US Government Program Alumni braced the scare of rainy season just to run this year’s 1Earth, a nationwide Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) celebration of the environment. In many years of camaraderie within YSEALI, USG alumni have always shown their mindfulness. The advocacy to protect Mother Nature is innate. 1Earth is and has always been one of our favorite simultaneous activity. It always involve alot of fun!

This year, we celebrate the International Year of the Reef. To respond, we thought of dedicating our 1Earth activity to the corals. Coral reef populations are decreasing worldwide. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says an estimated twenty percent (20%) of the reefs have been damaged beyond recovery. Human activities are threatening the world’s coral reefs. NOAA scientists say the main threats are pollution, overfishing and climate change.

Instead of having to bore ourselves and our young participants in a classroom discussion about corals, we brought our participants to the beach. Anyway, it is always summer in the Philippines (oh oh, not that Sunday!). Over the weekend, thirty (30) young scientists, beach enthusiasts, marine biologists, conservationists and young leaders play, swam and interact with the locals to know more about the Sitio Lusay, Brgy. Lawi and its slowly degrading marine life. Identified as turtle breeding ground, Sitio Lusay residents has been nursing young turtles. They are running their own turtle protection initiatives without the help nor funding of any government agency and private organizations. Our participants exposure to Sitio Lusay’s marine life showed all the disadvantages of their unsustainable tourism. All visitors to the Ave Maria Islet in the sitio left contributions to the bleaching of corals underneath. As inquisitives turned advocates, the participants has become conscious in their actions as they enjoy the sun, the beach and the sand.

Local and participants learned from each other as we converse during the film showing of Coral Seas. Discussions about lifestyle change and conservationism were also done among the participants and the alumni. During the exchange of thoughts, mostly agreed conservationism is elitist. It is expensive to choose organic shampoo bar than a ‘tingi’ sachet of shampoo. One alumni cited, “Maybe we should answer poverty first because this is the reason why we subsribe to ‘tingi’ culture. There were ideas thrown out in the air that rainy day. Perhaps this happens if you put different people all passionate about the environment in one hut, in a peaceful Sunday morning, beside the beach, while sipping local hot chocolate.

Conservationism can still be done without being part of the elite circle. It takes mindfullness to help minimize the ill effects of our lifestyle. We do not need that new brand of coral-safe, whale-friendly sunblock. We also do not need a reusable ziplock plastic bag. We skip all the unnessary wants and let us start with assessing our lifestyle.

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