Monday, October 29, 2007
The Undaunted Environmentalist
He takes his mission very seriously. As a matter of principle he refuses to own a car, but he accepts the occasional lift. Relying on public transport is extremely hard work; and, if nothing else, our Undaunted Environmentalist is a hard worker. He even cycles around town in the afternoon heat wearing a gas mask just to dramatise his campaign against air pollution. People think he's crazy. Why doesn't he mind his own business like the rest of us and concentrate on getting rich?
When he isn't preparing densely-footnoted articles for ecological journals or crawling in and out of smelly ditches collecting water samples - he's attending seminars, conventions, and committee meetings. In fact, over the last decade or so, he's spent so much time speaking out for conservation in various air-conditioned conference rooms that he probably no longer notices his environment at all. Which is not to imply that his work isn't absolutely worthwhile.
Thanks to the tireless crusading of the Undaunted Environmentalist, Malaysians are gradually beginning to realise the difference between 'standard of living' and 'quality of life.' Indeed there has been a growing awareness of our natural heritage and other ecologically sensitive issues. A few have even begun to see a correlation between worsening floods and and ruthless deforestation - but nobody dares to point any fingers. (How to cari makan if our fingers get chopped off, they mutter.)
Well, the Big Guns (meaning developers, industrialists, and well-placed politicians) are fond of telling us you can't make omelettes without breaking eggs - a pretty smug analogy, if you give the matter some serious thought. A million eggs can be broken on any day and there will be another million eggs the next - so long as chickens exist. However, once we ruin an environment it stays ruined for ages, if not for keeps. And, besides, not everybody likes omelettes - especially not the kind of 'omelette' offered to a poorly-informed public by some wheeler or dealer masquerading as an executive chef. Someone, in any case, who appears more congenitally inclined towards destruction than construction. So far most of these developmental 'omelettes' have translated into reality as overpriced concrete scabs on the face of the earth - or as festering, foul-smelling sores oozing poison pus.
What it all boils down to, in the end, is the economics of greed versus need; and our Undaunted Environmentalist naturally believes that a line can be drawn between the two. And so he gets drawn into the line of fire when the Big Guns battle over the booty (forget the beauty!) of Mother Nature, giving the word exploit a sinister and hideous new connotation.
Now this makes our Undaunted Environmentalist one of the most endangered of species in the political undergrowth of Newly Industrialising Malaysia. Who needs him around interfering with Progress and Development; putting wicked ideas into the minds of poor savages in faraway Sarawak? Anyway, we already have a Department of the Environment that does a great job putting up No Spitting signs in coffee shops (or is that the work of City Hall? Then what does the DOE do?)
Okay, I'll admit this isn't the most amusing chapter in the book. But since when has brutal rape been a laughing matter?