Faced with rapid urbanisation, a news portal posed an important and relevant question in a timely report on our threatened green spaces (see above video). It asked, “Who should be protecting our green spaces?”
It is time for Malaysians to take an interest in determining not only who is responsible but also how we can go about achieving this.
Malaysia is blessed to have been shielded from devastating natural disasters that plague other countries in the region.
But of late, floods have ravaged parts of the country – a clear sign we can no longer abuse our environment anymore.
We must urgently shift our values to protect the country from the impact of climate change.
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First, we need to overhaul the values that the nation has used in the last five decades. During that time, we have looked at development as a means to riches and power and taken the country on a mega-drive to ‘transform’.
However, to transform, we have built endless rows of concrete dwellings and pillars of glass and mortar. In doing this, we have wiped out so much of our precious green spaces.
Developers have cut hills, levelled mountains and removed green lungs to build homes that today have ironically become unaffordable, owing to inflation and ‘monstrous’ pricing.
It is common to see open spaces littered with plastics, styrofoam boxes and other types of consumer waste.
We need to overhaul our values. We need to redraw our green spaces. To do this, we need to do much more than merely volunteering or providing expert advice or reviews.
We need effective laws and enforcement. We need commitment. We need effective leaders who understand what is at stake and who are ready to take responsibility for the climate and the environment, not only for the immediate future but for the long haul.
We also need time to repair our current failures and to heal the environment.
Yet, the recurrent floods, the lives lost and the damage to property tell us we are running out of time. They tell us we cannot procrastinate any longer.
We must urgently draft and pass new bills to stop further destruction to the environment. This is the only way to stop climate changes in its tracks and to stop the devastation by recurring floods and landslides.
Instances of industrial waste mismanagement, including the dumping of toxic chemicals into our waterways and the blatant transgressions of environmental laws, should not be tolerated.
The current practice of slapping miserable fines and temporary shutdowns is ineffective. They are merely cosmetic moves and fail as effective deterrents.
Development and economic ventures should also consider the impact on the environment. Instead of prioritising profits, water, air and green management must become the key priority. Space must always be allocated for trees and parklands.
We need a revolution in the next generation’s mindsets if we are to succeed in nurturing our environment for the long run. Environmental science and civics should be compulsory subjects in schools.
Throughout Thailand, most homes and businesses – from huge mall owners to small shop owners – take it upon themselves to include a green area or a water feature within their premises. Whether these are required by law, the practice reflects the values held by the people.
If Thailand as a nation with almost twice the land size and double our population can achieve a friendlier, richer, cleaner environment nationwide, what is holding us back?
Meanwhile, back home, our government appears to be oblivious to the threat posed by climate change. They seem more focused on curbing peaceful assemblies.
In the end, tackling climate change must involve everyone, including the media, which has a huge role to play. Today, we can have all the trappings of a good life, but when nature opens its angry floodgates, we can lose it all in a blink.