on 14 May, 21:17

Climate Change: Penang Out of Time

Climate Change: Penang Out of Time


Symposium On Sustainable Penang. Malaysia. 16 January 2018.


“In time, Malaysians will catch up!”

One of the young panels announced confidently.

Promising ideas were offered by young panels in a symposium held in Komtar Tower, Auditorium A in Penang state of Malaysia. The topic was “Can Penang be made sustainable by 2030?”

One of them highlighted the importance of public transport in reducing or even eliminating the need for private cars. Another pointed at our public education system by urging for mandatory and extensive topic on climate change in school’s syllabus. Strong words such as “love for our nature” were even used to stress how fundamental paradigm shift in our relationship with nature was the key solution.

The discussion climbed to climax when moderator Dr. Lee Lik Meng, who is also a former professor from University Science Malaysia, challenged the youths on how to make the solutions possible by 2030. As one of the panels began answering, a particular phrase caught my attention. My internal alarm went off. And before I could ponder further, the phrase came again. And again. When it rang in my ears for the fourth time, I knew there was no mistake. Something was wrong.


The 21st Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC. Paris. 12 December 2015.

In this historic moment, 195 nations stood together and signed an agreement that could potentially change the course of our history. It would later known as the Paris Agreement. World leaders vowed to keep temperature in year 2050 from increased more than 2 degrees Celsius above where they were before we started powering our economy with coal.

The target ‘two degree Celsius’ was chosen for a very specific reason. Breach the 2 degrees Celsius target, and we break our Earth’s capability to recover. That means the damage we inflicted on our planet will be irreversible and any chance of survival will be out of the window. So far, the temperature has increased by 0.8 degrees Celsius and we have already experienced some of the worse natural disasters ever. Allowing the temperature to warm more than twice that amount will unquestionably have perilous consequences.

In fact, renowned journalist Naomi Klein pointed out that a report published by the World Bank warned that “we’re on track for a 4 degrees Celsius warmer world [by century’s end] marked by extreme heat waves, declining global food stocks, loss of ecosystems and biodiversity, and life-threatening sea level rise.” And the report cautioned that, “There is also no certainty that (human) adaptation to a 4 degrees Celsius world is possible.”

Indeed, we have to act, and we have to act now. With only less than 3 decades away from exceeding the 2 degrees Celsius mark, time is the last thing we can afford to waste.


In auditorium A, the particular phrase rang again in my ears.

“In time, the syllabus in our public education will improve!”

My internal alarm went off again. It was like siren wailed in my ears.

“In time, the city design in Penang will be ideal for the use of public transport!”

Siren thundering in my ears.

“In time, our nation’s legislation will improve and meet the actual needs of the world!”

Someone was having a drum concert on my eardrum.

“In time, Malaysians will catch up!”

One of the young panels announced confidently.

I swear I was almost deaf.


Penang, Malaysia. 4 November 2017.

Penang was making headlines in mainstream media after nearly 2 years the Paris Agreement was signed. The state was experiencing the worst flood to date that displaced around 2,000 victims. That was, however, only the beginning of much worse to come.

Four degrees of warming will also raise global sea levels by 1 or possibly even 2 meters. Island will be drown and coastal areas will be inundated. Penang island will be no exemption.

And let’s not forget about the brutal heat waves that can kill tens of thousands of people. Coupled it with the dramatic yield losses of crops it brings, in a time when demand surges due to population growth, the consequence will be dire. If our ancestors came to Malaya as war or economic refugees, our children will be fleeing Malaysia as climate refugees. Assuming if they survived the raging wildfires, fisheries collapses, widespread disruptions to water suppliers, and globetrotting diseases in the future.

To drive home the point that we are simply running out of time, plenty of mainstream analysts now confirmed that based on our current emissions trajectory, we are headed for even more than 4 degrees of warming. International Energy Agency (IEA) put that number at 6 degrees Celsius.

Fooling ourselves into thinking we can do things slowly, and the change can be gradual and unpainful, is the first thing we should stop doing.


Back in the symposium, it dawned on me that our nation still has much work to be done. After all, the baseless optimistic from one of the young panels that everything will be magically solved in the future sounded suspiciously like we are, yet again, postponing the problem for the next generation to solve – Something we know to do only too well.

As the discussion on stage drawing to an end, I collected my belongings and was ready to leave in a not-so-bright mood.

That was when another panel countered, “No, the future is now! We have to start making difference! Start from today!”

I can’t stop the big smile on my face. Perhaps there is still hope for us after all.

And of course the panel who made the bold remark was a woman.


This article was first published on Aliran, later shared by Penang Green Council on Facebook.

on 21 Apr, 19:56

Malaysian Organic food consumption Public Survey, UCSI university

Dear Sir / Madam,

RE: Malaysian Organic food consumption Public Survey, UCSI university

Good day. I am Lim, a postgraduate student of Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) at UCSI University in Malaysia.

I am currently conducting a Public Survey for my doctoral research project on Malaysian organic food consumption behaviour and their sustainability values perceptions. As your organisation is involved in the health food and sustainable development industry, your participation will be highly valued for this survey.

This survey will only take 10 minutes of your precious time.  Participant anonymity is strictly adhered to and only aggregate data will be used.  Executive Summary of survey results will be provided for those who are interested.  Our aim is to reach 1,000 respondents.  It will be of great help for us if your organisation could forward and circulate among your employees and business associates to participate in this survey.

Below are the links for the online survey (in both English and Bahasa Malaysia versions), as well as Letter of Request from UCSI university for your reference:

Survey (English):

Survey (BM):

University Letter:

If you wish to know more or sponsor part of the research expenses, please do not hesitate to contact me via email Sponsors will be provided with comprehensive report at the end of the research project subject to the approval of the university.

We hope to have a favourable response from your organisation and we highly appreciate your kind participation and support for this research on sustainability and healthy lifestyle.

Hope to hear from you soon, thank you in advance!

Best regard,

EH Lim

(UCSI DBA student)

on 17 Apr, 13:37

GE 14 Open Letter to All Political Parties, by NGOs concerned about the environment

GE 14 Open Letter to All Political Parties, by NGOs concerned about the environment

To: Presidents of all political parties in Malaysia

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by 193 countries, including Malaysia, in September 2015 at the United Nations Summit encompass environmental, social and economic dimensions. These are now considered as universal goals for development and indicators of a country’s well-being.

We believe that environmental conservation deserves a greater emphasis in your aspirations for our country. Sustainable development should be a goal that ensures a win-win in the environmental, social and economic dimensions. By informing voters of your aspirations and plans for sustainable development in Malaysia, you allow them to make informed decisions with their votes. We, the undersigned, urge you to recognise the environmental aspirations of the citizens of Malaysia, especially the youth [refer to i] by: a) including these aspirations in your Party Manifesto; and b) ensuring they are given high priority to ensure sustainable development for current and future generations. We appeal to you to inform the voters how you will work towards realising those aspirations for the benefits of the people and, more specifically, what would you do in the first 100 days, if you are elected to form the government.

Malaysia is recognised as one of the top twelve countries in the world for mega- biodiversity. We are blessed with tropical rainforest, mangroves, peatland, montane forests, which ranks Malaysia the 4th in the world for most tree species [refer to ii] . Our surrounding seas are important parts of the Coral Triangle, which contains more than 75% of the world’s known coral species [refer to iii]. Our biodiversity is certainly one of the reasons why many tourists come to Malaysia.

As we all know, humans cannot survive without nature. While development is meant to increase our standards of living and grow our economy, unsustainable development inadvertently destroys the environment. The environment that provides services we take for granted such as our clean air, fresh water, food, and protection against extreme weather. In the end we are left worse than expected and this does not need to be the case. We must aim to achieve development in a sustainable way to balance our aspirations for economic growth without compromising our natural capital (environmental assets, social systems, cultural resources). Only then can we ensure higher standards of living for current and future generations.

In the absence of sustainable development and without proper protection of nature, the risks of flash flood, air pollution, landslides, shortage of water supply, and expanding urban heat islands will increase. We have already seen some of these happening and the frequency and intensity will get worse due to the pressures of increasing populations and changing climate. Not forgetting the role forests, wetlands and oceans play in providing food, nutrients and recreational space for humans, regulating the climate and buffering against extreme weather.

This Open Letter has been prepared in a neutral and non-partisan manner on behalf of our supporters – your constituents. They expect us to engage with the political system to advocate sustainable development and to urge you to make this a priority above party politics. By informing the voters your aspirations and plans for sustainable development in Malaysia, you allow them to make informed decisions with their votes.

We thank you for taking the time to read this letter.

Yours sincerely,

Biji-biji Initiative
Civil Society Organisations for Sustainable Development Goals (CSO-SDG) Alliance
Ecocentric Transitions
EcoKnights Environmental Protection Society Malaysia (EPSM)
Friends of Sarawak Museum
Hunger Hurts
Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP) Spiral
Malaysian Nature Society
Reef Check Malaysia
Sabah Women’s Action Resource Group (SAWO)
Sabah Environmental Trust
Sabah Wetlands Conservation Society
Sarawak Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
Sarawak Eco Warriors
Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (PROHAM)
Treat Every Environment Special (TrEES)
Wetlands International Malaysia

i According to the National Youth Survey 2007, “the environment” ranked 3rd as the 1st concern among youth surveyed. %20National%20Youth%20Survey%202007%20-%20Exec%20Summary–%20Final.pdf

Please see attachment of a survey on voter concerns when it comes to the environment:

Media release: Poll shows voters most concern with pollution of rivers and seas

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on 2 Apr, 22:12

Our Malaysia: Public Transport and Millennials

Our Malaysia: Public Transport and Millennials

Fatima’s Honda Ex5 buzzed into the busy street of Puchong in Malaysia. She departed from her home with a foreign sense of anxiety. This was her first day taking motorcycle to Sunway City, where she worked as a salesperson. Sunway BRT had been her main mean of transport for the past few months. However, the RM18 expense for a return trip every day soon proved to be a heavy financial burden.

At the tender age of 22, Fatima was new to the workforce and she earned only slightly above the minimum wage of RM 1,000 per month. She was hoping to save more money by not taking the public transport – The irony is not lost on her. Fending away the sense of helplessness sinking in, Fatima redirected her focus on the road.

She was praying under her breath for a safe traveling ahead when – “HONK!” The sudden outburst of car horn from behind caught her by surprise.

Picking the Colour to Paint Malaysia

The 14th general election of Malaysia is just around the corner. More Millennials than ever are participating in this vote for their nation’s future. Perhaps it is finally time for our new bloods to inject fresh ideology into our current political stream, paving the road for meaningful changes.

However, In order to achieve that, it will means our new generation has to be first free from the same false political outlook that haunts our nation for decades.

Stand for Nothing, Fall for Everything

Some of us often oversimplify the political climate in Malaysia. It doesn’t (really) matter if it’s the allegedly private channelling of RM 2.67 billion into a private account; it also doesn’t matter if it’s the unsustainable development that led to devastating loss when extreme weather slapped us in the face.

The question is, and has always been, which political party is responsible for the crisis.

It’s always easy to portray one party as the ‘villain’, and by definition the opposing party should be the ‘hero’. In fact, Some of us wish it was true so much that, at varying degree, we started to believe it.

This monochromatic political outlook forfeits the needs for any meaningful check-and-balance. Since our chosen leaders are the heroes – and heroes are supposed to be flawless – we do not hold them accountable to the high standard they should represent.

Our political leaders are naturally not blind to this unrealistic sentiment some of the Rakyat has. And they play their cards right into it.

This is when the game gets really dangerous.

The Hero We Wanted, But Not We Needed

One of the highlight in the manifesto proposed by the main opposition party in Malaysia, Pakatan Harapan, is the abolishment of toll. This will undoubtedly wins the hearts of many road users who are already suffocating financially.

This kind of announcement is exactly what most of the Rakyat want to hear.

But is this really what we need to hear?

In fact, this narrowed focus on private vehicles will undoubtedly encourages more traffic on the road. It is telling the Rakyat to pump more greenhouse gases into our atmosphere (completely ignoring the deadly threat poses by climate change) while aggravating the traffic congestion condition in our nation. The escalated tension between drivers that ensued will surely lead to more road rage cases and fatal traffic accidents in increasing severity.

As highlighted by environmental journalist Naomi Klein in her book ‘This Changes Everything’, what we really need is massive investment in “affordable public transit and clean light rail accessible to all. And urban design that clusters essential services like schools and health care along the transit routes and in pedestrian-friendly areas.”

Doing the right thing will inevitably means taking the giant oil companies and automotive companies by the horns. But it is something that must be done in Malaysia. Not only for the welfare of the Rakyat but also a S.O.S attempt to save ourselves from burning down our home.

Public transportation ranked next to last among Malaysians’ priority, according to survey conducted by IPSOS.

You can bet your money on our political leaders being fully aware of this fact. But they also know they will be making a lot of enemies along the line but not earning many votes as they should. In their eyes, this is essentially a high-risk, low-return investment. At least that is what the statistic says – The Rakyat is simply not demanding it.

So why aren’t we?

Answering the Battle Call

To her terror, Fatima found herself within an inch of getting hit by a speeding car. It was driving dangerously close to her while flashing headlights – forcing her to make way. The stress was almost overwhelming.  Fatima slowly steered to the side and willed herself to stay calm. She was still choked by the same heavily polluted air that was irritating her eyes.

Bathed in sweat under the unforgiving sun, Fatima felt dreadful looking at the seemingly endless line of traffic that stretched into the horizon. Drawing a long breath, she reminded herself to never give in. She simply refused to live the rest of her life in this dire state.

Change will comes, Fatima believed, and when Malaysia calls, she will be first of many who answer.

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.

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