environment & revolution

if junie kalaw were alive he’d be saying i-told-you-so, just like odette alcantara.   junie and odette were our leading environmentalists, pioneers, who didn’t live to see the great floods wrought by ondoy & pepeng [and some dam(ned) officials] but who warned us often enough since the 1980s that this would happen one day unless we changed, radically transformed, our politics and lifestyles.

i never got to meet odette but junie i knew very well.   youngest son of maximo m. kalaw, the author, educator, and fierce advocate of philippine independence from the united states in the early 1900s.   met junie in ’84 through jorge arago and it was as researcher and managing editor of his journal Alternative Futures that i learned all about the sad state of our environment, thanks to bad government policies.

in ’97 anvil came out with junie’s book Exploring Soul & Society, a compilation of papers on sustainable development published and presented in different publications and fora here and abroad from1986 to 1995.   the first part, Environment & Revolution, opens with a call to empower ourselves a la EDSA.

finally the time has come.   john nery is correct,  the political dynamic has changed, the environment is an agenda waiting for a president.


by Maximo ‘Junie’ Kalaw

Our story began more than 14 billion years ago with a burst of cosmic fire and the evolution of our solar system. Ten billion years later, life forms were spawned on our planet, followed by the emergence of human consciousness, which formed and informed different cultures.

Early myths speak of a Being who created us, our land, forests, rivers, mountains, oceans, and all living creatures. This Being — known as Apo to the Lumads of Mindanao, Kabunian to the Kalingas of the Cordilleras, and Bathala to the Negritos of Central Luzon — imbued all creation with a sacred potential.

Beginning in the 16th century, however, waves of colonialism washed over our island archipelago. The Spaniards, then the Americans, then the Japanese brought with a different source of power and revelation about the nature of life. The Divine was driven up to the heavens and life hereafter. Nature was viewed as a mere resource for making mechanistic and utopian dreams come true, legimitizing conquest, exploitation, and two world wars.

Five centuries later we find ourselves at a critical moment in our history. Our survival as a people is imperiled by the destruction of our tropical rain forest, the erosion of our topsoil, and the killing of our coral reefs. We are shutting down, ierreversibly and at an alarming rate, the very systerms that support life.

Yet our population continues to increase, even as more than half of us live on incomes inadequate to feed an average-sice family. Because every one of us owes foreign creditors over Php 3,000, we sell what remains of our precious natural resources at undervalued prices and allocate more than 43 % of our foreign exchange to servicing foreign loans. If present conditions continue, the sustainability of our society is doubtful.

We cling, however, to the belief that grave crisis is a correspondingly great opportunity for change. This crisis is pushing us to take a different view of ourselves, our Inang Bayan, our planetary home, and the process we call development.

It is an opportunity to recover our cultural identity and affirm the values of our indigenous peoples; to create with them an alternate way of caring for the life that flows through all beings; to translate this vision into new forms of villages, farms and factories, transportation and communication; and to live a sustainable spirituality which translates the teachings of great spiritual traditions into norms and ethics that can guide the realities of large wholes and systems.

It is an opportunity to empower ourselves anew, as we did at the EDSA revolution, by participating in decisions that affect our future. We need to create a completely different chapter in our story as a people and as a species where the predominant ethics of our actions will be based on the authority of Nature and our interconnectedness with her, thus empowering us to transform state, party, and church bureaucracy.

It means the exercise of a different kind of politicalwill, that is, a new politics of facilitating the flow of life/resources rather than accumulating it as political bounty. It means the exercise of true service in the noble enterprise of creating a Filipino community within the sacred community of life on earth.

On our ability to transform ourselves rests your future.

Time Magazine, December 1990