on 19 Mar, 18:18

How Environmentalism Will Take Us Home

How Environmentalism Will Take Us Home

Environmentalism may be depicted in mainstream media primarily as a battle for the Earth and to save ourselves from extinction. But that’s less than half of the story. Environmentalism, in effect, transverses beyond the physical plane. Environmentalism is a way of Life. One that questions and redefines where we stand in this world, and what is our relationship with the rest of God’s creations.

How To Save A Life

Despite what we love to think, we often neglect to truly understand a person. To know a person takes way too much time and actually require real effort. The solution to achieve maximum productivity within short period of time? Labeling people into specific groups. Ideally on the first 8-minutes after the first hi. New colleague Adam is either an optimist or a pessimist; That neighbour’s kid is either an introvert or an extrovert; Suzy don’t click with me, she’s just not my type; Now that’s much easier.  We act as though something as complex and unique as human psyche can be reduced into rows and columns in an excel sheet. If you think we treat our human counterparts as though they are commodities, like how markets categorize goods into different departments, you are likely right on the spot.

When The Moral Line Blurs

Year 2001. An usual humid and windless day in Penang. In a typical Standard 4 (4th Grade) Science Class.

As with the syllabus at the time, we were introduced to the relationship between living things in an ecosystem. Our teacher gave us some examples of “害虫” (/hàichóng/ ; Pests in Chinese) and “益虫” (/yìchóng/ ; Beneficial insects in Chinese). Teaching in primary school was pretty straightforward back then. We were simply told to appreciate the beneficial insects and exterminate the pests on sight. Now that part was lost on me. How do you decide which is which?

“Teacher Liu, why are rats pests?”

“Because they eat our crops.”

“Why are owls beneficial insects?”

“Because they eat rats.” Teacher Liu replied matter-of-factly.

Liu’s reply was essentially no different than saying the sky is blue. Obviously, I wasn’t getting something that is, well, obvious. I was left to decipher what those answers meant. Until the revelation hit me like a truck. Animals that are bad – for humans – are revolting pests! Animals that are good – for humans – are precious beneficial animals!

The casual arrogance behind the reasoning is discomforting, to say the least, for the 10-years-old me.

Human-Wildlife Conflict

Or so they say.

In definition, Human-Wildlife Conflict refers to the tension that ensues following an event when wildlife ‘broke into’ human territory. Violence often erupts like what we have seen in the award-winning photograph taken by Biplab Hazra. Elephants were thrown burning tar balls and burnt by mods in India. The notion that nobody likes their home invaded by anything is comprehensible. Especially when the invading group being unpredictable wildlife, no less.

Except they didn’t.

Never mind it is precisely our deforestation activity that drove them out of their home. Also ignore the fact that it is our extreme polluting behaviour that deprive them of precious food. When our debts come knocking on the front door, we shoved them off – with deadly force. You would think we will take responsibility for our actions, like how we taught our kids. The Human-Wildlife Conflict was never a fair scientific term. At least not for one of the two parties involved.

Environmentalism – The Best Hack To Re-Calibrate Our Moral Compass

The approaching 2050 doomsday is certainly unsettling. All of us are, essentially, future climate refugees. And our current trajectory towards temperature much higher than 2⁰C by that fateful year offers little comfort. But all hope is not lost.

Whether it’s aggressive wildlife conversation in Penang by the Langur Project Penang (LPP), or the young hikers who decided to protect the breathtaking view they enjoy in their routine, the new bloods in environmentalism are working hard to seize the opportunity presented in this troubled time. After all, what better reason to finally prioritize sustainable development when the very planet our lives depend on is at stake? We have arrived in a crossroad when environmentalism is finally not something decision-makers can sweep under the carpet for another better time. In the face of our inevitable species extinction, perhaps the most pressing question we should ponder on is – Who are the real 害虫 (/hàichóng/) on Earth, exactly?

This Article was first published on Aliran.

on 14 Mar, 18:25

Malaysian Well-being Report 2013

Malaysian Well-being Report 2013

I noticed I can no longer find this on the internet, and I had to dig through my back-ups to find this, so I thought I’d best upload it here for safekeeping.  This is the Malaysian Well-being Report 2013 by the EPU.  It is the first Well-being Report and supersedes the Quality of Life Reports which can be found here.

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on 7 Mar, 15:08

Recycle For Charity

Recycle For Charity

If you have any unwanted items such as usable furniture like chairs, sofa, dining table set, dressing table etc, used clothes, shoes, bags, toys, electrical items such as TV, Computer, Washing machine, printer, laptop, blender etc, and recycle items, please call us at 03-9021 1888

on 23 Jan, 21:54

Divestment Movement: Cutting Ties with the Devils

Divestment Movement: Cutting Ties with the Devils

It’s only the first month of 2018 and we have amazing news for our Earth! New York City has recently sue the Oil Giants – ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Conoco Phillips on the premise none other than destroying Earth itself. They don’t stop there. The city will also “divest the city’s $189 billion pension fund of an estimated $5 billion invested in fossil fuel companies.” This is seen as a direct answer call to the ongoing global Divestment Movement.

Divest What Now?

“Divestment Movement is the call for public interest institutions to sell whatever financial holdings they have in fossil companies.”, as explained explicitly by environmental writer Naomi Klein. The institutions include colleges, faith organizations, and municipal governments.

The rationale behind this movement is simple. The fossil fuel companies have every intention of pushing the planet beyond its boiling point. Read about how dangerous that is in article Paris Agreement. The profit earned does not serve the community but only to fatten its stockholders’ bank account to obesity. Hence, it makes perfect sense any responsible institutions should stop funding them. The money should reinvest in the renewable energy sector instead.

The movement has gained much traction since its official launch in November 2012. It has since spread from the United States to Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, and Britain. Over 100 cities, states, and religious institutions have answered to the call. NYC is only the latest addition to the party.

With so many victories the movement is winning now, it has no short of critics at its initial stage. The movement itself was argued to be incapable to bankrupt the oil giants. But that was missing the whole point.

Environment and Economy are husband and wife

As Sara Blazevic, a divestment organizer at Swarthmore College, puts it, the movement is “taking away the hold that the fossil fuel industry has over our political system by making it socially unacceptable and morally unacceptable to be financing fossil fuel extraction.”

And Cameron Fenton, one of the leaders of the divestment push in Canada, adds, “No one is thinking we’re going to bankrupt fossil fuel companies. But what we can do is bankrupt their reputations and take away their political power.” (Quoted directly from “This Changes Everything” by Naomi Klein)

More crucially, it puts the topic on the table for discussion. People are encouraged to give attention and take their stance on the matter – a situation Malaysia desperately needs. The movement will pave the way for making important legislation. One example is ban on political donations from fossil fuel companies. Or even better – outlaw fossil fuel advertising on mainstream media, much like how Malaysia legally prohibits tobacco advertisement. (What other legislation Malaysia is proud of and ahead of the world? Let me know below!)

The super rich illusion

The divestment movement draw strength from the people, not the super rich. Bill Gates may have expressed concern about climate change. His 1.2 billion USD investment in oil giants BP and ExxonMobil definitely says otherwise (as of December 2013). Gates also repeatedly denounced the reliability and efficiency of current renewable technology. The irony is that same technology he referred to has succeeded in providing 25% percent of Germany’s electricity today. Frankfurt and Munich are even on their way to 100% renewable energy by 2050 and 2025 respectively. Instead, Gates insists on inventing new ‘technology miracles’.

He proposed nuclear reactors in which, coincidentally, he is the major investor and chairman of the nuclear start-up TerraPower; Gates also pushed for machines that suck carbon out of the atmosphere. Again, as if by personal and exclusive blessing from the Lady Luck herself, he happens to be the primary investor in at least one such prototype; How about the direct climate manipulation also championed by him? You guessed it. Gates funded the research to block the sun and patented several hurricane-suppression technologies.

At this point, the super rich looks suspiciously more interested in making money out of global disasters than preventing them. In fact, a lot of people think it that way. After all, it is this realization that gave birth to the Divestment Movement.

What do you think about the divestment movement? Let me know in comment below!

on 6 Jan, 21:40

Langur Project Penang: Our Dirty Hands

Langur Project Penang: Our Dirty Hands



Oh, right. (Clear throat) Ahem..


Our Dirty Hands

Now, if I were to ask you to picture a group of Millennials, and describe it to me, you would probably say you see a group of tech-savvy young adults in Gap and Nike. Their eyes fixated on their latest iPhones, and they were probably discussing about the new ‘cool’ cafe to hang out. Indeed, when it comes to defining the generation born between the early 1980s and 1990s, that image seems to be the norm.

“Young people who are unwilling to get their hands dirty”, one of the participants announced. It was August 2017, in a forum and book launch “Penang At The Climate Crossroads” hosted by Penang Institute. Naturally, I was fortunate enough to be in it. This posed an awkward situation for me as I fall exactly in THAT category. Looking at my copper-toned hands, I thought they looked wonderful. And they do have had their fair share of dealing with dirt and sand. I’m just not so sure if they are qualified to be adequately dirty (read worthy) for that participant.

The forum ended with a rather less-than-enthusiastic note. Moderator Evelyn Teh fittingly pointed out that the forum participants were majority elders. It was a telling sign that environmentalism is ‘not a thing’ among the new generation. Being a Millennial herself, she hoped one day “new young champions could step up and take the torch from them”. She was referring to the veteran environmentalists in Malaysia (big respect to them). That hit the spot for me. I was there as perhaps the sole participant from my generation. The underlying implication that we have little to no interest in our environmental well-being is certainly troubling, to say the least.

Pocahontas in Action (I Always Imagine They Are)

Unbeknownst to all of us, however, a noteworthy action is taking place just 15 kilometers from Penang Institute at the time. Armed with scorching hot passion and strong arms and strong legs, a group of young adults were navigating fearlessly through the uncharted jungle routes in Teluk Bahang. They slid down steep soils with mortal hands brushing away any obstacles on the path; They climbed sloppy hills on all fours by holding onto any plants within reach; Most importantly, their eyes never leave a very particular species of primate right above them.

Langur Project Penang

I present you (some) members of the Langur Project Penang (LPP)! Left to right: Hong Jing (from Nature Classroom), Min Yu, Joleen Yap (LPP founder), me, Wen

Members of the Langur Project Penang (LPP) love to describe themselves as “Human primates with binoculars as eyes, ‘parang’ (machete in local Malay language) and notebooks as hands, GPS as legs and a heart of passion”. The organization counts locals and expats among her rank with young adults making up most of her number.

(I always imagine how the participant would moved to tears when he sees their oh-so-dirty hands.)

Into The Wild!

Langur Project Penang is primarily a research project to study the ecology and behaviour of Dusky Leaf Monkeys / Langurs (Trachypithecus obscurus). It was initially proposed to be conducted in a single sampling location, Teluk Bahang. University of Science, Malaysia (USM) student Joleen Yap decided the scale of the project was too small for any meaningful data implication. Under the umbrella of the university and as an outreach project of the Malaysian Primatological Society (MPS), Langur Project Penang would eventually branch out to various data sampling sites such as Teluk Bahang, Cherok Tokun, Penang Botanical Garden and Penang Hill.

“Adventure found me” – Data collection at sampling site

In a time when the public may conceives environmental and wildlife conservation as something only scientists do in a distant for-authorized-personnel-only laboratory behind fenced compound of some mega institute (Ya I ran out of air reading this too), Langur Project Penang prided herself as a grassroots organization whose strength lays exactly within the relationship she built with the people.

Outreaching to The Public (Did I Mention I Was Afraid of Kids?)

In collaboration with the Nature Classroom and local childcare center, Langur Project Penang’s Langur Rainforest Educational Programme embraces children from various ages in her nature tour. Through sharing and interaction with trained nature guard, our little future leaders are introduced to the nature in Penang Hill, Taman Rimba Teluk Bahang and Penang Botanical Garden.

Admittedly, I have had my doubts before volunteering for the programme in December 2017. We are talking about a generation who has easy access to matured digital technology from an age younger than never before here. Surely learning the names of flora and fauna would pale in comparison to the ‘bigger’ and ‘brighter’ scenes they are accustomed to? It turns out, like the participant from the forum, I am equally guilty in projecting baseless stereotype on these kids.

Langur Project Penang

“I talk, you listen; I stand there. you sit there” education method can only gets you so far. We believe in learning and growing together by conversation from both sides. Ask us questions! We love it! Who knows, we might learn a thing or two from you too! – Langur Rainforest Educational Programme

Planting The Seeds of Hope

Perhaps it was something about the way they casted their attentive look toward our nature guide. Or maybe it’s the fact that they were actively interacting with her that stirred a warm feeling in my heart. To my pleasant surprise, they did enjoy outdoor activities. That’s the first stereotype shattered right there. The activities in the programme include letting these kids to experience working as a ‘biologist’ of the day. They picked up leaves or fruits, pasted them on a piece of paper, and described their name and characteristic. They actually did a fantastic job about it! Second stereotype vanished into thin air.

Langur Project Penang

Look at their proud work! – In Collaboration with Nature Classroom and Tadika Seri Comel, Nibong Tebal

We also delivered a short ‘theater’ performance to illustrate the relationship between living things in a jungle (I played a tree, don’t judge!), and the cruelty of Langur poaching. Once again, these little geniuses amazed me with their existing knowledge on the topics. That’s Third. It was then I realized we adults have much to learn from our younger ones!

Embracing The Bottom-Up Approach

Like many Malaysians, we envision a better country where people live with compassion and respect to each other and Nature. It dawned to me that these kids may one day shoulder this responsibility. They will play a big part of a movement that will topple neoliberalism and shape a world unimaginable to people before them. Between helping them to carry heavy things (food) and eyes-staring standoff with a crab-eating macaque, I found myself appreciating the wonderful sight before me.

I earnestly eager to see the seeds we planted in these young ones finally germinate. They will grow into mighty trees that will lead the way to true prosperity and protect those after them.

Yes, you heard me right. I had an eyes-staring standoff with a macaque. It’s a long story.

(Langur Project Penang is also open to invitation for educational talk. For more details, or if you are interested to be part of our team by volunteering or interning, contact us! We could always use a hand!)

(All photo credits go to Langur Project Penang)

Original article from

What do you think about the wildlife conversation movement in Malaysia? Comment below, let me know!


on 2 Dec, 19:43

Traffic congestion is that date we hate but can’t reject. Thing is, we can.

Traffic congestion is that date we hate but can’t reject. Thing is, we can.

The heavy traffic congestion in Malaysia does not happen by accident. The heavy traffic congestion in Malaysia is not an inevitable product of aggressive economic growth in the 1980s and 1990s. The heavy traffic congestion in Malaysia is definitely not a sign of a “developed country”, unlike what we were led to believe.

What the heavy traffic congestion in Malaysia really is – A product of a series of short-sighted decisions, and the lack of adequate planning and foresight of our leaders. Year 1982 marked the launch of The National Car Project by the Malaysian government. Under the project, citizens were encouraged to purchase our national car Proton in the spirit of patriotism. Gurmit Singh K.S., founder and former president of Environmental Protection Society, Malaysia (EPSM), was one of the few who protested aggressively against the policy, and with good reasons. As stated in his book “Memoirs of a Malaysian Eco-Activist”,

“Our organization (EPSM) considered the local production of cars to be an unnecessary and unwanted solution to the public’s transport woes. The increase in the number of cars on the road would inevitably cause an increase in air pollution and traffic. Furthermore, the National Car Project would shift government funding from public transport to the production of private cars… the worst criticism is that it set(s) Malaysia on a course of car-oriented planning which resulted in the massive traffic jam we are now experiencing.”

At this point, it is hard to tell which is more pathetic. The deliberate negligence of development on public transport system that would benefits the community in favour of private car ownership that causes traffic congestion today, or our national car Proton that, although enjoy success at a degree, proved to be financially unstable with net losses widened to as high as RM478.90 million as of March 31, 2017. Indeed, perhaps the most damaging legacy is the attitude towards car ownership inherited by our young adults today. The pursue of cars more than they could afford has costed Malaysians’ financial status gravely, tolling a total of 21,191 cases of bankruptcy due to car loans from 2013 to February 2017.

It is disheartening to see hard-earned money poured excessively into cars - something that only depreciates in value over time. Instead of buying out of necessity, young adults believe they can buy happiness.

It is disheartening to see hard-earned money poured excessively into cars – something that only depreciates in value over time. Instead of buying out of necessity, young adults believe they can buy happiness.

The exceptionally high car ownership in our country, coupled with improper road planning and some dangerous road condition, often lead to intense driving experience on the road. It is widely known that animals find it intolerable when others are too close for comfort. This trait developed through evolution is automatically activated whenever our personal space is invaded. Our survival instinct is preparing us with sufficient time and space to react for a potential scenario of assault. To put things into perspective, observe individuals, no matter how chatty they were before entering the elevator, would fall into silence almost instantly after they were trapped with strangers inside the small metal box. Once inside, any stranger with loud voice and big body motions would cause us painful discomfort. This sense of discomfort stemmed from the fact that the elevator door has shut and our only escape route has been cut off.

All of us are a claustrophobic at varying degrees.

All of us are a claustrophobic at varying degrees.

Prolonged exposure to this Fight or Flight situation may push some to the edge particularly for women who are more physically vulnerable. But fortunately for all of us, an elevator ride normally takes only a couple of minutes. Recall how you always heave a sigh of relief secretly when the elevator finally opens and you are compelled to leave as soon as possible? Now multiply that couple of tense minutes by 15 for an average 30 minutes traffic congestion experience on the road, top it up with the anxiety that even the tiniest touch between vehicles would cost you at least 3 digits loss of fortune.

We are not built to stay in this adrenaline-pumping condition for that extended period of time. Road violence is just a time bomb waiting to explode with the slightest catalyst. Research by Malaysian Institute of Road Safety (MIROS) in 2014 showed that as high as 18% of registered drivers in our country (2.4 million out of 13.3 million) are classified as ‘high-anger’ drivers.

According to statistic, you are more likely to meet an angry driver than your future girlfriend.

According to statistic, you are more likely to meet an angry driver than your future girlfriend.

A 2014 research conducted by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute using 2008 World Health Organisation (WHO) data also listed Malaysia as the 17th to be most dangerous country among for drivers among 193 countries. No surprises there.

To ease the dire condition on the road and fix the mistake of the past, billions of ringgit has been tossed into building our public transport system in recent years. Trains, monorail and LRT are built for travel between locations in Kuala Lumpur, KLIA Express travels between KLIA1 and KLIA2, and KTM covers most major cities in Peninsula Malaysia and even across borders to Thailand and Singapore. Discount and promotion are also introduced occasionally to attract more riders, most recently the 50% discount for monorail, MRT, LRT and BRT from July to 31 August 2017. KL TravelPass, MyRapid Touch and Go card are also available for riders’ convenience.

However, despite efforts and money poured into the public transport system, ridership for all transit system has declined from 2014 to 2016 according to a report by Ministry of Transport. More importantly, the number of riders is not even high to begin with. We don’t need statistic to know that – the daily traffic condition tells that much. The main incentives for taking public transport should be its relatively lower transportation fee and the convenience the service provides but shockingly neither is the case in Malaysia. The cost for taking public transport system is often on par, if not higher, than taking the wheels on the road. A rider may spend RM 18 for a return trip from Puchong to Sunway via Sunway BRT but driving may cost similarly or lower including toll cost. Utilizing public transit does not guarantee time saving as well, as a rider may takes an hour to travel from Punchong to Sunway via LRT and BRT. This causes the system to lose its edge over private vehicles which take similar or lesser travel time.

Our public transport system has been unsuccessful in playing its part to relieve the notorious traffic condition in Malaysia. This situation is highlighted as recent as October 2017 but corrective actions are remained to be seen. To make an impactful difference, demand for a better public transit system should be integrated into part of a larger movement to make a stronger case. Climate change movement could connects the dots between social, economical, political and environmental issues under one banner.

Adnan A Hezri stated our dreadful situation clearly in his book “The Sustainability Shift: Refashioning Malaysia’s Future”:

“Heavy traffic plays a key role in driving air pollutant concentrations. The air pollution levels in the congested and traffic-heavy municipality of Petaling Jaya record a high concentration of.. nitrous oxide gas from motor vehicles. Fast-developing towns such as Kajang and Nilai are found to have high concentrations of air pollutants originating mainly from vehicle exhausts.”

Quick recap: Global warming occurs when carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHG) are collected in atmosphere and trap heat from sunlight and solar radiation. These gases normally last for years to centuries.

Quick recap: Global warming occurs when carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHG) are collected in atmosphere and trap heat from sunlight and solar radiation. These gases normally last for years to centuries.

What better reason to unite people for a cause other than saving the planet that our very lives depend upon? To reach that end, we should hold our leader accountable on their pledge in Paris Agreement by demanding improved public transport service as an approach to decrease our carbon footprint from motor vehicles. A movement with the ultimate goal to take climate change by the horns has the ability to bring together people from all walks of life who will benefit from it. We are talking about people coming from all sectors here – the underprivileged, low and middle class workers, healthcare personnel, lawyers, educators and everyone else who shared the same vision on equality, justice and just the general well-being of the people. A climate change movement with such momentum will give a strong push for the transport companies to serve the community on the ground instead of stockholders in a distant boardroom. To address the traffic congestion issue and unrelenting rise of petrol price, one of the main solution lies in a public transport system that provides affordable transport fare, convenient interconnected transport network, and better service such as shortened interval between transports.

Enrique Penalosa, former Mayor of Bogotá, Colombia once quoted fittingly to our current situation, “A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transport”.


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Welcome to MESYM!
Connecting the green dots is a crowd-sourced platform and a living database for environmental movements in Malaysia. There are many good actions being done out there. Our goal is to bring them together. We connect the green dots.