Saturday, April 3, 2010
JUNE 10, 2003 – Yet another serious flood in KL, rescuers in dinghies paddling down Jalan Masjid Jamek in the heart of the city. Plaza Putra aswirl in chest-high muddy waters. Dozens of cars and motorbikes drowned. Actors Studio and Dama House wiped out within minutes...
A terrible shame, as floods have been recurring with increasing fury since the early 1970s – long before the proliferation of underground carparks and basement complexes made the potential hazard to life and property truly grievous. And yet, with all the talk of multi-million-ringgit flood mitigation schemes (mainly getting City Hall to keep drains and rivers free of garbage and silt), the situation keeps deteriorating.
I wasn’t particularly impressed when I read the government’s immediate response: the suggestion that “smart tunnels” be constructed to drain floodwaters directly to the sea – an extremely expensive business indeed, with the potential of wreaking further havoc on our coastal ecosystem and perhaps even causing giant sinkholes. Now, the PM may be extraordinarily brilliant as a political strategist but when it comes to environmental problems, he instinctively avoids looking at the root causes and seeking authentic solutions.
Our obsession with economic growth and physical development – and our utter lack of respect for Nature’s workings – lie at the core of our worsening environmental woes.
So much rain falling and instantly turning into flash floods means only two things: the forest canopy has been thinned out through logging, so there’s nothing to soften the impact of heavy rains on hillslopes. Not enough trees to act as a sponge, slowing down the speed and volume of drainage. And the rainwater cannot run off into the ground because so many areas have been paved over in the overnight growth of our big cities.
It has never been more obvious that logging must be abolished with almost immediate effect. There is no such thing as “sustainable” when it comes to destruction of watersheds. It simply has got to stop. True, many jobs hinge around the timber industry – and many private fortunes too. But one may as well argue that the slave trade promotes the GDP and should therefore be licensed and allowed to continue indefinitely.
Indeed, logging is by far a more heinous crime than even the slave trade, which may inflict psychological trauma on its victims, but nothing a dose of freedom won't heal. A despoiled landscape, however, may never fully heal and the environmental consequences impact on everyone – especially future generations.
By now it must a dim wit indeed who doesn't see the direct link between reckless deforestation and the deteriorating environment – whether in terms of massive erosion which leads to rapid silting, hence increased flooding; or deadly landslides caused by human disrespect towards 550 million-year-old hills. And, of course, with patches of green lungs decreasing by the hour, the air itself progressively becomes unbreathable and a perpetual source of respiratory disorders.
I see at least half a dozen lorries laden with logs trundling along the roads every single day. In the middle of the lush Ulu Yam-Sungai Tua forest reserve – now a well-visited recreational area every weekend – loggers have been hard at work. Around the once-verdant foothills near Kuala Kubu Bharu, logging proceeds with impunity. The Forestry Department seems to have learned nothing about conservation since the 1960s when ecological studies began pouring in, showing the hazardous ill-effects of profit-driven logging, especially in watersheds and hillslopes.
Most of the hills surrounding the Klang Valley have long been shorn of their green canopy – hence the dramatic changes in rainfall patterns over the last two decades.
Perhaps a handful of timber tycoons (and the officials on their unofficial payroll) have made a pretty pile – but in the long run the public must bear the high cost of replacing bridges, repairing roads, desilting canals, dams and rivers, not to mention the immeasurable damage to property and the disruption of business caused by worsening flash floods.
For every 10 million ringgit earned by logging concessionaires, the long-term cost to the public purse may well be in the region of 100 million. Measured in macro-economic terms, logging is no longer a viable “economic activity” - simply because we cannot afford its costly negative consequences.
Rather than spend money on stop-gap flood mitigation measures, we have to bite the bullet and stop wreaking irreparable ruin on our precious forests and the few remaining green lungs in our towns and cities. Indeed, we need to work out a systematic and sustained campaign to heal our badly scarred landscape – by planting flowering shrubs and fruit trees on every denuded hill, so that within a few years, even though we have lost our forests, at least the hills will once again be cool, fresh sanctuaries, serving as filters for airborne pollutants and self-renewing sources of oxygen.
Most importantly, they would no longer contribute to the tons of mud that cascade down with every heavy downpour. Now, such a move would constitute what I would define as visionary leadership.
What happens when wood is no longer a cheap and freely available commodity? Well, here's where the innovative use of alternative materials can spawn a whole new generation of industries. For a start, we might consider ways to recycle PVC waste and combine it with organic fibers to produce weatherproof planks. Hemp grows like a weed and can be used in countless ways – from pulp products to fiberboards, fabrics and cosmetics.
My fervent hope is that within the next few years, the only way we can possibly log on is to the Internet. This would give those involved in the timber industry sufficient time to diversify and seek less dangerous and destructive means of livelihood. Meanwhile, an extremely strict watch must be placed on those responsible for issuing logging permits.
13 June 2003
Friday, April 2, 2010
Victorious Kayan plaintiffs from Long Teran Kanan with lawyer Harrison Ngau (in dark suit)
Borneo natives win class action suit against Malaysian oil palm giant
Controversial IOI group loses 12-year legal battle as Sarawak court declares its land leases "null and void"
MIRI, SARAWAK/MALAYSIA - More than twelve years after going to court, the Kayan native community of Long Teran Kanan on the Tinjar river in the Malaysian part of Borneo have won an important legal battle against the Sarawak state government and IOI Pelita, a subsidiary of the controversial Malaysian oil palm producer IOI.
In a judgement delivered earlier this week, the Miri High Court declared the land leases used by IOI "null and void" as they had been issued by the Sarawak state government in an illegal and unconstitutional way. According to the Borneo Resources Institute Malaysia (BRIMAS), the court granted Long Teran Kanan headman Lah Anyie and his community compensation for the damage done by IOI to their land. The case had been handled by Miri-based lawyer Harrison Ngau.
Last December, a BBC News investigation had uncovered that vast tracts of former rainforest were being bulldozed in the disputed IOI operations area and had found "a scene of absolute devastation: a vast scar on the landscape". Local landowners had complained that their paddy fields and fruit trees had been destroyed by the company.
Court decision discredits Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)
The Court decision also discredits the so-called Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) which, according to IOI, had found in a probe that the company "had acted responsibly for the management of land in Sarawak". IOI, a palm oil producer serving markets in 65 countries, is a leading RSPO member. Last month, a Friends of the Earths report presented evidence that IOI was responsible for large-scale illegal and unsustainable activities in the Indonesian part of Borneo.
The Bruno Manser Fund welcomes the Miri High Court decision and expects IOI to stop its jungle clearance activities and move out of the disputed lands in the Tinjar region with immediate effect.
[Source: Media Release from Bruno Manser Fund, Switzerland]
The end of the jungle?
Borneo tribes 'driven from land'
Monday, March 29, 2010
20 QUESTIONS ON 2012
Meanwhile, here are some thought-provoking quotes from panelists at an upcoming Prophets Conference called 2012: Tipping Point...
"The purpose of the Maya coming to this planet was very specific: to leave behind a definite set of clues and information about the nature and purpose of our planet at this particular time in the solar system and in the galactic field." — José Argüelles
"Please take the growing crisis very seriously and realize that the time for sacred action has come. Plunge deep into sacred practice so that you can connect with the eternal within you and remain calm and joyful and full of passionate compassion through all the shatterings to come." — Andrew Harvey
"Humanity is facing unprecedented, evolutionary changes. It is amazing - out of the famous Mayan prophecy has come the indication that we are facing the end of this world as we know it and the beginning of the new world of 2012. What vision of the future, of the new world, might we see so that we can place our attention upon this vision as a strange attractor to carry us through this critical time?" — Barbara Marx Hubbard
"2012 is definitely not just about one day in 2012; it is about a sea change that probably won’t bear fruit for many decades. But I believe that 2012 could be seen by future historians as a temporal marker of a great renaissance that will raise a submerged continent of consciousness that has been suppressed by Western science and culture." — John Major Jenkins
"One of the predictions concerns how we’re going to have seven days of darkness. When this takes place, a lot of people that don’t have a spiritual basis are going to go nuts. I have been assured that this will not be the end of the world. It really means, according to the Maya, that the earth is going to go through a period of gestation and enter into a new period. I saw in a vision that we’re going to have two suns. We need to get ready." — Flordemayo
"As we complete this apocalyptic passage, we will conceive ourselves, increasingly, as fractal expressions of a unified field of consciousness and sentient aspects of a planetary ecology - the Gaian mind - that is continually changed by our actions, and even our thoughts." — Daniel Pinchbeck
"We have indeed entered a critical time in human history. A tsunami is rapidly building on the horizon. Every person on earth is connected like never before, through the Internet and cell phones. Most of us have come to understand that we are perched on a shore that is threatened by a mounting wave of economic and environmental disaster." — John Perkins
"We live in a provocative, evolving time that promises to impact how we live together on the planet, how we continue as a species, and how we understand ourselves in relation to a larger universe... this is the time to remember how to live in ecstatic relationship with natural forces." — Llyn Roberts
"Today we find ourselves wandering disconsolately between two worlds — one dying and the other struggling to be born. On the one hand, the spiritual and intellectual certainties of the past no longer command our allegiance. On the other, the promises of a more integral worldview, a cosmology of tomorrow — one based on a deeper relationship with nature and with the larger cosmos — require of us a leap of faith few are as yet willing to take. With the future of the human spirit and the future of the planet hanging in the balance, we have no choice but to embrace courage, imagination, and our deepest inner resources." — Richard Tarnas
"Now, we are in those days when many people are talking about 2012: and some of them don’t see the positive side of the Prophecies because they are looking only at the surface of the Prophecies and not at the deeper meaning of the Prophecies." — Miguel Angel Vergara
I haven't spent much time at the computer except to keep tabs on current goings-on. There were four items that caught my attention and which I would like to alert you to by way of recommended reading...
THE PERKASA DISTRACTION
The politics of exclusion is making a return, pushing back against the rising tide of inclusiveness that has spread to both sides of politics.
Later this week, a politician who famously earned himself notoriety by being labelled The Frog for his willingness to switch sides will position himself in the cat-bird seat, as the spearhead of a resurgent Malay rights movement.
There is little doubt that Ibrahim Ali and his newly-formed and speedily-registered Perkasa, with Dr Mahathir Mohamad lending his imprimateur, and the Mahathirian old guard in the likes of Aziz Shamsuddin, Sanusi Junid and others gathering around it, will have some apparent clout and the ability to dominate headlines.
But at what price to national cohesiveness?
[Read the rest here.]
[Read the rest here.]
MALAYSIA MUST END ABUSE OF MIGRANT WORKERS
Drawn by promises of jobs in Malaysia, thousands of men and women from Bangladesh, Indonesia, Nepal and elsewhere in the region pay substantial sums to recruitment agents. Once they arrive, they find that much of what their agents told them about their new jobs is untrue. Malaysia’s economy depends on the labor of migrant workers yet the government effectively criminalizes them.
APCO & NAJIB: Beneath the veil of public relations
By Tian Chua
Next Tuesday, March 30, Barisan Nasional parliamentarians will be gearing up to crucify Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim for his comments on Apco. The MPs might think that they are doing the BN government a favour by defending Najib and his high-flying consultancy company.
In the minds of most BN lawmakers, defending the government is equivalent of defending the country. By the same logic, people who criticize the government are simply traitors to Malaysia.
I would like to invite my friends from the other side to think harder, and look harder. In fact, it does not require a lot of effort to find out the connection between Apco and Israel.
[Read the rest here.]
By Raja Petra Kamarudin
"I really don’t care what your ethnic background is. I feel that whatever race we field in this coming by-election is not important. What is important is that it should be a female candidate. Yes, a woman, and not because I love women even though it is true I do. It is because women and not Indians are the neglected lot (and certainly not Malays as PERKASA alleges)."
[Read the rest here.]