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Environmental Issues In My Backyard August 17, 2007

Posted by Wilz in Environment.
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palmoil.jpgAs the predicted crazy storms and floods hit all around the world, some environmental issues have been brewing back at home in Sarawak.

My exposure to it, comes from the typical, “they hate us” and “we’re under attack” types of pronouncements our politicians make whenever they feel the slightest bit threatened – an article in the Star highlighted the issue from Malaysia’s point of view, with the title of the article being “KL and Jakarta in joint battle.” Battle? Against what? Says Datuk Peter Chin Fah Kui (Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister):

“These campaigns are spreading very fast. Those behind such campaigns are resorting to lies and distorting issues.

“They are no more just saying that palm oil is harmful to health. They are telling the Western world that Malaysia and Indonesia are ravaging the forests and committing genocide against animals, particularly the orang utans because of our oil palm projects.

“These activists are harping on issues that are sensitive to the Western population, They want to stir up emotions so that consumers there would boycott our palm oil and the downstream products.

Quite a bunch of insidious bastards aren’t they, these western campaigners. Inciting people to believe in untruths and all kinds of lies. I’m pretty sure that these ‘anti-palm oil’ campaigners do exist. In almost every industry, people do all kinds of ridiculous things to maintain the dominance of their product – Intel (who lost a lawsuit) and Microsoft (who got sued like countless times) being perfect if more civilized examples (my friend E would disagree that it is civilized) .

However it seems to me that these anti-palm oil people are being lumped together with a completely different group of people, those who are thinking about the environment, who are painfully conscious of the issues surrounding biodiversity and the need to preserve it. Take these two [1] [2] excellent articles on the dangers of bio-fuel for example. There are real issues here.

So, are articles like this one on the New York Times an attack on Malaysia’s oil palm industry? If you read the article, the word Malaysia appears three times, twice as part of the captions of photos, and another time in a list of the biggest oil palm producers in the world. The environmental horrors – burning the forests and destroying animal habitats are all clearly attributed to Indonesia. In fact, this is the pattern you will find in most articles about this matter. Horrors happening in Indonesia, concerns that the same will happen in Malaysia. If we’re not doing what they’re doing, why are we allying with them in a ‘battle’ against the west?

Climate change is a real problem, yes. But biodiversity is an issue to. In fact, our reactions to climate change can very well put biodiversity at risk. Actually, like anything in life, there are a lot of issues. Where is the intelligent discussion? Why do we jump back and defend ourselves and declare ‘battle’ before we consider the issues objectively?

This article on the Malaysian palm oil council website is a much better way to handle issues that arise as a result of our activities – by providing information. (Though that is actually replying to this article, which hardly attacked Malaysia, and dealt with a range of issues much greater than just biodiversity.) Actually, if we had half a brain at all, we’d distance ourselves from the non-sustainable activities, and learn from our critics how we can improve! To his credit, Datuk Peter Chin sounded less like a defensive turf-marker when he was overseas (from this article):

Minister Datuk Peter Chin said: “The palm oil industry is facing issues raised by NGOs ranging from the destruction of rainforest and loss of biodiversity to land clearance for agricultural purposes. We have learned many lessons about maintaining biodiversity and the balance between the needs of man and the needs of the environment, but we recognise that there is still more we can do.”

Minister Chin, speaking at the Symposium on Sustainable Resource Development in Brussels, said “we do understand that the dynamic demands of the current world require us to reconcile the pressures of continuing to provide nutrition to populations, returns to the shareholders and maintaining a balance between wildlife and society. Our commitment is to sustainability through programmes such as the RSPO, minimising our C02 emissions, and adopting agricultural practices that conserve the rainforests and wildlife.”

And most respectable of all, he said this:

“Malaysia wants to pursue a continued dialogue on sustainability and biodiversity. We recognise the importance of standards to ensure sustainability, and believe that the best way to achieve them is to engage directly with those who have to implement and enforce them on the ground,” he said.

The question is, why didn’t these intelligent, thoughtful words come out of his mouth for the Malaysian media? It obviously is a better way to deal with things, considering that our market lie mostly in Europe, and that the issues are very real, and needs to be dealt with. To be fair, it wasn’t him who titled the article in the Star, but why use the defensive, battle-like tone with your people, and save the intelligent, sensible tone for the foreigners?

Did you think we were too stupid to handle the truth?

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