It all started with the desire to be a part of something meaningful.
Being a fresh graduate from the UK and coming back to Malaysia meant that I could turn over a new leaf. I decided that I want to be involved in anything environmental-related. But starting anew has its challenges and one of it is finding a group of people who share similar interests. Then again, I suppose it’s not much different than finding a society to join in university.
The first time I heard about the Malaysia Youth Delegation (MYD) was during the BB4SCP event in December when one of the delegates was invited by WWF-Malaysia to give a brief talk. MYD is a part of the non-governmental organisation Power Shift Malaysia (or formally, Persatuan Belia Perubahan Iklim) that deals with climate change advocacy and mobilisation. Members of MYD track the Paris Agreement negotiations and engage with the government ministries to basically ensure that they keep their promises.
Some weeks later in January, they posted an event on their Facebook page – the Post-COP22 forum. As I wanted to learn more about how the Paris Agreement relates to Malaysia, I decided to attend the event. After listening to the panel of speakers, I got to have a little chat with Mr Nithi Nesadurai, the president of the Environmental Protection Society Malaysia and took a photo with Dr Gary Theseira, a climate change negotiator from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. That forum sparked an interest in being a part of MYD because I figured that if I wanted to be a part of a movement, I should be a part of a group that does substantial work.
And so, I brushed up my knowledge on the UNFCCC structure as a whole and waited for the time to apply for MYD. That time came, I applied, got interviewed and got invited to the Retreat. Mind you, the application process took me quite a number of hours over a couple of weeks to prepare because I’m rather a perfectionist and I needed to fully understand what I’m signing up for.
On the 15th of April, I drove about an hour to the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus in Semenyih. The purpose of this MYD Retreat was to allow the applicants to have a taste of what being a part of MYD is like. The first day was mostly about introductions, knowing what role MYD plays, what other programmes are being done by Power Shift Malaysia, and what the bloody hell the UNFCCC actually is so that we were all on the same page.
Even though it was mostly presentations throughout the day, I didn’t feel bored at all. It’s most probably because it was a two-way street all the way. It was very relaxed and informal, but we took the subject matter seriously. The presenters were very patient with our questions and I could see how they were very keen to answer them without judgement.
I’m so glad that all of us – participants and organisers – got along very well from the get-go. I guess this proves the point that you can get along so easily with like-minded people. We each hold on to the core value of caring for the environment, so that was the line of connection we had regardless of our differences. We knew that to make a change, we need to work together and help each other out. So, it’s like giving a lift instead of pushing each other off a cliff.
There was just so much information showered upon us that I couldn’t blame anyone for feeling a bit overwhelmed. But all the information was necessary and it was only the tip of the iceberg. There’s definitely a lot more going on in the climate change negotiation process, and so I think the info presented during the Retreat was either meant to scare us or motivate us. For me, it’s definitely the latter.
I think the most challenging talk for us to process was the one given by Chee Yoke Ling about the disputes between Developed and Developing nations on the climate change negotiation. Yoke Ling is one of the members of the Third World Network (TWN), “an independent non-profit international network of organisations and individuals involved in issues relating to development, developing countries and North-South affairs”. So she’s a BIG deal. I was told that other international youth environmental organisations would die for a chance to meet any of the TWN members. In that case, I consider myself lucky.
Before the Flood
This documentary was screened at 8pm on the first day. This was my second time watching it and I felt quite the same way as I did the first time – angry, frustrated, sad and a bit sceptical. The science is clear, climate change is happening, the solutions are available, and yet as a community, we are still reluctant or slow to change. I get that it’s difficult and that it means altering a bit of your lifestyle, but if we don’t take the initiative, future generations will suffer. That means your children and grandchildren unless you decide not to have children. In any case, I hope you can spare some love for Mother Nature.
On Sunday morning around 7am, we went to Broga Hills, which was about 5 mins away. This was also a part of the agenda and one that I was most excited about. This was my first time hiking up Broga Hills and I absolutely enjoyed every bit of it! We climbed up until the 2nd viewing point that was 1,150 ft (350.5 m) above sea level. I was quite out of breath by then but felt so accomplished that I sang to the tunes of Sound of Music.
Along the way, we picked up rubbish left by careless people. One of us had thought to bring a black garbage bag. This person knew that there would be trash up there because he had climbed the hill at least 7 times and sadly, there is always rubbish.
The view from atop was a mix of hills and lowland. I could see the majestic hills disappearing into the blue horizon. The lowland area had a mix of trees, shrubs, oil palm plantations, bare red land, and houses. Not very scenic, in my opinion. But I guess the feeling of being on top of the world sufficed in silencing any other subjective thoughts.
The rest of the afternoon on the second day was spent listening to the MYD members talk about their experiences going to the COP events and asking them other burning questions we had. I liked the afternoon session because it was personal and insightful.
From this session, I gathered that being the ones representing the youth of Malaysia on an international level is no easy task. There are lots of challenges such as having to attend as many plenary sessions as possible, reporting whatever information gathered on the spot, and dealing with unexpected circumstances such as delayed flights or rejected visas. And as Adrian Yeo, a co-founder of Power Shift Malaysia and MYD, said, “sleep is optional during COP”. Sounds intense!
Not The End
My contribution towards the climate change movement has only just begun. I know that I’m firm with my decision to persevere in this endeavour and I hope to work with the rest of the prospective MYD members in preparation for COP23 in Bonn this year. It’s going to be tough, I know, but as long as I have friends around me to hold me accountable, I’m sure I will work it out. I must always remember that this is not a one-man show. To change something so significant requires teamwork.
And I think I’ve found my team.