How did humans and the environment influence each other over the course of history? This is the gist of the special seminar of Dr. Raul Suarez, a professor at the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology at the University of California in Santa Barbara (UCSB) and DOST Balik Scientist, held last 26 February at the IBS Main Lecture Hall.

Dr. Suarez' seminar was part of the UPLB Museum of Natural History's regular Biodiversity Seminar Series and co-hosted by the Environmental Biology Division of the Institute of Biological Sciences.

In his talk full of historical facts and interesting scientific data, Suarez posits that the cause of biodiversity loss in the Philippines is primarily caused by a complex mix of political elitism and the extractive and exploitative nature of a government skewed towards maintaining the status quo.

According to the professor, although the Philippines is a centre of great biodiversity, it is also a pitiful example of environmental disaster. "Ninety percent of the country was once forested, but now most of our islands are now denuded; most of our special forest species are now on the verge of extinction and are constantly being threatened," Suarez summarised.

Suarez suggests that the current Philippine political set-up has been systematically anchored on the "padrino" system such that it has evolved into one that is controlled by a few but rich and landed individuals and families.

This elite control of the government translated to the exploitative control of the country's rich natural resources, according to Suarez' lecture. The professor also touched on the widening gap between the rich and the poor, uncontrolled population growth, and the destruction of the secondary forests caused by people migrating to the uplands seeking ways to gain shelter, land and raise food to survive.

Essentially, Suarez challenged the student audience to think out of the box when looking for solutions to the country's dwindling resources and its threatening effects to our endemic species.

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