Threat to environment

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No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted[b] beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (I Corinthians 10:13)

I could have marked off the fourth item in our tour itinerary that late May morning five years ago.

To cap my five-day attendance in our Asia-Pacific educators’ conference in Surabaya, the second largest city in Indonesia, I joined a group of participants, who wanted to have a glimpse of the city’s colorful past.

The day-long tour would take us to the war museum, the National Monument, a former Dutch colonial village, and a large Roman Catholic church with an influential ministry in a predominantly Muslim country.

The other stop in our schedule was the tobacco museum.

A non-smoker, I thought there were other places of greater interest to me, like the city’s natural gardens and the port area.

I had no choice, however, as the stops have been pre-arranged.

The air was filled with the strong smell of cigar when we entered the museum, known as the House of Sampoerna.

Obviously, the museum plays an important role in Surabaya history.

The facility reflects Dutch colonial style of architecture dating back to its original construction in 1862.

As I learned later, it is on top of all must-see places lists identified by tour groups.

The museum displayed pre-war artifacts, including a bicycle used to deliver tobacco products to costumers, and photographs of the founders and of the Surabaya business center during those years the cigar industry was started in 1932.

It has also a souvenir shop, where I bought rather expensive scarves as ‘pasalubong’ for folks back home.

The second level where the souvenir shop is located, also serves as a viewing area for the production line at the ground level.

Up there, we saw rows of masked workers processing and packing the products with precision, speed and efficiency.

The dizzying smell of tobacco was too much for me after about 20 minutes in the museum that I had to go out of the building for fresh air while the tour was in progress.

Outside, it dawned on me why the House has become a major stop in the city because it is an economic heritage that has made the Surabaya vibrant and progressive through the years.

While admitting that the business is not that upbeat anymore due to health campaign and also competition, House officials said the venture remain a steady contributor to the wheels of progress in the city.

***

The Sampoerna visit echoed in my mind this week when the global community observes World No Tobacco Day on Tuesday, May 31.

To highlight the need to address the concern on the ill effects on the environment of tobacco the World Health Organization shares the following facts and figures:

– 600 million trees are chopped down annually to make cigarettes

– 84 million tons of CO2 emission are released into the air raising global temperatures

– 22 billion liters of water are used to make cigarettes.

The observance informs the public of the dangers of tobacco use, the business practices, what and who is doing to fight the tobacco epidemic and what people around the world can do to claim their right to health and healthy living and to protect future generations.

Explaining the theme of the event this year, WHO said “the harmful impact of the tobacco industry on the environment is vast and growing adding unnecessary pressure to our planet’s already scarce resources and fragile ecosystems.”

Tobacco, it further said, kills over 8 million people every year and destroys our environment, further harming human health through the cultivation, production, distribution, consumption and post-consumer waste.

Anchored on this year’s theme, activities held this week around the world highlight the need to respect and make the environment free from pollution.

In Boracay, for example, authorities launched a campaign to clear the beach area of cigarettes butts which smokers hide under the white sand as they are supposed not to scatter them indiscriminately.

As the country observes the event, another concern re-emerges: the rate of young smokers has widened. Figures reported last year showed the rate increase to 15 percent, promptings health authorities to think of interventions to curb the statistics among young Filipinos.

***

Two radio segments caught my attention last week served as a relevant prelude to another global celebration this week.

One was an advise-seeking program where a letter sender ranted about her strict parents and how she had acted many times against her parents, even to the point of running away from home because they disapproved her ties with her boyfriend, a dropout.

The other was a news interview with the mother of a teenaged boy who was fatally stabbed in a gang rumble in the city. The mother said she had been advising her son and admonishing him on his activities with his ‘barkada’.

In my youth, the concern was called “generation gap” and it appears that the divide has remained wide through the years if we take the two examples as reflective of relationships in many homes today.

That is why I consider as significant and relevant the June 2 celebration of the Global Day of Parents.

The Global Day of Parents observance this year is focused on the theme, “Appreciate All Parents throughout the World”.

The GDP emphasizes the important role of parents in rearing children. It recognizes “that the family has the primary responsibility for the nurturing and protection of children for the full and harmonious development of their personality.”

The day provides an occasion to appreciate all parents for their selfless commitment to children and for their life-long sacrifice toward nurturing this relationship.

This week is truly a timely opportunity for us to thank God for these selfless, sacrificing and caring people we call “our parents”.

***

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. (Ephesians 6:1) – NWI