“The Philippines has run on an ecological deficit for the past half century,” warns National Scientist Lourdes Cruz. “We are in danger, we can’t keep on going like this.”
From 1995 until now, the Philippines’ biological capacity is 0.6, she said, citing figures from the World Development Indicators, the World Bank and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Biological capacity indicates population demand on nature.
When measured against a global hectare per capita of 1.3, the country has a biological capacity deficit of minus 0.7, said Cruz.
Global hectares per person refers to the amount of production and waste assimilation per person.
“Development is not sustainable when we spend or use all our resources now, leaving the future generations nothing,” said Cruz, pointing to deforestation and the destruction of mangroves, coral reefs and marine habitats, to name a few.
“Development is not sustainable when we generate wastes that nature has difficulty recycling,” she said, pointing to the country as the world’s third worst plastic polluter, with the third highest death rate in Asia and the Pacific due to outdoor pollution and second due to indoor pollution.
The facts are worldwide. Some 1.3 billion tons of food are wasted each year as 2 billion people go hungry or are undernourished. Food accounts for about 22 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions which cause climate change. The emissions come largely from the conversion of forests into farmland.
Only 3 percent of the world’s water is drinkable “and we use it faster than nature can replenish it,” said Cruz, a professor emeritus at the Marine Science Institute, University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman.
Cruz is the project leader of Future Earth Philippines, a program of the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) implemented by the National Research Council of the Philippines (NRCP).
“Future Earth hopes to put in place the policies and measures needed to address problems now and in the future,” said Dr. Rhodora Azanza, NAST president. “In the process, we want to identify the gaps now and, if we can address them now, so much the better.”
Future Earth calls on natural and social scientists, policy makers, funders, business and industry and civil organizations in co-designing and co-producing research agenda and knowledge.
A trans-disciplinary initiative, Future Earth Philippines seeks to strengthen the country’s sustainability and resilience through science-based solutions.
It is inspired by a 10-year international scientific program that aims to provide the critical knowledge required for societies to face challenges posed by global environmental change and to identify opportunities for a transition to sustainable development.
The national deficit in biological capacity “is the reason for the Future Earth Philippines Program,” Cruz said during a Future Each national summit.
The program clusters are Climate Change, Disasters and Hazards headed by Dr. Decibel Faustino-Eslava, UP Los Baños (UPLB); Land Systems Change (Dr. Maria Victoria Espaldon, UPLB); Terrestrial Environment and Biodiversity (Dr. Rex Victor Cruz, UPLB); Marine Environment and Biodiversity (Dr. Rhodora Azanza, UP Diliman); Economic Development and Behavioral Change (Dr. Marieta Banez Sumagaysay, NRCP, and Dr. Gregorio E.H. Del Pilar, UP Diliman); Fresh Water and Hydrologic Cycle (Dr. Guillermo Tabios III, UP Diliman); Public Health (Dr. Hilton Lam, UP Manila); Energy and Urban Sustainability (Dr. Alvin Culaba, De La Salle University); and Advocacy, Communications, Education and Capacity Building (Dr. Segundo Romero Jr., Ateneo de Manila University).