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‘UP Econ School faculty’s statement re Columbia protest vs Aquino’

“By participating in these events against President Aquino, the protesters have declared themselves enemies, not of our President, but of the Philippines itself. As an invited guest, President Aquino was covered by the same blanket of academic freedom and safe passage that the University guarantees for all who set foot on campus.

The purpose of that high privilege is to guarantee free traffic in diverse ideas – and of the diverse people who espouse them – which is the lifeblood of a liberal academic institution. Those who violate that security and privilege by resorting to physical threats and violence sow apprehension and fear among bearers of contrary and unfashionable ideas, who would henceforth shy away from participating in the University, resulting in an impoverishment of intellectual life and a reduction of debate to a monologue among the already-converted.

The acts of Wednesday’s protesters, therefore, not only violated decency and courtesy, they were an assault on the University itself.

To remove this blot on the University’s reputation:

We enjoin those who participated in the dishonorable events of last Wednesday – but who were possibly misled or sincerely unaware of the gravity of their acts – to come forward, own up to their participation, and proffer a public apology to President Aquino and to the University.

Filipina activist displaying protest placard vs Aquino at Columbia University last Wednesday.

We call upon the University responsible for organizing the event to publicly dissociate themselves from the actions of Wednesday’s hooligans;

We enjoin the University authorities to begin an inquiry to identify those ultimately responsible for the violence, and who cynically staged the incident, applying penalties, wherever necessary;

We call on the University authorities henceforth to enhance the security provided to invited visitors of the University to prevent a repeat of the said incident.

Finally, we call for a renewed discussion and clarification among faculty, staff and students, of the University’s unwritten rules of free speech and safe passage, to ensure that the University remains a free and fearless field for ideas, where debates are won not by assault but by argument, not by shouting down but by speaking up.”

I’m just having a thought experiment that could sharpen our views of issues, and clarify things in a “what-if” fun.

I had been expecting the above statement from UP School of Economics faculty members, as it would have taken them just a few seconds to replace, using their Microsoft Word program, “Secretary Abad” with “President Aquino.” And after all, it is the same issue—of “decency and courtesy”—involved.

Why was there no outrage by their academic colleagues in Columbia University over the Filipino activists’ “disrespect” for Aquino? Maybe it’s because Columbia University is ranked in 2014 by the annual “QS University Rankings” as the 14th best university in the world, while UP stands far behind at the 367th slot.

What a hypocrite
President Aquino’s address to the UN Summit on Climate Change is as hypocritical as his speeches on his tuwid-na-daan tack. For Aquino to talk about climate change in a high-level meeting is like having him speak in an anti-addiction retreat. He doesn’t know anything about, and has never been interested, in the issue.

“Everyone here has to do everything they can to address climate change, without first waiting for their neighbors to engage in action,” he said in his speech. “Doing anything less leaves the problem unattended to thereby increasing the problem we all face.”

But Aquino is a heavy smoker, and one villain for climate-change activists is the global cigarette industry.

One reason for this is that the tobacco industry has been funding heavily those who claim that climate-change is a myth. Environmental and political activist George Monbiot, among others, wrote in his book Death Denial: “The corporate funding of lobby groups denying that manmade climate change is taking place was initiated not by Exxon, or by any other firm directly involved in the fossil fuel industry. It was started by the tobacco company Philip Morris.”

The reason for this is that if governments tighten regulations on environmental issues in order to reverse climate change, they would in the same laws include harsher restrictions on cigarette smoking, as there is a view that cigarettes produce pollutants just as factory smoke-stacks do that worsen our climate.

The respected newspaper Handelsblatt, Germany’s version of the British Financial Times for instance had reported:

According to the World Health Organization, about 1.1 billion people smoke around the world. This number is likely to triple over the next 25 years. About 11,000 people die every day by smoking. Smoking also worsens everyone’s environment. The addiction releases 2.6 million tons of carbon dioxide and 5.2 million tons of methane gas to the atmosphere every year, according to the newspaper.

But there’s worse: tobacco farming and disposal of its waste. Tobacco farming extracts six times more potassium from the soil than growing other plants does. Some 150 kg of wood are needed for drying one kilogram of tobacco, which means to 1.2 million hectares of forest of fuel. About 600 million trees are chopped down annually to make room for tobacco plants. These trees could remove 22 million tons of the climate-killing gas yearly.

And then, cigarette filters end up on the ground, and contaminate the groundwater with nicotine, dioxin, formaldehyde and cadmium. Tobacco companies produce 5.5 trillion cigarettes every year—approximately 900 for each person in the world. Of those, 4.5 trillion have non-biodegradable filters that are thrown to the ground, accounting for as many as one out of every five pieces of litter. Cigarette butts require months or even years to break down, releasing almost 600 toxic chemicals into the soil.

Because of these, the first thing one has to do to contribute to the world’s efforts to stop climate change is to stop smoking, if you’re a smoker — and Aquino is one.

Before he opens his mouth pontificating that everyone should help reverse global warming, Aquino should first stop smoking. He would even strengthen respect for our laws by curbing his addiction, since regulations now categorically ban smoking in any government facility, where he is—even in his official car—nearly 24/7. He will have to go home in Quezon City or to a private house to smoke legally.