We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors. We borrow it from our Children.
– Red Indian Saying.

Our present trajectory of growth is simply unsustainable. It is putting too much stress on the environment. We need to act, and act resolutely if we want to avert an environmental catastrophe which will, in all probability, lead to an existential crisis for humanity. If we wish to heed the Red Indian saying quoted above, we need to look at several inter-related issues namely

– Management of the waste we produce – reduction, recycling and proper disposal

– Curtailing of highly polluting industrial processes

– Preservation of bio-diversity

– Reduction of greenhouse gases.


Our challenges are…

A certain portion of the heat from the sun is reflected away from planet Earth into Outer Space as heat radiation (infrared spectrum). Greenhouse gases such as water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and ozone interfere with this process by reflecting some of the heat energy heading out to Space back to the planet Earth1. According to Wikipedia, in 1980, water vapour in the atmosphere contributed 50% of the greenhouse effect, clouds contributed 25% and carbon dioxide another 20%. The buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere from 280 parts per million in 1750 to its current 406 ppm, is an important contributor to global warming – and one that is directly due to mankind’s activities. *** estimates that the rising CO2 level is responsible for **% of the global warming that we are experiencing.
Malaysia produced 255.78 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2017 (ycharts.com/indicators/ Malaysia_carbon_dioxide). Though the total amount is low compared to countries like China, the US and India, our per capita production of CO2 is the highest in the region. Table ** below summarizes these statistics.
Country Estimated total CO2 emission in 2014 (kilo tons) Per capita CO2 production in 2017 (metric tons/yr) CO2 production per USD 1 0f GDP (kg)
Malaysia 242,821 8.0 0.8
Singapore 56,373 10.3 0.2
Thailand 316,213 4.6 0.8
Indonesia 464,176 1.8 0.5
Vietnam 166,911 1.8 1.2
USA 5,254,279 16.5 0.3
Japan 1,214,048 9.5 0.2
UK 419,820 6.5 0.2
China 10,291,927 7.5 1.2
India 2,238,377 1.7 1.1
Source: data.worldbank.org/indicator
The table above reflects the fact that Malaysia not only has a much higher per capita carbon emission when compared with other developing countries, but also uses more polluting technology when compared to the more advanced countries – our CO2 emission per unit of GDP is markedly more than the US or Japan.
It should be clear from the discussion so far that we need to shift away from the use of hydrocarbons for our energy needs. We have to shift to modes of electricity generation that do not spew carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. There are technologies already available to do that and we will be reviewing them later in this paper. Once we are in a position to generate sufficient electricity in a non-polluting manner, we should transform our transport sector, the biggest culprit for CO2 emissions. We need to transit to electric powered public transport. Similarly, we can push industries to move away from hydrocarbon combustion in their processes replacing their energy needs with electricity. Domestic consumption of gas for cooking purposes too should be switched to electrical appliances for cooking – once we can generate electricity in a non-polluting manner. We need,
    1. Sustainable Development & Environmental Protection
      • Gazette all permanent forest and wildlife reserves;
      • Ensure all local people are consulted before any development and that laws requiring EIA studies are commissioned by the government and not by the developer;
      • Protect the rights of farmers and fisherfolk and create a national food security policy with a push for food agriculture instead of commodities such as palm oil;
      • Recognize and distribute land fairly to all genuine farmers;
      • Promote renewable energy projects that do not destroy forests or Orang Asal land, impose strict energy and water conservation measures including incentives for energy efficiency and other forms of demand management;
      • No nuclear power or other toxic industries;
      • Enforce recycling measures, responsible and efficient waste disposal;
      • Enact laws to prevent cruelty to animals and actively promote animal welfare;
    1. Sustainable Infrastructure and Regional Development Plan
      1. Decentralise development away from Klang Valley by creating regional centres across the country while capitalizing on the specific strengths of each region, nurturing sustainable and thriving rural economies and cultural life to halt the brain drain in small towns and villages;
      2. Green public transport systems for all major cities in Malaysia to transform urban centres as pedestrian-friendly and livable cities;
      3. Prepare the labour market for the impending automation in the manufacturing and services industries through skill-upgrading programmes and migration to other high-tech industries;
      4. Institutional and financial support for the high-tech green industry, including manufacturing of trains, solar panels, electric cars and buses;
      5. Implement a policy of sustainable farming, moving away from environmentally destructive industrial farming and chemical fertilizers;
      6. Regulate the telecommunications industry by breaking up the monopolies and invest in telecommunications infrastructure to bring more connectivity and speed for internet up to the level of advanced industrial countries;
      7. Build a modern rail network spanning Sabah and Sarawak;

Further Reading:

Elephant in the Room