- Last Updated: Wednesday, 03 December 2014 05:06
- Published: Sunday, 16 November 2014 09:06
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Image from various internet sources
It’s easy to blame our current environmental pollution problems on the use of fossil fuels. Ever since we learned to burn the product of thousands of years of organic decay, our world slowly filled with toxic fumes that the Earth’s built-in natural elimination system could not get rid of. It’s like our planet is suffering from its own form of sepsis which is slowly triggering a cascade of changes that are damaging multiple ecological systems in our environment leading to ecosystem failure and slow death. However, even as most governments in the world recognize their own contribution and responsibilities on the world’s pollution problem, we as individuals mostly fail in doing so.
Pollution is not just a social issue in general but can be considered as involving personal choices that do result to widespread social problems. Our individual actions, although they are personal as indeed they are, are connected on the external level in so far as we are social beings; we depend on each other for survival both as individuals and as a collection of communities composed of human beings.
|... the polluter should, in principle, bear the cost of pollution, with due regard to the public interest and without distorting international trade and investment.|
Consider the use of a plastic drinking straw for example. It’s a great invention designed to solve a very simple problem – it’s a small implement that we use to sip water from a glass or soda from a bottle thereby making it easy for us to enjoy a cold drink on a hot day. It costs very little to produce and sell. People take them for granted when they order a bottle of soda or glass of juice in their favorite fastfood restaurant. But have you ever stopped to think how many people use it and how many pieces of straw are dumped in the garbage to be thrown into a landfill somewhere quite far from where we live? We do not give it a second thought but if you stop and consider it now, you will realize that we are having a global plastic pollution and we are contributing to it by using plastic straws.
The collective wisdom of responsible individuals around the world came up with what we call international environmental law and an important principle involved in managing the environment is “polluters must pay.” The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development says:
Principle 16. Internalization of Environmental Costs
"National authorities should endeavor to promote the internalization of environmental costs and the use of economic instruments, taking into account the approach that the polluter should, in principle, bear the cost of pollution, with due regard to the public interest and without distorting international trade and investment."
In simple terms, it says that if you pollute, you must pay for the damage you have done to the environment. Its target are actually big companies or factories that produce the most pollution that cause huge environmental damage. This principle was created in order to help national governments around the world control their pollution problem and help the environment recover from abuse. It tries to shift primary responsibility from the government to the polluters themselves. It gives the task of cleaning up and safe disposal of hazardous products to the factory or company itself which produced the hazardous products.
"Von Hernandez added: "It is time for Filipinos and victims of climate change to demand redress and justice from these big polluters mainly responsible for bringing us to the brink of this climate crisis. We also call on the global community to join our group of Climate Avengers—people who will help us in our fight for justice in the courts."
Going back to our straw example, we may, down the line, blame the straw manufacturer for the plastic pollution caused by discarded plastic straws. But are we really that callous and not take some of the blame? Those who still use plastic straws may very well just ignore their contribution to the plastic pollution and not care a bit. But for those who do care, let’s just offer a toast for ourselves, sans plastic cups and straws please.
Mon Fernan has more to share about pollution and the environment. Read his article Pollution from Motor Vehicles Just as Bad as Smoking Tobacco to find out more. And if you are interested to know who the patron saint of bicyclist is, check this out: Patron Saint of Bicyclists.