Philippines as “wish list of every diver”

Now that I’m back in Pennsylvania, bundling up against the autumn chill, white sand beaches and sea turtles are a distant memory. The days of shorts, humid weather, and dive boats are replaced with orange-red leaves and crisp blue skies without a cloud in sight. So when PADI scuba certification send me an e-mail, I was jolted back to my summertime diving experiences and had to restrain myself from jumping on and buying a ticket to Manila.

With amazing levels of biodiversity, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, and multiple ship wreck dive spots, it’s hard not to view the Philippines as anything but an underwater paradise. Check it out! Philippines Scuba Diving

My Filipina friend Anna told me she went to Cancun for the Climate Conference and managed to schedule one or two dives in-between meetings and nights exploring Mexico. The dive master asked where everyone was from and when Anna said the Philippines, he shook his head and told her not to be disappointed. Cancun’s underwater life just couldn’t compare to her home country.

I was speaking with a friend at school and the subject of diving came up. “Are you a diver too?” Beth asked. “Oh my god. I love it. My dad’s been diving for years.” The unspoken attachment I feel upon meeting another diver surprises me. It’s a recreational activity like a number of others and yet there is something different. Something more. Because sinking beneath the surface into an underwater world is like opening the doors of the wardrobe and entering Narnia. Everything you knew about physics, magic, and beauty is redefined. And like Narnia, we cannot exist in that world forever. We buckle up, deflate, are weighed down, and breathe deep just to  glimpse the realm of the fish and corals beneath flippers suspended in blue abyss. Time seems to slow and stop completely but the bubbles escaping from our masks serve as reminders that we do not belong in this new and vibrant paradise. Our home floats feet above our heads but for many divers, heaven lies below.

Provisional Results Name PPUR as New 7th Wonder!

A big thank you to everyone who voted for the Puerto Princesa Underground River!

On Friday, the provisional results for the New 7 Wonders of Nature were announced. The seven winners are:

  • The Amazon, South America
  • Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
  • Iguazú Falls, Brazil/Argentina
  • Jeju Island, South Korea
  • Komodo National Park, Indonesia
  • Table Mountain, South Africa and…
  • Puerto Princesa Subterranean River, Philippines!!!!!
This is an incredible achievement for the underground river as well as the Philippines as a nation. Final results will be announced early next year and we can only hope that the Philippines remains one of the seven lucky finalists. Each of these beautiful natural wonders deserve recognition and many countries are setting up travel opportunities in anticipation of increased tourism activity and global attention. Perhaps this honor will also encourage countries who were runners-up to preserve and maintain their natural wonders sustainably, which will benefit future generations for years to come.

To read about the winners and see pictures go to Yahoo! and CNN.

Thank you!


Bottle Ban Blocked in Grand Canyon

A New York Times article online reported the indefinite postponement of a plastic bottle ban in Grand Canyon National Park.. The plan was blocked by the national parks chief after a conversation with Coca-Cola, a major distributor and producer of Dasani water bottles. The plan was overturned last year just a couple of weeks before the implementation date on January 1st. Park service officers were disappointed with the recent decision due to the park’s commitment to sustainable practices and the tremendous success of a similar ban in Zion National Park in 2008.

“Discarded plastic bottles account for about 30 percent of the park’s total waste stream, according to the park service. Mr. Martin said the bottles are “the single biggest source of trash” found inside the canyon.”

“Banning anything is never the right answer,” a spokeswoman at Coca-Cola said. “If you do that, you don’t necessarily address the problem. You’re not allowing people to decide what they want to eat and drink and consume.” 

As travelers, we are constantly on the move. Our belongings must fit into a suitcase under 50 lb with mini shampoo bottles all snug in their Ziplock bag, awaiting inspection. We don’t always remember to pack every necessary item of clothing or quick-dry towel before jumping in the car or on a plane. But how much space does one water bottle take up? How difficult is it for every person in a family to bring his or her personal Nalgene or Sigg on their nature adventure?

A friend of mine carries her water bottle wherever she goes. She and the water bottle, Joe Nalgene, have become so attached that he now has a page on Facebook and frequently posts comments on friends’ pictures. While I don’t necessary recommend that every reusable water bottle assumes an Internet identity, I think each of us must grab remember to grab a bottle before leaving the house.

The Coca-Cola spokeswomen says that banning water bottles doesn’t address the problem. The word problem is defined as a matter or situation regarded as unwelcome or harmful and needing to be dealt with and overcome. An example of a problem is too many water bottles in the national park. The definition of the verb address is to deal with or discuss. An example of this verb in action is removing water bottles before they can be discarded, thus significantly reducing a litter and providing a cleaner healthier park for workers and visitors alike.

I’d say the national park service was doing exactly the opposite of Coca-Cola’s claims by directly addressing the problem of disposable water bottles and decreasing our dependance on bottled water production. Then again, maybe they didn’t see the problem the spokeswoman was talking about. A decrease in Dasini sales…

Implications of 7 Billion People

Some girls grow up their whole lives wanting to be mothers. They carry dolls, babysit for the neighbors, and squeal as soon as a newborn arrives for family gatherings in a decidedly adorable wintertime outfit. While I never put myself in this category the prospect of a family and children in the distant future was definitely appealing. It seems only natural to want children, little bundles of our own genetic makeup who will grow into unique individuals. The essence of ourselves lodged securely in tissue, muscle and identity of another.

And apparently I’m not alone in this sentiment. According to BBC, Huffington Post, and National Geographic, the current world population has reached seven billion peopleCNN has tried to quantify this number in terms that we can wrap our minds around:

  • If you took 7 billion steps along the Earth’s equator — at 2 feet per step — you could walk around the world at least 106 times.
  • Seven billion ants, at an average size of 3 milligrams each, would weigh at least 23 tons (46,297 pounds).
  • Suppose an average thimble holds 2 milliliters of water. Seven billion of those thimbles would fill at least five Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Some scientists report that the UN prediction is premature and the population will not reach the seven billion part until 2012 or 2013. The evidence that this number will be reached however, is fairly absolute.  In the last 21 years the world population have increased by almost two billion people and the number is not expected to decrease any time soon.

Frances Lappé in World Hunger examines the myths associated with global hunger. She argues that overpopulation is not directly correlated with hunger and instead attributes perceived food shortage to prevalence of inequality in resource distribution and land use. Much of the population growth occurs in economically developing countries where large families are investments in labor and productivity as a means to survive.

So what does that mean for my ten or twenty year plan? Will I feel the effects of 7,000,000 people eating, breathing, building, consuming around me? Do I have an obligation to the prosperity of future generations not to have children? 

Arguably, the world population estimates should not determine whether or not I decide to have a child and start a family. But it raises the larger questions dealing with the relationship between individual contribution and the global community. As an America, my ecological footprint is significantly higher than many people in Africa and South East Asia. I wonder how the birth of one child in a developed country compares to a child born in Ethiopia or Bangladesh. The world population statistics are still broken up into population by country, by socioeconomic class, by gender and by race. Our global society will not curtail this exponential population increase until all groups of people are viewed as a collective body of human beings. Seven billion people is still nothing more than a series of ones. One species. One planet. One hope. 

For more facts and information, check out:

BBC World News has a special segment on the upcoming seven billion population deadline. According to the What’s Your Number? survey, I was the 5,289,349,311th person to be born on earth.

Grist posted a Science video titled “7 billion in 7 minutes.” Click here.

BPIP Poster

This past summer I received funding for my Philippines internship through the Bucknell Public Interest Fund or BPIP. The fund provides a stipend of $2,500 for students who secure an unpaid internship with a non-profit organization or government. The program was originally based on similar funds at other universities and provides students with the means to partake in valuable internship opportunities that lack financial compensation.


On October 22, there was a BPIP Breakfast held where all recipients and donors were invited to attend. I saw a number of posters detailing other incredible internship experiences of students who had worked with children diagnosed with cancer, taught English in India, or raised money for a girls school in Africa. Here is my poster!

Thinking back on my last three year at college, Bucknell has provided me with the resources to experience amazing things. I wouldn’t have been able to live in Washington, D.C. and work with the Environmental Law Institute or travel across the Philippines working with environmental initiatives if the BPIP fund did not exist. Last fall, I studied for an entire semester in Denmark and this spring break I will be going to the Dominican Republic with a Bucknell service group called A.C.E.S.  And these accomplishment are not unlike many Bucknell students. So many of my friends have taken advantage of even more opportunities to broaden their horizons and positively change people’s lives.

Yesterday, as I donated to the Senior Gift Drive, I thought about the personal growth I had experience since my time at college. I thought about the clubs I joined, the classes I took and the friends I made. The future is uncertain and my 5-year plan is foggy as a November morning. But I value every part of my “liberal arts education” for shaping the person I am today.

Oh, and you can read my BPIP Spotlight here!