Because Ecology is Deeper



Some days ago was posted online a comment made by Drew Arellano. According to the quotes, the newscaster and TV host said something like, we the human beings are the disease and Covid-19 is the cure. The world online went berserk. It is a world not noted for restraint and control. Those lines putting the blame, however, at our feet, made even the expanding Internet universe grow wilder.

I had my own beef with this Drew Arellano when he visited Gainza a few months ago. This was the same media person who described that small town in the most ethnocentric way, creating an image that made the place the most isolated place in the country, comparing with recklessness “tigsik” with the Japanese haiku! This time, however, I side with Drew Arellano.

We are the affliction and the virus is the healing force. Ironic and contradictory as it may seem, this whole pandemic as it unravels reveals as well what we were and what we have become: a duplicitous race out to save the human group at the expense of the other beings and creatures around it.

We teach the tenets of ecology but stop at the point when we are implicated in the destruction of that we sought emotionally to preserve. We celebrate the accomplishments of humankind, reveling in the evolution of the race from the crawling to the thinking, upright Man.

We are hysterical when we defend our intelligence. We are mad men and women out to prove that we are stewards of the spaces older than our oldest philosophy.

What Mr. Arellano proposed has a source: the old theory about Deep Ecology. It is a term attributed to the Norwegian philosopher Arne Nӕss, who propounded the belief that we are part of ecology, not any higher than the other plants and animals. The thought negated the long-standing assumption that beings or creatures can be ranked following their relative value.

For Nӕss, the so-called right of all forms of life “to live is a universal right which cannot be quantified. No single species of living being has more of this particular right to live and unfold than any other species.” Deep Ecology, like all theories or paradigms, has its own share of criticism. It cannot be denied though that the thought about man/woman not being at the center of all creation is a way to show our arrogance and presumptions of importance.

Remember those endless debates whether plants and dogs have souls? When viewed from the perspective of Deep Ecology, they are rants that end up with thinkers patting each other’s back, congratulating at the pretend discovery of a foregone conclusion that we are the only creatures imbued with sapientia. Thus we emboss that Latin term on the logo and escutcheons of venerable universities and learning institutions. Thus we believe our own lie that only professors, lecturers, deans, researchers, retreat guides, mentors – can teach this world to learn. We become smug about our skills and authorities. To preserve the air of supremacy and intelligence fitted about us, we set up institutions to back up our dominance. Outside of institutions, however, we are nothing.

We do researches utilizing frameworks that are understood only by the few. The more difficult the perspective the more elegant the research agenda. We descend upon communities and declare those places as our fieldsites. We spend nights in villages to immerse, dunking our sensitive souls in poverty and then leaving in tears because we will never go back to that place. How we survive the absence of toilets and soft beddings is now packed into our cute memories of temporary societal commitment.

Then a tiny virus comes upon us. Large mass of lands are barricaded with rules. Around huge cities and towns rise walls built of the dumb appraisal of a disease that has no proper name. Scientists do not agree whether the crowned virus will shiver and die in cold weather or melt and disappear under the heat of the sun.

In temperate zones, citizens wish for summer; in tropical and equatorial zones, people congratulate themselves for the heat of the sun that they used to curse day and night. But we remain ignorant.

More changes take place: religious rites are cancelled with the premise that the Divine will understand; courts are sealed because justice and Heaven can wait. Then, classes are called off.

The authorities have no immediate solution to the imposed vacation. On their tables are sharpened pencils and on the walls are splendid certificates, and in their heart weak valves beating to the death of learning. The pedagogues are heartbroken to discover their sense of education is limited to classrooms, face-to-face recitations, graded meditations and reflections.

The Internet soon started showing a world in rhapsodic shifts: where once there was only smog, mountains and ranges could now be seen blue and verdant; where rivers and lakes and seas used to be dank and dark could now be located springs as clean as the conscience of a little bird. Along cowpaths and roads in other Asian villages, wild animals presently roam, unafraid to claim their land because man has locked himself down.

When all this is over is a favored expression. And yet, no one knows when all this will be over.

In the meantime, let me share with you my day: in the morning, I try to wake up early. I wash my own clothes and help in mopping the floor. After breakfast, I place breadcrumbs on the two pillars of our gate, for the birds to eat. The birds have come. And so with butterflies. I should know because I spend minutes looking at them. I know what food the birds prefer and I know butterflies are not bothered even when you train your camera on them.

When sweet potatoes come to us from our neighbors, I take photos of them. They are resplendent on the plate. Then we give bread – ordinary loaf – to the same neighbor. At night, we pray the rosary and we never run out of intentions. We pray for our loved ones. We pray for the frontliners. We pray for the informal settlers. We pray for the world.

Then I write about this terrific world and hope the words I use make sense.