Thursday, October 15, 2009

Where the River Meets the Sea

Once there was a river that gently flowed past the rich plains bordering a tiny fishing village called Hagonoy, before it drained into the sea. It was once the habitat for mangroves and rich marine life. Birds and fowls of various kind made their home there.

As a kid, I fondly recall watching other children enjoy its cool, blue-green waters. It was a veritable summer pool for the young boys, the sturdy mangroves served as their diving boards. On its once verdant banks, I was given to contemplation. There I penned my first poetry, and drew nearer to what I conceive God to be. To this day, I have recurring dreams of childhood days often spent in this special spot. And yes, in its honor, my writer’s pseudonym, and this blog’s name is “Restless River.”

Hagonoy River is a unique body of water, I was to find that out much later -- a freshwater stream that mixes with the seawater as the river conveys freely into the sea. It's brackish water -- more saline than freshwater, but not as salty as the sea. This water condition occurs in the most extensive brackish water habitats worldwide, on that wonderful spot where the river meets the sea.

My grandfather was a fisherman. I remember that each time he launched into the river, he came back with his small fishing boat filled with live fishes and shrimps of all kinds. What has happened to change things so? Today, small fisher folks no longer draw anything much from this river. They have to cast their nets farther for a meager catch, if any. They now compete with bigger vessels of commercial fishers who are able to launch deeper into the ocean.

In this river that used to teem with life, it is now not uncommon to find the floating carcasses of animals. Plastics, garbage litter it. Stench fill its once fresh air. Garbage dumps flow into this river. Untreated heavy metal-laced waste water is suspected to be polluting it.

Why is this river so important? Why should we care? Because it is one river among many and we need to issue this call for this and other rivers, the accelerating deterioration of which have largely been ignored. The integrity of our rivers has been compromised, degraded by many human interventions, pollution, watershed destruction, unregulated fish farming, the list goes on.

And why should it still matter, now that climate change of a global magnitude is disrupting natural systems anyway, why should we bother to rehabilitate a small river? The answer has been established by environmental experts, we need to restore this ecosystem now more than ever. Rivers will continue to play a significant role in combating climate change. It will continue to connect one place to another, allowing plants and animals free movement as the climate shifts. It will always be that place of safety to shelter fish and wildlife from hotter temperatures.

A river has the resilience to spring forth with new life -- assure clean water, germinate new species, protect from flood. It is a refuge to wildlife and humans in a time of rapid climate change. It exist as a
very important buffer zone between land and sea, and therefore a natural defense against hurricane and tsunami threats. On World Blog Action Day, let hope float. Let it rise over crisis, over our downward spirals and tragedies, over our own misgivings, and let it cover them all. Let us not give up on this God-given gift and its ability to boost the resilience of nature and with it, the strength of communities against potentially catastrophic climate change impacts.


"Ang ating kanlungan...tahanan ng ating tula at pangarap, ngayon ay naglaho na. Saan hahanapin pa?"

["Our haven.... home to our rhymes and dreams long gone. Wherever can we find it?"]

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