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Climate strike: Youthful energy should be encouraged, not suppressed

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Many young activists now believe they too can make a difference, says Klimate Action Utara Malaysia (Kaum).

The climate gathering event on 24 May 2019 was held in conjunction with the second global climate strike, a movement initiated by a 16-year-old from Sweden.

Vino Dini Chandragason, a councillor with the Penang Island City Council, allegedly claimed that we ‘used’ schoolchildren for our own agenda, showing that the councillor is so out of touch with what is happening around the world.

On the same day, hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren around the world walked out of their classrooms, urging their respective governments to act on the climate crisis.

Klimate Action Utara Malaysia (Kaum) and Klima Action Malaysia (Kamy) represent the youths of Malaysia, and the aim of our movement is to heighten environmental and climate awareness in our society especially to our peer groups.

We believe that if the climate crisis is not acknowledged by the Malaysian government and if unsustainable development continues with business as usual, the implications that we will be faced with will escalate sooner than we thought.

The gathering organised by Kaum and Kamy on 24 May was open to the public. The schoolchildren had received consent and were joined by their parents and teachers, voluntarily.

We want to emphasise that the involvement of schoolchildren during the climate strike was not by personal invitation. We believe that the involvement of schoolchildren and their teachers should be applauded – not criticised – as it is empowering to see children taking action for their future.

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Besides schoolchildren, the gathering was also joined by various NGOs – each one advocating its own cause. As we focused on conveying the message about the climate crisis during the gathering, there were also other campaigns about ‘”no plastic bags” and “zero waste Ramadan”.

The action by councillor Vino in blatantly accusing us for using children to protest against the mega project in Penang is unacceptable.

We are disappointed she did not approach us for any clarification before making her controversial statement and tarnishing the image of our movement.

The objectives of the gathering were not focused on the “Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP)” and other megaprojects alone. It was more about how much carbon emissions these mega projects would generate and release annually. We believe these megaprojects should be addressed as they contribute to local and regional climate change – the focus of Kaum and Kamy’s advocacy.

Councillor Vino also accused us of conveying the wrong message about the PTMP’s effect on the environment. We were merely stating the inevitable implications of the mega project.

For example, in 2016, Malaysia’s carbon emissions per capita stood at around 8.5 metric tonnes per capita; it had more than doubled since 1992. The Penang South Reclamation project alone is expected to add another 2 metric tonnes per capita of carbon emissions for every citizen in Penang.

This contradicts Malaysia’s effort to reduce carbon emissions by 40% by 2030 and the nation’s commitment to sustainable development goals 2030.

We would like to clarify that this movement comprises the community of youths who are gravely concerned about the implications of the climate crisis and environmental issues in Malaysia. We speak up on behalf of the environment – not for any political party. The climate crisis is not just about environmental issues; it also affects us socially and economically.

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Children and youths around the world have already made a stand on the climate crisis and are fighting for the future they deserve. We demand that the efforts of student activism in Malaysia be encouraged as we all share the same planet.

The only way to tackle the climate crisis is by coming together with a shared vision as one – as this is not just a local issue but a global one that needs every nation’s urgent attention and efforts.

A 16-year-old climate activist, Greta Thunberg, inspired children, youths and adults across the globe. Many young activists now believe they too can make a difference. This energy and spark should be encouraged, not suppressed.

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