Population and disaster preparedness: still part of the poverty equation

Recall in the whole debate on over-population in the Philippines and how we've established the logical link between population increase and poverty through our simple, robust, and scalable definition of poverty: "a habitual entering into commitments that one is inherently unable to honour". The spectre of the scale of death and destruction that could slug the Philippines in the event of a strong earthquake occuring near or within Metro Manila demonstrates how even more impoverished we are than conventional measures indicated.

Whereas we always think of ourselves as an intractably poor nation because of our lack of ability to educate and employ our own people, we are now are starting to come to terms with our lack of ability to secure our people's safety against disaster as well.

We can only sit back and watch helplessly as we multiply like cockroaches and occupy every nook and cranny offered by our decrepit capital city -- even parts of it that represent the proverbial sand lot that the proverbial fool builds his house upon. Considering this is a biblical parable, the implications of this foolhardiness are potentially biblical in proportion. Catastrophic disasters like earthquakes and cyclones notwithstanding, Filipinos clinging to and scratching out an existence along Manila's flood plains, riverbanks, breakwaters, inside its cemeteries, under its bridges, along the walls of its esteros (storm water canals), beside its train tracks, and within sprawling tinderbox shantytowns that carpet vast tracts of land within Manila are by themselves disasters in the making; perhaps call our lot the slow-release disaster.

The ballooning in numbers of a people who are inherently unable to support their own numbers is itself a slowly-unfolding disaster.

Thus, this sudden focus on earthquake preparedness we are seeing being bandied around in Media and in the halls of Congress is no more than a quaint attempt to assure one another that Filipinos do possess some semblance of token foresight at best. But a people who famously allowed a shipping company that figured in the worst peace time maritime disaster in world history to continue operating for two subsequent decades and go on to be party to several more "accidents" that killed thousands more over those subsequent 20 years can't be taken seriously. We may as well start saying our prayers for those thirty-odd thousand poor sods who are likely to die in the event of an earthquake measuring even just seven on the Richter scale hitting Manila (the one that hit Japan measured 8.9).

The two words "prepared Filipino" form an oxymoron. There simply is no such thing. There may be talk, but the substance just isn't there.

Ironically this reality about Filipinos could form a good foundation for the arguments of those who believe that we should not make any attempt to reduce population growth. Other societies -- where life is regarded as precious enough -- leave no stone unturned in their efforts to prepare for and mitigate disaster. Filipinos, in contrast, need to reproduce in vast numbers to compensate for their lack of capacity and will to prepare for and mitigate whatever tragedy the future might bring upon -- whether in the form of a single fell swoop or in the form of a slow drawn-out degeneration of quality of life and dignity.


  1. I remember a really cheesy movie called “Soyent Green” starring Charlton Heston who, in his movies, always seemed to find himself in a Christ-on-the-cross pose. In this one he was being carried off screaming “Soyent Green is people”, having discovered that the favorite food of his modern, efficient nation was dead people, recycled. That country had passed the threshold; it was no longer able to grow enough grain and cows to feed the citizens so simply applied a rational expediency. Vitamins and nutrients are where you find them, I suppose.
    The Philippines will eventually get to the point of population unsustainability. It won’t take a huge disaster to tip the plate, only a little incitement . . . at which time the guns will come out blazing and comparatively rich folk like me will be mowed down, for we will have the food others want. The combination of need and envy will be so upsetting that poor Filipinos will behave like the French did a few centuries ago. If you were an aristocrat, or smiled, smelled or farted like one, you were dead. Never mind that poor Filipinos frequently come from families with 7, 8, 9 or 10 siblings, each a hungry mouth without a job.
    I will get mowed down knowing that at least BenignO understood . . . and presumably he stayed in Australia where there may be fire storms, man-eating sharks, typhoons, droughts, floods and too many salt water crocs . . . but also an intelligent people not busy procreating like rabbits under the whip of Catholic morality.
    My own perspective on this is recorded in this here short blog: http://thesocietyofhonor.blogspot.com/2011/03/tsunami-of-little-beasts.html

  2. I think it was "Soylent Green" (with an "L"), And yes, I did see it too. It was a seminal movie at the time despite its cheesiness.

    We each carve out our little "controlled" environments and reduce mitigable risk as much as we can. But then nature always remains the known unknown despite our best efforts. Perhaps in our efforts to understand Da Pinoy Condition, we too may someday reduce Pinoys to a variable that our systems and technology can also control.

    I read your blog a while back. Nice. :-)


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