Local Environmentalists Teach Sustainability to Malaysia’s Next Generation
Malaysia's Next Generation by C. K. Koay @flickr
In order to teach sustainability and nature connection to the next generation in Malaysia, a grass roots environmental group is taking 30 urban youths in the bustling state of Pahang from their concrete jungle into the tropical rainforest surrounding it.
The Eco Leadership Program, as the weekend-long event is called, will take the kids on an educational adventure through the Taman Negara National Park. Trekking through the jungle, identifying plants and animals and discussing sustainability with local environmental heroes, the children will learn how to become stewards of their environment directly from the individuals preserving it.
The program is more than appropriate for Malaysia – a country whose people can benefit greatly from sustainable education. In large part, Malaysia’s adult population is unconcerned with environmental issues. Though deforestation is accelerating, rivers run red with bauxite pollution, the skies occasionally fill with haze and the country is facing a serious waste management crisis, green living is not traditionally a part of urban culture in Malaysia. Efforts to educate the Malaysian public about recycling, water conservation and general sustainability have not taken hold, and the nation needs them to.
The silver lining to this cloud is that Malaysian youth are very receptive to environmental education. The next generation shows real potential to start a green revolution in Malaysia, and in some cases is excited and outspoken about the idea.
“Young people are speaking up, and young leaders are out there,” said local environmentalist Bernard Eng. “They want to change the situation, and are passionate about sustainability in Malaysia.” Bernard is a speaker at the Eco Leadership Program, and is a chief member of the program putting it on – Eco Warriors Malaysia.
Eco Warriors was founded by German National and environmental spokesperson-of-all-trades Matthias Gelber. It’s a multi-faceted organization connecting Malaysians with their environment and proving through hands-on projects that positive changes can be made through individual action.
Other event speakers include activist and eco-tourism program Ecoteer founder Daniel Quilter, botanist and tree-mapping expert Dr Siti Khadijah, and Matthias Gelber himself. Combining the resources of these figures and their individual projects, the Eco Leadership Program will be a rich experience for all involved.
Though first-hand experience is an important part of the event, it’s not the end goal. At the heart of this weekend getaway is a desire to strengthen the environmental movement in Malaysia. Part of that strength will come from giving youth in Malaysia the knowledge and confidence they need to spread their passion.
“It’s not just about inspiration,” said Daniel. “If the kids don’t have a platform to stand up and say what they believe in, they can’t make a change.”
If they do have knowledge and confidence, however, these youths can make a big difference. “They take those lessons home and influence their parents,” said Daniel of the things he’s taught Malaysian children during environmental programs.
“The children are the way forward,” Daniel added.
Events like the Eco Leadership Program and individuals like those hosting it are putting truth to that statement. Their continued efforts could turn the tide for Malaysia’s environment, and are creating potential for the kind of environmental victory of which today’s world is in such need.