Hidden-nomics (5): the unlisted, immeasurable, unfathomable value of the environment

Forest_Enchanted

Image courtesy of: https://josemariasison.org

Dear Reader,

The poem I shared was written by Jose María Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines. (I think it later turned into a song) I hope you would overlook his political inclination and appreciate how beautifully and realistically he depicted the struggle of our natural environment through the forest.

The issue here goes beyond the hidden (read: unmeasured/unmeasurable/subjective) value of the environment. It’s the fact that most of people don’t even take the time to stop and wonder what natural resources mean to their existence.

Without clean air, they would be breathing toxins that would make them sick, rendering them perhaps sterile and sickly in the future.

Rising seas would eventually diminish land area, increase housing prices and affect agriculture, industry and services (imagine how the tourism sector would fare!) among others.

Wide-spread droughts would expand desertification and turn fertile soil into waste territory- useless for human, animal and plant alike.

Are more examples needed?

In Sison’s poem, the forest could have perfectly been substituted by the sea, river, plateau, mountain, meadow, ricefield, and so on. He would’ve talked about water nymphs, trolls and Bigfoot. He would’ve invoked fishermen, woodcutters and farmers as brave warriors protecting their homes against villains. He could’ve even talked about you, defending your own house from shameless vandals who would try to ransack it, empty it, and destroy it, leaving you homeless and bereaved of resources.

So why is it that some people still can’t relate?

The first time I’ve been made aware of the environmental problem was when I was 10. Since then, I haven’t stopped reading about forecasts, as well as materials about immediate and longer-term responses to the detected problems. I remembered being so impressed with what I read that I started then and there to voluntarily clean the beach near where I lived, reduce my fresh water consumption and recycle as much as I could. I would also scold people in my school whenever I saw them throwing trash on the ground. I took everything very seriously.

I remember handing stickers to my classmates and telling them about the things I learned, the dolphins and whales that are becoming endangered, the dodo bird that got extinct because of game hunters… some of my peers believed me, some just considered me a geek. Nevertheless, I know some of them took note and became more aware of their actions towards their surroundings.

23 years have passed since then, more than 2 decades since that first Greenpeace pamphlet I read explaining the locust plague. The same types of campaigns are still being carried out, but the effect is not the same. I ask myself what the problem could be (don’t you?). After all, the information was fact-based; data seemed solid and the campaigners didn’t scrimp in using alarming vocabulary.

Then it dawned to me: the constant bombardment of intense information, based on massive data has lost its effect. Perhaps in the ’70s, that kind of messaging was able to shock passersby. But in this millenia, people just look, read and go on with their lives, appearing to be desensitized.

How to reverse this? Go beyond speaking to the people individually: beat messages of empowerment and directly thank the citizens for their little daily efforts. Make them realize that when many small actions are summed with the rest of what others do, the outcomes become a great, big help to the environment! 

It is of no surprise that people feel a great weight on their shoulders, pressuring them, forcing them to save the sea turtle, the baobab or the elephants- elements that probably seem so far and unfamiliar to them. The fact is that when it comes to discussions on environmental issues, the initial reaction would be enthusiasm, then anger, followed by a common call for action. Afterwards, bewilderment will rise into their eyes when they start to hear about the tons of water they could save a day, the thousands of species disappearing each hour, or the volume of greenhouse gases they could help prevent from being emitted.

So why not, instead of asking them to DO, also thank them for what they’re currently SACRIFICING to contribute to the cause?

We should all gear towards the turning point. We should resist their despair. We should retaliate their common cry, “There’s no way we can help because a million others would be doing the opposite” with, “You’re already doing your best. Congratulations! Thank you! Keep it up! And when you feel ready to do more, go ahead and do it!”.

Let politicans do what they do best: politics. Let lobbyers influence decision-makers that their agenda is far more important than anyone else’s. Let the activists raise their voices in protest. Let the researchers continue their work on just how fast we are nearing to doomsday.

In the meantime, you, me, us, we can simply be more aware of our actions towards the environment. I’m not even talking about the Amazon rainforest or the Arctic. I’m talking about our immediate environment: how do we consume? what do we consume? what do we do with our waste? do we defend our immediate environment when harassed? do we tolerate vandalism?

It really boils down to what lives we want to lead, and what world we would like to leave behind for our children, or our neighbor’s children, if you don’t plan on having your own. The point is, we should start factoring in the environment when making decisions. Even if it just means saving on our monthly water and electric bill.

It couldn’t be too hard. Human nature has a great level of plasticity, in the sense that it is equipped to adjust according to the circumstances. We just have to will it. We just have to want it.

And as usual, dear reader, I will end this one by encouraging you:

Think about it.

 

 

Ina at anak 1 (Mother and Child 1)

1541.jpg
Designed by Freepik

Ang pagiging ina ay ang pinaka-magandang tungkuling ipinagdasal kong magampanan. Sana, sa pamamagitan ng mga sulat sa hanay na ito, ay mailarawan ko ang mga panahon sa pagsasama ng mag-iina na hindi gaanong binabahagi ng karamihan. Wala namang masama doon, takot lamang tayo sa panghuhusga at mararahas na salita ng kapwa natin tao.

Motherhood is the best and most-fulfilling project I have ever sought in my whole life. With this series, I wish to show that side of mother-child relationship that most people prefer not to talk about. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just not “instagrammable” and exposes both subjects to judgement and harsh comments.

Ina (Mother):

nanay

Anak (Child)

anak

Colorfulifesite responds: Why do rich people say “Money can’t buy happiness”?

The short answer

Because they spend their money un-wisely. On the wrong things.

The longer answer

People with lots of money, proclaiming that it can’t buy happiness are implying that as of the moment, the things they’ve purchased have not brought them what they were looking for. But before we get to the longer answer, the first question is: Would you recognize happiness if it looked you in the eye?

To be able to find happiness, we must first define what happiness is for us; and be honest in doing so, because the quest for happiness is a lifelong commitment to ourselves (whether we admit it or not). And once defined, we would spend time, money and effort into having that in our lives.

The problem is that we confuse happiness with other concepts imposed by society in general. Social media posts seem to promise us fulfillment by finding the “right” person- and so we spend money on dates, clothes, cosmetics, gifts, and who knows what else? Our peers look happy when they acquire more money, increase their investments and save resources for rainy days. And sometimes, culture dictates that we spend what little we have on “rituals” such as costumes, decorations and gifts, when what we really seek is belongingness.

Colorfulifesite has identified two of the most confounded concepts of happiness:

1. When we believe our happiness depends on others

As children, we observed how adults appear to be happy when faced with acknowledgement. So we incorporated that information in our little minds and from that very moment, we started to automatically pursue it from people that surround us. Now, that is not bad. In fact, recognition is useful to reinforce positive behavior. Yet as we grew older, we started to let ourselves be defined on what others think about us: their approval, acceptance, admiration, criticism, etc… As a result, we don’t think twice in exerting all manners of effort to gain that esteem.

Similarly, notice how some would spend time and money on travelling or eating out, then show pictures of the trip or dishes, just to earn “likes”, “hearts” and comments on social media. This behavior simply feeds something toxic within,  and the more it is nourished, the fatter and hungrier it gets. The by-product is easily confused with happiness, but one day, without noticing, we will end up living for “it” and internally killing ourselves in the process.

2. Confusing the means and the end

Money is a medium of transaction. We use it to purchase goods and services to cover our basic needs and when that is done, we spend the remainder to fulfill our whims.

So the system goes… we try to earn money to buy the things we need and want, and logically, we try to have more to be able to purchse more. However, somewhere in between earning and purchasing, people get caught up in acquiring more and more money, they seem to forget its utility. I would even go as far as dare say that there are those who use their saved money to buy more money (through investments, foreign currency, etc…), and so they end up amassing great sums of it, without any intention of putting it to good (or bad) use.

Money cannot buy absolute happiness, but it can produce a cheer or two

As Chomsky pointed out, the problem with the type of consumerism today is that it isolates people in tiny little islands, making them deprived of human contact. And miserably so, for human’s survival has always depended on being part of a society. This is how our species was able to reproduce and stand the test of time.

Perhaps, if we propose another definition of happiness, people can then seek a different, more genuine but simpler contentment. A type which would not depend on the ever-changing fad, nor on what others might think, rather, a happiness that would be based on associations, human relations,  the potential to show and receive compassion, to give and welcome comfort, to experience love…

Notice how people coming out of theaters, movies, concerts, or even a gym class, seem less detached than those who just came from shopping. If rich people spent their money creating or strengthening human relations, they might have a better chance at finding happiness. Of course this is not a scientific law, it’s a humble expression of frequent observations. But, dear reader, if you have observations of your own, please remember to leave a comment on this article about what you’ve perceived.

 

 

 

 

Four seasons of delight

We met in autumn

amidst falling leaves,

in between caught breaths,

on rain-soaked streets.

When winter came

with its heavy rains,

we braced ourselves

to face the day.

Without any notice,

we were welcoming spring.

It warmed our hearts.

We learned some songs,

we learned to dance.

We got ready for summer…

what a season to remember!

 

Once again,

leaves have fallen.

You learned to stomp

and make them crunch.

You make me

greet any season with glee.

-Karessa Ramos

 

 

“The purpose of studying economics is not to acquire a set of ready-made answers to economic questions, but to learn how to avoid being deceived by economists.”- Joan Robinson

robinson

Image courtesy of: http://www.eumed.net

A viable interpretation of Robinson’s quote is being able to filter what is BS and what is not BS. So many economists and wannabes would risk making a fool out of themselves just to defend their absurd agenda.

Absurd agenda 1: painting a pretty picture of pitiful politics

1.A

When Duterte was newly elected in the Philippines, there was a lot of frenzy over the very positive movements in the local stock market. Many people, especially his supporters, were ecstatic to hear this news. They didn’t waste any time sharing this all over social media. They really wanted to prove a point- that the change would bring economic prosperity.

Me and my colleagues, meanwhile, eyed all of that with suspicion. While none of us was dilligent enough to build a counter argument, we DID construct a sort-of guide to do so.

We started by pointing out that stock market indices are just that- indicators of that particular and specific market. It doesn’t say whether the gains would be reinvested, who would benefit from them… we can only be a little bit sure of who received them. What it does, is to simply say that a number of selected enterprises from different sectors are doing well in attracting investors from all around the world.

People can draw all types of conclusions they want, but the truth is, there is no evidence that stock market movements have affected development indicators* like poverty levels, enrollment rates, mortality rates, investment in infrastructure or quality of life. In our conclusions, we admitted that for the upper echelons of the society, the high indicators meant more sound and healthy economics for them, as they are stakeholders of that elite market.

As a side note, we observed something funny: most of this president’s supporters are comprised of poor to middle-class citizens with no ownership of any stock whatsoever. Yet, they were very celebratory of the rising stock market indices. Oh, the pathetic, deceived souls…

1.B

In an interview, Nicolas Maduro proudly announced that unlike in the 70’s, the current dictatorship in Venezuela does not have anything to do with the United States. He added that as a socialist country, the government is actually formed by Venezuelans. It has no contamination from evil capitalists, doesn’t risk being indebted to anybody… just hungry citizens, a huge black market of all sorts and human rights violations left and right, top to bottom, side by side, front and back.

Of course there are also the hordes of Venezuelans fleeing to Europe and the US (for those who were able to) with their assets and families, swearing never to return until democracy is fully reestablished. It’s creating, as we speak, a massive brain and investment drain in the country where talented and highly educated people escape for some pasture- which doesn’t have to be green as long as there’s something to graze on!

If not for the oil, every economic aspect of this deplorable country would be naught.

Absurd agenda 2: justifying the unjustifiable global inequality

Let me share a scene I witnessed in one of my college classes. I was seated with my then-best friend and this dialogue ocurred between her and a former Economic History professor:

Teacher: (noticing a book about Che Guevarra on our table) So, Ernesto Guevarra, huh?

Friend: Yes. It’s good to have varied sources of information.

T: Yes, sure. Whatever. But you do know that even if we free those Indonesian kids working in a Reebok factory, they won’t be cruising around Harvard in a Jaguar, right? You know they’d probably be worse off, right?

F: Sure, but we want them free NOT so they could cruise around in Jaguars or Bentleys. We want them freed so they could choose for themselves what they want to be and how they want to get there.

T: Oh, the youth! Anyway, class, today’s lesson…

My friend and I looked at each other and made faces. 

Economic prosperity, regardless of its magnitude, is inconceivable without the full exercise of basic human rights.

Absurd agenda 3: insistently promoting a lifestyle that really only benefits the few- and none of them is you

Think of the last thing you purchased, may it be a product or a service. Then, think how you could have continued to live your life without it. Try really hard. If you come to the conclusion that you could have gone through the day or the week without it, then you have just made the rich richer. And you, dear reader, are several monetary units poorer.

Now, the other side of the coin would allow us to analyze thus: look at the advertising material around. How many of the items proposed are truly vital for modern-day living? for me, the choices would include an insurance policy, the most competitively-priced natural gas package, the public safety reminders and maybe even adult diapers, among the few. The rest? very questionable.

We are forcefully being introduced to a kind of life whose prerequisite is for us to spend our time and energy to work a lot, earn a lot and buy a lot. To sacrifice our health and time with people we love and the things we like doing. It would seem as if society is pushing citizens to harvest the fruits of their efforts through spending and consuming.

This is not surprising. After all, private consumption has been the strongest driver of the OECD’s economies at one time or another. Taking this variable a notch higher could undoubtedly lift declining economic indices.

But just like what was mentioned in this article, it would be senseless to refuse or even condemn private consumption. It would however, be more fruitful to analyze our purpose for spending. This could help us exchange our hard-earned “moolah” on things that honestly make us happy, productive, humane, alive or whatever it is we want to feel, not what the ads or the influencers want us to feel…

If, at this point, your cost-benefit analysis comes out favorable, then I am happy for you. But if you’re in doubt, then I am also happy for that realization.

-The End-

 

*Please, please, please, PLEASE read this solid article from the fantastic Mahar Mangahas:  http://opinion.inquirer.net/55487/do-stock-prices-affect-the-poor

Questions people should ask the person they’re dating for the first time (a poem)

Author’s note: Guaranteed to make you stay single!

 

Just how big of a jerk are you?

Will you raise a hand on me?

Thinking I’m frail? and helpless?

How much of an asshole will you be?

When I outsmart you, would you

attack psychologically?

And when I retaliate,

would you call me crazy? then convince

the rest that I AM, actually?

What kind of an insecure person are you?

Will you belittle my triumphs?

Smirk on my ambitions?

How would you handle my success?

Are you someone dependable?

who wouldn’t be overpowered

when I am down? who won’t get upset

when I feel weak?

What WILL you do, when I DO feel weak?

Are you someone on whom I could lean? or

will you  throw me under the bus,

to end my ordeal?

What do you want, exactly?

And do you think you can handle me?

Honestly?

-Karessa Ramos

Once my dreams have come true, what’s next to do?

dream-come-true

Image courtesy of: http://www.goodvibeblog.com

1. At the onset

I was once told by a psychologist that not only negative occurrences in life can cause stress. ANY change in one’s routine, habit, and even a realization that would modify a long-held belief could also be stressful. My face must have had the look of a bewildered fish because then she added, “To be clear, even positive changes can be a cause of stress. Of course, it will be of a different kind, but still stress, nonetheless”.

I’ve been turning this conversation over my head because of my everyday gratefulness for a dream coming true- getting to write for a living. Now that I’ve had time to reflect upon it, I can say that yes, when that ambition materialized, it demanded so much time and energy from me, aside from a reallocation of other resources (getting a nanny for Leo, transferring him to a better school so his needs could be better attended to, buying nicer clothes for work, etc…). And in a way, yes, it caused me some stress.

It’s not the dream come true that stressed me. THAT empowered me and simply made me want to be better. What caused the stress is the fact that I have to live through that dream: I signed a contract, I am committed to that agreement and I have to prove myself worthy of having done so (more on that later). So, in having to do all of those things, I found myself changing my habits, my routine and my way of thinking so I could adapt. THAT was the cause of stress.

However, there were proactive responses that helped me mitigate stress (and keep it under control):

  • Having taken the time to enjoy my triumph- I celebrated by eating out, skipping on household chores (even if they accumulated the next few days, haha!) and even treated people to a celebratory meal.
  • Facing the new reality- Once the initial excitement started to ebb, I laid out my plan. I started to look for a nanny, I drew up a monthly budget that I commit to, I inquired for a more suited school for Leo and our new situation. I also talked to people so I could verbally express my joy, concerns and most of all, so that the smarter friends I have could help me think things through.
  • Thankfulness- Each time I got daunted by the possibilities, or someone’s scary stories well-intentioned warnings got to me, I said a prayer from my grateful heart. It never failed to put things into perspective.

2. Living the dream

The first article I wrote that got published were actually four articles that got published almost simultaneously. I had to write them in Spanish and then translate them to English. They were life stories of four Latinamerican entrepreneurs- inspiring, invigorating and absolutely the best subject any newbie writer could ask for. I didn’t worry (that much) about the grammatical errors, I just let myself embrace the assignment and took a peek into the lives of the people I was writing about. I created my very own writer’s heaven.

When the drafts were edited, I saw the result and it looked like it was dipped in blue ink. It was so full of errors! and the most common feedback was that I use long sentences to explain something that could be expressed more briefly. It was so fun! The narrator in me felt a pang of hurt, of course, but the pragmatic in me encouragingly said, “This is journalism, not novel-writing! this is a corporate article, not a blog!” And life went on, with me knowing more and having learned many new things.

What I’m trying to say is that when I was writing, I was focused on the task, and every fiber in me had the intention of writing. And when my work was being corrected, no matter how hard it was at first, I was focused on the feedback and every fiber in me had the intention of listening to what I was being told. After that, I went on rewriting, focused on it, with every fiber in me… you get where I’m going, dear reader, right?

This is what philosophers, mothers, coaches, soulsisters or shamans mean when they say, “Live the moment”.

3. When they try to bring you down…

Some people find it hard being happy for others when the latter’s dreams come true. Some people don’t care, and others would actually try to rain down on your parade and even throw in a few lightning bolts and thunderstorms. It’s normal. It’s human nature. (I cannot for the life of me understand it, but it must have something to do with survival, as is with everything in our lives. But I haven’t discovered the link yet.)

In my case, I won’t say that somebody tried to bring me down. I honestly believe they weren’t even aware of the effect their words had on me. But I was brought down, for 10 seconds, that is. Because at the end of the day, I have the choice to be affected or not.

The mind is a very powerful muscle, and if we train it hard enough, we can block many psychological attacks that come our way. It’s not easy, just like boxing trainings or self-defense sessions aren’t easy either. We will still get hurt and it will still bruise us, but if we practice everyday, it will hurt less and the bruises won’t bother us much anymore.

I chose not to be affected. I could’ve thought that the person had a bad intention for having told me those harsh words, and it could’ve been true, too! but I chose not to care about the intention and pray for that person. That they may find peace of mind and that their dreams come true as well. I also took a very clear mental note not to trust that person anymore, if I could help it.

4. The “ideal” situation has turned into a routine

I haven’t really entered into this phase yet so everything in this part is what I think I’d do.

I suppose the first thing I would do is to acknowledge my privileged situation and be thankful once again. Then I’d try to remember and thank those who helped me get to where I am: family and friends who cheered me up, my boss who put total faith in me and who keeps on empowering me, my colleagues at work who have my back and who trust in me to keep theirs safe, and you, dear reader, for always dropping by this site and letting me share my thoughts with you.

(Seeing that you’re already here, though, I might as well say it now: THANK YOU!)

And then, I would…

  • Find that bucket list and see what things need to be ticked off it
  • Open myself up to other endeavors and opportunities for learning
  • Mentor anyone who could put up with me
  • Read and talk to people to see what others are up to– that should inspire me to aspire for something new