Noise @ Nightfall


This post is as much of a heads-up for potential future tenants of this house as it is to unload a cacophony of noises, which through time has almost engraved in my bones and driving me crazy. 666 Crescent (modified) is too old to stay quiet.

Imagine yourself living underground, where the city’s water lines run, as you try to drift off to asleep, water kept splashing against the half empty pipelines. It is like the sound of tides encased in pipes and installed in this old house. Night deepens, but the noise sustains.

Imagine yourself living next to a leaking pipe, where the sound of flowing water dropping down into a pool of water, and kept making a boy’s peeing sound, every time when you think it’s over, he pushes bit more.

Imagine yourself living upstairs of a hardworking blacksmith, whose hours extend late into the early morning hours. Every time a second of drowsy descends, he hammers it away. The noise of metallic clicking sound is so severe, one couldn’t help but to worry the water pipes bursting into splash of water jets any second.

Imagine yourself living at an old train station, where an countless approaching carts or pulling away steam locomotives whistle to signal their arrivals/departures. The whistles are weak in spirit, but loud in volume. The aged heater in this house make such a desperate and worn hissing sound, it is simply suicidal.

Imagine yourself walking up some ancient wooden towers, where every step of ascend sends out such a weary shriek, you almost hesitate to take the next. It is not so much of a fear of falling through broken stairs, but alerting dormant spirits, which often dwell in such old places, or so do the yarns spin.

Worst of all, living in this old and noisy house, you are not living at any single spot mentioned, but at all spots with all the noises jumbled together into the most venomous and eerie voice of darkness and unknown lurking spirits.

Listen, noise @ nightfall.


Control Gun, Now!

Bang. Bang. Bang.

On university campus in Virginia, in a cinema in Aurora, in a high school in Columbine, and now at an elementary school in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, bullets are flying across U.S. states, striking innocent people as they fly, taking young lives, turning holiday into tragedy.

Every single time, the media follows, police storms, and people outcry. However, as soon as the news fade, campus reopened, and vigils held, we tend to resume our lives and the topic disappears all together until another tragedy strikes.

Once again when twenty some people gone cold instead of getting ready to unwrap what Santa Claus has in stock for them under the colorful Christmas Tree, people outcries: it is time to debate gun control. May be they will? Or may be their ears will prefer the holiday season jingle bell to an aged debate—Gun Control.

“It’s about democracy. It’s about people empowerment,” says one of my friends. Her views echo what has been the debate on gun control. You cannot take away people’s basic right to own guns, we hear. It is written in the U.S. constitution, some reason. However, what about the lives lost during these coldblooded carnages? What about the bullets sunk into innocent lives and cut them prematurely short? Others question.

I do not pretend to have the perfect answers for these questions. These questions, nonetheless, are essential for people to bear in mind, continue to debate, and find policy solutions for, not as an emotional reaction to an unforeseen tragedy, but as a proactive and preventive measure to take. Now, more than ever, is time to debate and implement gun control.

Control does not mean or equal to outlaw. Therefore, by controlling the government is not taking away its citizens’ constitutional right to own guns, but to tighten relevant rules and regulations, so that no more innocent lives will be lost as a cost to the delayed implementation.

Control gun, now.

COPs With Procrastinator’s Syndrome

United Nations’ Climate Talk, the Conference of Parties (COP), has recently been diagnosed with chronic Procrastinator’s Syndrome. The illness exacerbates in environment, where there is higher presence of atmospheric GHGs concentration. Its symptoms include willingness to trade current actions with distant visions, fear of any SMART (specific, measureable, accountable, reasonable, and time-bound) plans and commitments, and discordance between one’s believe and behavior. Patients of chronic Procrastinator’s Syndrome often die of a combination of hyperpyrexia, hydrocephalus/hydropenia, and disorders of blood circulation.

COP18 comes and goes, as its predecessors have, leaving little achievement as how to curb the rising global emissions. The COPs have become somewhat of fading echoes of one another. The perpetrator vs. victim debate continues. Environmental protection is once again pitted against economic growth. A grand, but distance, vision yet again replaces current intervention—clear symptom of chronic procrastinator’s syndrome. Industrialized nations once again shy away from any substantial commitment, because according to them warming continues without China and India on board.

In 2012, COP suffered from unprecedented high fever or what is known medically as hyperpyrexia, according to Dr. NOAA and Dr. NCDC (visit Samenow’s article on Warmest period in U.S. records carries on). In July 2012, COP undergone “some of the hottest temperature occurred in the Plains … a full 4 degrees above average,” (Samenow, 2012).

(Source: The Washington Post, 2012)

COP has also shown strong symptoms of hydrocephalus/hydropenia and that is to say suffering from too much or too little water. Yunnan in southwest China, celebrated as the third national water-rich province, suffered from three consecutive years’ drought—2009 to 2011. Cracked lands and withered crops stretched across the province. (For a brief report on Yunnan’s drought, please visit my earlier post on Yunnan Drought Report ). While some suffer from lack of water, others float in flood.

(Source: Global Development, 2012)

Most recently Typhoon Bopha, “the strongest tropical cyclone to ever hit island of Mindanao,” (The Atlantic, 2012) wiped through southern Philippines, and left 650 dead, near 800 missing, and over 400,000 displaced.

(Source: The Atlantic, 2012)
Super Storm Sandy wreaked havoc parts of the U.S. east coast after tearing through the Caribbean. Sandy killed reportedly 125 people in the U.S., and caused about $62 billion in damage and other losses (Las Vegas Sun, 2012).

(Source: Chicago Tribune, 2012)

As the atmospheric concentration of Greenhouse Gases hit record highs in 2011 (i.e., Carbon dioxide at 390.9 parts per million, Methane at 1813 parts per billion, and nitrous oxide at 324.2 parts per billion), COP’s Procrastinator’s Syndrome worsens.

COP18 in Doha hardly made any progress. Connie Hedgaard, European Commissioner for Climate Action, lauded: “In Doha, we have crossed the bridge from the old climate regime to the new system. We are now on our way to the 2015 global deal,” (Europa, 2012).

We seem always “on our way to” a future deal. COP’s future deals are like chasing the end of a rainbow. The distance seems never to be scaled. We assure ourselves it’s there, but we can never really get there.

COP continues to suffer from severe chronic procrastinator’s syndrome. During COP18 in Doha, developed countries pledged to secure $100 billion a year by 2020 to help poor countries cope with climate change, but no plan as what to do before then and how to fulfill the pledge.

Climatic negotiations have shifted from previous prevention-oriented talks to compensations for loss and damage associated with the impacts of climate change. World Bank report suggests that “the world [is] on a trajectory for a global mean warming of well over 3 degree Celsius,” (The Washington Post, 2012).

(Source: The Washington Post, 2012)

Is COP nearing its end? What are the key issues to focus? 1. Ambition: how much emissions to reduce in order to meet the 2-degree target (e.g., to address the gap between pledged emissions reduction & 2-degree-required reduction); 2. Means to materialize the climate ambition (e.g., Finance: Renewal of the Fast Start Finance, Plans for The New Green Climate Fund; Mechanism: Promotion of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Transparency and Accountability for Emissions Accounting, and adoption of effective emissions mitigation measures); 3. Collective Action (e.g., Plans for the Kyoto Protocol Second Commitment Period, Path to the 2015 Agreement and beyond), 4. Equity (e.g., poor countries are supported and not punished for the developed countries’ historical emissions), and 5. Adaptation (e.g., concrete measures to adapt to the new climatic norms).

While a global framework and legally binding agreement is the key to achieve meaningful emissions reduction within a “hopefully” reasonable timetable. However, we are indisputably running out of time. Consequently, it is vital to draw comprehensive long-term plans, but at the same time not lose sight of the valuable immediate actions (i.e., carbon club, sector-specific reduction target, national and regional efforts/strategies, etc.).

Addressing the loss and damage associate with negative impact from global climate change is a must, but it should by no means be a reason for delayed intervention or substitution for immediate action, because lives lost can never be fully compensated. The very attempt to use monetary means to recompense human lives lost is offensive not only to families affected, but also to all the institutions (like hospitals), and social movements (i.e., fighting against global hunger, capital punishment, and death), whose very existences are conceived upon and sustained by the value of human lives.

As the Philippine Climate Change Commissioner, Naderev M. Sano, appealed to his fellow negotiators in Doha, the outcome of COPs is not and should never be about what political masters want. It is about the survival of humanity.

As COPs continue to suffer from Procrastinator’s Syndrome, it is not only COPs’ life on the line, but that of the fishermen lost at sea in the Philippines, the farmers whose livelihoods parched with lingering drought in southwest China, residents whose homes lost to the wrath of increasing wildfires in the U.S., and Islanders whose worlds disappearing due to the rising sea level.

It is time to cure COP’s Procrastinator’s Syndrome, and curb global emissions now.

12/10/12 Tupgon T.

What Type of Climatic Legacy to Leave Behind

Talks in Doha continue, without making any concrete progress. Folks hit the streets—streets that are only too familiar with demonstration to notice a peaceful walk. As nations defend their emissions records, rights to pollute, and excuses for inaction, fortnight of get-together almost comes to an end.

We are unfortunately too accustomed to UN’s climatic conventions. Delegates circumambulate old debates (developed vs. developing; emissions reduction vs. economic growth, etc.) more than Buddhists do of their stupas. While the latter seek accumulation of merits, the former forgo further atmospheric thickening of GHGs. While the latter seek path to heaven, the former headed to climatic hell.

An evermore frequent climatic extremes in the past year or two have taught many deniers that human induced climate change is no longer a distant theoretic debate, but a living reality. However, as we wait for more people, regions, and nations to come aboard, we are literally running out of time.

An increasing body of scientific reports warns that the world is unlikely to meet the 2-degree target even if all current pledges were fully delivered. To top thing off, many of the natural feedbacks, namely emissions from thawing permafrost, haven’t become a part of the climatic conversation until recent months.

As the Kyoto protocol is about to expire, and the promise by rich nations to mobilize $100 billion a year by 2020 to help more vulnerable states is nowhere near to fulfill, not even a comprehensive plan in place.

Climatic Skeptics

Climatic skeptics repeat the same old question. “What if it’s a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?” They suspect. I wish it were a giant hoax. I wish the climate skeptics were right. I wish the melting arctic, the expanding tropics, and the acidifying oceans have nothing to do with our emissions. I wish a planet increasingly raked by winds, strafed by storms, and scorched by heat has nothing to do with the thickening of atmospheric concentration of heat-trapping gases. I wish the floods in Pakistan, the wildfires in the U.S. West, and the lingering drought in Yunnan Province in China does not share the same root cause. I wish NASA scientist James Hansen’s testimony before Congress in June 1988 meant nothing. I wish the scientists’ discovery of steady rise in atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide in Mauna Loa in 1950s had nothing to do with our unbridled economic growth and resource exploitation. I wish the world’s leading scientists at U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and their reports were all wrong. But then again, what if science trumps ideology? What if emissions do derail the earth’s energy balance? What if we are exhausting many of the earth’s resources and ecological carrying capacity? What if our kids, grandkids, and the many more generations yet to come will not be able to enjoy the oasis generation come before them have? What if we can no longer afford to linger but to act?

Holistic and Systemic Evaluation

It’s time for us all to be real, and stop the nonsensical bickering about who should act, because we all have to.

When a nation is applauded for its greenness, let’s not be shy to shed a light on the sources of its food, the factories where its good are manufactured. If Brazilian produces feed them, and made-in-China supports them, then are they really that green? It is their appetites for goods that have caused international pollution leakage, and driven the pollution bars up on the developing countries charts. The Guardian’s Duncan Clark reports change in CO2 emissions from 1990 to 2011, and to no one’s surprise China’s pollution outgrows everyone else’s and India is right behind China. Countries like Russia and EU 15  (-0.305 GT) showed some gains.

Russia’s emissions plummeted largely because of the breakups of the Soviet Union and collapse of its heavy industries. However, recent study found that E.U. emissions have actually gone up by 7 percent rather than the reported gain of 0.305 GT. So, who is right and who is wrong? It’s where trade comes in. In an evermore interdependent and interconnected global web, we can no longer view a nation and/or a region’s emissions solely according to its geographic boundaries. We have to examine and evaluate emissions from a more holistic, systemic, and life-cycle point of view. We have to evaluate the amount of emissions and resource consumption that are embedded in commodities that are exported or imported.

With a more holistic and inclusive global emissions reduction formula, nations may find it easier to move on from the current developed vs. developing debate, and take initiatives. To certain extent, China emits because the world demands made-in-China produces, which consumes energy and emits GHGs. Developed nations find it hard to make legally binding commitments without marching along the developing nations, because they are not fully realizing that their factories and pollutions are often exported into the very nations they blame as cheap polluters.

I find the developing countries’ argument about “you polluted and become developed, and now it’s our term,” is naively silly at best. After all whether the atmosphere holds an equal amount of emissions from every nation or not, the new climatic norms—I am talking about lingering drought, flash floods, stronger storms, encroaching desertification, rising sea level, and much more—will hit us all. It is the impoverished populations of developing countries, who will find themselves hopeless and helpless, if we don’t join hands and act now.

Long-term vision vs. Short-term goals

We need a long-term framework, call it policy vision, if you will, with enough purpose and strategy to it, so that it doesn’t rely on short-term government changes or social fluctuation.

We need short-term goals that will collectively materialize the long-term climatic vision. We need to act rather than waiting for someone else to act. When nations deliver their emissions reduction pledges earlier than agreed, it is time to thank them for their excellent work rather than choking them harder with higher targets.

It is time to collectively hold a firm ground for the protection of ecosystems, upon whose services our livelihoods depend. It is time to safeguard and conserve our shared natural heritage for the many more generations yet to come.

Dec. 4th, 2012

Tupgon T.



As I wait for final decisions on my doctoral candidacy and employment applications, I have been spending my days to read and write. Both my academic trainings and work experiences have exposed me to a wide range of environmental topics, however, none of which has penetrated to a depth where I can proudly label myself as an expert.

While a label in and of itself does not really make too much of a difference, and may even fall subject to mockery as being superficial. Action speaks louder than word, or does it? Let’s be real. Today’s society operates, unfortunately, more on connection and cash than meritocracy. Leaders give birth to “leaders,” university educators educate a lineage of “academicians,” and even the religious leaders’ recognize their kids as reincarnations of some sort. Consequently, a label is more often than not more important, at least for one’s entrance ticket, than actual knowledge.

The commodification of labels is no longer rare, and the inflation of one’s record is only a part of the social trend. Everyone, in today’s society, is an innovator. In 2010, the word innovative is one of the most overused buzzwords, only surpassed by “extensive experience.” In other words, the unreasoned emphasis on and measures against these labels as means to categorize people into different ability quadrants have led to label trade and piracy. However, neither trade, nor piracy carries much substance. On the contrary, such social yardstick, socially accepted, but morally corrosive, will only serve as a catalyst to further erode what is already a shaky social structure.

A, or a bunch of, label[s] has become the entrance ticket[s] to opportunities ranking right behind cash and connection. However, as more and more people buy rather than gain higher labels, the pursuance of these labels has become costlier and often results in no long-term paybacks guaranteed any more than the ones purchased.

A label can only say so much about a person that it is time to evaluate individuals against their deliverable capabilities and lived experiences rather than labels they purchase or pirate.

30/11/12 Tupgon T.