All were made equal by hatchet, axe, and saw

The wall. Photo from FB by Vianney Frances Begino

Its outrageousness is too extreme that it is unbelievable. The picture above is a snapshot of SM Baguio latest attraction, a 7-foot set of plywood plastered with images of trees and grass, assembled in the balcony to block the view off SM’s cutting and earthballing of 182 trees for their parking lot expansion project below.

According to reports as of April 10, SM already began cutting the trees despite the release of a Temporary Environmental Protection Order and the insistent calls and petitions of the Baguio people to stop the cutting. Numerous movements such as the Save 182 led by Baguio artists and the Cordillera People’s Alliance staged an spontaneous protest action yesterday to express their dismay over the incident. Kabataan Partylist Representative Mong Palantino filed HR 2069 (here’s a copy from scribd) to investigate the permit to cut given by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to SM Corp.

I have become a part of the mobilizations against this tree-cutting and one would be forced to admit that the enemy is not small fish. Henry Sy’s economic power and influence, buttressed earlier, is enormous. Certainly, affinities between SM Corporation and local political figures are present and working under our noses. Mayor Mauricio Domogan and the City Council have failed to enact concrete actions against the expansion project, claiming that the area is “private property.”

The picture above is a very powerful image— an inhuman form of irony that summons the vilest of laughters. While the environmental slaughter and bypassing of the voice of the people of Baguio resume relentlessly below the towering mall, people in SM are forced to enjoy a ‘refreshing’ panorama of painted leaves and greens. The obviousness of the intent made it look more stupid, as if one can only imagine them in dystopian novels. Theodor Adorno’s notes on nature and reason resound this scenario:

Enlightenment reduces the variety of natural phenomena to one basic foundation: nature itself, considered as the mere object of enlightened thought about it and manipulation of it. Thanks to this reduction of natural phenomena to one foundation, reason dominates nature. This reduction of nature to a blank canvas for enlightened reason requires the expulsion of ‘immanent powers or hidden properties’ from nature. If informed that the woods that are about to be felled in order to make way for another runway are inhabited by ‘powers’, or that they have unique ‘properties’ of some sort, modern developers, for example, for the planning officers monitoring their activities, are unlikely to be impressed. (From Theodor Adorno, by Ross Wilson, 2007, p. 16)

Hence, by reducing nature into a mere ‘objectivity’ or ‘matter’, reason manipulates nature to its own bidding. Indeed, it is not startling to encounter people who choose not to oppose the tree-cutting, sobered by the promise that it will lead to significant economic gains, as SM claims. Reason dictates further that these economic gains may lead to future achievements for environmental protection (creation of green-houses, ‘eco-friendly parking lots, etc). I am tempted to embed this video by Zizek regarding ‘green capitalism.’

I,on the other hand, am not flattered, knowing the fact that these promises of economic gain and display of hypocritical benevolence and environmentalism are nothing but capitalist claptrap. I will not be surprised if these promised ‘environment-friendly’ projects turns out to be nothing but panoramic ‘eco-friendly’ posters on cardboards pasted with Henry Sy’s green poop.

*the featured image  is from Dr. Seuss’ The Loraxwhich by the way was made into a film and was shown at SM Baguio a few weeks ago.