Sustainability and environmentalism: perspectives from the youth June 28, 2018 – Posted in: In The News – Tags: , ,

It is very rare that the youth get a chance to voice out their concern, even rarer with regards to a topic as important as sustainability and environmentalism.

15284163_10154682302304827_1272877585689138706_nLast week, I represented #PowerShiftMsia to attend the book launch of The Sustainability Shift: Refashioning Malaysia’s Future by Dr Adnan A. Hezri. To be completely honest, I have never heard of the author prior to the event nor have I previously attended any environmentally oriented book launch. Tuesday came, I put on my formal wear and with managed expectations, I made my way to Putrajaya.

Turns out, the day was very fruitful indeed. I returned home very encouraged by the conversations I had, people I’ve met and the bibliophile in me rejoicing over a free copy of the said book.

The highlight was definitely the youth seminar which was moderated by the author himself and involved Adrian Yeo, the founder of our #PowerShiftMsia, Malaysia’s youth climate change movement. He, along with other members of the panel tried to pin down the future that youths want. Here, I would like to commend the organizer for taking two very important things into consideration.

Firstly, the individuals that were assembled to make up the panel of the seminar as well as the crowd were very varied in background. I could make out people from NGOs, government agencies and private companies not only from Peninsular Malaysia but also from East Malaysia. I felt that this was very important if new ideas were to be translated into sound policy. It is only through cooperation and consensus that progress can take place.

Aside from this, it is very rare that the youth get a chance to voice out their concern, even rarer with regards to a topic as important as sustainability and environmentalism. The youth seminar took this into consideration and invited young individuals who worked with largely ground-up organisations. In other words, the people who were on the stage at that time would most likely inherit Malaysia in 2050 and beyond.

Despite the positive outlook of the event, I could not help but notice some shortcomings that I would like to share here in hopes that future events that would like to brand themselves as ‘sustainable’ could take into consideration. Not to disrespect the gracious hosts that invited us to this prestigious event but I felt that more could be done to improve a book launch that is ironically about ‘sustainability’.

The event was held in a hotel that was very remote and devoid of any public transport access. This meant that almost all attendees relied on fossil fuel powered cars to attend the event. Being conscious of this, I took the KLIA Transit but still had to rely on an Uber for my last mile to the event venue.

Everyone was then treated to non-vegetarian breakfast, tea and a buffet lunch. It can be sometimes inconvenient to opt for vegetarian (and hence more sustainable) food for events but if an event that would like to label itself as such does not start, who will?

However, given the bigger picture, books and youth dialogues like these are important mainstream the concept of sustainability. These are tools to (in the words of the author) induce a ‘sustainability shift’ where the development processes operate using the logic of sustainability principles. I had a chance to quickly browse through the book and I must say it is very reader friendly given its graphs, facts and figures; something very rare in scientific books intended for public consumption.

I would like to conclude by communicating my hope that the youth will be given more opportunities like this to speak out about environmental and sustainability issues. It is cliché to say this but it is true that the decisions made today by the governance (I say governance because this includes governments, NGOs and civil society) will affect us all tomorrow. – Quek Yew Aun

This article first appeared on 4 December 2016 in the blog #PowerShiftMsia (Malaysian Youth Climate Change Education and Empowerment)

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