opinion

A world without trees

September 18, 2019

Several months ago, I asked here how a world would look like without water. And, is there any difference? My today;s question is, "What would happen if all the world’s trees disappeared?"      As the Amazon fires continue to burn, writer and journalist Rachel Nuwer asks in an BBC-report: How dependent are we on the survival of forests?      In Mad Max: Fury Road, Charlize Theron’s Furiosa strives to return to “the Green Place” – a tree-filled oasis in the otherwise lifeless wasteland that the Earth has become. When Furiosa arrives at the sacred spot, however, she finds only skeletal trunks and sprawling dunes. She screams in anguish. Without trees, all hope seems lost.      Ask yourself: how would you feel? Hopeless too? Furiosa’s feelings were justified. “Forests are the lifeline of our world,” says Meg Lowman, director of the Tree Foundation, a non-profit organisation in Florida that is dedicated to tree research, exploration and education. “Without them, we lose extraordinary and essential functions for life on Earth.”      Following the Rachel Nuwer's report, trees’ services to this planet range from carbon storage and soil conservation to water cycle regulation. They support natural and human food systems and provide homes for countless species – including us, through building materials. Yet we often treat trees as disposable: as something to be harvested for economic gain or as an inconvenience in the way of human development. Since our species began practicing agriculture around 12,000 years ago, we’ve cleared nearly half of the world’s estimated 5.8 trillion trees, according to a 2015 study published in the journal Nature.      Sad to say but it's unfortunately so very true: much of the deforestation has happened in recent years. Since the onset of the industrial era, forests have declined by 32%. Especially in the tropics, many of the world’s remaining three trillion trees are falling fast, with about 15 billion cut each year, the Nature study states. In many places, tree loss is accelerating. In August, the National Institute for Space Research showed an 84% increase in fires in the Brazilian Amazon rain forest compared to the same period in 2018. Slash-and-burn is also especially on the rise in Indonesia and Madagascar.        Making me sad and angry, or even better expressed angry first and sad then is the reality, that there have been more than 70,000 forest fires in the Brazilian Amazon in 2019. Barring an unimaginable catastrophe, however, there’s no scenario under which we would fell every tree on the planet.       “Let me just start with how horrible a world without trees would be – they are irreplaceable,” says Isabel Rosa, a lecturer in environmental data and analysis at Bangor University in Wales. “If we get rid of all the trees, we will live [on] a planet that might not actually be able to sustain us anymore.”  And Isabel Rosa is so very right.      I am living in a big compound in Davao City with many trees and a wild tropical garden. Every time, trees have to cut or shortened, I have to leave. It's painful for me. But it's the wish of my neighbors, because branches of some trees keep on destroying their roofs.      Fact is, if trees disappeared overnight, so would much of the planet’s biodiversity. Habitat loss is already the primary driver of extinction worldwide, so the destruction of all remaining forests would be “catastrophic” for plants, animals, fungi and more, says Jayme Prevedello, an ecologist at Rio de Janeiro State University in Brazil. “There would be massive extinctions of all groups of organisms, both locally and globally.”      The loss of trees from the world would throw the climate off kilter. The planet’s climate would also be drastically altered in the short and long term. Trees mediate the water cycle by acting as biological pumps: they suck water from the soil and deposit it into the atmosphere by transforming it from liquid to vapour. By doing this, forests contribute to cloud formation and precipitation. Trees also prevent flooding by trapping water rather than letting it rush into lakes and rivers, and by buffering coastal communities from storm surges. They keep soil in place that would otherwise wash away in rain, and their root structures help microbial communities thrive.      So what's the difference between my first and today's question? Can you imagine a world without water? Can you imagine a world without trees? Or without both? Worth to think about. Worth to act about it! Even if we could live in a world without trees, who would want to? +++      Email: doringklaus@gmail.com or follow me in Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin or visit my www.germanexpatinthephilippines.blogspot.com or www.klausdoringsclassicalmusic.blogspot.com.

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Dealing with a Black Sheep

September 16, 2019

I highlighted in my last column the word “elephant” suggesting that the issue or problem is so big and so heavy that no one wants to confront it or try to move it.      These “elephants” eventually become embedded in how the business operates and how family members interact at all levels. When ignored, a very large problem will continue to shadow whatever successes the family business has achieved and when the issues become emotional and highly charged, they can compromise the business and split the family apart.      For this article, instead of a black sheep, I will use “Fredo” as the “elephant in the room”.      Having a “Fredo” in the family is a result of inconsistencies that are far and wide. Fredo as a family member grew up with values such as unconditional love, being nurtured and equality among siblings while expectations of “Fredo” as a business manager or employee centers on performance, meritocracy and accountability.       Prof. Kimberly Eddleston explained it succinctly, “When this logic (of love and equality) transfers to the business, however, it can be dangerous since it encourages the family to compensate for the weaknesses and failings of family members and to forgive indiscretions.”      While it is indeed difficult for a family business leader to initiate change, it will always start with a firm resolve of separating the family and the business.       As part of my governance advocacy, every next generation family member interested to join the family business must demonstrate that they have something of value to contribute to the business. In short, the family member must apply just like any employee and be deserving of the employment.       We are aware that not all family members are capable, therefore I encourage leaders to resist the urge of including all family members in the business. Guaranteed employment may have been the practice of the founding generation but the growing complexity and the increasing number of family members have made it unwieldy to manage the family and the business.       To operationalize these initiatives, the enterprise must also invest in HR consultants and professional managers so they can formulate “best practices” policies and introduce an environment that promotes accountability, transparency and consequences for bad behaviors.      I am suggesting a few rules to avoid or deter a “Fredo” from creating problems for the family business: Avoid hiring a “Fredo”      Develop and communicate rules of entry and exit for family members      With the guidance of an HR consultant, establish minimum standards for entry such as education level and years of experience. The rule of “No Nepotism” must apply      Do not create jobs for relatives. Avoid becoming an employer of last resort                                                                           Don’t force family members into the business if they are not interested. You are compromising the business by having demotivated, unfocused, dispassionate employees who happens to share your bloodline and last name Do not reward bad behavior      Kim Eddelston also pointed out several points worth mentioning, “if you feel you must hire a family member with questionable abilities and drive, place him or her in a job where the rewards are based on commission, such as sales.”      She also added that “having clear job requirements tend to decrease the prevalence of “Fredos” since they know what tasks are expected of them and how their performance will be evaluated.      And finally, Eddelston cautioned business leaders by raising the alarm bells regarding this issue: “do not allow family employees to have special privileges. This creates an us-against-them mentality with non-family employees, spurring feelings of injustice. It also encourages a sense of entitlement among family”      (esoriano@wongadvisory.com)

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Virtues most needed today

September 16, 2019

Far from falling into irrelevance or obsolescence, as some people claim, virtues are actually most needed today. And that’s because with the fast-moving and more complicated developments of the times, virtues actually help us properly tackle the challenges of these new developments.      We are actually in urgent need of these stable qualities. We have to debunk the myth that virtues hinder our reactions to the challenges of the times. It is a piece of pre-historic thinking that would consider the virtues as obstacles in our effort to grapple with the new developments.      It’s amazing some people, even the self-proclaimed highly educated people who are supposed to be very scientific in their outlook, still cling to that fiction. Virtues help us not only to facilitate our reactions to these new developments but also to see to it that our reactions are the right ones.      We need to dismantle the bias against virtues as wrongly understood by some people. In fact, these days we should be into some intense campaign to promote the importance, development, and practice of the virtues. This should start in the family, and always reinforced in parishes, schools, offices and everywhere else. They are always relevant. There is nothing in our life where the virtues would be out of place.      For example, the cardinal virtues under which all the other virtues are grouped and which are the hinges of a virtuous life, a life that would resemble us more and more with God who made us to be his image and likeness.      Given the confusing culture of our times where we not only have to distinguish between what is good and evil, but also between competing good options, we really would need prudence to be able to make the right choice.      Justice enables us to give to others, especially God, their due. (cfr. Compendium 318) This virtue is always necessary since we are not supposed to live simply on our own. We always live with others, and we have duties and responsibilities toward them. This virtue will help us avoid falling into self-indulgence and self-absorption.      Fortitude “assures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good.” (Compendium 382) Since our life will always involve moves of conquest and defense, we cannot overemphasize the importance of this virtue.      And again, given the complexities of our times, we have to make sure that we are tough and strong enough to tackle the many challenges of the times. Sad to say, many now have fallen into despair precisely because they lack this virtue that will always include a certain sense of optimism despite all the possible mishaps we can experience.      And then we have the virtue of temperance which “moderates the attraction of pleasures, assures the mastery of the will over instincts and provides balance in the use of created goods.” (Compendium 383)      This is a virtue that I would say is most immediately needed, since we are easily carried away by the movements of the flesh as it interacts with the new, fascinating albeit intoxicating things of today’s environment.      This is where we need to have self-discipline and a good sense of restraint and moderation in the use of the new technologies, for example.  If we want to be truly human, let alone, authentically Christian, we need these virtues more than we need food, drink, and air.

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Come on, give me a smile!

September 16, 2019

I keep on writing columns for several papers from all over the world since the early 1980's. Sometimes, while writing, I am indeed not in a good mood. I rewrite and rewrite - and then the moment comes, I am asking myself: "Do the readers of this publication really like to read my columns?"      Anyway, I try my best. It's actually a sweet day today, so sunny, so calm, so bright, it's like the bridal of earth and heaven.  The grandeur  of  God flames out like shining from shook foil. I feel like as the waves make towards the pebbled  shore. An incredible and peaceful Sunday, while writing this piece.      I observed again a multi national couple somewhere in my neighborhood fighting each other. Gosh. Stupid people have an uncanny way of hitting the right nail on the head with the wrong hammer!      Maybe, you are angry also right now, while reading this. You are angry, even for others it's a beautiful day. You are angry? It's okay. We are all battling against one of the most powerful emotions known to man - anger! Anger. A day rarely goes by without us feeling angry. Or,  maybe seldom a days goes by without feeling anger... .      Anger is the main part of our daily life. That's why it's really important to talk about this phenomenon. What is anger, what does it do and how does if affect our lives? Where does it come from and how can we learn to handle it in a constructive instead of destructive way? Only, if the roots of our anger exposed and explained, we can defuse its explosive and dangerous potentials.       As I said earlier, anger is one of the most basic emotions. Everyone can get angry. You and me? Now, later, tomorrow...! It's a feeling of being against something or someone.      Anger is a hostile emotion that sets people against one another, or even themselves. By its nature, anger involves opposition, hostility, hatred and disliked. It happened between Filipinos, and between Filipinos and foreigners as well, living here in the Philippines. It even happened at political levels right nowadays.      Anger, however, is simpler to define than to identity. Emotions of antagonism can take a wide variety of faces. Expressions of anger range from the overt, in-your-face brand of open hospitality to the cold indifference of a silent individual. At times, anger can be felt like an inner fire... .      Millions of defense, not a damned penny for tribute, as Charles Pinkney stated... . Anger between people: the one side remains cold as ice while the opposite plays meek as a lamb. Sige, burn the midnight oil! And what the result at the end? A shadow of doubts remains after each fight getting its origin out of anger.      The silent withdrawal and lack of understanding  and innumerable shortcomings of one or both partners are often an indication that one is angrily punishing the other for not doing things his or her way.      We are all selfish! Yes, me too! That's why we see the cause of anger as something outside of ourselves. Life is unfair! Life is hard! +++      Email me: doringklaus@gmail.com or follow me in Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter or visit one on of my websites www.germanexpatinthephilippines.blogspot.com or  www.klausdoringsclassicalmusic.blogspot.com.

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Homecoming

August 30, 2019

It’s always a happy occasion or, at least, one that is full of emotions. And even if we have mixed feelings about it, we would still look forward to a homecoming, since it reminds us of the past, of a sense of togetherness and shared experiences, of our origins. Homecomings are actually a necessity for us. Its immediate effect is undoubtedly one of joy and thanksgiving as we reconnect with familiar faces.      It brings back memories, insights, precious lessons learned, and many other things, happy and sad, that occurred between the past and the present. The road to the present, marked with lights and shadows, has given us a good, meaningful journey. Life may have led us to different and separate ways, but we are still together as one family, one clan, one class.      And regardless of how our accounting of things turns out, whether it is in the black or in the red, a win or a loss in human terms, we would still be happy and thankful because what matters is that, once upon a time and in varying periods of time, we have lived with others who are close to us and with whom we have some intimate relations—our parents, brothers and sisters, relatives, classmates, teachers, friends, etc.      We can never fully account the value they have added to our life. We know by some mysterious ways that they have helped in shaping us the way we are today. We know that God is always in control of things and would know how to derive good even from evil. And so, even if we have experienced some negative things by the hands of others, we still know that with God everything will work out for the good.      We just have to make sure that our homecomings are not simply an exercise of nostalgia and mere sentimentalism. They, the homecomings, have a significance that is truly important to all of us.      That’s because in the end, they remind us that we all come from God, our Father and Creator. He is the origin of our togetherness, the pattern, the power and also the end or purpose of our unity.      The homecomings are a good reminder that we are and should be together in our continuing journey toward our ultimate end who is God himself, who made us to be his image and likeness, and wants us to share his very life. Yes, the homecomings remind us that we need each other, and that we are, with God, responsible for one another.      The homecomings are a good reminder that we need to help one another in this universally common journey of ours. They remind us that there is a continuum among the past, the present and the future, and eventually, eternity with God. Our life here on earth is the time God uses to carry out his delicate task of creating and redeeming us.

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Before the next teardrop falls

August 30, 2019

WITH ‘little trouble’ expected to come by, Malacanang  has ordered the military to end now -- and not tomorrow -- the decades-long communist insurgency problem of the country.       The Duterte  administration has slammed anew the Communist Party of the Philippines - New People's Army (CPP-NPA)  for allegedly taking advantage  of the ‘kid-glove treatment’ of the government through the years.      President Duterte has again lashed out at the communist rebels (now tagged by the government as terrorists), saying the countryside  is  now infested with communist ‘parasites’.       Duterte had sought to end the country’s insurgency problem shortly after he assumed office in 2016, but government talks with communist rebels have failed to reach any conclusion.      In 2017, Duterte signed Proclamation No. 60 which formally terminated negotiations with communist rebels.       A month later, he signed Executive Order No. 70 ordering the creation of a task force to end local communist armed conflict.      That said, the government has no choice but to crush the Joma Sison-led communist-cum- terrorist organization   as soon as possible before the next massive teardrops will fall in the countryside.      It has been said before – and until now—that the demands of the communists-turned-terrorists are impossible and   absurd to the hilt.       Its self-styled leader,  Joma Sison  have been living  in Utrecht  in opulent lifestyle  while  his comrades on the ground suffer fighting for a lunatic cause -- that  of toppling the so-called ‘imperialism, feudalism and bureaucratic capitalism’ of this country.      To advance their  foothold,  Sison and his clique has been on  recruitment binge, targeting among others the so-called ‘the harassed and the oppressed’ particularly members of indigenous tribes in general and students in particular.      Lately, NPA recruitment has again penetrated in schools   and universities which alarmed authorities amid the reported spread of student ‘activism’ now  happening  in the academic community.      The recruitment process  starts with selecting prospective student-leaders who are smart, idealistic and passionate about a cause.   NPA cadres would then teach  student-recruits  about communism and further indoctrinate them about activism.       An invitation to join rallies would come next,  and later a baptism of fire would  follow by joining the mainstream armed group in hit-and-run firefights with  government troops.      With over 50 years of fighting the government, the insurgency problem has become a cancer – an incurable social problem  only high heavens would tell when it will vanish from the ends of the Earth.       Meantime, the Duterte order to crush once and for all these insurgents-turned terrorists depends on how the military would be able to totally extinguish them head-on soonest possible time.      Again, to put an end to communist insurgency lies a dogma of  uncertainty, raging as it were like the wildfires of the Amazon forests – persistent and demonizing at the expense of the larger number of peace-loving citizens of this battle-scared country.      Before the next teardrops will fall,   a handful of prayers maybe a good antidote to the impending ‘little trouble’ ahead of us.(Editor’s note: The writer was a student leader-recruit in the late 70s in the boondocks of Bukidnon, having been ‘indoctrinated’   for one whole week in a church convent in Kalasungay, Malaybalay before taking an immersion assignment in Maligaya, a remote barangay in Bukidnon. He eventually quit the movement after his leaders ‘disappear’ one after the other).

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