Saipan Tribune, Friday, October 27, 2006
8000 on 10/20
By Jayvee L. Vallejera
In the short time it has been in existence, the environmental group Beautify CNMI! has made a major impact in the way it has managed to harness the collective power of the islands' volunteers. For several months now, the group has been on a frenzy of cleaning up beaches and roadways, planting flame trees along Beach Road, and generally shaming the rest of us into putting more thought toward how we dispose of our litter and trash. In fact, they were the first group to seriously consider the suggestion about blanketing the entire island with flame trees. Together with the Northern Marianas College, they are also in the first stages of implementing a plan to line Middle Road with flame trees.
The group's capacity to invite collaborative and cooperative effort has been phenomenal, reaching across a broad section of CNMI society to recruit them to the group's cause. Nowhere was better proof of this than the recent “1020 on 10/20” beautification campaign, which managed to bring together more than 3,200 volunteers on Saipan for one day to pick up litter, plant trees, and generally have fun for a worthwhile cause. The sight of so many hands pulling together for a cleaner and better Saipan was heartwarming and morale-boosting, putting to shame any stray thoughts that people probably could care less about the state of these islands.
Now I don't want to nitpick but it also kind of set me to wondering: Where were the other members of the community on Oct. 20? At 3,200 volunteers, that is a mere 4 percent of the estimated 80,000 plus individuals on the islands. The Filipino and Chinese communities are considered one of the largest populations on the island but where were they during the event? Yes, Filipino groups such as the MOVER organization and a group of Tan Holdings employees were there but they were a paltry lot when compared to the total number of Filipinos in the CNMI. The absence of Chinese volunteers was also very noticeable, as well as volunteers from the Japanese, Bangladeshi, and Thai communities. These groups have their respective organizations, yet they were markedly absent during an event that was supposed to be a community-wide effort. Also, what about Tinian and Rota? I'm sure the 3,200 count would have more than doubled had our volunteers on the other islands joined forces to also clean up their respective islands. Were they invited at all to also organize their own cleanups?
I suppose this first “1020 on 10/20” was a test case for the Beautify CNMI!. It probably wanted to test the waters first to find out if people have the capacity to respond to the call for a more beautiful CNMI. After all, it is not easy to change paradigms, and that is what the group is trying to do: to change people's perspectives, from a mindset of “It's someone else's job” to “It's everybody's job,” from letting the government take care of it to everyone taking responsibility for it. That is no easy task, so the group-being an infant itself-is still taking baby steps toward yet more ambitious goals. If it was any indicator at all, however, last Oct. 20's success proved that Beautify CNMI is ready take on bigger challenges. Having easily surpassed its goal of getting 1,020 volunteers this year, Beautify CNMI! can now set its sight on a much grander goal the next time it holds this event. Perhaps, instead of just 1,020 volunteers, they can set a target of 10 percent of the entire CNMI population. That would certainly be a worthwhile goal, and Beautify CNMI! would have an entire year to plan for the logistics of the event. Yes, it's a large number and planning for the event itself would be a full-time job for more than just a handful of people. It will also require not just manpower but substantial funding, tremendous cooperative effort, and an endless capacity to cajole people to make it happen. I have no doubt, however, that the ever resourceful, ardent, and hardworking people at Beautify CNMI! can make it happen. The group has already proven that it has the mettle to make the impossible possible, I am confident that its reach will never exceed its grasp, that people will never fail to respond to its call, that all of us, at heart, are already passionate members of Beautify CNMI! and all it would take to get us off our collective butts is a little prodding from Tina, Reina, Angello, and Cinta.
(The views expressed are strictly that of the author. Vallejera is the editor of the Saipan Tribune.)