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Our children are smoking
By Elson T. Elizaga, July 10, 2020. Also in Mindanao Gold Star Daily.

Literally, our children are smoking. Every day. Every hour. Not smoking cigarettes but something worse: garbage. 

I have written about this subject in previous articles, but I will bore myself to death. Inside and around our green plaza, behind two competent schools for children, in front of a lowly house that manufactures coconut juice, at the basketball and tennis courts, behind the blessed chapel, and in front of a water-refill station are mounds of garbage regularly set on fire.

And so we smoke garbage every day. This is ironic because nobody smokes cigarettes nowadays. OK, perhaps only a suicidal few. I have never seen anyone in our subdivision smoke cigarette or tobacco. This practice used to be a macho thing, but macho gwapitos avoid smoking now because they don’t want their lungs to look like dinuguan.

But we smoke garbage, any kind of garbage, including plastic and used diapers. Why? Because we are smart. We have yet to see stark evidence. In the age of fake news, nobody wants to listen to non-experts like politicians, or writers like me. We can cite scientific findings, but without a good slide presentation or photographic pamphlet certified by a medical organization, or pictures of cadavers and doctors walking around like astronauts on an alien, hostile planet, everyone remains reasonably skeptical. 

This explains why the coronavirus disease is an effective advertisement. The numbers of infected people and the dead, which include doctors and nurses, are sufficient cause for panic.

Most people I’ve talked about this subject in our place, though, have been sensible. Some are much more informed than I am, like the lady whose husband works at Nestle. They understand that burning garbage is illegal and dangerous. 

Another clue that our neighbors are reasonable was when I found a garbage mound with plastic bottles burning in the adjacent block. I placed a sheet of paper nearby that partly said, “IMPORTANT: Garbage burning can cause cancer, birth defects, and brain damage.” I put a rock over it to make sure the document would not be blown away. Then my wife Clara and our eldest son poured water on the fire.

We are immensely thankful that the burning stopped right there and was not repeated, despite the dead link that was included in the message.

Clara is a licensed environmental planner. Between her and me, she is the better person to consult about these things. Her mother is also a chemical engineer.

To repeat, people in our subdivision are mostly decent and informed. But it is the very few that cause the damage. It takes only one rotten banana to contaminate an entire community. I called the attention of a man who admitted he was responsible for the conflagration in an area near St. James-Legacy of Learning Academy and the residence of a DENR employee. The smoke from the fire was flowing towards the school. A plastic bottle and a partly burned PVC pipe were lying asleep on the pile. There could be more non-biodegradable things there but they were already transformed and airborne.

I told him what I know, but he was extremely defensive. It took me about a minute to realize I was talking to an idiot. I left at once because a third man was watching. End 

This is about one-third of a bonfire 180 feet southwest of St. James-Legacy of Learning Academy in Barra, Opol. Photographed by Elson T. Elizaga on March 12, 2020.
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