Thursday, September 28, 2006

Where to take your electronic junk

The good news is that we (from Metro Manila and other major cities) no longer have to search far for an “electronic junkyard” where our unwanted stuff could be consigned to, sorted properly for reuse or recycled. There is a way to prevent the rise of Payatas-like wastelands made up of toxic and harmful non-biodegradables such as computers, cellphones, microwaves ovens, electronic toys and gadgets, batteries and the like. Wall-size TVs, and tiny MP3 players and digital cameras will soon join the march to these junkyards.

Walk through the Jurassic Park that is your house or office and identify the electronic dinosaurs that have been sitting in dusty corners for years. At some point they reached obsolescence or were beyond repair. Where do you take them if there are no takers? They shouldn’t be consigned to the garbage dumps or coral reefs. They could be toxic and hazardous to living things. So where do these hardware go and wait to be reincarnated or recycled?

Some years ago I brought a car trunk-ful of these stuff to a vocational school of electronics that had use for them. I was so thankful they took them all—from cordless phone to dot matrix printer to radio/tape recorder that’s been silent for 20 years plus so many more. But I forgot to bring the 1993 laptop whose manufacturer is now extinct. It’s still waiting to be properly laid to rest.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Pope’s language

A marine scientist, upon seeing the damage of the recent oil spill on Guimaras, is likely to say to his fellow scientists, “The biota exhibited a 100 percent mortality response.”

We journalists would write, “All the fish died.” It thunders in its simplicity and you couldn’t get more dramatic than that.

Author Kurt Vonnegut says that his favorite line among James Joyce’s stories is from the short story “Eveline”. The sentence: “She was tired.” At that point, Vonnegut says, no other words could break the heart of a reader as those three words do.

“Simplicity of language,” he says, “is not only reputable, but perhaps even sacred. The Bible opens with a sentence well within the writing skills of a lively 14-year-old: ‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.’”

The subject of simplicity in language—and its sacredness—was going through my mind while I was going over the lecture that Pope Benedict XVI delivered at the University of Regensburg in Germany last week. It was not a papal “to the city and to the world” (Urbi et Orbi) speech, by the way, only a lecture for a select group of intellectuals in an academic compound.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Surging like ‘The Oceanides’

Helsinki--After days of Nordic food, bottomless coffee, workshops, talk shops, civil society networking and so-called “open space” discussions (throw in a few films), the 450 participants of Asia-Europe People’s Forum 6 (AEPF 6) held in Helsinki called it a day.

There was no evidence of rice and spice deprivation withdrawal among the Asians as they were very vocal, as victims and potential victims of neo-liberalism should be. Asians and Europeans of the G&D (grim and determined) grassroots variety have, once again, found their collective voice. On the fourth day, they let it all hang out at a city square through songs, dance, mime and a “people’s soup kitchen” courtesy of the Finns.

Here in the land of a thousand lakes, the land of the revered composer Sibelius, (for cellphonephiles, the land of Nokia), Asian and European voices swirled and rose, like the ocean’s roiling surge in Sibelius’ symphonic poem “The Oceanides”. (Finland is just a wee bit larger in area than the Philippines but has a population of only five million. Compare that to our 80 million plus, or just Metro Manila’s 10 million.)

As AEPF ended, the object of its trajectory, the Asia Europe Meeting (Asem) was about to begin, with government leaders in attendance, GMA among them. These Asian and European leaders forge political and economic links that could spell the race to the top for some or the race to the bottom of the ocean (the Pacific, particularly) for many. Together, the Asem member states have influence over half the world’s GDP.

Thursday, September 7, 2006

Asian-European sounds in Helsinki

HELSINKI—Here in the land of revered Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) Asian and European peoples’ voices are being aired loudly. Here is a symphony of sounds, so to speak, rising, blowing with the cold Baltic wind that is getting colder by the day.

The event is the Asia-Europe Peoples’ Forum 6 (AEPF 6) for NGOs and civil society organizations (CVO) that are non-state and non-corporate. The theme is “People’s Vision: Building Solidarity Across Asia and Europe”.

What better way to start than with a short ferry boat ride and an informal dinner-gathering of kindred spirits at Suomenlinna Island, a historic tourist site just off the city. After that it was back to the city and the tasks ahead. Time for long words and CVO-speak.

AEPF aims to bring all these voices from the ground to the official Asia Europe Summit (ASEM) and create alternatives to ASEM’s “neoliberalist agenda”.

ASEM would be to Asia and Europe as APEC is to Asia-Pacific and the US. Well, more or less. Heads of state, Pres. Macapagal-Arroyo, among them, are attending ASEM. ASEM consists of the member countries of the European Union (EU), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and East Asian countries China, South Korea and Japan.