Are you with EARTH?

Green Ink - LoyarBurok's environmental rights column

Green Ink - LoyarBurok's environmental rights column

Another call to action for each and everyone of us to do our part beyond attending events and tweaking tweets and Facebook status messages. This time it’s to save the place where we all store our stuff – Earth.

1010 in Selangor

10:10 in Selangor

How many of us knew that, 10th Oct 2010, apart from being an auspicious date for getting marriage, was also a date where the 10:10 campaign took place. 10:10 is a global campaign calling for a 10% reduction in carbon emissions in 2010. Across the 188 countries around the globe, a total of 110,000 people signed up for over 7000 coordinated events, from large and iconic to small practical actions.

The 10th of October 2010 was certainly the largest day of positive actions on climate change ever. The project aims to mobilise public support across the globe to apply pressure on policymakers to commit to national cuts. These joint actions and pledges represent the commitment of the people on the street in acknowledging the importance of their role in mitigating climate change. It is also aimed at getting policy makers and businesses to acknowledge and play their part. The people are simply fed up with the inaction of our leaders on climate.

We have seen, over the years, how policy makers and corporate ignored, some even denied, their part in causing climate change, and subsequently refuse to take mitigating actions to reverse or reduce their ecological footprint.

Just days before the 10:10, on the 5th Oct 2010, a burst toxic sludge reservoir from an aluminium plant released waves of toxic sludge. This toxic by-product of aluminium manufacturing was swept across a few Hungarian towns and villages – killing at least 9, injuring more than 100, and displacing more than 400 people. The incident resulted in a state of emergency being declared. It is the worse environmental disaster in the history of Hungary. While authorities and environmentalists are still working to clean up the affected villages, the extent and effects of the damage to the environment is yet to be determined. The worst hit villages may have to be abandoned for good.

Hungary Sludge Flood (Source: AP photos)

Hungary sludge flood (Source: AP photos)

Isifa, Hungary (Source: Getty Images)

Hungary (Source: Getty Images)

The investigation on the cause of this incident is still on-going, but all fingers are pointing towards human negligence. World Wildlife Fund(WWF) released aerial photos taken in June showing red sludge seeping through the reservoir and into the local drainage system. This first signs of possible leakage were totally ignored by the aluminium company and authorities – whether intentionally or not, remains unknown.

Closer to home, as our Sarawak state continues to pursue to build 3 aluminium smelters in the largest state of Malaysia, do we, Malaysians on the street understand the potential risks to our health and to the environment the aluminum industry posed?

Would we standby the local environmentalist to pressure the state government to rethink their decisions of building the smelters?

Or to conduct and published a transparent Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment?

Are we prepared to handle, if similar incident in Hungary happens to any of the aluminium smelter?

Are we prepared to have these aluminium smelters?

Do we need them?

Or maybe the Sarawak state is just hoping the aluminium industry will be able to take up the excess power generated by the long list of hydro power dams to be built in the state. But to destroy your forest to build a renewable energy plant to power an energy intensive industry doesn’t sound like a balance equation to me, as far as the environment is concern.

As we read this, a forest, the size of Singapore is dying, together with it, a large diversity of wildlife recorded, or unrecorded. We may be losing the first and the last species of tiger in Borneo, you’d never know. (There was no recorded species of tiger in Borneo)

Few days after 10:10 on 13 October 2010, the flooding of South East Asia’s largest, and most controversial dam, has begun. Despite police reports made by local residents and environmental groups, the flooding of the Bakun dam continues. The groups claim the Emergency Rescue Plan has not been made public, a grave concern especially to the people living in the downstream, if ever the dam runs into trouble. And to date, the authorities concerned have yet to announce any plan that would take into account the environmental and catastrophic consequences of Bakun Dam on the downstream communities. Why is the authorities involved rushing to flood the dam, when there is yet to be committed buyer for the power generated?

Bakun (Source: The Star)

Bakun (Source: The Star)

  • Do you know that Sarawak plans to build 12 additional hydroelectric plants to fulfil future(uncertain) industrial demands?
  • Do you also know that based on current growth, the demand for power in Sarawak will not match the power supply generated by these plants, and will result an energy glut in the state?
  • Do you know, upon completion of the 12 hydroelectric plants in plan, Sarawak will be 85% dependent on hydro power – causing a power scenario whereby even if the power demand can “catch up” with the supply, it is not sustainable and not secure?

Months before 10:10, in March 2010, the El-Nino effect dried up the lakes and the dams in the island of Mindanao, Philippines. Hydroelectric plants generate 70% of Mindanao’s for power requirement, making Mindanao dependent on these hydroelectric plants.

In the first half of 2010, the people of Mindanao had to go through power rationing. During certain hours of a day, or certain days of the week, residents will be completely cut-off from the grid. All corners of Mindanao felt the effects of this power crisis. Industry output in the region dove by more than 50%. The Zamboanga del Sur I Electric Cooperative (ZAMSURECO-I) survived only because its employees, including the general manager, agreed to a pay-cut during the height of the crisis.

The power crisis is the second one in recent Philippines history. It has sparked discussions on alternative energy sources, such as geothermal and methane capture. Several geothermal projects have been identified and construction is on foot. And in Quezon City, Luzon, power is already being generated from its newly installed CDM-approved methane capture system in one of its landfill.

Learning from the experiences in Mindanao and looking back to Malaysia, do we know what alternative energy sources Sarawak is exploring? Are we not concerned that Malaysia’s power mix is more than 90% dependent on fossil sources – gas, diesel, and coal?

The largest day of climate action is now over. There were many events across the globe to commemorate this day – some received well deserved media publicity, some received positive support from authorities, while some went unnoticed. Whatever the achievement of 10:10, the action must not stop. Mitigating climate change is not a combat which can be won in a day, it should not be just a symbolic, publicity event. Neither does it stop at your tweets and Facebook status.

Climate change is real. It is happening everyday to everyone, and it will continue to impact our future generations. This is an everyday battle – a battle in which we must not only pressure our leaders to act, but also you and I, must feel that pressure to get involved and act.

Over coffee table talk, we always blame the government for not doing enough for the environment. But as an individual, we must make a pledge today – to cut emission and reduce of carbon footprint. It always starts from home, it starts with us. It takes everyone of us to change the course of this battle.

Be the ears and eyes of mother earth, try to understand government policies and learn how projects such as the aluminium smelters in Sarawak impact us. Join a local movement and speak up if you think any governmental policies and projects could harm the environment or you local ecosystem. (LB: Read and write for our environmental column Green Ink!)

Be informed, make informed decisions everyday especially when you are buying. Furniture with certified sustainable forestry stamp, and energy efficient electrical appliances results in less damage to the environment.

Be more energy efficient, turn off the appliances and tap when not needed. It will help you save money in the long run.

Do not turn anyone or anything ON and walk away.

Are you with EARTH?

Green-Note: Learn how you can cut your emissions with 10 simple steps, and make your pledge here.

LoyarBurok's Green Ink columnist, Chow Pong with is pledge

LoyarBurok's Green Ink columnist, Chow Pong with is pledge

LB: Leong ChowPong sells black in the day and turns green at night; “I fade in and out of existence; and I walk both world, to deliver the message in completeness.”

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I walk in and out of both world to deliver the most complete message.

Posted on 23 October 2010. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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