By Dominic O’Sullivan
They say that ‘silence is consent’ and, by not standing up for our rights and for urgent change, we allow many self-centred and misguided global leaders to continue to play their tunes while the world we love shrivels and burns; reminds me of Nero!
I look at what is happening around me – in Malaysia, Indonesia, Brazil, Central Africa, Australia. And I worry.
Locally, trees (even heritage trees) are being removed, rivers diverted or buried, air and water and land being contaminated and cleared to accommodate development greed and convenience. Every available patch of ground space is being concreted over never to receive rain or wind or sunlight again. Worse still is that there is no replacement replanting programme. Have we ever stopped to think that there might be an unseen consequence of all that?
Globally, there is rampant destruction of the land, and the sea, and all the life forms on and within.
What is the matter with people? What is the matter with us, that we have become slaves to expediency, to convenience, to the ‘must have, NOW!’ mentality? Why do we allow ourselves to, unquestioningly, be influenced by the slogans, advertising and directives from businesses and from our representatives about what we should be doing, what we should be thinking? We appear to follow the Pied Piper without realising that the path we are following leads to almost certain destruction, not just of our way of life, but of our continued existence on this planet we call home.
If we occasionally stop to ask ourselves about what we need, as opposed to what we want, what is actually good for us and our families and what is not, what is simply the right (morally correct, sensible, most sustainable) thing to do and what clearly is not, then maybe, MAYBE, we might start to see the folly of continuing to do what we do now.
Sadly, a major absentee in the arsenal of doing things better is global leadership. Governments across the world, almost without exception, do not prioritise environmental health and stability; their priority is still stuck in the ‘economic development at all costs’ mentality. Look at Brazil, and even here in Malaysia where, even on my doorstep, the authorities say that green space is important to community health, yet remaining forest patches are still being degazetted and pillaged for new condos or palm oil plantations. We already have a glut of both.
Surviving The Climate Emergency
It is clear that, while this trend continues, the odds of surviving the Climate Emergency (and it is an Emergency) are stacked against mankind.
Then, I ask myself, ‘if the evidence (as I see it) is undeniable, how do global leaders continue to compromise (even threaten?) our survival beyond this 21st century?’ Surely, such irresponsible behaviour is unworthy of the offices they hold, such leadership is unworthy of the trust we have placed in them. Surely such behaviours, and the threats they pose to our future, need to be questioned; the policies and actions of such leadership styles challenged and called out for what they really are.
Now, according to one definition I read, ‘a deliberate act, typically as part of a systematic campaign, that causes human suffering or death on a large scale’ can be regarded as a Crime Against Humanity! The term arose from the appalling atrocities of the World Wars, especially WW2, where horrific acts of cruelty, genocide and mass population displacement occurred. In all, at least 50 million died in WW2 alone, of which the vast majority were non-combatants. With what we see deliberately going on today, it seems inevitable that the number displaced and dying could be much, much worse.
Thus the question arises ‘Is knowingly compromising the future survival of our home planet (not simply our local economy) and its seven billion population not criminally irresponsible?’ Is accepting mass climate-related migrations, crop failures, pandemics, worsening social inequalities, political unrest and ultimately social breakdown, as just ‘collateral damage’ to our current way of life, is that really what we are agreeing to? And, if the situation is so dire, why do we not know about it? Why is it not talked about more openly? Why does this appear to have been ignored?
It is time to WAKE UP and smell the rank bitterness of the coffee!
History has shown, many times, the destructive impact of unbridled greed, ignorance and complacency, and that every nation and civilisation that took this path ultimately perished. We are on that same road towards a sixth mass extinction, and many of us are totally unaware.
I recently took part in a global event entitled 24 Hours of Reality which involved people from around the world committing to raise awareness about the Climate Crisis over 10-11 October. By the reaction of those I spoke to afterwards, it was obvious that many, many people are still not aware nor concerned about the situation, and that is alarming and emphasises why I and others have chosen to commit to the Climate Reality Project.
If I step back from the global picture for a moment, and consider what I need to live, I think of ‘Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs’. Basically, for my bodily and survival needs, I look for clean air, clean water, ample food, security and shelter for me and for my family. Everything else is not survival critical, and it is largely vanity and greed that pushes us to wanting more to the point that while we pursue the new car, the Rolex watch, the designer clothes, and the body adjustments, we fail to understand that globally, our water supplies are already being compromised by wastage and contamination, our food supplies dwindling due to over-farming, over-fishing, and by changing weather patterns, our air polluted by excessive damaging greenhouse gases and acid rain from burning fossil fuels.
Then, just a few weeks ago, I heard about two landmark cases:
- In the Netherlands, a case was brought against the Netherlands government for not doing enough to comply with legal requirements for decreasing emissions, which was upheld.
- In Columbia, a group of children and young adults successfully brought a case against their government that ‘deforestation was violating their constitutional rights to a healthy life’.
People are waking up, and are prepared to challenge governments for their practices. Recently, here in Malaysia, there was the case of the contamination of water supplies by the repeated dumping of industrial waste into the river system which left 1.2 million people without water. What action will be taken for a repeat offender when the relative regulations appear to have been flouted again? Sadly, environmental laws exist but consistency in enforcement appears to be lacking, and we may all pay the ultimate price for that.
Even at the Kuala Langat North Forest Reserve, the last almost 1,000 hectares of forest (only about 10% of the original area gazetted in 1927) are threatened by a consortium which appears to include the State government and royal family connections.
This, driven by greed and wanton disregard for humanity is taking place at a time when we appear to have glut of housing accommodation and malls, and when we already know that plantations are an environmental disaster. Surely, we could expect a better example given the state of the global environment of which Malaysia’s forest are a crucial part?
The writing is on the wall! At what point will we collectively demand that those, whom we have entrusted as stewards of our countries, and of whom we have a right to expect their best efforts to serve and protect us, face up to the facts of the Climate Emergency, and to the hard and long overdue decisions that have to be made?
The time for significant action is now. Play your part – for your children’s sake, for your grandchildren’s sake. Satisfy yourself as to the gravity of the current situation and take some action, such as sharing your concerns with those near to you, attending webinars and presentations near you to be better informed, by joining climate or conservation NGOs, lobbying your MP, and then make changes to your lifestyle and to your daily priorities. – New Malaysia Herald
Dominic O’Sullivan recently qualified as a Climate Reality Leader (CRL) under the mentorship of former US Vice President Al Gore and The Climate Reality Challenge. He and his fellow CRLs in Malaysia are available to give presentations and to facilitate debates on the Climate Emergency.
The views expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of New Malaysia Herald.