If the Dutch can, so can we

The Philippine Star - - OPINION -

I write this by the fa­mous canals of Am­s­ter­dam, soak­ing in the warmth of au­tumn in a pleas­ant 13 de­grees Cel­sius. Calm­ness per­vade through the am­bi­ence, mak­ing well­ness rule the day. Like they say, God cre­ated the Dutch but the Dutch cre­ated the Nether­lands.

From a town that was barely even hab­it­able in the early 12th cen­tury, Am­s­ter­dam has since grown into a pop­u­la­tion of 821,752. With its ex­pand­ing area and leisurely lifestyle, tourists flock over to the city of van Gogh and Rem­brandt. And yet de­spite that, the lo­cals still man­aged to main­tain the en­vi­ron­ment im­mac­u­lately, wor­thy of praises and def­i­nitely of em­u­la­tion.

We took a canal ride and toured the city by boat, a manda­tory tourist ex­pe­ri­ence. The three main canals, Heren­gracht, Prin­sen­gracht and Keiz­ers­gracht are where the no­bil­ity, roy­als, mer­chants and traders lived and are his­tor­i­cal world her­itage sites to­day. We

passed by the fa­mous Anne Frank house, the house where the Jewish teenage girl hid dur­ing World War II along with her di­ary that moved the world.

Look­ing around as the boat drifts around the city, I can eas­ily see why this place is loved by mil­lions of tourists. And as the boat nav­i­gates deeper into the city, my eyes feast on the pris­tine beauty that oth­er­wise would not be there, were it not for the ef­forts of the Dutch to pre­serve the en­vi­ron­ment.

They didn’t rest in com­pla­cency, but rather, they moved in con­stant vig­i­lance. They are in­creas­ing the height of their levies to pro­tect their city from the neg­a­tive strides of progress. They pride them­selves in us­ing re­new­able en­ergy sources like biomass, wind power and so­lar power. Fur­ther­more, they pro­mote walk­ing and use eco-friendly modes of trans­porta­tion like bikes, trams, trains, and boats.

Look­ing around Am­s­ter­dam, I can­not help but think of Manila. Our Pasig River is dead and many of our canals and lakes, such as the La­guna Lake and the grand Bay of Manila, are end­lessly pol­luted. Why can’t we clean them up like the canals of Am­s­ter­dam? Or like the Thames in Lon­don, the Charles in Bos­ton or the Seine in Paris? Why have our lead­ers al­lowed our rivers, the life of our cities, to be ru­ined?

In the past, our fore­fa­thers would bathe and wash in the Pasig River. Our es­teros were clean back then, and even uti­lized for nav­i­ga­tion. I truly think that max­i­miz­ing our wa­ter­ways for nav­i­ga­tion, like the Dutch do, can ease the deadly traf­fic of EDSA.

But what have we done to our rivers in­stead? If only we took care of our wa­ter­ways and served them, the way they have served us.

We are al­ready at a point of a cli­mate cri­sis. We have been given a dead­line of only un­til 2030 be­fore the harm we have caused the en­vi­ron­ment is ir­re­versible. This means that we are past the point of pro­cras­ti­nat­ing our re­spon­si­bil­ity to the en­vi­ron­ment. It is time we put a pre­mium on the wel­fare of our en­vi­ron­ment and the fight versus Cli­mate Change, for en­vi­ron­men­tal cri­sis is a na­tional — even global, is­sue. With this, I call on our lead­ers to pri­or­i­tize the en­vi­ron­ment high above on their list. Af­ter all, if the Dutch can, so can we. – AN­TO­NIO M.

CLAPAROLS, pres­i­dent, Eco­log­i­cal So­ci­ety of the Philip­pines

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