PETALING JAYA: Haze or no haze, Malaysia will be joining the Global Climate Strike this month, starting with a month-long Ops Darurat Iklim (Climate Emergency Operation) with workshops and documentary screenings.
The Malaysian level of the global campaign demanding urgent government action to address the climate change crisis will culminate in a rally on Sept 21.
Over 250 people are expected to gather and march from Sogo KL to Dataran Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur, starting at 4.30pm on that day.
Pressure group Klima Action Malaysia (Kamy) has joined hands with the likes of Greenpeace Malaysia and Amnesty International Malaysia to build momentum for the Global Climate Strike.
“The climate justice movement has had massive traction globally, but Malaysia has not been keeping up.
“It would be a waste if we don’t take this opportunity to push the climate agenda in Malaysia, ” Kamy co-founder Ili Nadiah Dzulfakar told The Star after a banner-making event at Rumah Seni Selangor recently, where volunteers spent a creative afternoon making banners, placards and flags for the upcoming rally.
Established only in April, Kamy has organised three demonstrations called My Climate Strike and has joined hands with other non-governmental organisations in their respective protests.
What differentiates it from other pressure groups is that Kamy’s campaign is held mainly in Bahasa Malaysia.
Ili Nadiah said it was a conscious decision as the climate narrative, largely in English, had not been able to engage with a large population in Malaysia.
“We want to inject this idea of climate change to people who don’t really understand such issues because there are few resources in Bahasa Malaysia, ” she said, adding that they were reaching out to the masses, including the B40 group and marginalised communities.
The 32-year-old said this was also why the workshops leading up to the rally were crucial.
“During the strike, we are just going to march, protest and have speeches.
“The activities prior to the rally are important to disseminate information and get the numbers that we need to come to the strike, ” she said, adding that the strike would be an exercise in freedom of speech to communicate Kamy’s four demands to the government.
These four demands are to “smash” the wall of political and media silence on the climate crisis, declare a climate emergency for financial and policy mobilisation, raise awareness among Malaysians about the climate crisis and raise the visibility of the climate narrative from developing countries.
“The climate narrative has always been told from the Western viewpoint and not from the southern region of the world, ” she said, adding that it was important to add a South-East Asian voice to the global movement.
Ili Nadiah said the theme for Ops Darurat Iklim would be centred on the haze plaguing Malaysia and some of its Asean neighbours.
She slammed Indonesia for its denials but also likened Malaysia’s move to blame the haze solely on Indonesia as “the pot calling the kettle black”.
“Indonesia has been living in denial for quite some time; they were the last country to ratify the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution that was proposed in the early 2000s.
“Their denial is something that we have to learn from, ” she said.
Ili Nadiah, however, added that Malaysia was also living in denial by being “selective” in releasing government data on the environmental situation here and “denying” access to this data.
“Malaysia just has 18% of its virgin forests left but the government says there is more than 50% forest cover – that is selective messaging, ” she said.
Ili Nadiah urged Malaysians from all ages and sectors of society to join the strike on Sept 21.
“It is important because this is the year where people come up to the streets to demand changes (to fend off) environmental degradation.
“Normally, this issue has always been put aside – revenue is more important... but we have to realise that all our revenue comes from our natural resources.
“When our natural resources are degraded, how are we going to get our revenue in the future?
“This is not sustainable for our economy, ” she said, adding that both the rich and the poor were being affected by climate change.
Spearheaded by 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, the Global Climate Strike will take place ahead of the United Nations Emergency Climate Summit on Sept 23.
It comes as forest fires in the Amazon, central Africa, Arctic regions in Siberia, Australia, Indonesia and more countries are burning at a historic pace.
While some forest fires are due to hot weather or accidents, many are man-made, caused by slash-and-burn practices for agriculture and cattle farming.
In Malaysia, fires are raging in the Johan Setia peatlands in Selangor as well as in Johor and Sarawak.
These forest fires happening globally are also speeding up global warming as more carbon is released into the atmosphere.
On Aug 19, Iceland lost its first glacier Okjökull to climate change after the warmest July on record.
According to media reports, scientists in Iceland together with Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir held a “funeral” for Okjökull, with a memorial plaque as a letter to the future.
“In the next 200 years all our glaciers are expected to follow the same path. This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it, ” the plaque reads.
The plaque is also inscribed with the label “415 ppm CO2”, indicating the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.