Monday, April 2, 2012

Eco or echo living?

On Saturday night, everyone was eager to participate in the Earth Hour and plunged themselves into darkness for sixty minutes. Which cannot be too dark what with streetlights and billboards etc. Yes, I am assuming you live in a city or at least the suburbs. It is doubtful anyone who lives in the middle of the jungle bothers very much about Earth Hour.

 See? Not very dark at all.

(Under cut for lengthy rants and a scary video)

I didn't bother fiddling with the light switch because I was busy assembling pizza for dinner. I will admit to feeling hypocritical to observing Earth Hour when I don't compost my kitchen waste, I recycle only by selling off papers to the suratkhabar lama man, I have no compunction to eschew public transport and be one of the hundreds of thousands of single occupancy vehicles clogging the arterial roads of Kuala Lumpur and I am a self-avowed omnivore who couldn't give a hoot to sustainable consumption by eating locally (I gotta support the strawberry farmers from Cameron Highlands and Australia, don't I?).

A lot of people wax lyrical about living closer with nature, being less consumeristic and loving mother Earth. But you know what? Living with nature is a lot easier said than done.

People of the Coral Triangle from James Morgan Photography on Vimeo.

We hear about how the traditional lifestyle of indigenous people of peninsula Malaysia, Borneo, Africa, Australia, other parts of Asia and the Americas (North, Latin and South) are threatened by the rapid development and rapacious appetite for consumer products, fuel and cheap calorie. We glorify and romanticise a way of life that is less complicated and pressure driven; unlike our urban jungle survival.

Is it an easier way of life? I don't think so. Unless the big cities with high concentration of human beings somehow got wiped off the face of the planet, it would never be possible to have the hunter-gatherer-seasonal farmer way of life that kept the human civilisation going for millennia before the discovery of how steam engines can move machines. Personally, I don't hanker for a pre-Industrialised life because the life span was much shorter, the choices less (more so if you are a woman) and there was no public sanitation (flush toilets FTW!) or running water. Don't knock the vitality of running water; you wouldn't want to walk three miles each way just to get water to brush your teeth now would you? Trust me, I've lived in a kampung where I had to either draw water from an open well (no side walls to keep you from plunging into the murky depths) or pump water from a communal pump and cart it back to the house. And my house was just 20 meters away!

I have never spoken to an indigenous person about this issue so I am extrapolating (or even projecting). But I think anyone who understand that the world has changed in a way that is irreversible will understand the need to change in order to survive. The Temuans in Bukit Lanjan sold their land for brick homes and no jungles to support their living. Many are not well-educated and have difficulties adapting to a changed lifestyle due to land loss. They are not stupid, but they are not equipped to deal with the drastic change imposed on them. They lost their land to developers who build for suburbanites who want to live close enough to Kuala Lumpur to commute to work AND yet far enough away for peaceful living with a great shopping mall within shouting distance.

There are no easy answers to the dilemma affecting the indigenous people the world over who are losing or have lost their land, lifestyle and rights. There has to be a way to balance sustaining their culture and language while still integrating or at least adapting to a life whose rules are written by powerful people who want to preserve their interest. They are disadvantaged by their lack of knowledge on how the powers that be run things. Empowering themselves through knowledge and information may shift this imbalance towards a more level playing field. But time is running out and there are still no solutions in the horizon.

Perhaps it would be better if we try, as a global movement, to slow down our lives and consumption pattern. Why get the new iPhone when your present model is still working perfectly well? These kind of consumerism is keeping workers in China under slave-like conditions and raping the environment simultaneously. Do we need to change our clothes with each fashion season as dictated by Cosmo ads and haute couture designers? Must we eat more exotic food the higher we climb the financial ladders?

But the pressure around us is to be better than other people, to have more (gotta keep up with the Joneses AND the Kardashians) and all that because we deserve it (you work so hard in your cubicles, you gotta reward yourself!). Television shows and the media bombard us with all these images about how our lives will only be complete if we have X,Y,Z and more. We are urged to use more, get the latest, the newest in whatever and we keep on relishing the endorphin rush from our latest purchase.

Environmentalists warn us that the ones to pay will be our children or great grandchildren (for those who have gone forth and multiplied). But I think we have started to pay for it, but we just didn't know it. I know that the video is a tad long, but the content is worth it and Dr Tyrone Hayes will make sure that you can't sleep easy tonight.


Seorang Blogger said...

pertamanya, aku ingin memberitahu waaahh bravo n kudos kepada kamu yang berjaya menulis artikel environment dengan begitu cemerlang sekali.

keduanya, aku merase ini bukan bahan blog, kau harus menyalurkan kepada media yang lebih luas penontonnya kerana adalah lebih baik isu yang dikupas dengan berkesan ini mendapat perhatian banyak pihak.

ketiganya, spt katamu easier said dan done, aku sendri x boleh hdup tanpa elektrik.. mati kutu aku sekiranya tidak dapat bermesra dgn segala gajetku itu..

keempatnya, aku juga bersalah kerana suka menukar gajet dan membuatkan pekerja di china itu dikulibatakkan.. huhu

last but not least, aku kagum cara persembahan kamu dan "literature review" (jika aku blh namakan demikian) kamu itu wp x semua sumber itu aku klik..

aku berangan ini, kalaulah aku mempunyai skill seperti kamu, pasti lancar aje assignments aku huhhu

adham said...

Yo! Snuze
Yup, people need to stop romanticize the "good ol days" that is simple, no stress and whatnot. The truth is in "the good ol days" if your father is a peasant, there is 99.9% chance that you will inherit his job. You do not have choices

Challenges of life will exist in every ages. 500 years ago, a farmer is worried hos crop might fail and he cannot feed his family, nowadays he will be thinking how to save money to send his childs to school and colleges.

Snuze said...

Pidah! *blush*

Terima kasih di atas pujianmu di atas. Kembang kempis bontotku membacanya berulang kali. Aku hanya bersyukur coretan tengah malam ku itu boleh difahami, hehehe.

Aku belum berani menghantar coretanku untuk diterbitkan di mana2 lagi. Terima kasih di atas galakkanmu itu! Akan ku usahakan!

Adham, you are soooo right. We believe the nostalgia because advertisements and media made us believe that the good old days really were good. But like any other era, you have the good and the bad. Just a matter of perspective.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

I don't understand that reference said...

Agree with Pidah this is a cool and awesome article. But in essence the orang asli want the changes and developement, hidup senang like everyone esle.. but as you they lack of education so in the end suffer jugaklah. I have an orang asli friend who graduate from universiti and also done her master.. i dont really understand what when wrong with her or the so call 'system', it seems she has fallen through the crack. She couldn't get a job and now she is bitter and anti-gomen. Couldn't really blame her.