talk is cheap; rather die than think

People tend to talk more than they would listen. Why?

As a natural introvert, I often find myself being rather silent or even passive in a group conversation. It is not that I have nothing to say or that I find the topic uninteresting (although the latter might often be the case than not). But it is rather that there were already too many people eager to give their thoughts that I would find mine nothing short of inconsequential.

I am not being humble, or pretentiously so. Honestly, it’s just exhausting. Why would I want to be in the rush of thoughts pouring out into thin air but without any of them being given due reflection or respect? What I mean is that, for most of what people talk about, they are merely “fillers” to fill the awkward gap or to boost one’s ego.

I would rather my spoken thoughts be given serious consideration and a valuable response. I would rather converse with someone who truly values my input and not just focused on theirs. Otherwise, I would consider my voice and energy wasted.

It is easy to tell whether the other person actually cares for my words. They would listen earnestly when I speak, and most important of all, they would ask me questions along the lines of “what do you think of that?”. That is how I would know that that person is interested in what I have to say and not merely using the conversation to pass time.

“People do not like to think. If one thinks, one must reach conclusions. Conclusions are not always pleasant.” – Helen Keller

In most conversations, I am usually that person who asks tonnes of questions. It is my tactic to get to know that person’s ideas or thoughts. Surprisingly, not many people use the art of inquisition. I wager it is because asking questions require a bit more thinking than telling what you already know. Asking a question – an intelligent question – requires one to formulate a sentence that would gauge the other person’s response to get to a certain conclusion.

I find Bertrand Russell’s quote very apt: Most people would rather die than think; in fact, they do so. Most people would rather not think of a question to ask and instead they would just talk aimlessly to avoid such trouble.

Now I’m not condemning those who enjoy talking. I do enjoy listening to people talk so enthusiastically. But it is when such talk is pointless and only concerns themselves and does not include the listener at all – now that would annoy me greatly!

On reflection, it’s good that I could differentiate between those who are engaging and those who think only of themselves. It saves me the trouble of heartache and trying to please others. If they do not care at all about what I have to say, then why should I say anything at all? My thoughts and energy are reserved for the ears of those who would kindly take my words and mold them into something more meaningful.

Now that would make me truly happy.

“Five percent of the people think;
ten percent of the people think they think;
and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think.”
― Thomas A. Edison.

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Sustainable Consumption & Production | #BB4SCP

On the 1st of December, I had the opportunity to attend a 3-day workshop or conference organised by WWF Malaysia and EcoKnights. This was the first youth conference on sustainable consumption and production (SCP) in this country. Therefore, I was one of the pioneers, which was obviously a great honour.

Most of the participants were university students, which was not a surprise since that was the organiser’s target group. But anyone between the ages of 18 and 30 could attend. I fit into the category just fine and so I asked permission from my employer to attend this conference as part of the training hours that each employee is given.

Thankfully, my colleague also attended the conference so at least I had a familiar face to go to. But really I got along with the attendees there that I hardly felt alienated. We all shared a similar interest in conserving the environment albeit in different ways. And that was enough to create an easy friendship.

The first day consisted of ice-breaking sessions and various introductory talks on the topic of sustainability, namely sustainable wood, palm oil and fishing. I might write individual blog posts on each topic, as it is difficult to summarise such big and important topics. But generally, the talks given highlighted the realness of climate change backed up by science facts. And most of the impacts we see today are the direct result of human intervention.

We were indeed active participants. Many of us asked questions and give our opinions, which was quite unlike the general perception of Malaysian students. But then again, we were not the typical sort. Our minds are progressive and our hearts compassionate. Even so, those of us who preferred to not speak our thoughts had a chance to write them onto sticky notes that were put on a designated wall and probably collected by the organisers for future perusal. In any case, they made a point that our thoughts will – and must – be heard.

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my contribution

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On our second day, we were split into two groups for an outdoor excursion — one group was to visit a wet market, and the other to the headquarters of the Energy Commission. I was in the latter group, which was a relief because I wouldn’t want to go to a wet market to witness various sea creatures being sold as food. As the only vegan at the conference, I don’t think I could bear it regardless of them being caught sustainably.

The Energy Commission or Suruhanjaya Tenaga was located in Putrajaya. It is known as the Diamond Building because of — you guessed it — the Diamond shape of the building! Well, actually you can’t really see it from the ground but looking at aerial shots of the building, it is indeed a Diamond.

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Shine Bright Like A Diamond! (image from http://www.p-perdana.com)

What’s special about this building is the green technology incorporated into its design. There are photo voltaic (solar) panels on the rooftop, which contribute to 10% of the energy consumption. There were also water tanks on the roof to harvest rainwater for irrigation for plants grown around the building. The rainwater is also used to supply water in the toilet.

The Diamond structure of the building was purposeful. Sunlight is able to be reflected from the ground and into the building without the heat because the walls lined with glass windows were at an angle, not allowing direct sunlight to enter. The dome in the middle of the building allows an abundance of natural sunlight to enter thus minimising the need for fluorescent lamps in the building. Furthermore, the white painted walls play a role in reflecting sunlight within the building. Basically, good lighting (for selfies) can be got almost everywhere in the building!

The building was no doubt specifically constructed to be efficient, reflecting the profile of the Energy Commission. A couple of talks were given mostly about energy efficiency and renewable energy. I was very much interested in where Malaysia is going in terms of renewable energy and so I was quite pleased on hearing that solar energy is taking root. What many may not know is that solar panels can be installed within the home compound such as on roofs or on a considerably sized land, and you may use the energy generated or effectively sell it to the grid and you would only pay a lesser amount for your electricity bills.

There are of course certain conditions to installing solar panels. For example, if you use more than a certain amount of energy from your solar panels i.e. more than 72 kWh, you would have to let the energy commissions know. That means you can’t really live off-grid in luxury. You can live off-grid without the need to tell anyone if your energy consumption (from solar) is less than 72 kWh. At least I think that’s what they meant.

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On the final day, we headed to Encorp Strand Mall for the public forum. There was the guest of honour, Jens Brinckmann, who is from Germany and currently works at the German embassy in KL as a counsellor for economic, commercial and environmental affairs. One thing to note is that this event was supported by WWF Germany. Hence, the presence of Herr Brinckmann.

A few other speakers gave their talks: Thiagarajan Nadeson, the head of market and education at WWF Malaysia, who summarised the role and importance of SCP nationally and internationally; Benjamin Loh, manager of WWF Malaysia who spoke about sustainable palm oil; and Oga Chan, a community builder, who presented about the various sustainable small businesses and efforts in this country.

The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering around the fair and getting know the various ecocentric small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Biji-biji is by far my favourite because they are geared towards upcycling materials and turning into bags or wallets — embracing the ethical fashion. They also teach woodworking and simple electronics engineering for a greener lifestyle.

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I really enjoyed this event and I’m truly grateful to have experienced it with like-minded, environmentally aware and passionate people. Not only was this my first time attending an event focused on the environment, but it was also my first experience living in a dorm with 11 other girls – it was great!

This conference really fueled my passion for being a guardian or khalifah of the Earth. I got to learn more about the environmental issues in Malaysia and the move towards sustainable consumption. I also got to watch Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth”, which I had been wanting to see for many months! It’s crazy to think that despite it being produced 10 years ago, it is still very much relevant.

So with all the knowledge I’ve gathered, it is now my duty to spread it around. It is so important for each human being to care as much for the Earth as they do the people they love. This is simply because without the fertile land we currently live on, there can be no people to love.

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for more info about the event, visit the BB4SCP website!

accountability

I often tell people that I tend to go with the flow. I imagine myself floating along rivers be it calm or frantic. Wherever they take me, I follow. Anything that comes by I take or I ignore. That much I have control over. Otherwise, I am just a floating being on a set course.

Lately, however, there are more “things” coming my way that is difficult to ignore or even take. They tend to knock me out but I do my best to bear the impact and carry on with the flow. But how much longer can I sustain this before I actually drown?

Not very long, I suspect. I would have to disengage with the flow and find a better way towards the vast and promising ocean. I would have to force myself to go against the current if need be but at the same time not ignoring my gut feeling. How am I to achieve this?

Maybe I need to make concrete plans.

I am not one to write down yearly resolutions let alone abide by them. Instead, I tend to jot down goals as and when I feel like it. However, looking at my progress (or lack thereof) up to 2016, my accomplishments (if they can be called such) are mediocre, and so defining my goals thoroughly and periodically may be necessary for my personal growth.

I might have mentioned the idea of goal-setting in the past. If I did it meant that I really had no clue back then. Now, I actually do write down my plans and ideas but because I am new to this, I feel like my plans aren’t detailed or concrete enough to be realised. It might also be due to a lack of focus or motivation at certain times.

But mostly, I think, it is the lack of accountability.

For the past 15 years or so of my life, I had been in an education system whereby at the end of each academic year, I’d have to take exams that would determine my next step. To get good grades and improve academically was my motivation. If I falter — and oh boy did I falter a great many times — I would’ve only had myself to blame and feel the consequences.

When I was done with that institution and in a transition state to another, I realised how big a role an institution actually plays. We are so used to being in a system that in a way drives us towards a certain goal that we have to achieve. The system is like a machine and we are just the cog, just following the rhythm.

But what happens if we are out of the system? Are we just mindless, aimless being seeking for the next system to work in or to be useful? Are we nothing without an external structure?

Those are the questions that have been in my mind, even now that I have just joined another institution — this time a professional one. Although I have defined myself as a person, I have yet to really define my exact purpose or direction. I know roughly which path to take but the view is still rather misty.

And generally, the lack of accountability is the reason why most of my plans and ideas never materialised. Those that did were because they needed to happen. For example, I needed a job after graduation to support myself financially. And so I searched for one and eventually I got it. In the process, I told myself that I wouldn’t be involved in any work that I wouldn’t enjoy or find value in. So I held myself — my life — accountable. If I can’t get a job (that I like) I would suffer financially and emotionally. And also my mum would have kept on pestering me.

Another example is that since I currently have a source of income, I could use it for my benefit. And so I signed up for Muay Thai classes. Because I am using my own money (not that of my parents), I know I had to attend as many classes as possible. If not, it will only be a waste of my money. But of course, I wouldn’t have signed up if I weren’t extremely keen on it. That in itself may be another accountability factor — I am keen on learning martial arts to be able to learn self-defence whilst increasing my fitness level. If I don’t do that now that I’m still young and able, I would definitely regret it later.

I have so many plans to cater to my interests and my career. It’s easy to rationalise the need for them, but it is difficult to make them happen. Besides work and fitness regime, I also want to improve on writing and speaking (blogging and YouTube-ing). But I somehow can’t stick to my schedule that I’ve drawn up. Are they actually not my priorities at the moment? Or am I not trying hard enough? What could be the accountability factor? Do I need an accountability partner to give me an earful each time I slack? Do I need to create some sort of challenge involving money (since that seems to drive every action)?

Well, I don’t know what will work. But I know I just have to keep on trying. Find what works. Abandon those that don’t. Be more strict with myself and perhaps reevaluate my intentions.

Yeah, I think that’s what I’ll do.