NORTH­ERNER

How con­ser­va­tion rekin­dles a har­mo­nious in­ter­ac­tion be­tween man and na­ture

Northern Living - - CONTENTS - TEXT OLIVER EMOCLING PHO­TOG­RA­PHY TRIS­TAN TAMAYO

How con­ser­va­tion can con­cur with land de­vel­op­ment

Na­ture has al­ways been Ann Du­maliang’s play­ground. When she was a child, qual­ity time with her fa­ther was spent hik­ing in the moun­tains or tend­ing to their home gar­den. “For my birth­days, he didn’t give me Bar­bie dolls. He gave me seeds to plant,” she says. “That’s why [en­vi­ron­men­tal con­ser­va­tion] is in­ti­mate to me; it’s some­thing I’ve grown with.”

To­day, as a con­ser­va­tion­ist, Du­maliang’s ap­pre­ci­a­tion for na­ture has led her to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for the en­vi­ron­ment. As project man­ager of Ma­sungi Ge­o­re­serve, Du­maliang leads the con­ser­va­tion of the 60-mil­lionyear-old karst for­ma­tion, a land­scape made of lime­stone, in Rizal. The ap­proach at Ma­sungi aims to fix the con­flict be­tween hu­mans and the in­nately di­verse ecosys­tem while raising aware­ness among nearby com­mu­ni­ties. “If you don’t con­serve the land where ev­ery­thing is on, you’re not go­ing to be able to con­serve any­thing,” she says.

I think the idea of con­ser­va­tion is al­ready pop­u­lar, but what does it re­ally mean?

Con­ser­va­tion is typ­i­cally com­pared to pro­tec­tion. Pro­tec­tion would be leav­ing an area or a re­source un­touched by hu­man pres­ence. Con­ser­va­tion, on the other hand, has pro­tec­tion com­po­nents but al­lows for some use of nat­u­ral re­sources so long as it is done sus­tain­ably so that fu­ture sup­plies and gen­er­a­tions are not com­pro­mised.

In our case, we are con­duct­ing en­vi­ron­ment and land­scape con­ser­va­tion for a 60-mil­lionyear-old karst ter­rain and ecosys­tem, mak­ing sure that we are able to keep it alive for the gen­er­a­tions to come. The geo­tourism ac­tiv­i­ties and en­hance­ments in­side al­low for some de­gree of hu­man in­ter­ac­tion. This is done, how­ever, in a con­trolled way and with the end goal of com­ple­ment­ing the pro­tec­tion ef­forts in­side. Aside from con­ser­va­tion, you also deal with land de­vel­op­ment. Isn’t there a con­flict be­tween the two? I wouldn’t re­ally say so. It’s a tra­di­tional per­spec­tive when you look at it that way. The skillset is the same, es­pe­cially when you’re look­ing at land con­ser­va­tion in pro­tected ar­eas. Peo­ple think if it’s go­ing to be land con­ser­va­tion, you talk to sci­en­tists. Pe­riod. But no, you also have to talk to engi­neers who know how to de­velop the area in a way that’s sus­tain­able and en­vi­ron­ment-friendly. You need ar­chi­tects who can plan out the area in a way that’s mind­ful of the ex­ist­ing nat­u­ral at­tributes of the place. It’s re­ally a lot of fields com­ing to­gether. It just de­pends on what type of de­vel­op­ment you in­tend to put up ul­ti­mately. Will it be a sus­tain­able one or a tra­di­tional one, so to speak?

It’s amaz­ing how this trail was made here.

This is where en­gi­neer­ing comes in. One thing that you can ob­serve in­side is a lot of struc­tures would mimic na­ture. If we’re go­ing to talk about en­gi­neer­ing, noth­ing beats na­ture be­cause it has been tested for mil­lions of years. In Ger­many, they have this en­gi­neer­ing as a class called biomimicry.

Last year, you rep­re­sented Ma­sungi at the Na­tional Geo­graphic Ex­plor­ers Fes­ti­val. How was it?

It was quite in­tim­i­dat­ing [be­cause we were with] top sci­en­tists, but ev­ery­one re­ally has some­thing to con­trib­ute [to con­ser­va­tion]. What is very ap­par­ent there was the amount of em­pa­thy ev­ery­one has not just for hu­mans but for all forms of life.

What do you think are the poli­cies we need to make con­ser­va­tion ef­forts more ef­fec­tive?

We have a lot of laws. Be­fore we even get

to poli­cies, we have many laws. If only these laws were im­ple­mented well, it would make a huge dif­fer­ence al­ready. You don’t need more. If you’re able to re­solve that, a lot will change.

For poli­cies, it’s very im­por­tant that the car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity for sen­si­tive ar­eas is es­tab­lished. The car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity is the num­ber of peo­ple al­lowed to en­ter. Here, we have .85 per­sons per hectare—that’s not even one per­son. That dis­tri­bu­tion varies on the zone, which is why ur­ban plan­ning and en­gi­neer­ing are very im­por­tant to this kind of con­ser­va­tion as well.

What can or­di­nary cit­i­zens do to help with con­ser­va­tion?

It’s good that a lot of peo­ple are aware and are cu­ri­ous, but I feel like peo­ple need to im­merse more in these en­vi­ron­ments that they’re talk­ing about. It’s one thing to read about it on pa­per and re­al­ize it from the­ory and go on the ground to see that so­lu­tions are dif­fer­ent and sim­ple. Moun­taineer­ing these days is as sim­ple as go­ing up a moun­tain, tak­ing a photo of your­self, look­ing at the sea of clouds, and com­ing down. When you ask them if they learned any­thing, they don’t have any­thing to an­swer. Sayang.

Over­all, just the way you con­sume or where you put your money makes a big deal in con­vey­ing to the busi­nesses that this is the kind of eth­i­cal prac­tices you want. It al­ready helps that an or­di­nary per­son could live mind­fully or do what­ever it is that she does mind­fully and sus­tain­ably. That’s a con­tri­bu­tion to con­ser­va­tion al­ready.

We have a long way to go, but we can get there.

“If you don’t con­serve the land where ev­ery­thing is on, you’re not go­ing to be able to con­serve any­thing.”

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