Thursday, October 29, 2009

Support hotel campaigns to save the Earth

Nice to be back to my blog once again. Sorry friends for not visiting you for a while as I was out of town. While at the hotel, I noticed this note that supports my campaign to save the environment. Since I promised that I blog this month with the touch of "Save the Earth" campaign I do commend all hotels who have this reminder:

We don't change our bedding and towels at home DAILY, do we? So we must be concerned as well when we stay at a hotel. If we don't see this sign or note, let's tell the lobby or the housekeepers not to change our bedding and towels. In this way, we can help save energy, water and detergent and not add to the pollution we can cause in producing them.
Another big help we can do when we stay at the hotel is to turn off all the lights and air-conditioners if we leave our room. Some people reason out that they want to get back into their room cold right away. But think of the energy we waste as we go out for many hours. Our little discomfort cannot surmount the suffering we will have in the future if we don't do something NOW to protect our environment from destruction.
I'm glad to see the hotel we stayed in Chiangmai in the north of Thailand for using automatic key-card. Many hotels are using it now so that when the customers go out, they need to take their magnetic key not only to lock their door but also to turn off the energy source right away. It's beneficial to both hotel management for saving energy and to the environment as well.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Far but awesome new Thai Immigration Office

The tomo (Thai term for immigration office) has moved to its new location at the Government Complex on Soi 7, Chaeng Wattana, Nonthaburi Province on September 28, 2009. It opens at 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM Mondays to Fridays and lunch break is 12:00-1:00 PM.
Many "farangs" (foreigners) have aired out their complaints about the distance and the travel cost involved in getting there from the capital, Bangkok where most expats and tourists stay. The worst thing is, there is no other mode of transportation except taxi as there are no buses that go there. From the main road, it is still a few kilometers away. So if you process your visa, re-entry or 90 days reporting there, you need to have your own ride or to hire a taxi to wait as there are just a few in there. I got there today (for over an hour with all the traffic jams) through KMUTT's pick-up for my re-entry permit. My negative feeling was replaced with excitement though when I saw the magnificent building with all its TIT's (This is Thailand) uniqueness.
I experienced sweating out before in the old immigration office in Bangkok located on Suan Phlu. It was sooooo crowded then that the transfer was really necessary.
Even if I was in a hurry to get back to my office, I could not stop myself from wandering, wondering and taking photos around. The place is really awesome. It's more than just a government complex. It's also a shopping mall and a great place to hang out. It has everything you need - clothes, food, coffee shops, souvenirs even organic products and fruits and all kinds of banks with extraordinary services. So while waiting for your queue, you can go to the basement to have a cup of coffee or cappuccino, to shop some goodies for yourself or even to pay your bills at any of the bank of your choice or at 7-11 counter.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Beach or Pool?

This is such a very beautiful sight to behold from a high-rise hotel! Sooooo relaxing, isn't it? But can you notice the oil spills lining this beach? It's mainly caused by banana boats, the tractors that carry them to the beach and some jet-skis. Who should be blamed for this place's destruction?

This photo was taken by my then 10 year-old daughter, JD, from our room on the 19th Floor of Nusa Playa Hotel, a 5-star hotel in Jomtien, Pattaya during our department retreat in summer 2008 . Because of the oil spill, we didn't allow our kids to go swimming here as advised by our Thai friends.Tsk!Tsk! So they just enjoyed swimming at the hotel's pool on the 5th Floor (shown on photo below taken by Josh).
It's choosing between nature and man-made. But what better choice is left? Mom and dad know better so sorry to our kids for being KJ (kill joy): in not allowing them to contract possible skin, lung problems, etc. from this polluted beach. Poor new generations...
Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Debaters as environmentalists and future leaders

A Sikh debater pointing out his arguments on the motion "This house would control vehicles"
to help solve the
global environmental crisis.

As I see my university debaters wrangle with words and wit and come up with the best alternatives in solving problems on any issues affecting them such as environmental problems, it makes me more inspired to go on with my yearly debate workshop even if it drains all my energy and eats up much of my time.
Brainstorming during the workshop
It's so rewarding molding students to become responsible citizens and worthy leaders in the future being able to give alternative ways to solve big issues. Letting them see the bigger picture and both sides of the issue lead them to better perspectives in solving problems. Here are some examples of the motions they debate on using the All-Asians Parliamentary Style:
1. This house would regulate the use of crops for the bio-fuel.
2. This house believes that nuclear energy is the solution to the climate crisis.
3. This house would use economic incentives to reduce the energy consumption of corporations.

Heavy topics, aren't they? But these are national level debate championship tournament's motions. They also debate on light motions such as "This house would landfill the Emerald Pond (in front of KMUTT which is a niche for turtles, fish and beautiful lilies, lotus etc.).
KMUTT Team B who won National Rookie Level Champion in the 5th European Union-Thailand Intervarsity Championships ask for a POI (Point of Information) together during the preliminary round.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Integrating Language Learning and Earth-saving Values

This poster shows the campaign of young kids on the use of fabric bag instead of plastics.
It was made by Red Team at a recent English Camp at KMUTT.

I got invited last week to be one of the lecturers in an English Camp for young kids aged 5-12 years old. It was held in my university campus and was sponsored by the Continuing Education Center as it's term break for all Thai students in all levels this month. Although I'm used to teaching college or university students, I eventually said yes because I liked the theme of the camp, "Save the Earth". It's so wonderful to see the kids not only learning English but also expressing their ideas on how to save the Earth. In the series of activities we prepared, we had to fit in with their level so that we would achieve the desired results in integrating language learning and Earth-saving values.
The first poster (above) is an example of the kids' outcome after we organized them into teams. We let them enjoy  English by cooperative learning as the group age was so diverse. It was good to group them in different ages to give support to the younger ones with lesser knowledge, skills and experiences. After we let them speak, play word and matching games, sing songs, and answer worksheets, we let them make a poster by team. Then we let each of them explain in English about their poster. I was so amazed with their ideas! Young as they are, they showed so much concern in saving the Earth. As shown in the first poster above, they explained that fabric bag is better than plastics and that they must plant more trees instead of cutting them.  The one below is similar with the one above in its idea of planting more trees. But I was so surprised with their very radical opinion of closing factories. They answered that factories are the major contributors of carbon dioxide that causes global warming. "What would happen if we close the factories?", I asked them. They got stunned:) Of course, we understand what they mean.


Friday, October 9, 2009

Technology: Boon or bane?

We received an SMS from our kids yesterday informing us that their excursion was postponed. Then just this afternoon, we again received a message. This time it's telling us that they have no electricity for two days now and the very long Bued Bridge connecting La Union and Pangasinan just a few kilometers away from their school and to the junction to Kennon Road going to Baguio collapsed. (Click here for full details on the tremendous damages caused by Pepeng.) . Our CRT monitor finally gave up last night and dear hubby is using the laptop all the time. As I was too busy with the Thailand International Education Exhibition (TIEE)2009 the whole day, I never had any chance to read the news from the Internet at all. So even if I'm dead tired from TIEE, I had to go buy a new LCD monitor to replace our old one which made me dizzy last night so that I can read the news tonight.
You know, I'm not the kind of person who goes for what is trendy unless I really need it so even if my PhD student suggested to me one time to change my monitor into LCD when he reformatted our PC, I just told him that it's not yet necessary as it's still working. Besides, I hate to add to the dumped monitors around the world when the LCD was introduced. Just imagine how much pollution it will cause as computers and monitors decompose after thousands of years. But I was convinced by my very smart undergrad debaters who argued that LCD's compactness can save electricity by 70%. If calculated, the electricity consumption's contribution to the greenhouse effect outweighs the one time changing of our monitor. I searched it from the Internet and it's true. So at last I bought a new one today. But it's mainly because it's already blurry to the eye.
I'm now thinking that our old CRT (cathode ray tube) monitor which contains hazardous wastes such as lead will eventually end up as pollutant even if it's properly disposed. Of course, the hazard is lesser if it's disposed of properly. Its toxic materials can seep into the ground, damaging both the soil and ground water posing other dangers. Imagine how many junked CRT monitors replaced by LCD have been drained in the flood in Manila, so we don't wonder if there are many sick people right now.
Through our new, much clearer, larger but space-saving LCD, I'm finally able to read the news about the new typhoon Pepeng (Parma) and the flood it has brought in the Philippines . But I sigh! Oh, technology changes so fast and so pollution increases so fast as well! Is technology boon or bane? Please tell me. Aren't we all creating our resting place six feet below the ground with it? Can technology save us from Mother Earth's vengeance?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

What can every individual do to prevent climate change and flood?

The flood that has ravaged Manila recently is an eye-opener to all of us. Last year, it's here in Bangkok that had warned its people for an upcoming storm surge so most people including myself prepared for it. But never did officials in Manila warn people for this  catastrophe so the effect is enormous causing many casualties, damaged properties and countless homeless people. But it's too late for finger-pointing which may not help at all at this time. We have seen the effects but we must now ask what every individual can do to prevent the cause.  

Yahoo news states, "given the looming specter of climate change, they may have to find a way sooner rather than later. The prospect of another typhoon this week underscores environmentalists' concern that shifts in global temperatures may mean increasingly extreme weather patterns for coastal cities like Manila".
While it's true that there is nothing we can do with climate change in terms of natural factors such as solar radiation and volcanism, if all individuals reduce human activities that may worsen the greenhouse effect, we can still save the earth from destruction. Wikipedia says that "changes in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases and aerosols, land cover and solar radiation alter the energy balance of the climate system".  According to the US Geological Survey, estimates are that human activities generate more than 130 times the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by volcanoes (Wikipedia).

Wiki also claims that "increases in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations is very likely to have caused most of the increases in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century".
U.S. EPA ranks the major greenhouse gas contributing end-user sectors in the following order: industrial, transportation, residential, commercial and agricultural. Major sources of an individual's Greenhouse Gases or GHG include home heating and cooling, electricity consumption, and transportation. 

So here are simple ways we as individuals can do to help prevent climate change and its effect such as flood:
1. Save everything we can.
To help save our environment and prevent climate change which results into flood, let's save everything we can such as clothes, tissue papers, soap, food even appliances so that industrial or manufacturing companies which are the number one contributor of GHG won't produce over and over just to cater to our needs (and even to just our WANTS!). In doing this, use of fossil fuels, electricity and materials in producing anything we need will be reduced. Having too many clothes, for example, demands producers to manufacture more and changing clothes more often requires soap to wash them so it necessitates more production of clothes and soap. More demands, more gas to be consumed as well in delivering them to the outlets that sell them. It's a vicious cycle that can be cut down only by end-users. If there's less demand, there's less production. Less production, less pollutants.

2.  Use transportation less.
Transportation is next to industrial companies as major source of pollutants. As much as possible, families should own just one or fewer cars even if they can afford them. Family members or even friends should share a ride by planning a good route to their destinations. Mass transportation such as buses, trains or other public rides are a better option in saving energy, in reducing CO2 emissions and in requiring car companies to produce more.
Walk more often. Aside form the health benefits we can gain out of walking, we can also reduce carbon dioxide emission from vehicles if many of us just walk as much as we can. For example, I walk going to my workplace and back home everyday unless if I'm in real hurry. I see many people here in Thailand who use bikes in going to their workplace or the university.

3. Reduce use of air conditioners.
In the household level, CFC used in air conditioners is very harmful to our ozone layer and can contribute to climate change. At home, we just turn on the air conditioner for a few hours just to cool down the room then use electric fan most of the time. At the office, if I'm the only one working, I turn off the air conditioner a couple of hours before I leave and instead of using two units, I use only one. Air conditioners consume much energy so by doing such, we can also save energy and thus, fossil fuel which makes up 86% in primary energy production in the world. Let's remember that fossil fuel-fired electric power plants also emit carbon dioxide that may contribute to climate change.

4. Reduce, refuse and reuse plastics. 

"The raw material of plastics is oil, so the more we use plastics, the more we waste oil - a non-renewable energy source," explains Earth Day Network. Aside from this fact, plastics take decades to break down and is only 1% recyclable so they litter around. A lot of plastics have been found clogging the drains in Manila during the flood brought about by Ondoy. Had it not been for the clogged drainage due to too much plastic wastes which are not biodegradable, the flood's effect would have not been as terrible as that. So what can we do to solve the plastic bag problem? Here in Thailand, Makro doesn't provide any plastics for free so shoppers have set their mind to reuse whatever available containers they have such as fabric bags or reusing plastic bags they already have. If governments cannot pass a law such as what is done in Israel, Germany, South Africa and Ireland where plastic bag is surcharged, then we as individuals must do something. Here in Thailand where plastics are provided abundantly at supermarkets and anywhere, this is what I personally practice. I help the cashier bag my own groceries so I combine what I can in just few plastic bags and refuse doubling them. Then at home, instead of buying the black plastic bags for our garbage, we reuse the bags from the supermarkets. In going to the market, we bring our own plastic bags. We also avoid drinking bottled waters. We simply refill the old bottles we have.  

In doing these simple steps collectively and in sharing these to others, we can together help save our environment. We can prevent climate change and floods. We can save ourselves from the wrath Mother Nature may take revenge on us with all our abuses to her.