Monday, December 17, 2007

Josef's Speech on the Illegal Hunting of Wildlife (Birds) in the Philippines

Hooray for Josef! Josef's petition on stopping hunters from killing wild birds has been successful in bringing attention to this illegal activity that seems to be happening in many of the provinces around the archipelago. Hunting is second to habitat loss as the cause of species extinctions around the world. A few days ago he gave a speech at the Dutch embassy that I found to be eloquent, passionate and very well informed. I wasn't there of course, since I'm here in SF, but he sent me a copy of his speech which I want to share with all of you.

Before I get to the hunting issue I would like to share a little something about myself. My name is Josef M. Sagemuller, my father is German and my mom is from Negros. I am no expert on birds or wildlife nor am I a conservationist or activist I am simply a fat guy who spends too much time on the internet. My educational background has nothing to do with birds, I am a jewelry designer and gemologist by trade and just stumbled into this issue gradually. However I must say I have always loved birds and as a teenager had an aviary of birds of prey in our home...a huge boo boo as the cage was overstocked with different species some quite incompatible. But I have learned since then and have realized one thing. Birds do not belong in cages.
We have a “farm” in the mountains near the Kanlaon National Park at the foothills of Mt Kanlaon at an elevation of 375m. It has been with my family for well over 100years and actually used to be a carabao pasture with a 4ha remnant of virgin forest. For some time we tried to plant it to sugar cane but the terrain proved challenging. In the early 70s my parents decided to plant trees instead. They started off with Mahogany, Gmelina and Narra as well as fruit trees and coffee. Since then just maintaining the farm has been very frustrating. In the mid 80s illegal logging and slash an burn farming was very rampant in the area. And we were one of their victims and occasionally still are. At one point the slashed and burnt 20,000 ten year old Narra trees in a matter of less than a week. Because of the insurgency problem at that time there was little we could do. Thank god times have changed but unfortunately many people’s mindset hasnt. Since 1997 we were forced to employ armed guards to secure the area because of illegal logging and hunting. We have been catching loggers, hunters and thieves before reporting them to the police and DENR but trying to get some action out of them has been futile.The amount of reports of illegal logging, trapping of birds, hunting of birds, confiscation of airguns (which by the way need licenses just like any firearm) must be nearing 100 already. We have filed cases left and right some we even won but inaction has always been the common denominator among the local government. Recently a 100foot high Bita tree, a Philippine endemic tree in the farm was scorched by honey collectors who dipped a whole palm frond in kerosense and lit it up to smoke the bees out thereby burning half the tree and all the ephiphytes growing on it. It was in the middle of dry season and I thank God that the fire didnt spread as the forest was so dry it would have gone up like a tinderbox. We used to have a colony of macaques in the property but the hunters made a quick meal of them as well. Inspite of these and many appalling stories that have been going on thru the years we have been blessed as well.The guards have been quite effective to a certain degree because the birdlife has resurged. Pavel Hospodarsky(conservationist volunteer who used to work at prague zoo and now in resident of negros) with his biologist wife Marisol prepared a list of the bird species sighted in the farm and to date we have over 80 different species confirmed sighted,quite a feat if you think that just under 40 years ago the farm was a bald hill with a tiny patch of virgin growth forest. I am very proud of my parents for having the foresight in planting these trees and not cutting them down. A man from DENR once told me this is the only place in Negros where the fallen branches and logs just lie around in the forest to decay helping in the cycle of life. This does not even happen in Kanlaon National Park which to my knowledge has had most of it old growth trees cut and made into charcoal to supply the barbecue chicken industry in Bacolod City.This is just the tip of the iceberg considering these stories only cover a minute area of Negros Occ . I am sure this and more is going on in all areas of the Philippines. It really is alarming to think of what we have lost forever and stand to lose in this country. A lady from Spain who signed my petition said and I quote: “Extreme poverty in the Philippines brings on most of its difficulties today. If a starving person sees an endangered species, he´ll just see it as FOOD” this may be true insome cases but most certainly not in this case. These men use sophisticated weaponry, airguns that appear to be custom made and some appearing to accommodate shotgun bullets that house hundreds of pellet which when shot can take outdozen s of birds at a time.Even their internet access is proof that they are not starving. These men are organized and they have means to pursue their “sport”. One of the hunters even identified himself in the hunting forum as a councilor and vice chairman for the Commitee of Environment in Coron, Palawan. Doesnt sound like poverty to me. As a matter of fact in the forum the hunters did use the poverty angle and the rift between the classes a lot saying they were the ones close to the poor people because they were the ones who understood their problems saying the doves and mallards were eating their grains. And that they were thankful to have the hunters over and get rid of their problem. ...this reminds me of the great sparrow campaign one of the first actions taken during Mao Zedongs great leap forward from 1958-1962. Sparrows were included on the list because they ate grain seeds, causing disruption to agriculture. It was decided that all the peasants in China should bang pots and pans and run around to make the sparrows fly away in fear. Sparrow nests were torn down, eggs were broken, their nestling were also killed.
Initially, the campaign did improve the harvest. By April 1960 the National Academy of Science issued that sparrows ate insects more than seeds. Mao declared "forget it”, and ordered the end of the campaign against sparrows By this time, however, it was too late. With no sparrows to eat them, locust populations ballooned, swarming the country and compounding the problems already caused by the Great Leap Forward and adverse weather conditions leading to the famine. From 1959 to 1961, an estimated 38 million people died of starvation.
In a changing global climate we need all the allies we can get. And birds are an important ally .
These hunters are obviously grasping at straws with their rationale, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt since they call themselves nature lovers then again the moon could be made of blue cheese. They say that by experiencing the rawness of nature, listening to the raindrops in the rainforest and the morning dew settle on the leaves and all of that romanticized hogwash they have a right to take what GOD has given them. There is nothing romantic about people in camouflage uniform tracking down defenceless and harmless birds a fraction of their size. I find it blasphemous to even mention the name of GOD to justify the callous destruction of his creation. ALL that in the name of sport. The name of GOD is always very convenient to use if you’ve run out of excuses.
One guy in the forum suggested they should hunt us “birdies” as they so lovingly call us.
Another claimed to know me...and used as his surname my mother’s maiden name. Suppose I can expect more impertinent comments in the future. My fear is that they will get back at me by sabotaging the farm and the animals since it is quite well known in the area, especially for hunters. I must admit to you that this is my greatest fear.
It is funny because the law is decidedly on the side of wildlife yet we still need to put up with these buffoons who act is if GOD and the law are on their side. We must make sure we unite and pursue this as the hunters are banking on the Filipino “ningas cogon” trait or in English boundless enthusiasm in the beginning that quickly fizzles out. I am with issue for the long haul and I’m sure you are as well. We must unite and find a way to make sure that the LAW is implemented and ENFORCED by the corresponding agencies. If we could only see to the implementation of half the provisions of RA 9147 we would already be at a decided advantage. Seeing that I don’t really have many answers and just complain a lot I really need your help and advice on how to proceed, only know that I am dedicated to this cause.
I could go on and on talking about things that are wrong and depressing but in the spirit of this season of hope together we can perhaps find solutions. The most important thing would be education especially of the younger generation. We need to find a way to reach the more remote barangays not just the schools in the big cities to inform them of the importance of preserving our flora and fauna and let them realize the benefit of protecting their ever shrinking habitats.
Although the work is not done and there are quite a few troublemakers, the barangay surrounding our farm area has become more aware of this issue simply because they directly benefit from it most especially from the abundant water that comes from our farm. People in the drier parts of Negros are lucky if they can harvest 2 palay crops a year, in our area they have 3 harvests in the same timeframe.
Eventually they will also benefit from my family’s plans to convert the area into an ecotourism destination, so that we may set an example in educating everyone about the benefits conservation of wildlife and their habitats. I am currently applying for permits to put up a rescue centre in the farm as I plan to release the birds once they have been rehabilitated and a plan for a Negros spotted deer enclosure is in the works.
This past week has been encouraging and annoying. But more encouraging as a whole, I have come across some amazingly dedicated people who share the shame vision. I am so honoured to be with you all today. I would also like to specially thank Mr. Mike Lu for sticking his neck out for me since day one. He has been a great source of support and encouragement. So much for a short speech. Thank you for bearing with me.
~ Josef M. Sagemuller

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Help Stop the Hunting of Endemic Birds

It is incredible what some people do for enjoyment. A hunting group in the Philippines was discovered to be wantonly shooting endemic and some endangered birds for sport. Josef, one of my blog guests, happened to come across their website by accident. His outrage and sorrow spurred him to action. An online petition he created explains and shows the atrocities occurring under our very noses. It really is very sad and disturbing. We need more signatures to reach the 10,000 mark. Please sign!

Bali Climate Change Talks End

There was quite a lot of drama, and it seems the talks ended on a good note with the US agreeing to 2-years of negotiations on decreasing greenhouse gas emissions together with the rest of the world. It wasn't Al Gore, whose criticism of his country's behavior garnered a round of applause, nor was it the scathing remarks of green NGO's, nor was it the threat of political suicide at home, that at the very last minute changed the mind of the US delegate and join the rest of the world in legally binding negotiations to avert further climate change. It was the very stern reprimand of Papua New Guinea that changed the tides. I quote the Papua New Guinea representative, "If you are not willing to lead, leave it to the rest of. Please get out of the way."

Although, I am skeptical about how thing will proceed in the next two years, I am hopeful because IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri is satisfied with the outcome of the talks. The IPCC, together with Al Gore, have jointly been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work on the film An Inconvenient Truth.

Watch the last days of Bali on video.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Press Conference on UN Climate Change Meeting

The consensus at the Bali UN Climate Change Meeting is that there is one country whose seems to have come to the meeting with a sinister attitude of destroying the talks that all other countries have come to with an attitude of goodwill. That country is the USA. The US is the top emitter of greenhouse gases, yet is unwilling to cooperate with other countries in placing caps that will significantly lower emissions. The Bush administration even had the absurd idea that countries should meet with them at a meeting in the Whitehouse and take talks on climate change from there. The United Nations is the only place that countries can meet and make decisions that are legally binding. Not only is the administration isolated from the talks but from their own country as well. Back in the US historic legislation and laws on reducing CO2 emissions have just been passed into law by individual states and the senate.

Watch the press conference with representatives of NGO's that are involved on OneClimate Virtual Bali.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Wildlife Photographs

These images of wildlife by National Geographic are beautiful. My favorite is the one of the penguins surfing the arctic waves.

Download for desktop is available on their website.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Point Reyes National Park

Like a girlscout on an adventure, I went with my Biogeography class on a field trip to Point Reyes. Kurt, our enthusiastic and very knowledgeable professor, showed us the different biomes and types of disturbances that exist in this relatively small area. Biomes usually describe the different plant communities on a global level, but PR happens to have several biomes going on around the area. This is usually the case when mountains are present. We have the Forest, Shrubland, Grassland and the coastline.
Correction from my Professor:

Cool to see that on-line! I especially like the composition of that one marsh shot.
One note, however (since it is on-line for all to see...I can't help suggesting a clarification): the entire field trip was in one biome--the Mediterranean Biome--but we were in different biotic communities (oak savannah, redwood forest, pine forest, coastal sage and scrub).

I need to pay more attention!

Fire is a disturbance that occurs in this area. Although most people think of fire as an environmental hazard, it actually allows the forest to regenerate. Some plants, like Pine trees, need fire to release the seeds from its cones.

The most amazing thing I've seen on my field trip to Point Reyes is the separation of a creek by a man-made walking path and the resulting creation of a new and distinct biota. These two pictures are of the same creek, I took the pictures of both sides while standing on the walking path. One side has dry grasses and shrub growing around the water's edge, while the otherside seemed lush with tall grasses, green groundcover and fauna such as deer and birds.

A sad phenomenon is happening in this grassland, and that's the proliferation of an invasive specie from Africa. I forget what it's called but it's the pretty red and green plant in the middle picture. Invasive species are a sad occurrence because they dominate the landscape destroying the original vegetation and consequently the animal life as well.

We ended the trip at the beach where it was warm and windless. It almost felt like I was in a tropical beach. I would have stayed to veg-out and enjoy the sun if I didn't have a wedding to attend that night.

IPCC & World Governments Will Meet On Climate Change Issues

The UN climate panel will meet with 130 governments in Valencia, Spain next week. The panel will seek tougher measures from countries, especially the US and China, in curbing climate change. There is no doubt as to the cause of climate change and to the solutions that need to be applied. According to the scientists, climate change can still be averted with tougher measures.
"There is no reason to question the science any longer," said Achim Steiner, head of the U.N. Environment Programme, who said states should act "in the collective interest of humanity."
The fear of environmentalists is that pressure from some governments might water down the conclusion of the IPCC 20-page summary for policy makers in order to stall action.

full story: UN Climate Panel to Meet, Add Pressure for Action

Monday, October 15, 2007

Al Gore & the IPCC Win the Nobel Peace Prize

The Nobel Peace Prize for 2007 went to Al Gore and the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Gore in a statement said he was " deeply honored ... We face a true planetary emergency. The climate crisis is not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity."

"It is the most dangerous challenge we've ever faced, but it is also the greatest opportunity we have had to make changes," he later said at a brief news conference in Palo Alto, Calif.

~ MSNBC, Oct. 12, 2007

This really gives me hope for the future of our environment. I was beginning to see this fight for environmental causes as an exercise in futility.

Thanks Al.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Apple Day: Huguenot Tort

apple day - September 28, 2007

Now-a-days I make meals that do not require to much preparation and is fairly quick to make, but is still quite delicious. Yes, I joined the American rat race when I moved back to San Francisco a month ago. Busy busy busy. This recipe for Huguenot Tort, made with Granny Smith apples and pecans, was shown on the Martha Stewart show and I've been wanting to make it since. I love the combination of the tart green apples with the nuts and sweet meringue-like tort. The whole thing takes a few minutes to mix up using one bowl. It's a perfect dessert to end a luncheon.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Gorbachev - Fashion Model

Did I hear right? The big news in the fashion industry is that Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the Soviet Union, will be modeling for Louis Vuitton’s new luggage line. If that’s not enough to make you do a double take, he will be donating all proceeds from his modeling gig to Conservation International, whose spokesperson is none other than Al Gore. Talk about crossing political, ideological and stereotypical barriers, this really takes the cake. Go Gorby!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Hello SF!

I am all settled in beautiful San Francisco and truly enjoying this wonderful city. My arrival on the other hand wasn’t so pleasant… I arrived on Aug. 14 at eight in the evening and got home at 10 pm because I was sent to the Homeland Security room. Why why why??? What took up most of my time there was the waiting, and then I was asked some incredibly inane questions that took all of three minutes. I have absolutely no idea why they called me in and I had no intention of prolonging my stay at the airport by demanding to know the reasons why I was directed to them. I’ve been coming to SF for the past twenty years and staying in the same apartment. Whatever reasons they may have, it’s insane. And to top it all, when I got home to the apartment my keys didn’t work because, apparently, the locks were changed a year ago and no one bothered to tell me. Luckily my neighbors, the Ziegler’s, were awake and let me in. Still none of that could bring me down. I was glad to be in SF and that was the last of my bad luck.

The next day I cleaned up the apartment and shopped for my necessities. The first place I went to was Whole Foods and I bought some of the things I love about SF – unpasteurized raw milk, artisan bread, miso mayo, soup in a carton (wasn’t to good, but very convenient), salmon smoked in ginger and tea, sliced turkey with bits of chipotle pepper, parma ham, some very fresh veggies and Odwalla juices. I think I have enough food for two weeks.

The weather is perfect and everything is working out smoothly. It took me some time to decide what laptop to get and to order internet access. I finally decided on a MacBook, I love it! My PC in Manila was giving me to much trouble, which is one of the reasons I hardly updated my blogs. Well, that all changes now…

As for my garden/farm, I left it as is and told the remaining farmers they could plant their own produce and sell it on their own. In return they are caretakers of my property. Before I left, Mario planted corn and I got a batch of delicious sweet corn in time for my Bon Voyage party. I had to leave my pets, who will be well taken care of, at my apartment with my helper. I miss them terribly. Thank god my cousin will be moving in with her fiancé in a couple of months. Hopefully they have a happy home life once again. My Mom and sister Marta took me to the airport, lots of hugs all around.

Open-faced Smoked Salmon Sandwich

a slice of Italian rustic bread
miso mayonnaise or plain mayo
mixed clover & radish sprouts
smoked wild salmon

Spread mayo on lightly toasted bread. Top with sprouts and smoked salmon. Delish.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Recipe: Zucchini, Caper & Anchovy Salad

I found this recipe in an old cookbook given to me as a birthday gift by my youngest cousin a few years back. This salad is easy to make, refreshing and absolutely delicious! It's also a bit unusual for me because it uses raw zucchini which I've never had before.

Zucchini, Caper & Anchovy Salad
from Classic Italian Cuisine edited by Rosemary Moon

450 - 500 grams zucchini
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon capers
4-6 anchovies, chopped
1 tablespoon anchovy oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons tarragon vinegar
juice of half a lemon
salt & pepper

Trim the zucchini and slice them very thinly (by hand or machine). Mix with the onion, capers and chopped anchovies. Make the dressing by mixing the oils, vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Toss the dressing with the salad ingredients.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Salad Days

Who said dieting had to be a dreary undertaking? I need to lose 1o pounds to get back to my normal weight and I was well on my way to losing the weight I put on a couple of years ago, but visiting J in Bacolod last week for a week of pure gluttony was no help at all. The food in Bacolod is irresistible and hanging out with another foodie spelled disaster for my figure. So I'm back in the city, exercising and dieting. My diet consists of lots of fruits and vegetables from the organic market (using organic produce makes a huge difference in terms of flavor and when your dieting flavor counts a lot!) and absolutely no starch. In the mornings I have a bowl of pineapple and cottage cheese or granola with low-fat milk. For lunch I have a big salad and in the evenings, it varies, sometimes I have an omelet or fish or some more salad or cereal. The two salads I've made so far are really good and I'm not missing anything by being on this diet. This could be a habit...

Tuna & Green Bean Salad

1 can tuna in brine, drained
1 can anchovies, chopped, reserve oil
a handful of green beans
salad greens mix
a good extra-virgin olive oil
a good balsamic vinegar

Steam the green beans for 3 minutes. Cut into 1 inch pieces.

Toss the salad greens with some olive oil. Then toss everything else together with the greens.

Eggplant & Sardine Salad

3 Japanese eggplants (the long kind)
3 sardines in oil, chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
extra-virgin olive oil
a good balsamic vinegar
seafood seasoning

Grill the eggplants until charred, peel and chop to 1-inch pieces. Toss everything in a bowl.


Friday, February 02, 2007

Victims and Survivors

I'm glad to announce that my garden is recovering from last month's erratic weather. The unexpected rains and uncommon heat were too much for my tomato seedlings and cauliflower, but my greens, surprisingly, survived. The past two weeks I harvested mustard greens, bok choy and romaine lettuce. I've actually been having a steady supply of salad greens since I decided to leave them in the propagation house/greenhouse to grow. This month's harvest of lettuce had a normal appearance, unlike last month's and the months before when the lettuce seedlings core grew into a stem which gave the plants an alien appearance. It was still delicious though and didn't stop me from making my salads.

Growing one's own vegetables certainly gives one a first hand look at Climate Change. I was certainly brutally aware of the unusual weather's effects. November thru February are usually the cool-dry months of the year. So it was quite disturbing when the heat reached 90 degrees F and at the same time storms were still brewing way past their season. On the BBC's environmental report today, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has concluded, with 90% accuracy, that Climate Change is caused by humans. Despite scientists persistent declarations of the reality of Climate Change it seems that the US government is consistently politicizing scientific reports on the matter (The US is the largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions in the world and is the only first world country that hasn't agreed to the Kyoto Protocol), according to The Union of Concerned Scientists. Because of this, the world is having a hard time controlling or reversing Climate Change. The greatest fear is that sea levels are rising which is causing havoc to climates all over the world. It is quite scary. Especially when it is causing damage to our food supply.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

EU's New Climate Change Target

On the news today is the EU’s new proposal for targets on Climate Change emission standards. It seems like they are proposing a 20% decrease on greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2020. Although this has just been proposed and not yet approved by the member countries they seem to be patting themselves on the back and proudly stating that this is “the most ambitious policy ever”.
"If this was adopted it would be by far the most ambitious policy ever -- not only in Europe but the world -- against climate change," European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told a news conference.
Whether these policies ever get implemented is anybody’s guess. Sadly, even if these policies come to fruition, the targets are not nearly enough to make significant progress in the fight against Climate Change.
"Scientific findings show that it simply won't be enough for the EU to only reduce CO2 emissions by 20 percent by 2020 if we want to avoid catastrophic climate change," said Jan Kowalzig, climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe.
When will policy makers actually listen to the scientists? It would take cooperation between all countries of the world and drastic measures to affect Climate Change. Considering the catastrophic impact of neglecting what scientists have been saying for decades about Climate Change it is mind-boggling that governments are not more inclined to make the environment the top of their agenda.

Climate Change websites:
Union of Concerned Scientists
An Inconvenient Truth
Fight Global Warming

Monday, January 01, 2007