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Let's resolve to show more respect for environment

  • It is our responsibility to help in our own little ways to protect and conserve our exceedingly fragile environment.

By Ang Lai Soon

The year 2017 seemed to be rather disappointing to many due to poor global economy and political tension and violence caused by conflicts in ideological beliefs and religious intolerance in some parts of the world.

By and large, this country is fortunate being spared all the worst things that happened elsewhere in this world . We still can enjoy freedom of worshipping, live with other ethnic groups peacefully, express what we feel, and be free from earthquakes and typhoons

However, we also seem to usher in the new year with some disturbing news on the weather front.

Heavy year-end rainfall almost always leads to flooding as we unfortunately witness in Sarawak and West Malaysia in recent weeks.

We can imagine the difficulties the affected people are experiencing, especially as school-going children prepare to return to schools.

As unfortunate as our weather patterns have been, things are of course much worse for those living in parts of the globe often visited by more destructive weather phenomena like typhoons and cyclones.

Of late, such weather phenomena seem to be getting much more frequent, more powerful and therefore more destructive in nature.

Perhaps even more unfortunate is the fact that some politicians and leaders in some very powerful countries are denying that unchecked human activities can contribute to changing weather patterns.

There is no denying that removing our natural forest covers will quicken the pace of rainwater run-off, swelling our rivers and causing more rapid and ferocious flooding.

There is also a growing body of scientific evidence to show that there is actually global warming caused by industrial pollution and vehicles resulting in increased accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

The end result is, of course, more frequent and perhaps more powerful typhoons and other destructive weather-related phenomena.

If such destructive weather patterns are man-made to a certain extent, we as responsible human beings must take special care to protect and preserve our living environment for our own sake.

Too often, we hear that as poorer developing nations, our people have more important things to worry about (such as making a living) than caring for the environment. This is, I think, not only short-sighted but quite wrong.

When strong winds and heavy rains wreak havoc, people who are most affected are those living along river banks and low-lying areas. They are usually the poorer people who can least afford the misfortune brought about by weather-related disasters.

So, the most vulnerable people are usually those who suffer the greatest in the event of such calamities triggered by ongoing environmental degradation.

It is therefore the responsibility of all of us to help in our own little ways and within our own surrounding areas, to protect and conserve the exceedingly fragile environment. Those more able can of course do more by helping to educate others on how preserving the environment is very much about their own self-preservation.

We must be more conscious about leading a more sustainable way of life and choose only products that are friendly to the environment. It can be as simple as insisting on paper or reusable bags than plastic carriers, and wherever possible, to walk or use a bicycle or take public transport instead of driving. We will then be able to contribute our bit to collectively cut down our carbon footprint.

Indiscriminate jungle burning by plantations and individuals in both rural and urban areas must be stopped so that people in many countries in the Asean region do not have to breathe the most polluted air known to man, and damaging human and animal health.

A greener environment is the only way to reduce the volume of Earth's greenhouse gases. Of course, it will not stop serious flooding or strong typhoons or haze or smog. However, it may stop them from getting worse and bring more misery to mankind.

Government and non-governmental organizations like St. John Ambulance, Red Cross (Red Crescent), Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, Rotary, Lions and Jaycees can play a key role in helping to create greater awareness of climate change.

Many years ago I initiated the "PLANT-A-Tree-A-Year" campaign. It was a success as it was very well supported by all. Following the footsteps of St. John Ambulance Sarawak's "PLANT-A-Tree-A-Year" campaign, others including NGOs have also organized similar campaigns since.

If each of us can just plant a tree a year, together we can help make all our urban areas greener and healthier, thus making life more bearable for everyone.

Instead of seeing trees being mercilessly felled and hills flattened in the name of progress and development, we must preserve trees and hills as well, wherever possible. Attempts to create concrete jungles must not be encouraged at all.

On St John Ambulance Sarawak, it has been privileged to attract members from a very broad cross-section of Sarawak's people over the years. They come with very varied personal interests and motivations in becoming members.

I am glad that we have provided a good and healthy platform for them to share and learn new experiences in life. There is nothing like a uniformed organization to impart a greater sense of commitment and discipline as we all journey through life and its many challenges.

I hope and pray that we all resolve in the new year to be more caring and protective of, and showing more respect for our environment because we all share this one and only planet Earth!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

(Datuk Seri Ang Lai Soon is Sarawak social activist, philanthropist, founder of St John's Ambulance Sarawak.)

 

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