Recently, I was flipping through various international news channels and coincidentally or otherwise, all the news was either about climate change or single-use plastics.
Issues pertaining to our climate and environment are becoming ever more prevalent. Surely this is a clear sign that things are not right.
Climate change and environmental issues used to be given cursory attention by the media.
People who use to highlight these issues used to be classified with terms such as ‘fringe group’ and ‘tree huggers’. They were not taken seriously.
Even today, if you try and organise a talk or seminar on the environment, even a free one, the turn-up would still be low.
But it’s heartening to see that there are some changes in our attitude towards the environment. These, slowly but surely, can be seen both at the societal and government level.
However, it’s obvious more needs to be done. We don’t need to go far — just look at our beaches across Sarawak.
We are estimated to have a population of only 2.7mln, but look at the tonnes of plastics washing up on our shores. I’m sure most of it is generated by us. This is one thing we cannot blame on the Malayans.
I’ve written before about adopting the 5Rs (Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose and Recycle) as a way forward. We are reaching a point where understanding these eco-friendly concepts are not an option any more but a necessity.
It’s not even correct to say it’s all about creating a better and brighter future for the next generations. The problems are here on our doorsteps and we can see the disastrous effects on the flora and fauna.
If this is not convincing enough, I’m sure you have either read about someone or might have come across someone who has suffered an illness due to some form of pollution.
The time for denial and putting things off has come and gone. The luxury of having time to ‘look into matters’ or ‘doing a study’ is also gone. It’s time to act and act now.
Most of us are already familiar with the ‘No Plastic Bag’ campaigns. It’s precisely these little actions we can start with.
However, why wait for ‘No Plastic Bags’ every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Practice ‘No Plastic Bag’ every day.
The first of the 5Rs, ‘Refuse’ is the most effective form you can adopt. Use it to minimise your use of single-use plastics.
Refusing to use or accept plastic straws is another small action you can take on your part.
‘Refuse’ can also be applied by being more mindful of making your purchases — and it saves you lots of money in the process.
Many things we buy are ‘Wants’ rather than ‘Needs’ and saying ‘No!’ or refusing to succumb to sales and special deals for non-essential items also helps the environment because then there is no waste for you to dispose of.
I emphasise the ‘Refuse’ aspect because once you practise it, there’s no need to implement the other 4Rs in relation to the item you have refused.
This is not an easy task. I’m still getting used to it and trying to make it a habit in my everyday life. Sometimes I succeed and don’t at other times, but I keep trying.
I informed my kids to refuse plastic straws when they order their favourite drink. Sometimes they forget, sometimes the waiter forgets but they keep trying and now most times, they don’t use plastic straws. It’s a start.
There are challenges when we try to make changes in our everyday patterns of life. Forming new habits is not easy, but if we consciously think about the harm caused by plastics, I’m sure eventually we can succeed. We must also keep encouraging our family and friends to follow suit.
It’s heartening to see parents bring their kids to beach clean-up campaigns. But let’s hope in the future we can bring our kids to our beaches to enjoy its ambience and surrounding rather than for a clean-up.
In my opinion, the government has to make it mandatory via legislation to drastically reduce and eventually eliminate the use of single-use plastics. In its place, the use of biodegradable materials and other viable alternatives.
My hope and I’m sure that of many, is for the government to take a more hands-on approach towards a sustainable policy of eliminating plastics and rubbish from our environment.
In the meantime, we can and should take action now to improve our environment.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.