planning as if the poor really mattered to flesh out impersonal technical terms like “rural sector” and call them what they in reality are: farmers, subsistence fishermen, kaingineros, and landless laborers.  It is they who are penalized, not a “sector.”  It is defective policies, not their poverty, that drive them to insurgency. Bureaucratese has its own way of annulling the government’s best intentions by reducing questions of ideology to technical cover-ups.

Consider the policy prescription of “fashioning a policy environment conducive to private investments in income-enhancing and employment-generating agro-based rural enterprises.”  Thus worded, it effectively masks the fact that the biggest investors in our rural areas are our farmers, upland dwellers, small fishermen, and landless laborers who toil and sweat it out.  They should be given control and tenure over the resources they work with.  They are the ones entitled to support and incentives to make their investments profitable.  A value-added increase the equivalent of Php1,000 per person of our rural population is about the same as a US$10 billion investment in the rural areas and amounts to a scenario far more honorable than foreign investments or even grants.

It was correct of the President to call on the church and NGOs to extend a helping hand, even though in the course of heeding this call many of them will have to develop alternatives to existing policies of government departments and to contend with being stigmatized as “subversive.”  But perhaps the President should have first looked around her to see why, given the policies of the men she trusts, the poor may always be with us.

Philippine Daily Inquirer, 5 September 1990