The pandemic, which has ravaged the world for close to one and a half years, has shown how disastrous the consequences of ecosystem loss can be. This World Environment Day, the United Nations has launched a 10-year plan to urge global leaders and environment authorities to work on solutions that help resolve issues such as tropical deforestation and the staggering loss of global diversity.
Instead of waiting for bigger forces to effect change, we can also make little changes in our lifestyle and contribute to homegrown initiatives to help Mother Earth heal. Here’s a list of local environment crusaders you can join to work towards a cleaner and healthier world.
Save Peninsular Malaysia’s fruit bats
For years and years, bats have gotten a bad rap that’s chiefly undeserved. Persecuted all around the world for being disease carriers, these night fliers have instilled fear among humans. However, bats are essential to a healthy environment and critical to the pollination of many fruits we enjoy, including Malaysians' favourite — durian.
Project Pteropus is the only project in the country focused on the conservation ecology of flying foxes and other Old World fruit bats, the unsung heroes responsible for pollinating durian trees. Unfortunately, while large fruit bats are threatened by hunting and deforestation, little is done to address the problem. Rimba’s ongoing efforts seek to assess and monitor flying fox populations and help protect and manage their critical habitat. They also work with key durian growers to conduct research on the bats’ pollination services and improve the standard of information available to facilitate conservation.
Maintain Tioman Island’s marine biodiversity
Juara Turtle Project
Without a doubt, tourism is one of the economic sectors hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. This also includes NGOs that rely on volunteers and tourist donations to keep themselves afloat. For 15 years, Juara Turtle Project has played a large role in conserving the marine biodiversity of Tioman Island, focusing on protecting our local sea turtles, coral rehabilitation and waste management.
Despite a dip in island visitors, in 2020 alone, Juara successfully relocated 55 nests and saw over 5,000 turtles released into the sea, transplanted over 1,200 coral fragments and collected and recycled almost 3,000kg of trash. These were all done on top of providing educational sessions to schoolchildren to instil environmental awareness at a young age. With the effects of the pandemic looming at their shores, Juara is at risk of closing their project altogether, which will be a great loss to protecting the island’s biodiversity.
How to help: Donate to Juara Turtle Project here.
Reduce plastic waste while building a circular economy
Is circular economy a pipe dream? The folks at Biji-Biji Initaitve certainly don’t think so. Even though they wear many hats, with forays into ethical fashion, renewable energy, education and consultancy, the team behind the social enterprise still focuses on its main agenda: To inspire people to be more mindful in their consumption and live a more sustainable life.
Their flagship project, Beyond Bins, strives for a sustainable and circular economy by introducing small-scale plastic recycling solutions to give waste a newfound value. By using a plastic recycling machine, plastic waste can be shredded and moulded into products such as notebooks, coasters, flower pots and even award plaques. And since they work with underserved communities, they're also providing them with an alternative, self-sustaining source of income. By purchasing these 100% recycled plastic products (they make great corporate gifts), you can help close the loop and keep waste out of landfills.
Protect our local mangrove forest
Sabah Wetlands Conservation Society
The Kota Kinabalu Wetland — a mangrove swamp of about 24 hectares in Kota Kinabalu — has been under threat by developments that are cropping up at the borders. To prevent further encroachment by outsiders, it has been certified and registered as a RAMSAR site. Now managed by NGO Sabah Wetlands Conservation Society, the site has been turned into a model wetland centre for the purpose of conservation, education, recreation, tourism and research.
To further educate people about the importance of conserving natural habitats of the wetlands and traditional uses of mangroves, a host of activities have been curated for adults as well as the little ones. They will learn to collect mangrove seeds, plant mangrove saplings and master a few propagation techniques. Although the education site is closed for now due to MCO, you can still keep their programmes running by making a donation or purchasing their merchandise here.
Plant trees and clean our rivers to restore degraded ecosystems
Established in 2005, EcoKnights has been working with key stakeholders to drive and empower sustainable actions for a better planet. Its Tree for Us initiative, parked under the organisation’s Rehabilitation, Restoration and Conservation pillar, seeks to rehabilitate damaged or degrading ecosystems, including forest reserves, national parks like Bukit Nanas, and the Sungai Bunus Retention Pond.
Sungai Bunus, which starts at Setapak and passes through Jamek Mosque before conjoining with the Klang river, has become narrower due to global warming and hydrological changes. The river is the only place where sewage ends up accumulating when dry season strikes. This eventually causes blockage and flooding during heavy rainfall. In alliance with the Local Agenda 21 KL Chapter and DBKL (under the Sungai Bunus Action Group), an annual community event named The Bunus Fun Walk for River (BFW4R) — held annually in conjunction with World Rivers Day celebration— helps to raise funds to restore degraded spaces in and around Sungai Bunus. See other initiatives you can help here.