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Teaching of Sustainability of Resources in Schools

Updated on March 1, 2014

Cloning of Mindoro pine using leaves or fascicles. Rooted leaf will grow into a tree

Narra tree seedling ready for transplanting in the field

Sustainability has scientific and ethical parts that are easy to teach and learn

"Sustainability" is similar to "sustainable development." Sustainability has a scientific part and an ethical part. Sustainability or sustainable development is commonly understood to mean: use present resources in such a way that some resources are left for the next generation of resources and users.

Scientific part

For the scientific part of sustainability, there is now a lot of research and scientific models on the use of resources, whether irreplaceable or renewable. For the ethical part, there are also a lot of policies like conservation, multiple-use and limited use.

For students in the grade school or high school, the curriculum should include sustainable development. It goes without saying that teachers should be reoriented on sustainability. Some colleges already include this concept in their curriculum. For example, in Forestry, there is conservation, multiple-use, sustainable-use of forestry resources. Ecology as a subject includes sustainable development, so do courses in environmental science. In the College of Forestry of the University of the Philippines at Los BaƱos (UPLB), there is a masteral course on ecology and a doctoral program on natural resources conservation, with emphasis on genetics. Vanishing, endangered or threatened species are given priority for genetic conservation, and mass propagation using modern technology as grafting, marcotting, and cloning.

Reading materials on sustainable development should be developed for grade schools and high school, insofar as the Philippines is concerned.

Ethical part

The ethical part simply means: the present generation of users should not exhaust the present resources. They ought to leave behind resources on which the next generation of resources can grow for the next generation of users. Better yet, the present generation of users should enhance the expansion or propagation of resources for the next generation of resources and users.

In the Philippines the policy of "selective logging system" is in place. This involves the harvesting for trees in virgin forests and secondary forests. Trees with a diameter of at least 40 cm are marked with the objective of leaving them unharmed so that they can grow bigger for the next cycle of harvesting. (In one summer break when I was in high school I got employed as a tree marker.) Each tree that had been extracted by logging is replaced by the logging concessionaire with at least five seedlings of tress to be nurtured for the second growth forest. This system allows for natural regeneration, that is, seedlings that grow from seeds of standing trees grow to maturity. This system works for rainforests. Other countries have partially adopted this system, like Malaysia.

Government scholarship grants sponsor doctoral students in conducting dissertations on endangered, or threatened species. For example, Dr. Rene S. Fontanilla, Ph.D. conducted a dissertation on Mindoro pine which is considered endangered. She came up with a new technology of cloning it with the use of leaves of Mindoro pine (Pinus mindorensis Juss and de Vries). This is a trailblazing research. This tree species has a very limited population in the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Indonesia. It is called variously according to locality. In the Philippines it grows in the provinces of Mindoro and Zambales. It is a tree with multiple uses, in addition to it being a part of the ecology.

The provincial government of Mindoro Occidental, Philippines, led by Governor Josephine Ramirez-Sato has applied marcotting to develop over 50 hectares of its domain into a plantation. Ever since Mindoro pine have grown naturally in this province this is the first time marcotting has been adopted that was spurred by a part of the research conducted by Dr. Fontanilla. She demonstrated for the first time that Mindoro pine can be marcotted. There might have been some attempts at marcotting or using cuttings before but all failed. Propagation by seed is slow, the tree produces few seeds that are viable; it bears fruit in an interval of almost two years. Trees that had grown naturally have dwindled owing to over use.

A Malaysian graduated at the UPLB with a masteral thesis on Mindoro pine.

There is a season when the catching of tuna fish is prohibited. This allows them to breed and grow into harvestable size.

Turtle conservation

I was involved in the creation of a government agency that conserves land and marine turtles. My article "The Marine Turtle Will Not Be a Dodo." caught the interest of a President of the Philippines and asked for our recommendations. I was one of two who drafted the executive order to create Task Force Pawikan Council through Executive Order Number 542. It is now an integral program of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, handled by the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau. I was involved in making it operational having been the first chief of the Information and Extension Division. The first policy we promulgated was along sustainable-use management.

Pawikan is the local name of the green sea turtle, Chelona mydas, the favorite in the Philippines because it can lay as much as 300 eggs in one nest overnight in the beach. The egg is rounded with a soft shell, the size of ping pong ball. I have tasted one; it is delicious.

Renewable and non-renewable resources

Of course, there are non-renewable resources like marble, adobe, and silicon sands. Their use must be maximized. And there are the minerals, metals like copper, silver, nickel, and zinc. It must be ensured that the environment is not compromised in the extraction of these non-renewable resources.

There are sources of biofuel that are renewable. For example, trees that bear fruits whose extracts can be esterified to be used as combustion engine fuel. One such tree is jatropha (Jatropha curcas L.). In the Philippines there are plenty of trees that can yield biofuel.

The ethical part of sustainability appears easy to teach and learn. If religion can be so appealing, so must the preaching for the survival of the next human generation.

But preaching is not enough. Pupils who are brought out to the field to plant trees imbibe the moral; better yet if they are coached to nurture trees to maturity.

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