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Hidden secrets of Malaysia’s rainforests

Their destruction continues because our leaders and policymakers know so little about the untapped potential of the rainforests

Upper Baram forest area

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For decades we have been on a path to modernise Malaysia.

Many regarded technology, towers, manufacturing and mega-plantations as the perfect prescription for Malaysia to join the ranks of developed nations.

But we need to pause and ask serious questions about where we will be, half a century from now.

First, watch this documentary: “Stephen Axford: How fungi changed my view of the world”

Malaysia sits on a belt of rich, thriving rainforests.

But the agenda of former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has driven our young away from nature to promising city lights – only for them to discover that, at the slightest jolt of a pandemic, many of them would have to work as food delivery personnel to survive.

Over past decades, we have pushed IT and the technology driven sciences to the fore. But what have we got to show for it? Proton has just launched in Pakistan and requires China to provide succour.

Meanwhile, indigenous people are fighting uphill battles against oligarchs and big companies to save their rainforest habitat.

Stephen Axford reveals how little we appreciate the vast unexplored richness of the ancient rainforests.

Instead, we have spawned entire generations who have to survive on handouts or guaranteed employment in the civil service. And when faced with sudden economic hardship, many have little choice but to become delivery personnel or roadside food vendors.

In the name of fast-tracked development and progress that has spawned a bunch of millionaires and billionaires), we have forsaken a wealth of opportunities that our rainforest environment could have offered.  

“You don’t expect Malaysians to live on trees in the jungle, anymore” is a retort we sometimes hear.

Stephen Axford’s work suggests that Malaysia could have transformed itself into a global food bank.

We could have become a thriving centre of excellence in microbiology and perhaps a global supplier of naturopath cures in a world increasingly disillusioned with Western medicine.

But we have deprived the young of the knowledge of our rich forests, which cannot be found anywhere else. So, our young have abandoned country living close to the corridors of forests. Today, business people are uprooting from their habitat large colonies of indigenous people who treasure the secrets of the forests close to their hearts.

In the name of progress and development, we have created an entire generation who are fond of fast food and processed food.

We grab with impunity any green lung in its natural state on the fringes of state borders and city limits and replace them with pockets of decorative trees and shrubs.

This destruction continues because Malaysians, especially our leaders and policymakers, know so little about our rainforests and their untapped potential that could lead to a prosperous and healthy society.

We have opted for quick gains and personal wealth in place of the long haul, whereas knowledge, healthy living and opportunities could have coexisted to benefit the people and future generations.

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
  1. Tegakkan maruah serta kualiti kehidupan rakyat
  2. Galakkan pembangunan saksama, lestari serta tangani krisis alam sekitar
  3. Raikan kerencaman dan keterangkuman
  4. Selamatkan demokrasi dan angkatkan keluhuran undang-undang
  5. Lawan rasuah dan kronisme
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Ch’ng Chin Yeow
Ch’ng Chin Yeow
1 Apr 2021 10.31pm

Memories are short in this region. The human and economic costs associated with the annual haze are paid for by the ASEAN citizens but the financial benefits are reaped by the few politically well connected people and conglomerates.
The draining of peat lands for agriculture is extremely degrading environmentally, causing the release of the carbon trapped in the ground for the last millions of years.
A well organised carbon credit scheme is a way to protect the forests, which benefits everyone and also the future generations.

Paul Lim
Paul Lim
1 Apr 2021 2.36am

What the writer says is absolutely correct. I never felt in Malaysia any substantial sense or consciousness of the importance of environment. I live in Europe where there has been the destruction of the forests for centuries but today environmental consciousness is very high. Replanting is the rule. When is these landscapes I thought to myself that if there is a Malaysian developer standing all he sees is money to be made.

loyal malaysian
loyal malaysian
23 Mar 2021 9.29am

JD, I do not wish to answer with a sense of smugness, but I am glad I will no longer be on this sentient earth to see how our nation will have evolved in 50 years time.
Yes, of course, there is time to change track but looking at the examples of Pahang, Kelantan and Sarawak, I must be an optimist exemplar to think the timber tycoons will give up their licenses.
It is not only Stephen but I believe our Orang Asal/ Asli who have been using the riches of our rainforests for millenias.
Our present generation put its faith in western medicines but as Stephen pointed out, there is much as yet we donot know!

Last edited 2 years ago by loyal malaysian
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