- /Malaysians Should Practise Sustainable Living
Malaysians Should Practise Sustainable Living
Malaysians Should Practise Sustainable Living
Qurratul ‘Ain Bt Misbah
Nornabilah Bt Mohd Yahya
Zuridah Hayati Bt Abdul Hamid
International Islamic University Malaysia
28 November 2018
Malaysians Should Practise Sustainable Living
As a third world country, Malaysia has grown to a great extent in the past decades. Various remarkable achievements are attained by Malaysia since its independence day 61 years ago, from housing facilities, infrastructures and transportations to make path for urbanization. It is recorded that the urbanization rate of Malaysia was only 69.23% in 2008, but since has increased exponentially. As of 2017, the urbanization rate has increased to 76.01%, and it is likely to increase in the future (Statista, 2017). For instance, a recent transportation improvement would be the operation of the new MRT Sungai Buloh – Kajang (SBK) line back in December 2016. The Sungai Buloh – Serdang – Putrajaya (SSP) line is another project to be completed. It is expected to begin operation by July 2021. With numerous developments and technologies going on in Malaysia today, it is very important for Malaysians to be educated on sustainability, in order to sustain the nation. According to 2016’s Environment Performance Index, Malaysia ranked 63rd out of 180 countries (EPI, 2016). While a few companies in Malaysia are moving towards sustainable practices, not the same thing can be said to majority citizens of Malaysia. In fact, it could be said that Malaysians do not have sustainable way of life in many aspects. Taylor (2012) referred sustainability as the extent to which current needs can be fulfilled without compromising the needs for future generations. Sustainability also includes the scientific basis of sustainable resource use, the social, economical and costs of sustainable practices. Various attempts are made by the government so Malaysians practise sustainable living. An instance is the banning plastic bag in several states in Malaysia. On top of that, the government is also educating people on the usage of plastic bags, before executing a nationwide ban within a year. In addition to that, people are also encouraged to separate their wastes and recycle, but the effort is not fruitful. The majority does not recycle or at least reduce plastic usage. (Bella) It is observed that many still prefer to pay extra 20 cents for a plastic bag when doing grocery shopping. In Malaysian Food Barometer report by Poulain, Tibère, Laporte and Mognard, it is discovered that as of 2014, 64% of Malaysians eat outside for at least one of the meal of the day. In Malaysia, most restaurants and street food sold are packed in plastic containers. It is also noticed that university students prefer to take away because it fits their tight schedule, but they would not bring their own container. Instead, they opt for disposable plastic container as it is more convenient. Furthermore, Malaysians are obsessed with fast fashion industry, especially the young adult in their 20s. Synthetic fabrics based from petroleum are used to make clothes, which is the same base material for plastics. Another interesting issue is on the meat industry in Malaysia. Malaysians eat a lot of meat. As of 2013, Malaysians ranked the 10th as the biggest meat-eater (McCarthy, 2015). Referring to the same source, about 121 pounds are eaten per capita on average. That is roughly 55 kg of meat per person. Eating meat is fine, but excessive demand for meat means more land are allocated for factory farming or intensive animal farming. This contributes to deforestation, pollution and climate change. It is observed that most Malaysians want things to be easy for them, without thinking of the consequences. As a result of ignorant practices, there is too much scattered rubbish, especially plastics. Plastics take a long time to degrade or decompose. For instance, plastic bottles alone require about 400 years before it can be fully decomposed. In addition to that, Malaysians are at high risk of many diseases. Terminal illness like cancer are likely due to the uncontrolled pollution, and bad eating habit (a lot of meat and less vegetables and fruits) lead to heart problem and obesity. In the practice of factory farming, farmers use antibiotics on the livestocks so they can grow faster and withstand the unsanitary condition. Due to this, Malaysians might be resistant to antibiotics, or in other word, medicines that used to be able to treat diseases might be less effective or not working (FAO, 2017). Hence, it is agreed that Malaysians should practice sustainable living in order to ensure plentiful resources for future generation, reduce the pollution and climate change, as well as lessen the overall cost.
Sustainability Ensures Plentiful Resources for Future Generation
Sustainability is important because it ensures continuous resources for future generation. There are two types of resources in this world, which are non-renewable and renewable. Fossil fuels like oil, coal and natural gas are the common sources of non renewable energy. Fossil fuels are valuable source of energy since they are inexpensive to extract and can easily be stored, piped, or shipped anywhere in the world. There is no denying that the discovery of fuel in 1859 has helped humankind in countless ways. In Malaysia, electricity is generated through both thermal and hydro power plants. In thermal power plants, the non renewable sources stated before such as oil, coal and natural gas are used, where they are transformed into electricity. Hydro power plants, on the other hand, involve water dam, where the water is allowed to pass through water turbine. Electricity is generated from this process. However, Malaysia mostly use energy generated from thermal power plants compared to hydro power plants.
The common sources for thermal power plants in Malaysia are natural gas, coal and crude oil. Natural gas is the major energy provider in Malaysia since 2002 (Samsudin, Abdul Wahid & Md Mizanur Rahman, 2016). Although Malaysia has its own natural gas reserves, it is recorded that the amount is declining and has a life expectancy of another 40 years. This is worrying since Malaysia depends heavily on this non renewable source(bella). In addition to that, Malaysia also depends on crude oil as another source of energy. However, constant usage of crude oils causes the quantity to decline. As a result, crude oils become more expensive in the market. Malaysia should not depend on both natural gas and crude oil alone since they are not a sustainable sources of energy.
Coals are another dependable source of energy in Malaysia, since they are cheap and abundant. In fact, coals are used as the main source of electricity in Malaysia. However, coals are unsustainable because they are still considered as non – renewable source of energy and without proper management, it will eventually run out. In another aspect, coals are unsustainable because it contributes to pollution of the environment. Mining of coals change the topography of land and cause water pollution. Burning coals causes air pollution, since it releases a number of dangerous pollutants in air such as sulphur. Moreover, high percentage of carbon dioxide are released to the air during the combustion and coals. This leads to global warming and climate change since carbon dioxide constitute of greenhouse gases. Burning coals also contribute to acid rain, as a consequence of sulphur released from the practice. Acid rain imposes great threat to ecological system. It causes lake and river to be toxic, and therefore endangering the habitants. This disturbs the food chain. Additionally, acid rain does not only affect a certain area where the combustion of coals are carried out, but the pollutants released might spread to other regions as well.
According to the statistics by Suruhanjaya Tenaga (2015), during the year of 2013, the energy usage could be divided through several sectors. The industrial sector accommodates around 26.2%, 43.3% from the transportation industry, 14.4% from residential areas and for commercial use, 2.06% from the agriculture sector. It can also be seen that a portion of 14.1% of energy is not used. Coal is a reliable source of energy that provides fuel and electricity. In Malaysia, it is approximately 2.89 million tonne (Mt) of coal per year was produced. Oil supplies a lot of benefits. In the form of gasoline, it is a portable source of energy. Petroleum can be found in many products that are used in daily life. Natural gas is relatively cheap and does not cause any pollution. When natural gas is burned, only carbon dioxide and water vapor are emitted to atmosphere. This is healthier than burning coal. Nuclear energy is usually considered as non-renewable energy source. Nuclear energy is one of the widely used source in generating electricity all over the world. Nuclear power plants will not harm the air or produce greenhouse gases, hence it can be built in any areas without destroying the environment around them. Biomass energy uses the energy found in plants. Biomass energy relies on biomass feedstocks where plants that are processed and burned to create electricity (Morse, 2013). In spite of the fact that these are naturally-occurring resources, they are in limited supply.
Renewable resources are energy that can be replaced. This energy is plentiful, and the technologies are improving all the time. There are various ways to use renewable energy and is more preferable as it is a common use in everyday lives. As the population of the mankind arises rapidly, the area of the land that is occupied for the human benefit causes the depletion of the natural resources such as the trees and land. This would also affect the ecosystem of the animals and human. Although trees can be replanted, it would still take ages for them to grow into a mature tree. For example, the oldest rainforest in Malaysia is Taman Negara Pahang.(bella) If large numbers of trees have been cut down in that forest, it will not only harm Malaysia but the climate changes will harm the other parts of the world. The reason is because as the number of trees decreases, the interception and transpiration process would not happen, thus rainfall will seep directly into the ground and causes erosion. Conservation efforts ensure these resources are not wasted and are utilized more efficiently.
Sustainability Reduces Pollution and Climate Change
Sustainable practices will reduce pollution and climate change. Pollution is a major issue concern due to its disadvantages to humans and environments. Water and air pollution are prime examples of pollution that occur a lot nowadays. Pollution will not occur without pollutants, and it is almost certain that humans’ activities are the causes of pollution. As a result of reckless and hasty behaviours, people as well as mother earth are becoming sick due to the effects of environmental pollution. It is a fact that pollution is the source of various serious diseases that can lead to death (Kadir, 2016). In addition to that, it can also be said that pollution due to human behaviours causes climate change.
In manufacturing processes, numerous pollutants are released as one of the byproducts of the processes. The same thing can be said about construction and transportation of building materials. These processes emit carbon dioxide, which is one of the major greenhouse gasses. With the increase of percentage of carbon dioxide in the air, several consequences should be noted. First, carbon dioxide would enhance the greenhouse effect, where the heat radiated from the Sun is not released, but trapped and reflected back to the surface of the earth due to greenhouse gases. This results in global warming. On the report of NASA, June 2018 was the third warmest June on record:
June 2018 continued the warming trend of the past 40 years. According to the monthly analysis of global temperatures by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York, the past month surpassed the 1951-1980 June mean by +0.77°C. It tied with June 1998 as the third warmest June in 138 years of modern record-keeping, with only June 2015 and 2016 (+0.80°C and +0.79°C) being warmer (p.1).
In addition to the rise in temperature, pollution also causes the sea level to rise.(bella) NOAA (2018) reported that the global sea level was the highest annual average recorded in 2014, which was 2.6 inches above the 1993 average. According to the same source, “Sea level continues to rise at a rate of about one-eighth of an inch per year” (p.1). At the same time, the increase of carbon dioxide will also increase the acidity of the ocean. The first to suffer from decreasing pH value which leads to high acidity is marine life because they depend on the nutrients in the water to survive. As a result, according to National Geographic (2017), acidity of the oceans are disturbing the growth and shell-forming of marine animals and causing the reproductive disorders in some unique species of fishes.
On top of unsustainable manufacturing and construction processes, meat industry is another contributor of air pollution. Balasegaram (2017) mentioned that 15% of all greenhouse gases are contributed by meat industry as reported by United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO). This percentage is higher than the emissions of all land, sea and air vehicles combined. According to Malaysia Biennial update report to UNFCCC by Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment Malaysia, the emission of carbon dioxide gas was 15,775.30 (Gg CO2 eq) in 2011 for agricultural sector alone. In addition to that, Balasegaram also mentioned that ruminants like cattles produce methane. Methane is another type of greenhouse gas, in which it absorbs sun radiation when exposed to atmosphere. Although methane has a shorter lifetime in the atmosphere compared to carbon dioxide, its effectiveness in absorbing sun radiation is what makes it almost 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas (EDF, 2018; EPA 2018). Moreover, high demand for meat means more farms are needed to meet the demands. Trees are cut to make way for the animal farm. Pesticides, herbicides as well as other chemicals are used on crops to feed the animals. These chemicals later pollute the river. These facts only emphasize the unsustainability of meat industry.
The executions of manufacturing processes and factory farming in Malaysia are just some of the examples of unsustainable methods being practised here. In fact, there are a lot of other practices that are unsustainable, such as palm oil production, where forest are cleared and haze problem becomes significant due to this activity. Another practice that is yet to be handled by the government is illegal logging, especially in the rural area of Sabah and Sarawak. A sustainable alternative should be introduced in a lot of sectors in Malaysia so that pollution can be reduced, and climate change can be prevented in a global scale.
Sustainability Reduces the Cost
Author (Bavani, 2016) mentioned that 37000 tonnes of domestic and industrial wastes are generated in Malaysia daily.(bella) It costs a lot to manage the wastes, which is roughly RM 2 billion. The Quran says, “…But waste not by excess, for God loves not the wasters….” (Al-A’raf: 31). Over-consuming creates increasing waste. Therefore, humans should not be excessive in any way especially in the usage of resources. By reducing wastes, the cost could be lowered. (Bella,conclusion)Reducing waste should be started by reducing single use plastic usage. Plastic pollution is not a foreign issue in many countries, Malaysia included. In fact, according to Science Journal (February 13, 2015) in Arkin (2015), Malaysia was the eighth worst country in plastic pollution. For example, take out containers and plastic straws should not be used. Instead, Malaysians could bring their own collapsible containers and reusable bamboo or metal straws, although the best habit would be by eating home-cooked food instead of eating out. This will save a lot of money, in addition to reduce single use plastic usage. It is also advisable for Malaysians to bring their own bags when grocery shopping.
Malaysians should also reduce electric usage. (Bella)Electrical devices should be turned off when not in use. Any devices that are not in use should be unplugged to avoid “phantom power”, a phenomenon where although the power has been turned off, some of the power is still consumed by the devices. On top of that, technology advancement has created a new source of power that is solar power. Solar powers are said to be next generation source of power and they will surely save more energy just by harnessing the sun’s natural energy itself. Besides, it is highly recommended for Malaysians to use the stairs instead of elevators whenever possible. This could help to save power and bring a lot of health benefits. Additionally, practicing carpooling and sharing fuel expenses have a lot of benefits. By doing so, environmental impacts could be reduced, hence it could be said that it is great for the planet. Plus, it gives an opportunity for people to connect with the communities. Cycling from one place to another instead of driving is another great practice in making sustainable living a reality. While preserving the nature, cycling gives health benefits as it keeps the body fit and healthy, in addition to reducing gas money.
Another good practice to reduce cost is by reusing things. For example, Malaysians should be encouraged to practise thrifting, or purchasing used items. Although the common perception is items in thrift stores are not good in quality, there are some high quality items that can be found in selected stores. Things like used clothing and books can always be thrifted and this would save a lot of money. In fact, a lot of used things can be purchased online now, including electrical appliances, musical instruments and furniture. Another way to save cost is by dressing sustainably. This can be achieved by following the ‘buyerarchy’ which are use what you have, borrow, swap, thrift, make and buy. It is advisable to follow the order and only resort to the last option if necessary. Another simple practice that is applicable in daily life is to curb water consumption. One should always turn off the faucet when brushing teeth, and not waste too much water when showering. The author (Nur Imani, 2015) said “In 2013, the average water consumption per day of Malaysians was 210 litres, while in 2014, the average consumption has risen by 2 litres which means 212 litres or about 141 bottles of 1.5 litres per person daily. Only 30 percent of the water usage is used for actual consumption such as cooking and drinking, while the rest of it is just for utilities like washing cars, washing pools and washing clothes”(p.1). In short, Malaysians should limit their energy consumptions and prevent waste by purchasing only what they require.
To conclude, sustainable living should definitely be practiced by Malaysians. Not only it ensures plentiful resources for future generations, but it also reduces many types of pollution in Malaysia, at the same time decreases any changes in the climate. Moreover, sustainable practices can reduce the costs, individually as well as nationwide. There are a lot of ways to practise sustainable living. However, it depends on the individuals, parties or selected bodies whether they want to start making changes for a better future. Sustainable living can only be achieved once every individuals in Malaysia has the grasp of how consequential their actions could be toward themselves as well as the nation.
Government and private sectors should implement sustainability in their companies. For starters, a proper management in handling the natural resources should be practiced by the electric utility company such as Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB). It cannot be denied that Malaysia is a country that is rich of natural resources. Nevertheless, these natural resources should not be used hastily for a short period of time. Besides, government sectors as well as companies, especially in the development and manufacture sectors should take into account environmental issues when executing any procedures or operations. The government or any responsible authorities and even NGOs should act more to prevent or fix the pollution that is happening nowadays. The society might not be aware of the impacts of pollution in the long run, therefore these organizations need to educate people, organize campaigns and use social media platforms to spread information. In this context, the Ministry of Education plays a vital role to educate citizens with the knowledge and awareness on sustainable practices in daily life, as well as in the development of the nation.
Other than that, the water management such as Splash, should not give water freely to citizens. By doing this, householders would be more cautious in their usage of water. Syabas, a member of Air Selangor Group, may increase the price of water so that citizens would limit their water usage. Malaysian individuals should play their part as well. Plastic pollution should be taken seriously and therefore, every individual is responsible to play their part in reducing plastic usage. On top of that, energy consumption should also be reduced. To sum up, everyone must work together to reduce pollution so that the future generations can live in a healthy, unpolluted environment. As the saying goes, precaution is better than cure
I’m a freelance writer with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Boston University. My work has been featured in publications like the L.A. Times, U.S. News and World Report, Farther Finance, Teen Vogue, Grammarly, The Startup, Mashable, Insider, Forbes, Writer (formerly Qordoba), MarketWatch, CNBC, and USA Today, among others.