12 Questions for Dr. Hilconida Calumpong

Dr. Hilconida Calumpong, professor of marine biology and Director of Silliman University Institute of Environmental & Marine Sciences was awarded Most Outstanding NegOrenses 2017 in the field of Science and Environment. (The other SU awardee is VPAA Dr. Betsy Joy B. Tan.) Here is Dr. Calumpong’s interview with Ray Chen S. Bahinting, Editor-in-Chief

1. How do you measure success?
I think measuring success is looking at your goals. So what is your goal in life? If you have achieved this goal then you are successful. It is not how much money you earn.

2. How do you cope with frustrations?
I watch TV. I do gardening. I don’t normally go to work on weekends because I do gardening. You know, just doing little things like doing my bonsai, get the weeds out, do my herbal garden. At night, I normally watch TV and if I’m frustrated with something, I do not dwell on it. I do something else.

3. Describe yourself in three words.
I’m dedicated, goal oriented, and of course I’m passionate.

4. Do you have any social media accounts?
I don’t have any social media account. I don’t really like social media. The only thing that I do is email and I’m not sure if that’s considered social media. I can do skyping for work but I don’t really like to look at what other people are doing, what they are eating and what they do. I think it’s a total waste of my time.

5. What makes you sad?
When something is wrong like illness with any member of my family, I feel sad. It also makes me sad when there are students who are supposed to do something but they don’t achieve it; if they have potential but na wasted lang for some reason. It makes me sad that we have resources but we are not really using the resources and we are not really optimizing some things and get wasted; that makes me sad.

6. What makes you happy?
If I achieve something, it makes me happy. I also become happy because little things. If I see my flowers blossom, I feel happy. But if they die it makes me sad. I’m an easy person. I get happy with little things.

7. When will you stop working?
I don’t know. I always say I’m going to retire but of course I have to stop teaching at Silliman when I’m 65 because that’s mandated by law. But I do not know if I’ll ever stop working.

8. Did you give up anything for success?
Of course. I always think life is a compromise. For example, I wanted to be a doctor, a medical doctor. In college I was a national scholar so my parents didn’t have to spend for me. There were nine of us in the family. I was number four so when I was in college I also had my siblings who were also in school. Although my mother was a teacher and my father was a policeman, if you have nine children and you want them all to go to school, it was kind of hard. So if I go to medical school, my father said my siblings will stop schooling. There was no scholarship for medicine at that time.

9. What is one thing that people should learn about the current state of our ocean today?
They should learn that the ocean is dependent on what [the people] do. Because if there is no people, then the ocean can have its natural evolutionary cycle. But because we are doing something with the ocean, we have actually hastening the changes. So instead ang changes niya is every million years, karon maybe ang
changes is in every 30 years. People should know that the ocean and the people are all living together in this planet. And what the people have to learn is that the generosity of the ocean is not infinite.

It’s give and take. There is a limit to what the ocean can give and tolerate. We take for granted the air we breathe, the ocean, and the water. But they are actually reacting to what we do.

10. How will you reverse climate change?
I don’t think it’s really reversible that we go back to what the climate a million years ago. What we can do is we should not be denying what is causing all of these. One of the major causes are our activities like the use of fossil fuels, farming practices, and burning that emit gasses into the atmosphere. These activities are hastening the changes in our atmosphere and that is really what’s causing climate change. Carbon dioxide, methane gas and all these other greenhouse gasses form a very thin film around the Earth. Because gasses are small particles and they form this thin layer around the Earth just like a glass. So when the sun shines on the Earth, all that radiation goes to the Earth but heat, a long wave radiation, bounces back to the film so all that heat goes back to the Earth. That heat will be absorbed by the ocean. So the ocean temperature increases. And so when it increases, its circulation is changed. And it also changes the wind patterns. So mao nang naa tay typhoons, and extreme events like storms. Ocean drives the wind patterns. For example, if you go 30 degrees north of the equator, kanang hangin going North brings moisture. If it goes back from the 30 degrees, it brings all that moisture and didto na niya ibundak dapit sa equator that is why we are called tropical rainforest. Mao ng 30 degrees above the equator, naa didto ng mga desert kay wala man silay ulan. All of these are called by this temperature changes.

Knowing that, we should really look for alternative sources such as wind, solar, that do not use fossil fuels. Because the CO2 emission is less. Now are poisoned by a lot of carbon dioxide because it causes these changes. We are working very hard to reduce the temperature of the Earth and one way is to reduce the use of fossil fuels mao tong Paris conventions. If average annual temperature increases by 2 degrees, it will become irreversible. It would be like in a car, nga magkainit then magkainit. Because the increase in heat is logarithmic not arithmetic. (10-100-10000). We are trying to slow down all of these increase in temperature since it has increased already.

I do not know if we can still reverse climate change. Are we working fast enough, are we working hard enough? A lot of governments are still not heeding the warning of the scientists that indeed we should really do something fast. But now, people are realizing with the presence of more cyclones and hurricanes in the US and in Europe and even in the Philippines, the pattern has changed. So I think we should heed the science of the environment.

11.  How will you tell a five-year old child to protect the ocean?
I will tell that five-year-old kid that the ocean is part of your life. Think of it as your family. You protect your member of the family; you have to protect the ocean. The ocean gives you food, oxygen, and water.

12. Will the Earth heal from all the destructions it faces today?
I’m an optimist so I hope so. The planet lives on but whether humanity will live on with the way they are abusing the planet, I really do not know but I hope so.

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