August 24, 2005

Give Fat Chance A Chance.

No doubt most of you Filipinos out there would have received the e-mail message (I've already received it four times) asking people to vote for the Coconet Project (I love the way it sounds like the Conet Project too), part of BBC World and Newsweek's World Challenge, "a competition aimed at finding individuals or groups from around the world who have shown enterprise and innovation at a grass roots level." Justino Arboleda's project, which uses coconut husks to prevent soil erosion, among other things, sounds excellent; the landslides which kill dozens, if not hundreds of people, every year, would at least be prevented. (Though I would argue that the Philippine government should really be prosecuting the loggers, no?)

The e-mail message says:

"The World Challenge" already offers tremendous exposure and publicity to our flourishing Philippine coconut geotextile industry and to our Philippine coconut fiber exporters. But it would be great liberation for our country, which has been getting very bad publicity nowadays, to win this prestigious competition.
Fair enough. But I broke ranks and voted instead for Fat Chance, a project that enables the systematic collection of waste vegetable oil and converting it into biodiesel.

I didn't vote for it because it was based in Malta -- I know close to nothing about the country -- but I'm not voting for the Filipino project just because I'm Filipino either. To me it seems more and more necessary to recognize what gas-guzzling SUV owners in the U.S. obviously ignore, despite the fact that prices are creeping up to $3 a gallon: that no amount of staying the course can make the oil crisis go away. People's lives have already been sacrificed for oil. This is an issue that directly impacts everyone; indeed, in the Philippines, the crisis is getting worse and worse, with Macapagal-Arroyo talking of rationing.

The blurb on the BBC World website actually seems oddly written -- for me, it's not necessarily the clogging of drains and ocean pollution that's most crucial, but the seeking of alternatives to fossil fuel. (You can read more on biodiesel in San Francisco here; that just happens to be my neighbor Ben Jordan in the photos.) And I like the fact that Shell is sponsoring the World Challenge (perhaps accounting for the tiptoeing around "reducing Malta's dependence on imported fuels"); their logo is even above BBC's and Newsweek's.

Supporting a biodiesel project like this with $20,000 (the internet-based voting system is biased in favor of middle-class voters anyway) would at the very least mean greater exposure for biodiesel in general -- something that, in the long run, has a more direct impact on the citizens of the world in any case.

Posted by the wily filipino at August 24, 2005 11:53 AM

I've never gotten the e-mails, so thanks for posting this. Went and voted.

Posted by: Gladys on August 24, 2005 11:48 PM

I've been wondering: Why are we (esp. Phil. government) scrambling for biodiesel and such alternatives just now when we've known for years that the oil crisis is looming ahead? Beats me.

Posted by: Resty on August 25, 2005 01:48 AM

Yes I got that email twice but I regret to admit I didn't bother voting at all. :D

Posted by: Daphne on September 4, 2005 12:24 AM
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