‘We could be facing our last, best chance to save our species’ | Inquirer Lifestyle
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A webinar Suntay conducted recently on underwater filming

‘We could be facing our last, best chance to save our species’

(24th in a series)

Robert ‘Bobbit’ Suntay

Underwater videographer and chair, Studio H2O; president, Science Education and Advocacy (SEA)-Verde Island Passage Institute; member of the national advisory council, WWF Philippines; and chair and executive director, Carewell Community Foundation Inc.

Bobbit Suntay biking right beside his home work desk

Ever since the lockdown, I have been trying to do what I have always done even before the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The difference is, nowadays, I have had to do it in a “virus-safe” way.

I continue to teach and spread the word about marine conservation via Zoom webinars. I strive to remain well informed about my academic and advocacy interests. But now, rather than physically attending conferences and seminars, I do online learning instead.

Getting together with family and friends is also critically important for me, especially these days. I rely on Viber, FaceTime and other social media for our virtual get-togethers.

Nearest and dearest to my heart (and lungs, and muscles and joints): EXERCISE! This has been particularly challenging as I love to engage in outdoor sports and have never really been a fan of indoor exercise. And yet, because of this virus, my bike trainer, treadmill and dumbbells have gotten more use today than ever before.

The ocean is my deepest love! It is my soul mate. It is what makes my most joyful experiences possible: filming and going on dive trips with Studio H2O (watch our underwater series, “Wreck Hunters,” on iWant TV), doing marine conservation work—in the water—with WWF and the SEA Institute, freediving with Manumano Freediving Center and teaching with SSI Scuba Academy, dive mastering and teaching how to film underwater video, hanging out with family and friends by the sea. Mere words cannot adequately express the depth of my longing for the sea and all it brings.

I am very aware of the enormous and painful cost COVID-19 has exacted from each and every one of us. I have friends and family who have been infected, laid low and even been killed. Like many, I have friends and family who are front-liners of every kind and in every place. Despite this—no, because of this—we must not allow all their sacrifices to be in vain.

A webinar Suntay conducted recently on underwater filming

We must take a very difficult step backward to see what we can learn—what we can do (and stop doing)—from this excruciatingly hurtful and difficult situation and, perhaps, even help to prevent it from ever happening again.

We know that our disregard for the environment and disrespect for the creatures of our planet have contributed to massive habitat destruction and displacement. There is a great deal of scientific evidence that these irresponsible actions (and failures to act) have led to the release of new and more virulent viruses and other pathogens into human population centers.

And so, in this pandemic, never before—and perhaps, never again—will we have this chance to learn that we need to care for nature. We could now be facing our last, best chance to save our species; believe me, the planet is better off without us than with us. Our opportunity to learn and change in a fundamentally good way may never be as available now, or even ever again.

As mentioned by Pope Francis in his encyclical, “Laudato Si,” we need a conversion of our minds—and more important, our hearts—so that we learn to care more for nature and for one another. I agree with our beloved pope that it is our fundamentally skewed values that got us into trouble in the first place: unbridled economic growth at the cost of polluting our planet, globalization creating massive inequalities and gaps between the rich and the poor. We must learn from all this! And there is hope! Just look around you: Nature is healing. We can see that in our bluer skies and greener grass. We can heal, too, in mind, body and spirit! —Alya B. Honasan