*my column in the August 21, 2011 issue of Cordillera Today
I received a message from an online acquaintance on Facebook.com last week – some guy was looking for a documentary filmmaker for a project. I sent that guy a message online and I got a reply. Later that evening, I received a call from one Illiac Diaz.
Diaz was, not sure if he still is, an actor turned... and this I got from “Googling’ him – social entrepreneur, environmental hero, designer, inventor, etc., etc. I knew him first as that guy who designed those odd- looking dome-shaped tsunami-proof houses made out of recycled materials. I thought then, well, that’s cool. He’s being talked about lately for his latest brilliant brainstorm – using plastic bottles to make “solar light bulbs” that can brighten up a room with light equivalent to that emitted by a conventional 55-watt light bulb.
So last week, I was on the phone with him to talk about that particular latest project. But what made a bigger impression on me was the idea behind the idea. We have been reading a lot about how we can all do our share in protecting the environment and live an eco-friendly, sustainable lifestyle. We have been told that we can convert gasoline-fuelled cars to LPG, to lessen harmful emissions in the air. Or, for the more financially-able, there are hybrid cars now that can switch from gasoline to electric power with the push of a button. We know about those fluorescent light bulbs that while four to five times more pricy than regular incandescent bulbs, consume much less electricity and last longer. How many of you out there are using solar panels to heat water? Or closer to home, have you bought yourself one of those trendy, eco-friendly shopping bags from the shopping giant up the hill to lessen the use of plastic bags?
But see, most of us don’t even have cars to convert to be more eco-friendly to begin with. Maybe in the long run we can save some money from using fluorescent light bulbs, but right now, today, we can only afford that P30.00 incandescent bulb, and not that P200.00 eco-friendly one. Most solar panels I looked up can cost you around P140.00 per watt. That means having solar panels that would run a 300-watt refrigerator would cost you... you do the math. The point is, most eco-friendly efforts out there are just unrealistic for most of us. There are things we mere mortals can do. Sure, reducing, reusing, recycling non-environment-friendly materials is doable for most of us. Segregating our garbage, assuming that the city we live in has a proper waste management system, can go a long way in protecting the environment. But what can the majority of Filipinos do to help protect the environment?
That’s where Illiac Diaz is coming from – he brings the concept of sustainability closer to the masses. And his ideas and efforts can realistically have a positive impact on the environment simply because most of us can actually do it, and not just a few privileged households in exclusive subdivisions.
I was asked recently by a corporate giant to put together a website to trumpet their so-called environmental efforts. The project was simple – they will give me literature about and images of their sustainability efforts and I will publish them on the world wide web. It has been months since and the website is not up yet because I have yet to receive materials relevant enough to be considered real efforts. Sure they have a sewage treatment plant – as if letting toxic liquid waste seep into the ground is acceptable, and having such a plant is a great effort on their part. Sure they use energy-efficient light bulbs, bit is it really to help save Mother Earth or to pay less money for electricity? Sure they turn off some lights during the annual Earth Hour, during which they hold a concert to pat themselves on the back for the effort, knowing fully-well that the ensuing concert consumes a lot of electricity to power those stage lights and sound system.
Too bad our group could not afford to go on a week-long caravan with Illiac Diaz to promote his plastic bottle light bulb idea to do a video documentary on it. I had to take a rain check, a reality check really, since there was no budget for the documentation and our group just couldn’t afford to do it pro bono at the moment, to skip work for a week at the moment, for skipping work for a week for us means skipping eating for a week. It’s one of those realities that, no matter how much we believe in the idea, how much we love the environment and how much we want to participate in protecting it, we could not ignore right now.
So I thought I would at least write about it, so you’d know about it. That I can do. Now, what else...