DID YOU know that 94% of the world’s seed varieties have disappeared and farmers are fighting a losing battle to protect our food legacy? Or that your handphone or laptop will make up the next tidal wave of trash to threaten the planet?
Such are the concerns the ninth Kuala Lumpur Eco Film Festival (KLEFF), which is expecting a turnout of more than 6,000 visitors over three days of film and documentary screenings, hopes to bring forth.
“This is more than a film festival. It is a way for us to bring out in the open a multitude of issues that has been and will eventually threaten our environment,” said KLEFF founder Yasmin Rasyid, who is also Malaysian Environmental NGOs president.
It is her greatest hope that KLEFF will impact the audience enough for them to make changes to the environment by finding out who they can talk to and bringing their concerns to the next level. And she says the festival will give audiences a full smorgasbord of issues to look at.
“They will see how ecologically conscious businesses are run at their Green Market. They will have a chance to meet representatives of indigenous tribes and learn of their fight to protect their ancestral lands. There will even be a compost making workshop using food waste,” she said.
The public should walk away with the important knowledge that water does not come from a tap, electricity is not magically summoned by clicking a switch and dumping stuff into a dustbin is not the end of the story when it comes to rubbish.
“Many people do not realise the toxic consequences that come with waste because it is hidden. But when a screening touches on this, the room is always packed because people are concerned about being poisoned,” said Yasmin, who names the fashion and automobile industry as the highest contributors to toxic waste.
Yasmin feels Malaysians still have a long way to go when it comes to environmental awareness.
Twenty years ago, there were no government positions for environmental science graduates.
One story she never tires of telling is while lecturing at a local university, she asked a student which would be considered a more eco-friendly mode of transport – a pedal-powered bicycle or one that came with an electric motor powered by a battery.
To her shock, the university student answered it was the latter simply because it had a green tech label!
Festival director Fadly Bakhtiar hopes the festival will inspire and touch a chord with the new generation.
“We have the policies in place. But where is the enforcement? I believe we can only see the change when we are pushed to the brink, when the day comes when water is more expensive than diamonds,” he said.
Meanwhile, man has yet to learn his lesson. In Ulin, one of the festival’s shortlisted films directed by Leo Plunkett, an indigenous Dayak community is seen clinging desperately to a forest of ulin trees, forced to wage a David and Goliath battle against large plantation companies.
In The Disappearing Hills, director Yeo Kai Wen forces us to look at how the clearing of large tracts of land have put Cameron Highlands in Pahang under the environmental radar.
“But the over-development on this hill station is the main reason why many farmers have secured a comfortable lifestyle.
“It is not realistic to say we should become environmental purists overnight.
“Unless we don’t shop or drive and take to living in the jungle. You can’t stop development or limit population growth.
“History has shown that they don’t work as seen from countries that have practised these policies in the past. But one thing we can do is to stop over consumption,” said Fadly.
The festival director’s sentiments are echoed in the new video award category made between the United Nations Development Programme and the Public Works Department.
In this section, 30-second to three-minute videos touch on electricity consumption.
One of them Power Down to Power All, by Ayu Abdullah and Teresa Krug, may strike a chord with people who think nothing of leaving the fan and lights on in empty rooms.
KLEFF will be held at MAP, Publika Shopping Gallery in Kuala Lumpur from Oct 14 to 16 and will offer 85 screenings over three days. For details, call 03-7731 8361.