- Published: Wednesday, 23 July 2014 10:30
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FFB President Karen presenting at the Clean Air Forum
The sixth annual clean air forum of the Partnership for Clean Air, Inc., a network of clean air advocates, of which the Firefly Brigade is a member, showed that pollution is becoming a big health issue, despite an apparent average downward trend in total suspended particles. This is probably the only highlight of the forum worth talking about. The rest was the usual babble of talking heads with little to say about what to do about pollution, which in Metro Manila is overwhelming due to motor vehicles (85 percent). The forum was held 26-27 June at the DENR Social Hall.
|Mon Fernan wonders "So what have we got wrong? It is clear we have not effectively gotten our message across and it may be because we are doing it the wrong way. It is time the Brigade starts to rethink its advocacy strategy, or in fact adopt an effective one."|
FFB president Karen Crisostomo gave a presentation on “Bikeability in Metro Manila.” Despite being clean air advocates and in spite of the Brigade’s fifteen years of cycling advocacy, including years of working with the Partnership, less than a handful of the participants believed that bicycling in Metro Manila was feasible and no one admitted to being a regular bicyclist. There was, of course, the usual token acknowledgement of bicycling’s possible contribution to lessening pollution, but it would not be an exaggeration to say that some of the participants thought it was rather a long shot, if not a waste of time, to promote bicycling as alternative transportation for regular commuting. One, of course, could put a positive spin to this by referring to the fact that when the Brigade began its campaign, the number of people who would have thought that regular bike commuting in Metro Manila was possible was nearly zilch, little consolation to those of us who have been working on this issue for many years. It is an uncomfortable thought but true that some of those we sit with in these kinds of networks are snickering at our bicycle advocacy.
This particular representative doesn't think that riding your bike "is environmentally friendly because the activity causes cyclists to have an increased heart rate and respiration...
So what have we got wrong? It is clear we have not effectively gotten our message across and it may be because we are doing it the wrong way. It is time the Brigade starts to rethink its advocacy strategy, or in fact adopt an effective one.
As mentioned above, the only new message worth the pain of two days of sitting and listening to bureaucratic blather was the presentation of two physicians on the health effects of pollution. They pointed out that the campaign against tobacco and cigarette smoking has been a great success in the face of the tobacco companies’ multi-million peso onslaught against it and that the anti-pollution campaign should probably emulate it and focus on the real health effects of pollution. While this is not directly related to bicycle promotion, a more effective anti-pollution campaign can only be good news for regular cyclists.
But leave it to clean air advocates to find ways to shoot themselves in the foot. Because the pollution data showed that motor vehicles were the principal sources of air pollution in Metro Manila, it was inevitable that some people proposed the need for regulating and limiting the use of private cars in order to lower pollution levels dramatically. Predictably there were the naysayers who repeated the tired refrain that fixing the public transport system was a prerequisite for using what, in transport circle jargon, is called travel demand management measures (for more definition of travel demand management, see also here, here and here) — car users were going to be unfairly inconvenienced by forcing them to take crowded trains and dilapidated buses and mixing with the sullied masses – even though those trains and buses were going to be able to travel faster and people were going to enjoy cleaner health and deal with less health problems. This is the same reasoning that was used more than fifteen years when there was one LRT and the buses then were in an even more dilapidated state. One would have hoped that people who claim they want clean air would have already gone beyond such lame excuses, but apparently not.
Catch more of Mon Fernan's insights about cycling in his blog "Padyakero"