Monday, March 31, 2014

We are breathing bad air!

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (People's School-on-Air) with Ms Melly C Tenorio 738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 evening class Monday to Friday 
 Smoke belching vehicles - unstoppable
 Dump site - breeding place of disease, poisonous and obnoxious gases

Bad air days (BAD)
Bad air accumulates and moves, such as the case over Hongkong. Bad air moves in two directions - to Bombay, India; and to neighboring Guangzhou where pollution meets and mixes over the Pearl River and forms a shroud as it meets the sea. Similar cases occur over Beijing, Tokyo and San Francisco. The stale air hangs as an inversion layer practically choking the city.

Rapid economic growth has led to record levels of pollution, producing filthy air rising and spreading over highly industrial centers and densely populated cities. Here power plants, factories and vehicles release pollutants into the air, and as the sun heats up the ground, the polluted air rises. But polluted air cools quickly over water and sinks to the surface and disperses. Without strong wind to clear it away, the pollution mix can build up over time, leading to BAD (bad air days).

What is in the polluted air?

Sulfur Dioxide is produced by coal-burning power plants and heavy industry. Effects: reduces lung function, exacerbates wheezing and shortness of breath. Builds acid rain with other gases.

Nitrogen Dioxide comes from emissions of vehicles and power plants. Effects: helps form smug, exacerbates asthma and increases chances of respiratory infections.

Respirable suspended particulates. These tiny particles are created chiefly by diesel exhaust and coal-burning power plants. Effects: can penetrate deep into lungs and aggravate serious respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.

Ozone is formed by the reaction in sunlight of volatile organic compounds and CFC's that primarily come from cars, and household byproducts. Effects: causes chest pain and coughing, aggravates asthma.

Hydrogen sulfide, ammonia gas, elevated CO2 from piggeries and ranches, swamps and polluted rivers and lakes. Algal bloom contributes significant amounts of these gases.

Suspended dusts as what happens during sandstorms and volcanic eruptions, such as what happened during the Pinatubo eruption, and recently, in Iceland and Brazil. Remember the Dust Bowl of the Dakotas in the thirties when the air became was loaded with dusts which lasted for weeks.

Dioxin, the most poisonous substance ever formulated by man is in the air since plastic was discovered. Plastics are the most popular material used in the household, industry and agriculture. Dioxin is produced by burning plastics. With increasing use of pesticides, the air is getting thicker with chlorinated hydrocarbons, organo-phosphates, and other harmful residues.

Radiation is the result of fallout from nuclear accidents like what happened in Fukushima, Japan, in March this year, and in Chernobyl in Kiev twenty years ago, not to mention the Three-Mile nuclear incident in the US in the eighties.

Pathogens - Spores of disease-causing organisms that infect not only humans but animals and plants as well, ride on air current, and on particulates suspended in air. Thus the hypothesis that epidemic diseases move on air has strong scientific evidences.

Are we safe inside our schools and houses?

Bad air builds up surreptitiously in air-conditioned halls and rooms. Don't be deceived by the comfort of coolness lulling you to sleep. Defective and leaking air-con units virtually make the room a gas chamber. There are cases of death due to poisonous gases from leaking air con.

Defective exhaust or overload results in buildup of Carbon Dioxide and its more poisonous cousin, Carbon Monoxide (CO).

When students become inattentive and drowsy, yawning, complaining of headache, nausea, and the like, suspect the air conditioning unit as the culprit - and the classroom heavy with bad air.
As a teacher, when confronted with this situation, immediately institute these measures.
  • Give the class a break. A recess outside the classroom is preferred.
  • Open all windows and doors
  • Check the air-con, the exhaust fan with the aircon technician
  • Inform management.
  • Give sufficient break during brownout
Bad air inside rural Asian homes kills hundreds of thousands a year. The most poisonous atmosphere in the Asian region is found not only in rapidly modernizing cities like New Delhi or Beijing but inside the kitchens. Millions of families heat their abodes and cook in open fires that belch CO and other noxious fumes at levels up to 5000 times the international safety. Families and children spend hours each day in poorly ventilated homes and kitchens. Although this is as old as humankind, living in tight quarters and poverty have aggravated the situation.

Solution: improved stove, more efficient with least pollution. Improved stoves are subsidized by governments such as in China and India, which also back us the campaign by proper education, and strict pollution control laws.

And lastly, have trees and plants around the house, on backyards and sidewalks, on idle lots and parks to increase Oxygen level and cool the surroundings. But never keep plants inside your house, and never in your bedroom. At night plants give off CO2 as they, like other organisms, respire. In our knowledge of photosynthesis, the dark phase of this biological process takes place at night. ~

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Freshwater Ecology: Ponds and Mudflats (Placenta of Terrestrial Life)

Dr Abe V. Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog 
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (People's School-on-Air) with Ms Melly C Tenorio 
738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 evening class Monday to Friday 
  Hut by a Pond 
A pond is a transient environment. Unlike a stream, river, or lake, it has feeble currents or none at all. It is surrounded by thick vegetation which, advances towards the pond as it grows older. As the pond fills up with sediments and muck, and its bottom gradually drains, higher plants become progressively abundant.

In a shallow pond the forces of wind and convection keep the whole volume of water in circulation so that at any depth the temperature is fairly uniform and the amount of gases, notably oxygen and carbon dioxide is equally distributed.

The relatively large ratio of surface to volume of ponds make them most susceptible to weather and climatic changes than large bodies of water. Because of their small size they are also susceptible to changes in physiographic conditions like erosion and deposition.

Like any community a pond grows, passes a relatively stable mature phase, and ultimately dies. This basic ecological cycle is a result of interplay between organisms and their environment. Organisms live in an environment where they are adapted, and remain in the most stable area or niche which spells out their success as population and members of an interacting ecosystem.

The physical nature of the environment consequently determines what types of organisms can settle successfully. Temperature, rainfall, altitude, soil conditions and other environmental factors decisively influence the kinds of plants that survive in a given place. Vegetation in turn, as well as the animals, has selected effects on the kind of biotic community in that region. Organisms gradually alter the local conditions. Raw materials are withdrawn from the environment in large quantities, and metabolic wastes are returned together with dead organisms, but of another form and in different place, thus resulting to re-distribution and alteration of vast quantities of substances.

This means that later generations of the original organisms may find the altered local environment no longer suitable for themselves so that the members of the community must resettle elsewhere or die out. Later a new community of different plants and animals arrive and settle down. Again this new community will alter the area according to its own specialization. Hence, it is said that the living and non-living parts of the environment are vitally interlinked, that changed in one produces change to the other.

As a typical ecosystem, a pond relates a classical story. Most ponds must have originated during the last ice age when the moving glaciers scraped out giant sinks. Others have been known to originate from a portion of a bay or lake that was isolated by a sandbar by the action of waves and wind. Pirated rivers may also form into ponds. Most of the newly formed ponds may be wiped out days, months or years later, by storm or silt deposition. But a better-protected pond survives the drastic geologic fate. It must somehow face the slow process of ecological succession through which continuous dynamic processes take place that will ultimately lead to the accumulation of organic matter and silt.

On the functional aspect of ecological succession, like in any transient communities, the progressive increase of organic matter which fills up the pond will lead into a heterotrophic conditions which means that the dependent organisms (heterotrophs) will increase in proportion to the increase of the producers (autotrophs). These favor aquatic and semi-terrestrial organisms, and therefore, biological diversity.

The living bed of terrestrial life is the fertile bottom of the pond - the mudflat, which intermittently comes out to dry, a cycle that incubates eggs of many organisms, allows spores and seeds to germinate, and dormant organisms to become active.

The mudflats are exposed and submerged at intervals depending upon the amount of water that enters the pond from the tributaries upstream and from the surrounding watershed. As the remaining aquatic zone further shrinks and the water flow meanders along the bottom, wider mudflats are formed.

No zone in the pond is richer in variety and in number of living things, and no types of interrelationships could be more complex, if not deceiving or unknown, than the aquatic zone where life continues on in some most amazing and mystic ways. There are evidences that these dynamic changes shall go on until the pond has completely transformed into a terrestrial ecosystem, despite such threat of pollution which may have already marked the face of the pond.

But nature proves flexible with change. Normal changes would simply be dismissed by Nature’s own way of adjusting the role of its own creatures. Changes shape the conditions of the environment; that in turn, determine the organisms that fit better into it.

The bottom of the pond is directly affected by the amount of water and by water flow. It is the recipient of silt and other sediments from plant residues from the surrounding watersheds and from the immediate shoulders of the pond. The decreasing area occupied by water may indicate the age of the pond, and the changes which, undoubtedly lead towards an irreversible transition from aquatic to terrestrial state.

Typical of old ponds and lakes, the aquatic zone considerably decreases with the lack of water supply and by the steady deposition of silt and decomposing plant remains- not to mention the garbage and other wastes thrown into the pond by unscrupulous residents in the area. The black, spongy and fertile are an envy of many plant species and consequently of the dependent animal organisms. From time to time pioneer plants venture for a try to settle every time terrestrial conditions begin to prevail. But in many parts of the old exposed bottom left by the receding water, terrestrial plants can not settle down because time and again the water immediately submerges the previously baked flats to become once more a slosh of mud that readily shallows a wader to his knees. And so the outcome of the battle turns to the advantage of the aquatic plants- Eichhhornia (water hyacinth), Alternanthera, Jussiaea, Nymphaea and Pistia (kiapo) and of course to the ever-present thick scums of blue-greens and green algae with their co-dependents. Ipomea,(kangkong), the adventuresome Brachiaria (para grass) and other grasses on the other hand are pushed back to safer limits where they wait for conditions to favor another invasion, that is when the mudflats shall come out to the sun again.

The story of competition between the two groups continues indefinitely and all the while the sluggish water meanders against the shoulders of the pond and etches the old bottom. But all along, sediments pile on the bottom until small isolated “islands” are formed in the middle of the water zone. The isolation of these islands can not be for long, so their barrenness, for the dormant seeds under the warm rich soil suddenly come to life and together with air borne seeds and spores, and the stranded shoots and tillers, which make these islands “small worlds” themselves.

No place in the aquatic zone is absolutely for a particular species. However the dominance of a species can be noted from one place to another. For example, the pseudo-islands in the middle of the aquatic zone may be dominated by Brachiaria, while the lower part of the pond where water is usually deeper, harbors the remnants of the once dominant Eichhornia. At the headend, the old bottom may be covered up with grass, except in places that may be occupied by Jussiaea repens, a succulent broad-leaf and a water-loving species.

Any decrease in area of the true aquatic zone a corresponding increase of the immediate zone. Terrestrial plant species continuously pursue the reclaimed flats. Ipomea and Alternanthera species appear at the front line of the invasion while the grasses stand by. The logic is that the former can better withstand the conditions of the waterline. Their roots bind the particles of silt and humus, which are suspended in the water, and when the plants die, organic matter is added, thus favoring the terrestrial species take over. It is as if these benefactors are robbed at the end by their own beneficiaries.

The aquatic and shore zones are more or less homogenous as far as their principal plant species are concerned. This could be explained by the fact that the newly established zone (aquatic zone invaded by plants) is but an extension of the shore zone, and was it not that the shore zone a part of the aquatic zone?

Hence, the close relationship of the two zones can be readily noted, although they can be divided by alterne. This demarcation is not steady as shore vegetation spreads out into the water zone.

The phytoplanktons composed of countless green algae, flagellates, diatoms, desmids and a multitude of bacteria are the precursors of the food pyramid. They form the broad base of a pyramid structure. Simplified, the phytoplanktons make up the larger group, on which the zooplanktons depend. Insects and other arthropods lead the third group of organisms, while amphibians fish and reptiles make up the fourth. The farthest link is made up of the decomposers, which ultimately produce organic matter and humus upon which phytoplanktons and plants depend live on. The food chain web is characterized by mutualism, parasitism, predatism, saprophytism, commensalism, and decomposition – all of which link all organisms into a greater whole, the ecosystem.

In the pond, the rooted as well as the floating plants and the phytoplanktons are the “producers”. They support the herbivores (insects and fishes), and they add organic matter when parts or the whole of their bodies die. Zooplanktons generally feed upon the phytoplanktons, although some are dependent upon organic matter and humus. Small fishes, crustaceans and insects eat the zooplanktons in turn,, and these will be eventually eaten by carnivores. If not eaten, every plant and animal eventually die and decompose, its protoplasm reduced to the basic materials that green plants needed for growth.

The shores progressively widen following the drying of the mudflats. This area is usually dominated by grass, followed by crawling and viny plants, such as those belonging to the morning glory family (Convulvolaceae). Shrubs on the farther edge of the pond join annuals. During the rainy season the shores are waterlogged. The soil is black and it emits methane and ammonia gases, which show that anaerobic decomposition is taking, place. Muck is the product of this slow process. The soil is rather acidic but many plants tolerate it. High ferrous content can also be noted as rusty coloration, a characteristic of waterlogged soil.

Towards the end the shore becomes dry. Vegetation changes follow a dynamic pattern, the grass producing numerous secondary stalks, which become thick and bushy. The broad-loaf species tend to grow in clumps or masses. Some plants in the slope zones descend to join some plants in the shore zone, some are forced into prostate growth. Along the water line the grass is tall and verdant green. Meantime the trees close in. The tree line advances to the edge of the pond a soon the pond will die.~

Flow gently, sweet little stream

Painting and poem by Abe V Rotor

Flow gently, sweet little stream in acrylic (2' x 4') by AVR 2012
Flow gently, sweet little stream,
     and I will sing you a praise;
Flow gently down the little valley,
     and I will go with your ease.

Flow gently sweet little stream,
     for you have time to tarry;
Flow gently around rocks and hills,
     meander and be merry.

Flow gently, sweet little stream,
     and do not grow up too soon;
Flow gently with the watershed,
     catching the rains in monsoon.

Flow gently, sweet little stream,
     living link of sky and sea;
Flow gently among the creatures
     in your care, play and be free. 

Flow gently, sweet little stream,
     away from the hands of men;
Flow gently in this hidden den,
     this lovely patch of Eden. ~

Bryophytes: Link of Protists and True Plants

Bryophytes:  Link of Protists and True Plants
Dr Abe V Rotor
Moss (Musci)
Liverwort (Marchantia) 
 Hornwort (Anthoceros)

Bryophytes are the intermediate forms of life between the Algae (Kingdom Protista) and the Tracheophytes (Vascular) or true plants. Bryophytes bridge the evolution of life in the Plant Kingdom.

Anyone who has seen “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids," or the second travel of Gulliver in Brodningnag, could easily place himself into imagery where small things are very big.

A blade of grass becomes a perfect slide, an ant becomes a pony for going places, a raindrop can knock one down hard.

Now imagine the lowly moss to be as large as a tree. A liverwort becomes a large green carpet shaped like a liver. A hornwort has pinnacles in Gothic style. When you are microscopic in size, everything you see around you becomes large.

Bryophytes are the link between the two kingdoms of the protists, and the true (or vascular) plants. They are early forms of plants, which botanists believe to have stopped evolving. Thus, they are today what they were millions of years ago. They are, indeed, living fossils.

Observe a piece of rock covered with bryophytes. It appears like a miniature forest under the magnifying glass. It is dense and every space is occupied by structures that look like trunks and leaves. On closer look, however, these structures are not true organs, because they lack vascular tissues, which are found in higher plants. The tissues are needed for water and food to flow to keep the plant alive.

Alternation of Generations

The moss has a unique two-in-one life cycle. Botanists describe the gametophyte as either male or female plant, while the sporophyte is one containing the total number of chromosomes. The former carries only half the number of chromosomes (haploid). When the sporophyte plant matures, it produces spores, which will germinate and develop into gametophytes. When the gametophytes mature, they form both eggs and sperms that fuse together to form a zygote. The zygote grows into another sporophyte that will carry the next generation. This alternation of generation is the key to the survival of bryophytes even under harsh conditions.

Bryophytes are Nature’s Soil Builder

When the plants are uprooted, one will find soil underneath. This means that bryophytes grow on rock by digesting it first with acid. The softened rock yields to the roots and releases elements needed for growth and development. As the plants die, their organic debris is mixed in with the rock particles and form into soil.

Since bryophytes are short-lived and seasonal, the soil deposit becomes thicker by each generation, with the plant borders extending to form new frontiers. Soon entire walls and rocks become covered like a green carpet. As the bryophyte community expands to reach its peak and climax, more and more organisms become dependent on it. Millipedes find it an ideal place for a home, while providing their nutrition. Insects frequent the place as a hunting ground for their prey. Frogs, however, stay near the byrophytes to stalk the insects.

Bryophytes Create a Microclimate

A carpet of mosses on the wall or rock feels soft to the touch. It is thick and spongy. When it rains, the carpet absorbs and stores the water. At night and early in the morning, dew precipitates and is absorbed by the moss, creating a microclimate in the surrounding area that is favorable to other plants.

With the passage of time, new plants grow out from the middle of the carpet. This is the beginning of the second part of plant invasion, courtesy of the ferns. The plants are large and diverse, the forerunners of vascular plants which once dominated the Carboniferous forest, even before the dinosaurs roamed the earth.

Ferns actually form a canopy above the moss carpet, and as they do, they block the sun, wrest for space and compete for water. Fern roots wedge the open cracks in the rock, sending boulders down together with their tenants. While it is catastrophe to the pioneering plants, it is advantage to others. Nature works its way following a formula aimed at dynamic balance or homeostasis.

Soon the bryophytes do not only lose their dominance to the ferns, they have lost the place. Their job is over because the rock is gone.

“What good is rock when it loses the essence from which life rises?”

So thus the fern continue to change the landscape. When nature writes “finis” to the lowly moss, larger plants, like trees, come around, and soon the place becomes a forest. And life goes on.
Phylogeny of the Bryophytes 
Land plants





"Protracheophytes", such as Horneophyton or Aglaophyton

Tracheophytes or Vascular plants

Acknowledgement: Photos Wikipedia

Living Earth in my Palm (Lesson on Imagery in Literature)

 Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog 
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (People's School-on-Air) with Ms Melly C Tenorio 
738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 evening class Monday to Friday 
                                                                                                  Guimaras in my palm

To see the world in a grain of sand,
      And a heaven in a wild flower;
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand ,
      And eternity in an hour.

                            - William Blake (Auguries of Innocence)

I have just finished a manuscript, a sequel to Living with Nature series.  I have chosen for its title, Living Earth in my Palm, because the palm is the seat of human thought, emotion, and spirituality. It is the seat of truth when we take an oath, seat of execution after a decision. In this particular case, it is in the palm where an idea comes as a snap, where creativity is born and nurtured.  Where dreams can be realized, we are known, and finally, we are received by God.  

One can surmise the depth of Rodin’s Thinker in the palm of a clenched fist, more than his pensive mood. I can imagine Helen Keller, born blind, cup the face of a person to express love, or to photograph the person in her mind. We gauge cleanliness by the palm; we appraise the value of articles, examining their details and hidden secrets.

What could be a higher level of expression of respect to the flag than a palm placed on the breast, and an open palm to pledge loyalty?   And is there a deeper sense of contrition than cupping both hands and drawing them close to a bowed head? The faithful raise their hands with open palms in praise and exultation, building a spiritual bridge that unites humanity and God, the world and the Creator.   

And among the grassroots, the farmer gathers a handful of grain in the field, examines it to know if it is ready for harvest - and not so much for its bounty, expresses thanksgiving to Mother Earth. It is also in the palm of the Man with a Hoe, made rough by hard work, that the soil is known of its readiness and suitability to a crop he is going to plant.  The young Lincoln would brush dirt and wipe his palm as if to release some burdens of the day’s work, while looking far into the railroad he was building.

We extend our arms of welcome and reconciliation with open palms. Genuine handshake is felt by the palm. Cold and sweaty palm is a barometer of our emotion.  The warmth of our palm has a deep source in the core of our being. It is a thermometer of our anger or calmness.  And to believers, the map of our lives and fate.

On my palm is a living earth, the microcosm of nature and culture. It is in the palm that we ponder over Rodin’s sculpture, feel Helen Keller’s love and kindness, hear a schoolchild sing before the flag, the faithful whisper a prayer, feel the soil, know the grain when it has turned golden.  Of the young worker brush dirt and look into the horizon.  It is in the palm that we can hold the world, live a life of eternity, find heaven in simple beauty, and infinity in our short sojourn on this earth. ~                   

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

THE AGONY OF THE GARDEN - A Reaction to St. Paul and the Groaning of Creation

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog 
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (People's School-on-Air) with Ms Melly C Tenorio 
738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 evening class Monday to Friday 
Saul falls from his horse on Damascus Road and was blinded. He heard a voice, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" It was Saul's conversion into one of the greatest apostles, St Paul of Tarsus. (Mural by AVR, 8ft x 8ft, former Museum of St Paul U, Quezon City) 

You can hear the earth breath, old folks used to tell us kids. We believed in them. It was part of our belief and culture on the farm. In some unspoiled landscape. On a patch of Eden, in romantic parlance. Being keen and observant about nature’s ways is as natural as being a farmhand, taking the carabao to the pasture – and back after school before sunset.

Or flying kites at harvest time. We would stay late after the Angelus keeping company with the harvesters building haystacks (mandala) or gleaning some panicles strewn on the field. Then we would go home keeping our cadence with the breathing earth. A skink dashes here, the bamboo grove creaks in the slightest breeze, a gecko lizard makes a sonorous call. The crickets are happiest in summer. The fowls roost on their favorite tree, synchronized by the drooping of Acacia leaves. Soon fireflies become visible. They light our path inside our pocket. It is picturesque of the Gleaners of Millet or Wheatfield of Van Gogh. The rustic paintings of rural life by our national artist, Fernando Amorsolo.

When we were kids the “sound of creation” was a beautiful one. It was a sound of sigh, of relief, of contentment. It goes with kind words, meekness, and joy. Sometimes it breaks into laughter and peals of thunder. After harvest the earth takes a break. The bounty we get becomes “Santa Gracia” of the family.  Like the body, the field takes a rest we call fallowing. Energy is recharged at the end of a cycle in order to prepare for the next one.

Summer wears off easily. The rain comes. And we kids would run into the rain, sans fear, sans anything. It was pure joy. Soon the earth is green once more. And this is the way our world goes round and around, ad infinitum.

You can hear the earth under your feet. But it’s a different sound now. It is groaning. It is the sound of pain, of distress, of agony. It is a different scenario. It’s the opposite.

This is the scenario presented in Sister Bernardita Dianzon’s paper and pictured in the CBCP’s report. It would be painful for one who had lived with the art of Amorsolo or the naturalism of Darwin to see eroded mountains, bald hills, silted waterways, and dried up river beds. And to live with polluted air, accumulating doses of pesticide, mutated pathogens, genetically engineering food we call Frankenfood. To live in the confines of a world of computers. And rigid institutions. Yet lose our sense of permanence. Where is home? What is the essence of who we are and why we are here?.

Who are we? The paper asks. Where is the humane in human, the kindness in humankind? Being in human being? Humanus in Humanity?

This is the groaning of creation, a sound that disturbs our sleep. That calls, Don’t go gentle into that good night. Which takes us to the letter of Paul which in part says, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now.” (Rom 8:22)

Paul was the best authority in his time to raise such issue, having traveled far and wide on three continents – Europe, Asia and Africa – practically the whole world then. He must have traced some routes of Alexander the Great in his conquest from Macedonia to India and back 500 years earlier. He knew well the Persian Empire – the biggest empire the world had seen, bigger than the Roman Empire in the height of its power. He must have known the uniqueness of different cultures – including the barbaric tribes - the Vikings, Ostrogoths Visigoth, the Saxons, Angles, and even the dominance of the Khans of China and Mongolia. He knew the strengths and weaknesses of leaders like Xerxes, Darius, Hannibal.

Mural, Arrival of the first St Paul of Chartres missionary sisters in the Philippines, SPCQC, by the author and his family 

And the declining power of Rome then. It was when the northern provinces including England were ceding from the centralized authority – All roads lead to Rome. Rome had grown too big, the Dinosaur Syndrome was creeping in. Paul knew when to strike with “a book and a sword.” The message is clear and firm: To spread Christianity and defend it. He was a general, and a general again in the name of Christianity.

Creation to Paul is a holistic one – the biological and physical world, the forest and valley, the rivers and the seas, the land on which humanity was born and being nurtured. The society man built and continues to build. The culture that shares his society. The commonalities and differences of people - their achievements, goals and aspirations.
Paul was a realist, with supreme military background. Thus he was also a strategist, fearless, adventurous.

Yet the inner man – the Little Prince in him, to recall Saint-Exupery’s famous novel of the same title – is a gentle kind, hopeful and patient. Which makes him an paragon of change - persuasive, sincere, and selfless.

I can imagine Paul’s concept and description of creation. First he referred to “a creation associated with labor pain.” The giving forth of new life. The birth of a baby. The germination of a seed. The metamorphosis of a butterfly. The rise of a new island. The formation of a valley. The growth of a mountain. Of a new river or a delta.

The sun is born everyday. Buds are born in spring. The desert suddenly bloom after an occasional rain. The fields ripens in summer. Even a volcano erupts and enriches the soil in its surroundings. And there are creatures born with some difficulty. But it is a groan of joy. It is a groan of self fulfillment and victory. It is a groan of happiness which at the end is shared by many.

But why did Paul express frustration in the same subject of creation?

Paul expressed frustration as a result of man’s disobedience. “Cursed in the ground because of you.” He said and pointed at man with a warning of Armageddon, “ … you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

But Paul also saw renewal in man’s sinful ways. He too, was once sinful. But on one dark night on the road to Damascus he changed, a 360-degree turn. His enemies became not only his friends – he became their protector. And helped preserve and nurture their new faith, increased their numbers even through extreme danger and sacrifice. He was leading them to a new Paradise. The Paradise of Salvation.

We have to understand that, on the viewpoint of both faith and history. The “loss of Paradise” comes in three phases in the short history of humankind. The first was when man left the confines of a lush greenery described as a rainforest where he had practically everything for his biological needs and comfort, but it was the dawning of his intellect. Scientists and historians compare the Africa before and the Africa of today – the shifting of that great forest cover to a grassland where game animals roamed, and finally becoming into a dry land – the great Sahara desert – shaping man as Homo sapiens and hunter-gatherer, a life he followed through many generations, and until now for some cultures. Until the second loss of that Paradise came once more.

Again the groaning of creation.

As man formed societies, so with different cultures shaped by each. Cultures united and cultures clashed because of the conflict of interests, of trade and commerce, of thoughts and ideas. Leading to deeper conflict, this times in politics and religion. This is the scenario in which Paul founded his mission. The renewal of a paradise of unity and harmony by embracing a common faith – Christianity. It is Paradise Regained later epitomized by John Milton - the same author of Paradise Lost which he wrote before he lost his eyesight.

Religious wars fallowed after Paul had done his mission. More people were killed in those religious wars between Christians and non-Christian than all the other wars of history combined. For more than 1000 years the world remained in a state of torpor. The Dark Ages or Middle Ages was a long period of constant fighting, the Roman Empire fell and dissolved into fiefs and small kingdoms fantasized in love stories, fairy tales and children’s books.

Again the groaning of creation.

Paul must have dreamt of the Renaissance though distant it would happen. And it did in the 15th century. The Renaissance was the crowing glory of the church. The Renaissance is the story of the Church. It was Paradise Regained Part 2. West met East, but it was not on mutual terms. Europe invaded and conquered the East, the Orient. A new era was born – colonization. The ideology of conquest and colonization is clearly biased on the part of the invader and master. The conquered were made to appear as barbarians and were doomed unless they submit to a foreign master and a foreign god. Rizal’s books clearly pictured the lives of Filipinos under Spain. Hawaii, a novel by James Micheners projects a worse scenario. The colonizers were self anointed masters of the world and of god.

For us in the Philippines as in most colonized countries, we remained subjects of Spain for 400 years. India was colonized by England, Indonesia by the Dutch, Indo-China by the French, and so on down the line. Practically all countries in Africa and South America. Asia and the Pacific became colonies and the natives were “living in hell,” as some historians recall, the slavery of mostly Negroes in the US, notwithstanding. It was Paradise Lost to these countries ruled by the so-called “civilized” masters.

Again the groaning of creation.

Colonialism ended towards the end of the 19th century and in the early part of the 20th century. A new Paradise was born once again – the Age of Nationalism. Liberty, Equality, Fraternity – the trilogy of the French Revolution became the universal cry for Democracy now led by the United States of America. Peace was short-lived. Two world wars shook mankind in disbelief. And when the last major conflict ended a new order came out – the Cold War, the polarization of the whole world into two warring camps – democracy and socialism. If there is a Dark Age here is a Cold War. Though the latter lasted for 50 years, in both cases, the quality of life was drawn down to a level whereby we ask ourselves, What is rationality?

Again the groaning of Creation.

If rationality – the power of reason to know what is good and bad, and even know the best and the worst of situations – is the singular gift of God to man, and to no other else among the millions of living organisms on earth, how come man destroys what he builds? Destroys that very thing he calls beautiful?  Destroys other living things, their habitats and the environment itself that he shares with?

Why should man wreck his only spaceship, the Planet Earth? And finally, why should man destroy himself, his race, his entire species? It is a shame to our Creator that we, humans are the only species that is destroying its own kind.

What is this rationality that scholars talk about? What is the meaning of faith? Prayer? Research? Teaching? Progress? Values? How can this thing rationality make us true guardians of God’s creation?

Creation groans. It protests. This time against man. Man is the enemy of the earth.

I presume that this is the “restlessness” of creation the paper discussed, and it could be that restlessness Paul described as the sin-story of Genesis 3. It is restlessness in man in seeking more and more of what he wishes to have – his want over his need. The quest for the highest building, the fastest car, the state-of- the art of entertainment and pleasure and comfort. Quest for a Utopia built from the wealth of the earth. And the restlessness to have more of these even at the expense of others. And at the expense of Mother Earth.

All in the name of civilization.

“The ultimate test of any civilization
Is not in its inventions and deeds;
But the endurance of Mother Nature
In keeping up with man’s endless needs.”

AVR, Light in the Woods.

But what is civilization? Can’t civilization hear and heed the groaning of creation?

It is civilization that wiped out the American Indian from the Great Plains. It is civilization that plundered the Aztecs and Mayas Empires. It is civilization that brought
the Spanish Armada’s to its final defeat. It was civilization that killed 6 million Jews during the second world war. It was civilization that built the atomic bomb – and dropped it in two cities to defeat a defeated enemy. It is civilization that made a clone animal, Dolly the Sheep. It is civilization that threatens the whale and the Philippine Eagle. It is civilization that is causing global warming and the many consequences destroying lives and properties. It is civilization that is causing today’s fuel crisis and food shortage. Drastic inflation and loss of currency value, the recession of America and consequently the world, ad infinitum.

All these constitute the groaning of creation. Creation gone wild and free. Creation without boundary. Creation on a global scale.

Man needs a model. Man needs conversion.

Paul is an embodiment of great men. We find in him the influence of Aristotle, the naturalist-philosopher-teacher, one of the greatest teachers of the world – the teacher of Alexander the Great; Plato of his concept of a Utopian Republic, the asceticism of Stephen the first Christian saint he witnessed while being stoned to death.

A touch of Paul is in Gandhi philosophy of attaining peace through non-violence, in Mother Teresa’s passion to help the poorest among the poor, in Lincoln’s heroic struggle in abolishing slavery, in Maximillan Kolby’s sacrifice by exchanging place with a doomed fellow prisoner, a father of young children, in a Nazi concentration camp.

Paul must have inspired Kenya’s Wangari in planting 40 million trees to reforest denuded and eroded watershed, and the advocacy of Fr, Nery Satur who was killed while protecting the forests of Bukidnon.

There is Paul in the online lessons in ecology, Paul in the syllabus in Philosophy of Man, in the books and manual about caring for the sick. Other than the pages of bible, more than a half of which he wrote or caused to be written, Paul is among the most read saints of the church of all times, indeed truly a doctor and a general of the faith. Paul is in the temples of worship, Christian or non-Christian. Paul is in every Paulinian sister or teacher and student.

Paul set a new horizon of sainthood, he an apostle – in fact, the greatest of them all, yet he was not one of the original apostles – because he never saw Christ, never walked with Him, never talked to Him. Yet Christ was his way, his constant companion. Christ was always in his heart and mind and spirit – and in fact, he gave himself and his life to Him.

Which challenges the church and us today. Around 10,000 saints - 30,000 to 50,000 including the lesser saints and the blessed ones - are venerated as soldiers of Christ and keepers of the faith. The concept of  sainthood took a new turn with the case of Kolby - that of sainthood for charity. Along this line are candidates like Mother Teresa.

But we have yet to have a saint for Nature the expression of God on earth, the environment. Indeed there are heroes for Mother Earth featured by Time and cited by governments, private organizations and civil society. Among them, Rachel Carson, Jane Goodall, EC Schumacher, including present leaders like Al Gore and Michael Gorbachev among dozens more.

But looking back to Paul, the investiture for sainthood is only by Heaven and it is for the glory of God. If that glory is the preservation of His creation, the protection of His face on earth, if that glory means relief from groaning arising from pain, loneliness, hunger, sickness, thirst, imprisonment, then that person who, like Paul, deserves the honor. He could be the first saint for the cause of the environment.

The earth actual breathes, the old folks used to tell us kids. I still believe it.

x x x

Evolution of Faith

Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog 
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (People's School-on-Air) with Ms Melly C Tenorio 
738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 evening class Monday to Friday   

                                         Neo-Gothic church, ParaƱaque

Move over Baroque, once bastion of the ancient
world, evolved from the underground and grassy hut,
into mighty fort for war and worship - a kingdom,
until Gothic took its place - ah, freedom!

Soaring into Heaven, scaled not by walls or stairs
but by spires rising like swords piercing the blue sky -
until smog hid its view, and took away its purity,
no longer a rod to fear, pointing at eternity.

High rise buried Baroque and Gothic, with billboards
around; Gregorian chant turned to rock and pop,
in time passing, not by the clock but by the car,
and space a catacomb of concrete and steel bar.

Make way for the Messiah, make haste, we are told;
but who would he or she be? Of what race and tongue?
manger we no longer find, find the star by the Google chart;
does faith make any difference in science and art?

The world did not really change, but we - we did.
Creation, we're but a part - never the Creator, forbid. ~

Perspective - a crucial element of the art of painting

Paintings by Dr Abe V Rotor

Composite perspective shows collective grouping,
process, stages, and other forms of interrelationship.

Dichotomy and phylogeny perspectives are typical in
the living world and 
evolutionary patterns.

Lighting adds zest and freshness, tells time of the
day and good weather.

Concentric view has a spherical or tunnel effect such
as the setting sun, yolk of an egg, bonfire and the like.

V-perspective shows distance, infinity, fullness
and details of a scenery.

Vertical perspective shows height; it is heightened
by "foreshortening effects" - a technique found in
El Greco paintings.

Diagonal perspective gives a feeling of ascending

movement and flow; it also shows movement in
the opposite direction, nonetheless equally active
and forceful.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

UST GS: Earthworm, the Secret of Green Thumb

Dr Abe V Rotor
 Amynthas sp., a common Asian earthworm often cosmopolitan and introduced around the world.  UST Botanical Garden,  Manila 

Piles of earthworm casting, fresh in early morning, dries up and often gathered for garden soil.  UST Manila 

A lazy farmer I’m, lazy is the word,
When every one is busy in this world.

Among them a degenerate annelid,
That does nothing all day but dig.

In the night gleans the lawn of waste
And grinds it into organic paste.

That nourishes all that lives around
And me always on the run.

With no time to farm, yet a farmer;
I’m Rip Van Winkle’s brother.

For I rely on the lightning and rain
That make the field green and golden.

Seasons to fallow the fields in summer
Then wake them up from slumber.

The bees that make flowers into fruits,
The Rhizobium feeding the roots.

The yeast that makes the finest brew
The rainbow’s promise in its view.

The sun the source of light and life
That unburdens a farmer’s strife.

And the earthworm, my farmhand
Takes over below the ground.

A lazy farmer I’m, lazy is the word,
When every one is busy in this world.

And if my freinds call me a Green Thumb
It’s the earthworm, true and dumb. ~

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Murals at the University of Santo Tomas

Living with Nature School on Blog 
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (People's School-on-Air) with Ms Melly C Tenorio 
738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 evening class Monday to Friday 
Note:Article in progress

Research Triangle: Hydrangea, Caterpillar and Me

Research Triangle: Hydrangea, Caterpillar and Me   
Dr Abe V Rotor 

Mophead or Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) produces blue and pink flowers, and various combinations and hues, that many people think these are varieties or cultivars.  The fact is, the same plant may produce these varying flowers.  

What determines the color of the Hydrangea flower  is aluminum in the soil. Most soils have aluminum but if the soil is alkaline or basic - 6.0 to 6.5 pH (power of Hydrogen) - the plant cannot absorb the aluminum and therefore its flower becomes pink. If the soil is acidic - 5 to 5.5 pH - the plant can absorb the aluminum and its flower becomes blue. A mix of colors is obtained when the pH is between these ranges. This is the secret of gardeners producing Hydrangea of different hues and shades, other that deep blue or old rose pink.  There are other horticultural variations like density of the flower head, height of the plant, branching, variegation, and the like, that make Hydrangea an interesting garden plant. And this leads to another phenomenon of nature - dimorphism which is another challenging research. As the name implies a plant or any organism may exhibit  dual characteristics, like two patterns of leaves, or distinct variations termed as chimaera. In Greek Mythology the Chimaera had three heads - lion, goat, and snake. Its body was also mixed having the front part of a lion, middle of a goat, and snake for a tail. 

Came a banded caterpillar heretofore unknown,
shielded by the plant like its own shell,
and when the flower cluster one morning opened 
raced this hairy convict from its cell.

It fed on the leaves, not on the beautiful crown, 
for whatever reason beauty it spared,
and my inquisitive mind found another enigma, 
why the flower, neither black nor red.

and whoever this emissary of doom its name,
family and evolution, deserves study,
what these two creatures mean to each other, 
to me, and the whole of humanity. ~