Climate change is one of the most important ecological imperatives facing the human population in our modern times. There is hardly any debate remaining among scientists these days regarding whether climate change exists or whether it is caused by human activities. Climate change threatens not just global average temperature, but it also can play a damaging role in all other aspects of ecosystem health, such as biological diversity and world food supply. We have identified the problem, now we must come up with a fair and sustainable solution.
This blog will focus around the United Nations climate change conference to be help in Copenhagen from December 7th to 18th 2009. During this conference, 192 countries including two of the largest polluters - the United States and China - will gather to discuss the problem and try to find solutions. These widely varied countries will be responsible for the onus task of hammering out an agreement that can satisfy all involved for the period following 2012.
The countdown to COP15 TIG blog aims to consolidate the many youth climate action blogs from around the world, while offering a forum for youth to get informed and get involved regarding this important issue.
We want environmental laws to be implemented and enforced. We want the authority and relevant agencies to go after anyone and everyone who are cutting down trees in protected forest areas and such. Yet, sometimes, it might not be that simple.
That day, I visited an Orang Asli (indigenous people) village in Tapah, Perak with a group of awesome people whose aim is to educate the Malaysian public and create greater awareness about the Federal Constitution. Several topics were being brought up: orang asli rights as stipulated in the constitution, unfair land purchase, standing up against corporations or entities that violate their rights, exercising rights and being recognised as Malaysian citizens… … here, I’d like to elaborate on the issue of how the Forestry Act has caused the orang asli to feel restricted from using their tanah adat (indigenous land).
Malaysia is a multiracial and multicultural country; I myself, though a proud citizen of Malaysian, am of the Chinese race. As Malaysian citizens, none of us, regardless of race or religion, should be neglected. The orang asli are people who naturally exist in this country; they belong to this land.
I respect the Constitution, and respect the rights of orang asli over tanah adat. As the tanah adat could consist of forest areas, at times orang asli cut down some trees to use the land for farming as a form of small scale, self-sufficient economy. This is one of the very few sources of livelihood for them.
“Yet, if we cut down some of the trees for farming, the authority will fine us. We cannot afford to pay the fine, yet we have to maintain our livelihood.”
This predicament that they face is due to the Forestry Act, which aims to protect forest areas.
Initially, I felt caught in between advocating the orang asli rights and the Forestry Act. As a Malaysian who upholds the Constitution, I believe the orang asli should stand firm on the issue of their rights over tanah adat. But as an environment activist, shouldn’t I support the enforcement of the Forestry Act as well?
However, the bottom-line question is: Why aren’t strict laws being enforced when it comes to illegal logging and large scale deforestation? What about Samling Global*? What about the Rimbunan Hijau group**?
The ultimate aim of environmental laws is to serve humanitarian purposes, not otherwise, and to protect our rights to live in a beautiful and sustainable world.
During the session, a youth delegate asked the chair, “Will you marry me?“
Perhaps others would think she was being very demanding, but she was doing so not only for herself, but for the greater good.
“We can build commitment gradually, but it starts now with an adequate 2nd commitment
period with Annex I targets that follow the science to keep temperatures below 1.5°. So this means an aggregate target for Annex I Parties of at least -40% based on 1990, without offsets and loopholes, and a review of its adequacy.
“This means everybody must do their share.
“It means, we need them to make more ambitious targets public before we meet again.”
Nevertheless, she liked leaders who were decisive, and who could make the right choices.
“But time is not on our side, we need to order the cake.
“To do this we need a location, please tell us that we can send the cake to Cancun and hold the wedding ceremony there. Because I am young, I won’t, we can’t wait for you forever!”
For now, let’s watch closely how world leaders will respond to the proposal and demands!
True love needs commitment. Do we truly love our world, our people, and our future generations?
As we all know, Hong Kong is very densely populated and land is particularly expensive. The people have to learn to live and fully utilise the limited space they have.
Sometimes, I wonder, is it because our earth is blessed with so many resources, that we have been taking them for granted? As Gary Chang can maximise the functions of such a limited space, hopefully someday our knowledge in science and technology has improved to the extent whereby we could achieve the maximum result using minimal resources, increasing the efficiency and reducing usage and waste of resources.
Besides that, one doesn’t have to be dubbed an Environmentalist to address green issues. Some people have the tendency to think that it’s an environmentalist’s job to find solutions, when in fact people from all fields play a part. As people of different expertise or different disciplines play different roles in society, it’s important for all of us to work on combating environmental issues together, in our respective ways.
I think you must have already known that while seeking ways to lead a convenient life or in the name of development, we have, in one way or other, very conveniently become a contributing factor to a long list of environmental problems.
Many a time, people are guilty of using polystyrene, plastic bags, and do every other thing that can deteriorate the environment because of convenience; many refuse to avoid wasting resources and to lead a more eco-friendly lifestyle, because they may think that it’s very inconvenient and troublesome to do so.
Activists try very hard to convince the public to make a little effort to help. We try to let you know how serious the problem is. We try to let you know that sacrificing a little convenience is worth it for the betterment of our world.
Yet, what if things can go another way round? What if those little actions regarded as eco-friendly can become more convenient for us to practise? What if the bad habits deemed as ‘un-green’ can become so inconvenient that we naturally give them up?
Imagine. The rubbish bin nearby is just one receptacle in which all kinds of trash are thrown without being sorted into categories.
You probably won’t go an extra mile just to find a recycling bin to throw a piece of paper, if there’s even one at all. If the paper is not going to be recycled, so be it! You probably feel you have much more important things to do than to worry about the paper.
And I don’t blame you. I can, but I don’t. (But I’d find you contemptible!)
I trust that if several trash cans are laid side by side for the public to dispose rubbish according to categories, you would actually bother to put that piece of paper into the right place where it can be sent for recycling.
This simple trash sorting measure may be common in some places, but in many places, including my own country, Malaysia, it’s usually found in airports and such, and hardly seen in public parks, roadsides, or anywhere a regular resident would pass by daily.
On the other hand, many of us have the impression that Danish are eco-friendly people. Yet, from as far as I know, they don’t cycle because they make a conscious effort to reduce carbon emissions. Maybe they are aware, but it doesn’t mean they intentionally think about being green all the time.
Sometimes, they just do it because it’s the natural thing to do. If there are cycling tracks that can lead you to your destination, everyone else cycles, and cycling is convenient and cheap, why not?
Thus, though people are the ones who shape the surrounding environment, we could also create an environment that could shape people’s habits or attitude. It works both ways.
1) Create an environment that makes going green more convenient for the public.
2) Create an environment that makes habits that affect our planet negatively very difficult to practise.
For example, the government should provide relevant facilities (including something as simple as the trash sorting system) available to the people. It’s good if you want to raise the price of petrol (petrol hike was quite an issue in Malaysia) to encourage carpooling and avoid using the vehicle too much, but that’s only if you make greater effort to improve the public transport system. Public transport in certain places/countries still does not get you to your workplace, inefficient and have irregular timings, or perhaps the bus/metro station is nowhere near your home.
Make people hate plastic bags because they have to pay for requesting them. If you own a boutique or supermarket, please offer shopping bags with cooler designs (you can still print your own logo on them without sacrificing aesthetic values) so that people actually happily and willingly use the shopping bags. If you’re working in the office, gather your misprinted (on one side) or unwanted sheets of paper and put them in a nice stack near the printing machine, hopefully your colleagues do the same, and you all can use rough paper to print drafts or scribble random things.
We should help one another, and also ourselves, to create an environment that is convenient for us to live life the green way.
It has been too often said that ‘Everything changes. Change is the only constant thing in this world.’
It seems so natural to accept that it is natural to encounter changes. Yet, change does not occur naturally. It is often, to a certain extent, manmade.
Change occurs partly, if not mostly, because humanity changes, and humanity develops differently because of the change that has been made. Thus it is perhaps plausible to say that humans have the ability to change to course of changes that occur to our world to shape the future of humanity. In fact, humans have always been doing it since the beginning of mankind.
Change is also manmade since humans are always fighting for change, instead of allowing things to change naturally. From the prehistoric period, to historic revolutions such as the French Revolution, even until recent years…e.g. in the political arena, Obama called for a ‘transformation’ throughout his presidential election campaigns, in Malaysia ‘change’ is one of the most clichéd buzz words used by both the federal government and the opposition ever since the previous elections.
The question is: what’s next after ‘coal age’ and then ‘oil age’? We want it to be the ‘Green Age’.
It’s not only about planting trees, especially not when loggers are cutting down so much more trees every single day at a rate quicker than you could plant a pot of hibiscus. Time is ticking and we want a concrete and effective solution. As mentioned, it’s not only about green leaves, we’re now looking at the root of it all—national and international policy.
When it comes to policy, it’s about politics and politicians. The people have to unite and demand for the policy they hope for, and eventually there’ll be ‘supply’. If the current ‘supplier’ refuses to comply with your demands, choose another one instead.
Politics works like business.
Politics and business have always been obstacles to the COP15 negotiations that have recently ended. Most developed countries, save perhaps Norway, aren’t sufficiently ambitious and courageous to tackle the issue. And now many still want to stick to ‘business as usual’.
The problem about fighting for climate justice is that public demands are not enough yet. It’s there, according to the HSBC’s Climate Confidence Monitor 2009 & World Wide Views on Global Warming. But Malaysians generally like to make demands on subsidised oil prices instead of making ‘sustainability’ a major issue during the elections. Another issue is that we are still trying to decide who will be a good ‘supplier’.
Therefore, in this daunting journey to fight for climate justice, climate activists are trying their best to convince both politicians/leaders and the people.
During one of the side events at COP15, Minister for Housing, Transport and Environment of Maldives, H.E. Mohamed Aslam, mentioned that elections should be based on the topic of climate change. But Malaysia is different from Maldives. We’re not a sinking island, and people don’t view the issue as an emergency.
Thus, environmental education should be beyond the environmental modules integrated in the national curriculum. The people have the right to know more than that. And we all have the social responsibility to know more than that. We always complain about the hot weather here, yet not many will relate it to climate change. And even fewer will even think of how climate change is related to the food crisis, poverty, hunger, HIV-Aids and other pandemics, and that these will indirectly affect Malaysia as well as the rest of the world.
There are also a number of misconceptions among the general public.
--- Preserving the environment means sacrificing and terminating development
Climate justice does not imply that we should give up development, civilisation and return to ‘cavemen’ lifestyles. Human development is inevitable, but climate change is NOT inevitable.
Development may continue, but as civilised people, we shall change the course of development; we should change to an alternative path of development which does not sacrifice the environment and our home—the Earth.
Energy cannot be created or destroyed, but can be changed from one form to another. Same goes to development.
---It takes a lot of money to be environmentally friendly.
Engines weren’t cheap initially. Even mobile phones were expensive when they were first introduced to the market. Humans embraced the Industrial Revolution. We were willing to pay for that. Green technology etc. can be improved and made common as long as there is a demand.
It’s just like paying for insurance. It’s an investment. This time we’re investing on our future, the younger generation’s future and the future of humanity. We have to pay to ensure future benefits. Think long-term.
If we can spend more than one trillion on global armaments annually, we can pay so that we can stop waging war on Earth itself.
We have to invest now to avoid paying a higher carbon price tag in the future.
---The money could be used for community welfare instead.
Is it not ironic to talk about community welfare when humanity is struggling to survive?
In fact, we should perceive the environmental issue as a part of community welfare, as a right, as justice that we all deserve. Think about the rights of indigenous people living in the Borneo forests etc. Climate change itself is a humanitarian issue.
---Climate change is a scam. Nature will take care of it.
We’re not taking care of nature at all so why will it take care of our problem?
I’m not scientifically trained on climate change issues so I won’t argue from that perspective.
But it is naïve to wait when problems are growing instead of trees.
A student should complete his/her homework regularly, instead of procrastinating and hoping that the teacher wouldn’t find out, am I right? Why take the risk of being discovered by the teacher in the end, when it’s probably too late for a second chance?
Therefore, give politicians another meaningful reason to ‘fight’, and give the general multitude a mission to decide on our future instead of joining some random Facebook group and not knowing how to help.
To let the rest of the population see the bigger picture, it also depends on how the ‘converted’ ones paint the picture.
A safe and sustainable environment and future is our right.