Saturday, December 30, 2017

Art: Ruins and Skeletons of Life

Dedicated to the last day of 2017
Dr Abe V Rotor 
 Old lighthouse and ship ruins, oil painting AVRotor (c. 1965)

How easy it is to say goodbye to memory
by tearing the pages of history;
How easy it is to grow vines on an ugly wall, 
if only the wall shall not one day crumble.  

 Leaf skeletons in acrylic by AVRotor (c 2005)

Sunset is more beautiful than sunrise,
leaves more beautiful in the fall;
life beautiful at its end earns its prize, 
that death is beautiful after all. ~

Friday, December 29, 2017

Do butterflies ever sleep?

Dr Abe V Rotor
Butterfly by Night and Day by Anna Rotor c. 1996 (Mother of young artist Mackie 5.  
See Art Lessons from Mackie 5 - Colors and Composition, preceding article.)  

Do butterflies ever sleep? A child asked me, a grown up.
        Yes they do, I answered;
Do butterflies rise from their sleep and play with the moon?
        Yes, they do, I answered;
Do butterflies change colors during the day and at night?
        Yes, they do, I answered.
Do butterflies ever get lonely and sad - and then - die?
        Yes, they do, I answered.
Do butterflies return the next morning and meet the sun? 
       Yes they do, I answered. 

I have been a grown up for so long to know butterflies.~ 

Art Lessons from Mackie, 5 - Colors and Composition

Art can be learned not only from the masters, but from budding artists as well.
Dr Abe V Rotor 
 A pony-fish with rainbow colors,
prancing and swimming; 
     Green for the field, blue for the sea,
bright as the sun shining.
A pink unicorn, tame and lovely;
seven headbands make her a lady, 
from fantasy to virtual reality,
for a fine children's story. 

Where does composition begin?
  It begins with inquiring look,
  agape in surprise, frozen in place, 
to imagine a nearby spook. 

A pony-bee or butterfly pony
      all dressed up for a party; 
        wonder if she's princess or fairy;
it's a rich visual story.

                                                      A test of relationship, it seems:
  one  winsthe other loses;
or, could it be master and pet,
or butterflies and roses? 

Twin hearts of two siblings, 
great love for one another;
Not yet Cupid, save your shot;
let the child artist wonder
to  write a story of her painting,
for time to remember.  

It's choreography 
of a Shakespearean play,
in far, far fairyland, 
brought by magic wand.

NOTE: The author is grandfather of the child artist, Mackie R Sta. Maria, 5 years old. 
Medium used: colored marker and pastel on drawing paper.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Nature's Early Warning - 12 Signs

Dr. Abe V. Rotor

1. Animals can predict earthquake

Horses, reptiles, fowls and other animals perceive the minute tremors preceding a major shock. In explaining the principle of a tectonic earthquake, imagine a stick bent slowly to form an arch. As pressure continues to build up, minute fibers and strands begin to snap (tremors) until the stick suddenly breaks into two (shock). Our senses are not as sensitive as those of animals in perceiving such initial signal.

2. Dragonflies hover before a rain.

High relative humidity accompanies warm weather. Small insects are disturbed in their natural habitats and feeding. With their sensitive antennae they pick up the signal, which tells them to pack up and leave. Rain is usually preceded with high humidity and air temperature. This steamy condition progressively builds up into rain, and as the process continues, the ancient gene in these insects begins to work, as it has always been with their ancestors thousands, if not millions of years ago. Thus midges, hoppers, gnats, flies, and other insects flee to safer grounds on the instruction of this gene. It is during this mass evacuation that hordes of low flying dragonflies have their fill, snatching the helpless preys in mid-air.

3. Fruit laden kapok means poor harvest

When you see plenty of dangling pods of cotton tree or kapok (Ceiba pentandra L), expect poor rice harvest. Kapok is sensitive to water stress. It does not have deep penetrating roots. Instead it has large spreading roots that depend largely on shallow water source. To compensate for lack of water in summer, the tree stores a lot water in its fleshy trunk and branches like how cactus does while water supply lasts. When the stored water is not sufficient to tide up with the long, hot summer months, a triggering mechanism controlled by hormone stimulates the tree’s physiology. The plant bears flowers and ultimately fruits and seeds, a trait universal to any organism facing stress. This is the key to the perpetuation of the species. In short, Nature has provided a means with which an organism’s ultimate biological function to reproduce is carried on. And the more progeny it produces the more is the chance of the species to continue on.

Stress stimulates reproduction. Wounding (cutting the bark, staggered and at close intervals with bolo) the trunk of a mango that refuses to bear fruits, stimulates it to flower. This is true with other orchard trees. Pruning follows the same principle. Botanists explain the phenomenon this way. “Food”, which is otherwise used for vegetative growth will now be diverted to the development of flowers and fruits. But geneticists have a further explanation. Again, a gene that controls this balance responds favorably to saving the species – even with the risk that the parent may die. In many cases this is also true in the animal kingdom, and among protists.

4. When earthworms crawl out of their holes, a flood is coming.

It was early morning at Kenting Park in southern Taiwan, my student and thesis advisee, Anthony Cheng, and I saw earthworms, bigger than the size of pencil crawling away from their burrows. He looked up the sky. “Is it going to rain?” I asked noting the heavy overcast. “No, but we haven’t the monsoon yet.” It was already August.
Image result for earthwormsBy the way, earthworms are subterranean, eating on decomposing leaves, and converting them into humus, a very rich soil, called casting. That is why farmers and gardeners call the earthworm as Nature’s fertilizer factory. Tons and tons of castings are brought out of their burrows and deposited on the ground in small mounds.

Why do earthworms abandon their burrows before an impending heavy rain or flood? Earthworms drown when water fill their burrows, so that their recourse is to move out to higher grounds. Nature has equipped them with sensitive hairs around their body connected with a neural system that guides them find rich deposits of organic matter and water. In summer earthworms penetrate deep and wide. Then in monsoon as ground water rises, they burrow in higher areas, this time to keep away from too much water. Making use of this evolutionary tool - a kind of Noah’s sixth sense, so to speak - earthworms avoid getting entombed in their very burrows.

5. Swarming of winged termites confirms the rainy season (habagat)has finally arrived.

They come by the armies, careless and suicidal, attracted by light and ending in a basin of water. That is how we catch gamu-gamu, or simut-simut in Ilocano, which we feed to chicken, or sauté into a rare delicacy. Where did the swarm come from? And why only at a specific time of the year?

Termites belong to a very ancient Order of insects, Isoptera, which means “same wings”. Yet when we examine termites after digging their nest called anthill (punso’), we find them wingless, naked, and small, except their large heads, and mandibles especially in the case of the soldiers. In the royal chamber lies a queen, enormously large, the size of the index finger. Her job throughout her long life is to lay thousands of eggs everyday and keep the colony intact through a scent she produces called pheromone.

It is the end of summer. After the first heavy rain usually in May, the anthill becomes extraordinarily busy. Inside, the once sterile males and females – formerly soldiers and workers - awaken to the dictates of hormones. They develop strong wings, and with their bodies filled up with fats, they are ready for the once-in-a-lifetime adventure - swarming. The nocturnal swarm soon takes place, and moves as one huge army guided by light – celestial or neon – before it splits into congregans, allowing intermingling with members from other anthills. Now the much-awaited nuptial flight begins. For hours the winged termites circle around lights, very much like the proverbial moth in Rizal’s writings. In the process, individuals, which survive the frenzy and onslaught by predators, find their mates, move together to a potential place, and finding it suitable to start a new colony, soon lose their wings. Here they live together for a very long time. Termites are the longest living insects, surpassing the life of the 17-year old locust or cicada.
Image result

6. May or June Beetle heralds the coming of the rainy season.

We call it salagubang, scientifically Leucopholis irrorata, a destructive pest of many field crops. Its larva, a white grub, which feeds on roots, remains in the ground until the first strong rain comes. Then it comes out as beetle. If the monsoon is early they come out in May, otherwise they are seen coming out in June.

But this year I have noticed that the emergence of this beetle was as early as in April. Why is this so? It is because of the unusual rainfall pattern this year. Practically there was no summer as you have probably experienced. It means then that the insect responds to meteorological signals that govern its biological clock. How this phenomenon works is not well understood, but definitely, it is a product of a long evolutionary process that enabled the species to survive up to this day.

Co-evolution with plants on which it thrives in both larval and adult stages gradually developed through time into a dynamic pattern, that while the host plants are at the receiving end, the insect’s feeding habit and life cycle are attuned to a tolerable level. Thus we usually find the insect in areas where this natural relationship exists. If you find the salagubang, and its relative, the salaguinto, in May, farmers are likely to start plowing their fields soon. Farmers are glad to see the beetle come out in May, or as early as April. It is because they can plant earlier which allows for a second crop of vegetables or legumes – or another rice crop.

Related image7. Cicada sings for rain.

When you hear the shrilling song of cicada (kuliglig), it means the rains have finally arrived. From here we expect the rains to intensify throughout the southeast monsoon or habagat then tapers off in October. The cicada spends its immature or nymph stage in the ground feeding on roots of plants. There are species that complete their life cycle in one year (annual cicada which is most common), two years, and seventeen years (often called seventeen-year old locust). Whatever is the species, the emergence of cicada is at the onset of the rainy season, usually in April or May in most part of the country.

Rain softens the soil and signals the full-grown nymph to get out of its cell. It then climbs to the nearest tree and at some distance from the ground, it metamorphoses into an adult. It is the male cicada that “sings”, which is actually a continuous rapid high-pitched sound - tick-tack-tick-tack… produced by a pair of drums attached on its abdomen. Imagine the lid of a tin can pressed and released in rapid succession. On the other hand, the female cicada is totally mute and her response to a get near a Romeo whose song pleases her.

 8. Cockroaches come out of their abode and seek for shelter means that a strong rain, if not a typhoon, is coming. 

The biological clock of these creatures responds to invisible signals, which comprise decreased atmospheric pressure, high relative humidity and air temperature. Their sensitive antennae and tactile hairs covering their body pick these up these changes of the environment. Thus we find ants in exodus, they move as a colony carrying their eggs and young indoors. Cockroaches become unusually active, flying about in frenzy, in search for a new place. There is a common message, that is, to escape to safer ground, an archetype ingrained in their genes passed on to them by their ancestors through evolution.

9. Mosquitoes bite more aggressively before rain.

True. Like any organism preparing for reproduction, the female mosquito must be able to obtain blood to enhance egg fertility. Failure to do so may cause eggs to become sterile, a finding which can be applied in controlling this ferocious vampire which has caused human death more than all casualties of wars combined. Note: Only the female mosquito feeds on blood, the male depends on plant sap and exudates.

10. The kingfisher (salaksak) is an emissary of death.

The kingfisher’s throaty voice is a call of death, so the old folks say. Well, when ponds and rivers dry up because of drought, this fish eater will scour for alternative food outside its niche, poaching around farms and homes.

12. When the leaves of Samanea acacia fold it’s time to go home - before it gets dark.

It is time to fetch the carabao from the pasture and to start walking home before it gets dark. The fowls prepare to roast in their tree abode. The stew leaves a trail, as the western sky dims in the setting sun. By now the leaves of acacia (Samanea saman) have completely folded toward each other at the midrib, and the base of the midrib itself is bent on its attachment. This is also true with the leaves of sampaloc, ipil-ipil, kakawate - and more so with makahiya.

These plants, among others, belong to the legume family and are equipped with a special organ – pulvinus – that controls the erection and folding of the leaves. The principle is like a balloon. When turgid the leaves are erect; when flaccid, the leaves fold. The pulvinus is controlled by osmosis, that is, the intake and release of water in the cells.

Reference of time among old folks is built through observation of the natural environment and a lifestyle where the amenities of modern living are absent. This triggers our biological clock, and while it may not be accurate, brings people to a natural sense of time and quaint living.

Nature’s mysterious ways are discreet and take place when all is still and quiet. But anyone of us who stirs to the nuptial flight of winged termites and ants, to the restlessness of catfish before an impending earthquake, the dangling of numerous pods of kapok which signals the coming of El Nino, earthworms abandoning their underground homes to escape flood, the emergence of “April beetle”, - is indeed endowed with a special intelligence – naturalism. If however, no bird sings when the spring has come, either we have slept too long, or we have failed to prepare for its coming.
Acknowledgement: Internet photos,except that of kapok tree.

x x x

Monday, December 25, 2017

Yes, there's a Kapre

Indeed there are different kinds of kapre. And they abound everywhere.

Dr Abe V Rotor
Balete has overgrown a church ruin in Magsingal, Ilocos Sur,
a favorite playground for kids. Who says a kapre lives here?
Did you hear that?” I was startled by a mysterious moaning in the dark. I switched on the headlight.

“What is it?” Cecille sleepily responded.

“It’s a strange sound, like someone agonizing.” I said while straining my eyes on the sugarcane fields on both sides of the road.

We had just parked along a newly opened road of the North Diversion somewhere in Tarlac that night. My wife and I were driving to Manila after a vacation in our hometown in Ilocos. I was so tired driving, I pulled our Ford Escort to the grass lane for a brief rest, and switched off the engine.

Then. “Did you hear that?” Cecille shook me. It was the same agonizing sound I heard earlier, and it was coming closer!

I switched on the headlight, and there stood at the opposite side of the road a tall figure the outline of the Colossus of Rhodes – black and hairy, so huge I could barely see his torso.

Instinctively I started the engine and stepped on the gas. Cecille moved close to me as the monster took another step toward us. We escaped in the nick of time.

Since then I became popular with children. “Tell us about the kapre!” And they would gather around clinging to one another. It reminded me of Lola Basiang, the story teller of folklores and legends.

My story became known to my friends and officemates. It was the cause of a meeting suddenly losing its agenda to the kapre. Everyone had something to say about the mythical monster. They talked about kapre living atop big old trees, along rivers and somewhere else. One related his experience while clearing the vines clinging around a large tree when suddenly he noticed blood dripping from above. He looked up. Kapre!

Old folks say there are different kinds of kapre. There is even one taking over abandoned houses and empty buildings. There is kapre in empty playgrounds, farms and pastures. Kapre in gambling places, like the cockpit, kapre appearing suddenly in a group picture.

Since then we didn’t have to stay in office late. We had to finish our work early so we would not be taking the stairway that is seldom used, or hear typewriters clicking when everyone had already left. We won’t be passing dark alleys on our way home.

Children who heard the story of the kapre would stop playing at dusk. The farmer looks at the leaves of acacia, and when they start drooping, starts walking for home. Everyone in the family must be home for supper.

Because of the kapre, trees are spared of the ruthless chain saw. People passing through thickets politely whisper, “tabi tabi, po.” Fishermen catch just enough fish for their family’s need. Harvest festivals are observed even if harvest is not good.

Indeed there are different kinds of kapre. And they abound everywhere.

When I was buying a new battery for my car and told the salesman how I encountered a kapre one dark night, he handed me a new brand of battery. “Sir, nakakasigurado kayo dito.” (Sir, you are very safe with this battery.)~

Take this IQ Test on Analogies, Similarities, Opposites, and Odd Out Words

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog 

   Words, words, words - they come in analogies, similarities, opposites, odd out. Confusing, tricky, intriguing. They make good testing materials which we often encounter in IQ and other tests. Here are some examples. Answer them in one sitting, in say 10 minutes.

Albert Einstein, world's greatest genius  

You may adopt the patterns and come up with your own set of test materials for your class, research, group dynamics, or simply to spice up informal gatherings.

A. T
here are four terms in analogies. The first is related to the second term in the same way that the third is related to the fourth. Complete each analogy by picking two words from the four in parenthesis.

1. mother is to girl as (man, father, male, boy).
2. wall is to window as (glare, brick, face, eye).
3. island is to water as (without, center, diagonal, perimeter)
4. high is to deep as (sleep, cloud, float, coal)
5. form is to content as (happiness, statue, marble, mold).

B. Similarities. Pick the two words in each line with the most similar meaning.

6. lump. wood, ray, beam
7. collect, remember, concentrate, gather
8. idle, lazy, impeded, indolent
9. divert, arrange, move, amuse
10. antic, bucolic, drunk, rustic
C. Opposites. In each line below pick the two words which are most nearly opposite in meaning.

11. short, length, shorten, extent, extend
12. intense, extensive majority, extreme, diffuse
13. punish, vex, pinch, ignore, pacify
14. reply, tell, relate, disconnect, refute
15. intractable, insensate, tract, obedient, disorderly 

D. Odd Out. Pick the two words which have commonality, from the rest in the group.
16. knife, razor, scissors, needle, lance
17. bravery, disgust, faith, energy, fear
18. prosody, geology, philosophy, physiology, physics
19. glue, sieve, pickaxe, screw, string
20. receptionist, draftsman, psychiatrist, blacksmith

1. father, boy
2. face, eye
3. center, perimeter
4. cloud, coal (one is found high above the earth, the other deep within it)
5. statue, marble (these are examples of form and content)
6. ray, beam
7. collect, gather
8. lazy, indolent
9. divert, amuse
10. bucolic, rustic
11. shorten, extend
12. intense, diffuse
13. vex, pacify
14. relate, disconnect
15. intractable, obedient
16. needle, lance (the others have sharp edges)
17. disgust, fear (emotions; the others are virtues)
18. prosody, philosophy (aspects of literary culture; the others are sciences)
19. sieve, pickaxe (these separate things; the others fix them together)
20. receptionist, psychiatrist (main work is dealing with people; the others deal with things)

Acknowledgment: How intelligent are you? by V Serebriakoff

Oh! If only man's wisdom can bring back Paradise lost a long time ago.

A Christmas greeting to children all over the world.*
Wall Mural Dr Abe V Rotor 

A wall is empty no more, it dissolves into forest and stream 
running down soft under the feet, spilling onto the street;
where once a city of steel and concrete, of dust and smog   
reigned, where the forces of human frailty and nature meet,
rekindling wonders and adventures of childhood little known
to the city-bred whom the Good Life in disguise would cheat!  

The wall is alive in three dimensions in make-believe perspective,
progeny of primary colors - red, blue and yellow, bold and mellow,
azure sky, deep blue-green sea, prism of every dewdrop bead,
sparkle of every star at night, crystalline water Narcissus saw; 
if only walls can speak to mirror human longing of a happy world,
if only man's wisdom can bring back Paradise lost a long time ago! ~

NOTE:  Kim Laurence and Sophia on Christmas Day 2017 at the author's residence in Lagro QC.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

When Stars Come Down to Earth

Photos and Poem by Abe V Rotor
Acknowledgment: Ateneo de Manila University Christmas lantern display

Compact Disc Star

Plastic Flower Star

Star of Yesteryear

Micro Components Star

Puppet Star

Wish upon a star come true in technology;
at home, on the street, on the campus too.
in cafes and malls, shining all around freely,
from high rise, over the metropolis's view.

Wish upon a star come true in greed and thirst,
dying in embers when failed and gone;
in bold discoveries even probing the universe
to cinders before man's plan has began.

Wish upon a star come true only in dream,
up, up in the sky, calling, smiling,
and in the pure and stout heart its realm,
always shining, leading those deserving. ~

Bromeliads form a unique aerial ecosystem

Dr Abe V Rotor
Brightly colored false petals of bromeliad attract insects and other organisms to fertilize its shy, short-live flowers. The bright pseudo flowers serve as markers in the dense and vast forest high up in the trees. Here bromeliads form colonies with connecting rhizomes, and with other epiphytes - ferns, orchids and lianas - make a unique aerial ecosystem. 

Domesticated bromeliads are popular ornamental plants in gardens and around homes. One disadvantages though is that it becomes a breeding place of mosquitoes and other vermin. It is because we have detached them from their natural habitat where they are part of a complex food web. Here mosquito wrigglers are preyed upon by naiads of Odonatans (dragonflies and damselflies), while the adults are trapped in spider webs. Tree frogs have their fill of flies and other insects.  Fish live in the axil ponds and can even transfer to nearby bromeliads and even to the water below to hunt and to mate.  While reptiles occupy the top of the food pyramid, hawks and eagles come to prey on them. Like a chain, just one link broken, and the system fails. 

Bromeliads, which includes the pineapple (the only edible member in the family), are nature's reservoir of miniature ponds that provide abode to many organisms from insects to fish. The central receptacle collects water from dew and rain which spills over to the adjoining leaf axils, making a continuous pond. The sequence, like a series of terraces, makes water collection and retention efficient, giving chance for the various resident organisms to complete - and repeat - their life cycles. And for transient organisms to have their regular visit.

In this pond system, detritus accumulates and fertilizes the bromeliad as well as other plants around and below it, including its host tree, in exchange for its foothold and other benefits. And being epiphytic and colonial in growing habit on trunks and limbs of trees, bromeliads  form a unique aerial ecosytem other epiphytes, and the surrounding trees.~    

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A University of Fish

"...humans call it a university,
the key to unity and harmony."
Painting and Verse by Dr Abe V Rotor 
A School of Fish in acrylic by Dr Abe V Rotor 2017
Courtesy of BANNAWAG Managing Editor Cles B Rambaud

A school of fish in the dictionary, 
big and small alike in company,
in unity towards stability, 
living members of one big family. 

A school into a university,
attended by not just one specie(s),
enhances knowledge in diversity, 
in the many corners of the sea.

Here Lola Basyang tells a story,
Balagtas recreates a scenery,
Leona Florentino into poetry, 
a touch of Rizal's Noli and Fili.

Einstein sees matter in relativity,
others in web and flow of energy,
each a kind of school, air, land and sea,
microbes all, in virtual infinity 

All creatures attend school that is free,
from one's home on to the community,
humans call it a university,
the key to unity and harmony. 

Move over Sir Darwin from your theory,
move over scholars of history;
man will never solve this great mystery 
of life, and why we're here to stay. ~

Treaty of Nature and Man

 It is only through proper management and effective conservation, such as reforestation, pollution control, erosion control, limited logging, and proper land use, that we can insure the continuity of our race.  All we have to do is to keep ourselves faithful to the treaty between nature and man.

Dr Abe V Rotor 
Fishpens and fish cages crowd the shore of Tikob Lake, Tiaong Quezon 

      Frantic exploitation of natural resources through illegal logging operations, followed by slash-and-burn agriculture (kaingin), has brought havoc to the Philippines in the past century.  The detrimental results are measured not only by the denudation of once productive forests and hillsides, but also destruction through erosion, flood, drought and even death. 

      An example of this kind of ruination brought about by abuse of nature is the tragedy in Ormoc City where floodwaters cascading down the denuded watershed, killed hundreds of residents and countless animals. It took ten years for the city to fully recover.  Ironically, before the tragedy, Ormoc, from the air, looked like a little village similar to Shangrila, a perfect place for retirement.

      A land area designed by nature to sustain millions of people and countless other organisms, was touched by man and we are now paying the price for it.  Man removed the vegetation, cut down trees for his shelter and crafts, and planted cereals and short-growing crops to get immediate returns. He hunted for food and fun, and in many ways, changed the natural contour and topography of the land.

      Following years of plenty, however, nature reasserted itself. Water would run unchecked, carrying plant nutrients downhill.  On its path are formed rills and gullies that slice through slopes, peeling off the topsoil and making the land unprofitable for agriculture.  Since the plants cannot grow, animals gradually perish. Finally, the kaingero abandons the area, leaving it to the mercy of natural elements. It is possible that nature may rebuild itself, but will take years for affected areas to regain their productivity, and for the resident organisms once again attain their self-sustaining population levels.

      There are 13.5 million square miles of desert area on earth, representing a third of the total land surface. This large a proportion of land may be man-made as history and archeological findings reveal.

      Fifteen civilizations, once flourished in Western Sahara, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, the Sinai desert, Mesopotamia, and the deserts of Persia. All of these cultures perished when the people of the area through exploitation, forced nature to react. As a consequence, man was robbed of his only means of sustenance.

Man, being the superior organism, has not only won over his rivals -  all organisms that constitute the biosphere.  He has also assaulted Nature.

      History tells us of man’s early abuse of nature in the Fertile Crescent where agriculture began some 3000 years ago.  Man-made parallel canals joined the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers to irrigate the thirsty fertile valley. In the process, the balance of Nature was overturned when the natural drainage flow was disturbed. Because the treaty was violated, nature revenged. The canal civilization perished in the swamps that later formed. The sluggish water brought malaria and other diseases causing untold number of deaths and migration to the hinterlands. Among its victims was Alexander the Great.

      Carthage had another story. Three wars hit Carthage, known as the Punic Wars.  On the third one, the Romans ploughed through the city, ending reign of this erstwhile mercantile power, and removing the threat to the Roman economy. After the conquest, the Romans pumped salt-water inland and flooded the fertile farms. Today, Carthage exists only in history and in imagination of whoever stands atop a hill overlooking what is now a vast desert.

 Carthage aftermath of the Punic wars; Carthage today 

      Omar Khayyam, if alive today, cannot possibly compose verses as beautiful as the Rubaiat as written in his own time. His birthplace, Nishapur, which up to the time of Genghis Khan, supported a population of 1.5 million people, can only sustain 15,000 people today. Archeologists have just unearthed the Forest of Guir where Hannibal marched with war elephants. The great unconquerable jungle of India grew from waterlogged lowland formed by unwise irrigation management.

      It is hard to believe, but true that in the middle of the Sahara desert, 50 million acres of fossil soil are sleeping under layers of sand awaiting water. Surveyors found an underground stream called the Albienne Nappe that runs close to this deposit. Just as plans were laid to “revive” the dead soil by irrigation, the French tested their first atomic bomb. Due to contamination, it is no longer safe to continue on with the project.

      The great Pyramids of Egypt could not have been constructed in the middle of an endless desert. The tributaries of the Nile once surrounded these centers of civilization. Jerusalem appears today as a small city on a barren land.  It may have been a city with thick vegetation.  This was true of Negev and Baghdad.

      For the Philippines, it is high time we lay out a long-range conservation program to insure the future of the country.  This plan should protect the  fertility of the fields, wealth of the forests and marine resources, in order to bring prosperity to the people. As of now, the country is being ripped apart by erosion and floods due to unscrupulous exploitation by loggers and kaingeros.

      It is only through proper management and effective conservation, such as reforestation, pollution control, erosion control, limited logging, and proper land use, that we can insure the continuity of our race.  All we have to do is to keep ourselves faithful to the treaty between nature and man.

Priorities & Choices in Life

Dr Abe V Rotor 

Helen Keller, deaf-blind since infancy became a role model for millions of people. She wrote a moving essay that challenges us who have the power of vision on how we would value “Three Days to See” if we were blind like Helen Keller blind since infancy. (The Story of My Life)

Try this exercise. If you were given Three Days To See just as Helen Keller told in her essay, how would you prioritize these? (Please indicate the day after each item; or it is not applicable.) Please refer to the answers below

1. Lives of people everyday
2. Theatre – concert, performing art
3. Transformation of night to day
4. Views from top of a high building
5. Loved ones and friends
6. Nature - landscape and garden
7. Museum of arts and natural history
8. Historical records of man & society
9. Things at home, favorite books, etc
10. Comedy, the lighter side of life.

After checking your work with the answers guide below, compare it with the priorities of Helen Keller.
1st Day - Loved ones, Favorite Things, Nature
2nd Day - Natural History, History, Humanities,
3rd Day - The Business of life. (NOTE: The lighter side of life closes the episode.)

Three Days to See challenges us to look into our priorities and choices in Life • City or countryside life
• Aesthetics or materialism
• Permanence and transience
• Love and Friendship
• Spirituality and faith
• Computer graphics or fine arts
• Perception or sensitivity
• Affection or companionship
• Vice or hobby
• Knowledge or Wiisdom
Answer Guide Lives of people everyday - 3rd day
1. Theatre – concert, performing art –end of 2nd day
2. Transformation of night to day –opening of 2nd day
3. Views from top of a high building – 3rd day
4. Loved ones and friends – 1st day, immediately.
5. Nature - landscape & garden – 1st day pm to sunset
6. Museum of arts and natural history – 2nd day
7. Historical records of man & society – 2nd day
8. Things at home, favorite books, etc – 1st day
9. Comedy stage play - End of 3rd day

From this exercise we can better appreciate Helen Keller’s philosophy of life.

Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn whatever state I am, therein to be content.”

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen and even touched. They must be felt within the heart.” ~

Monday, December 18, 2017

Bioethics and Environment - Quest for Quality of Life

Ethics is the foundation of aesthetics; it is something very difficult to explain that makes beautiful more beautiful, rising to the highest level of philosophy where man finds hope, inspiration, and peace. It is a beacon. While ethics sets the direction of moral life, aesthetics is its beautiful goal.

Dr Abe V Rotor 
Living with Nature - School on Blog
 Concept of Nature as the whole universe, painting by the author 

1. Man has emboldened the causative agents of human diseases – both old and new - into epidemic and pandemic proportions, which include HIV-AIDS, SARS, Ebola, and today’s threats of pandemic diseases, the Avian flu (caused by a new virus H5N1, a hybrid of the human flu virus and the bird fly virus) and obesity (caused by Ad36 virus) - and the most recent MERS-CoV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Corona Virus).

2. Through biological specialization or mutation – natural and man-induced – causative agents have crossed natural barriers of transmission across species, such as bird to man (bird flu), civet cat to man (SARS), and primate to man (HIV-AIDS, and Ebola). Man has built bridges between the non-living to the living as well. We have paved the way for the Prion, an infectious protein, the causative agent of Mad Cow Disease or BSE (Bovine Spongiosform Encephalopathy) to cross from cattle to man and cause a similar disease affecting humans, the Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD). Viruses have acquired new ability to infect and spread not only among humans but also in animals and plants. Viral diseases of plants have been responsible for the decrease in agricultural production in many parts of the world.

The aesthetics of Nature, source of legends, songs and festivities, painting by the author 

3. In the midst of enjoying the good life in a postmodern world more and more people are victims of accidents, heart attacks and strokes, anxiety and depression – and various forms of psychosomatic disorder - that often lead to ruined lives and suicides. Cancer, diabetes, and the deleterious consequences of vices (tobacco and alcohol), are on the rise among other modern diseases. Surprisingly, the number of years a person is healthy in proportion to his life span is not significantly longer than that of his predecessors, and that a person’s life span has not significantly increased at all. It is the average longevity of a population that has increased, not the individual’s. The fact is that modern medicine has increased survival of infants and young people, most of them are now in their past fifties, thus gross longevity appears to have increased, up to 78 years in some countries. On the contrary, more and more young people are getting sick and dying.

4. Modern society and science and technology no longer fit into the Darwinian theory of natural selection. There is a growing burden placed on the shoulders of the able and fit in our society who, without choice, is responsible in taking care of the growing number of dependents – many are the infirmed and the aged.

All these lead us to re-examine our values. It challenges us to look deeper into a paradigm of salvation through our concern for the environment. The prolificacy of the human species sans war and pestilence, plus growing affluence of our society has led to a population explosion which had doubled in less than fifty years. We are now 7.5 billion. Under this paradigm, there is no master and subject. All must join hands to prevent the exploitation of the earth’s finite resources. Today’s economists must also be good housekeepers of Nature, so with those in the other professions. While man’s aim is directed at the Good Life, he has unwittingly reduced the very foundation of that good life – the productivity and beauty of Mother Earth.

There are few frontiers of production left today. We have virtually pushed back the sea and leveled off the mountain. Prime lands have all been taken, swamps have been drained, and even deserts are being reclaimed. But as we continue to explore the marginal edges of these frontiers the more we are confronted with high cost of production that is levied on the consumer, and more importantly, the danger of destroying the fragile environment. AVR
-----------------------------------------------------------Nature as socio-economic base in agrarian society, painting by the author

Ecological paradigm endorses an ecocentric approach where all forms of life and non-life are important to human life. Spirituality points out to a unitive force: the sacredness of everything. God’s divinity flows in everything. There is integration in the universe. And we are part of that integration, exceedingly small as we are, notwithstanding. Under ecological paradigm of salvation, the one responsible in the destruction of the environment leading to loss of lives and properties should be held accountable for it to God, nature and fellowmen.

The environment and the economy need not be viewed as opposites. It is possible to have a healthy environment and a healthy economy at the same time. More and more businesses have begun adopting this concept as a business philosophy. People behind business organizations are becoming more aware of the ethical decisions they face, and their responsibility for their consequences.

Industrialization and urbanization are akin to each other. Industrial growth spurred the building of cities all over the world. Today there are as many people living in cities as those living the rural places. A mega-city like Tokyo has a population of 15 million people. We are 10 million in Metro Manila. Cities are fragile environments. Cities are more prone to epidemics such as the bubonic plague that killed one-third of the population of Europe in the 13th century. Now we are confronted with HIV-AID, SARs, Meningo cochcimia – and the dreaded Avian flu which hovers as the next human pandemic disease. AVR

There are organizations that have set some rules of governance of the environment, among them, GRI (Global Reporting Initiative), CERES (Coalition of Environmental Responsible Economies), and UNEP (United Nations Environmental Program). In line with these a multi- national corporation came up with the following thrusts:

 Nature defiled by genetic engineering, painting by the author

• Restore and preserve the environment
• Reduce waste and pollution
• Education of the public on environmental conservation
• Work with government for sound and responsible environmental program
• Assess impact of business on the environment and communities.

This approach is gaining respect and more and more businesses are looking at this model with great interest and favor.

The Question of Governance

Dr. Tai cited three themes in order that man can live in harmony with nature. Man is part of the ecosystem, Man is steward of the earth, and Man is finite. Dr. Tai cited models with which man can change his views about the environment and change his style of living. We have also models in the business world, in the church, and in the government, in fact all sectors of society. There are models everywhere in this or that part of the world, whether developed or underdeveloped. There are as many models in less developed countries as in highly industrialized countries. It could be that the less developed are closer to tradition, and still have strong ethnic roots, like the old civilizations mentioned in the paper – the native cultures of America and Africa.

But the world has never been one. It has become more diverse in views and interests though in many respects share the same aspirations towards progress and development. And this is the problem. Man is always in a race. In that race awaits at the end not a prize mankind is proud of and honorable. It is tragedy, which Garett Hardin calls, the tragedy of the commons. It is a greedy competition for a finite resource, each his own, until it is gone. The forests are disappearing today, the lake are dying, the fields are getting marginal, the pastures are overgrazed, the air is loaded with destructive gases, the sea  is over fished. All these point out to the syndrome - tragedy of the commons. And because time is of the essence, many believe that the world needs a new revolution now? Is revolution the only way to solve global problems of the environment today?

Definitely, while we need to reform to save our environment, any means that is contrary to peace and unity, is definitely unacceptable. And we would not adhere to the rule of force or violence just to be able to succeed. It is said, that revolution starts in a small corner. It starts in this congress.

Ethics is the foundation of aesthetics; it is something very difficult to explain that makes beautiful more beautiful, rising to the highest level of philosophy where man find hope, inspiration, and peace. It is a beacon. While ethics sets the direction, aesthetics is its beautiful goal.

In closing I would like to thank Dr. Tai, for his scholarly and incisive paper from which I was not only able to prepare myself as a member of the panel of reactors, but found an opportunity to review and expand my current research works in ecology as well. Lastly, I would like to recite this short prayer I made for this International Congress on Bioethics, and dedicate it through the little child who visited the two workshops in the village and exclaimed. “But there are no neighbors! But there are no trees, birds, fields and mountains!”

Ecology Prayer

When my days are over,

Let me lie down to sleep
on sweet breeze and earth,
in the shade of trees
I planted in my youth;
since I had not done enough,
make, make my kind live
to carry on the torch,
while my dusts fall
to where new life begins –
even only an atom I shall be,
let me be with you,
dear Mother Earth.
There was once a town in the heart of America where all life seemed to live in harmony with its surroundings…Then a strange blight crept over the area and everything began to change …Mysterious maladies swept the flocks of chickens, the cattle and chicken sickened and died …There was a strange stillness… The Few birds seen anywhere were moribund, they trembled violently and could not fly. It is a spring without voices.
Rachel Carson, Silent Spring