On Earth Week, we think about the environment and how fragile the global ecosystems are. Close to our hearts is the island paradise that is being closed for intensive rehabilitation.
Boracay has consistently been voted the best beach in the world for many years. The attractions were the cool powder white sand on the long stretch of beach, and the pristine sea — turquoise, azure and ultramarine blue — so clear and inviting and the awesome sunsets.
It used to be the happy place where little and big kids could run free, take a cool dip and splash about. It was postcard perfect — where one could savor sun and sea by day, enjoy good food, and have cocktails under the stars. The exotic bars with throbbing music and flashing lights were for the party people.
For the past 20 years, people have been talking about how it was slowly deteriorating. The beach was often littered with trash — cigarette butts, bottles and cans. The tangled seaweeds were strewn like discarded nets along the shore.
It used to be so clean and beautiful some 30 years ago before it got overdeveloped.
We had heard stories of how the water and sewage systems were not upgraded enough to withstand the millions of visitors. But we shrugged them off.
We loved going to the island to watch the fabled, stunning spectacle of the sunset. It was exhilarating to ride the colorful paraw and sail along the shoreline as the sun descended into the horizon.
When it rained, it was still fun to swim in the sea or walk in the downpour. Then lightning struck during a thunderstorm and killed some fishermen. That must have been a sign.
We did not heed the warnings about how the sewage system flushed out into the sea. But we sensed it was true because of the occasional foul odor in the beach area facing the islet with the grotto.
No wonder some people got skin rashes and E coli infections that needed strong antibiotics.
Now we are all sad about the hundreds of workers who will lose their jobs by the closure of the island.
It was long overdue. Greedy people have overbuilt, overdeveloped and abused the island. Pollution was a growing specter.
Drastic measures have to be taken. People are anxiously waiting for the master plan.
Tourism will suffer for months. However, the island will be saved and restored to a healthy condition. In time, the tourists will go back. Boracay will resume being the top beach in the world.
All marine biologists, earth lovers, environmental activists paid homage to our planet on Earth Day. There were events to remind us that we should love and protect Mother Earth.
Our planet is in grave danger. The natural resources are being depleted mercilessly. Animal and insect species are disappearing. Soil erosion and widespread deforestation must be stopped.
Water is vital to life. We need healthy oceans and rivers.
Unfortunately, the seas are being used as dumping grounds for industrial waste, human and agricultural “runoff.” Life forms are dying.
The coral reefs are under threat and severe stress because of foul water and intolerable climate changes caused by global warming. Glaciers are melting. The level of the ocean is rising to an alarming level.
One could compare the biosphere to the human body with the ecosystems as the organs and tissues. The great forests are the lungs. The atmosphere and ozone layer protect the body like fur. The wetlands are the reproductive organs. The rivers and streams are the fluids of the body. All these systems should function properly to keep the body alive.
How can we save the Earth?
By being aware and involved. We should begin now.
Pollution threatens the health and well being of many generations. The ozone layer that protects us from harmful UV radiation is thinning in most places.
The future of humanity is connected to and depends on a healthy biosphere.
One cannot overemphasize the urgency of the situation. Despite repeated warnings, people seem apathetic.
One can rarely gaze at a clear blue sky in the city. A haze of dust and fumes smothers us. Vehicles and incinerators release carbon monoxide and smoke. Pollution causes respiratory aliments, skin and eye allergies.
Some of the hazards that we should solve immediately are the following:
The decaying garbage in open dump sites emit toxic methane gas. An estimated 80% of households and establishments located near Manila Bay flush untreated sewage and garbage into the sea. The bay is littered with non-biodegradable debris (plastic, tin cans, styro boxes, glass bottles, tetra packs) tossed by passing ships.
Fishes from the bay, Laguna Lake and Cavite have revealed traces of lead, cadmium, copper, silver, and hydrocarbon compounds beyond safe levels.
The fearsome red tide continues to haunt us.
The septic industrial and human wastes dumped into the river and sea adversely affect marine life. Despite the annual red alert, people eat the poisoned shellfish and suffer the consequences.
The vicious cycle claims many lives every year.
Karma. What goes around comes around.
Maria Victoria Rufino is an artist, writer and businesswoman. She is president and executive producer of Maverick Productions.