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US envoy teaches Baguio kids eco-warfare

November 08, 2007 06:47:00
Vincent Cabreza
Northern Luzon Bureau

BAGUIO CITY -- Some of the city’s public schoolchildren learned something new about modern warfare while listening to US Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney read a story about Filipino “eco-warriors” who fight global warming.

Kenney was the latest guest reader of the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Read Along program, which was sponsored this time by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the US Department of Energy on its first out-of-town session at SM City Baguio on Wednesday.

The program is a newspaper advocacy started in May, which promotes reading as a lifestyle.

Kenney read out passages of the “Eco-Defenders Versus Global Warming,” published by the USAID, as part of a campaign to raise awareness about global warming and to express how people can engage the threat of greenhouse gases.

The book tells the story of three colorful superhero children who foil the plans of polluting villains. It was derived from a 60-second commercial to be aired in SM theaters, which offers tips to children on how to save electricity, reduce, reuse, recycle and save water, and reminds them that their “little acts help save Planet Earth.”

‘Bright ideas’

The 30 elementary students in Kenney’s audience did not need much persuading, though.

After the reading session, the ambassador spent 15 minutes interacting with the students, who offered their own “bright ideas” about staving off global warming.

A 10-year-old pupil said she had not realized one could mount a war against ecological destruction, until increasing oil prices became headline news recently. So her bright idea involves controlling their household’s electricity consumption.

Both President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes have directed government offices to mount an energy-saving program in anticipation of increasing oil prices this Christmas season.

Another student told Kenney that he would ask his parents to fix the water pipes in their house to stop the leaks they had endured for years.

Gore documentary

Prodded by reporters, a student said: “Yes, we know [who] Al Gore is. [I] watched ‘Inconvenient Truth’ with my mama.”

Gore, a former US vice president, won a Nobel Peace Prize this year for drawing attention to the global warming threat through a documentary that also won an Oscar award.

On behalf of the United States, Gore signed the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, a United Nations treaty that compels countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

US legislators during the term of President Bill Clinton and the administration of President George W. Bush shelved the protocol because of a counter argument that mandatory restrictions imposed by the UN would affect the American economy.

US policy

When asked if Gore’s popularity has changed Washington’s attitude toward the world greenhouse effect, Kenney said the US government was still inclined to develop clean energy instead.

“But today’s Americans -- not just the American government -- are starting to look deeply into [the matter of global warming],” she said.

Also on Wednesday, Kenney helped launch a new environmental advocacy network formed by the city’s top universities, which would support the “clean cities” initiative.

Baguio is piloting the USAID’s Clean Cities program, which lobbies Asian cities to use alternative fuel sources in their respective mass transport systems.

Most of the city’s universities have joined the Energy and Clean Air Network of the Academe (Ecademe) to develop new technology and resources that help the movement for sustainable energy, said Jesus Benjamin Salvosa, chair of the University of the Cordilleras, who hosted the event.

Academic community

“Clean air and the environment are not the most exciting topics, especially for the general public. Most people will engage in discussions on clean air and the environment, only when they cannot avoid it [because] the public consciousness in our country is crowded with more invasive topics like politics [and] show business,” he said.

Salvosa told Kenney that the Baguio academic community had decided to join hands because “it has become ever so clear in a global arena, that clean air and the environment is the issue that holds the key to mankind’s survival in our very own planet.”

Kenney said that “keeping the scent of pine in Baguio” was a laudable goal because the effort amounted to “preserving one of the natural treasures of this country.”

Other celebrities, like Christine Bersola, Manilyn Reynes, Sam Concepcion, Cheska Ortega, University of the Philippines summa cum laude graduate Mikaela Irene Fudolig, Olsen Racela, Miss Earth-Philippines 2007 Jean Harn and Little Earth Angel winner Denisse Mikaela Abuan, have read stories to children at the Inquirer’s Makati offices.

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