We need our own Greta Thunberg to save the planet
Emeritus Professor Tan Sri Dato' Dzulkifli Abdul Razak
Opinion - New Straits Times
September 27, 2019
BARELY a week after the Fridays for Fortune (3Fs) worldwide strike on Sept 20, the United Nations (UN) panel on climate change then warned that sea levels were rising.
Meanwhile, experts also indicated that the glacier at Mount Blanc was in danger of collapse.
There can be no better reasons to justify why the 3Fs, a global protest by students on global warming and climate change held on Fridays, is so urgent and timely.
We are indeed at the crossroads!
Greta Thunberg, the 16-year- old Swedish activist, outlined this succinctly in her speech at the UN on Sept 23 at the invitation of the secretary-general to launch the UN climate change summit in New York.
In an angry and tearful speech, she allegedly accused world leaders of stealing her childhood with their “empty words”.
She admonished them for claiming that their commitments on emissions reduction were already “adequate responses”.
And that they would be “evil” if they failed to implement the drastic cuts in emissions that are necessary to avoid climate change catastrophe.
“We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth,” she pointedly remarked.
Whereas the science on climate change had been “crystal clear” for more than three decades.
“Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you?” she said, repeatedly using the phrase “how dare you?”.
By comparison, the case on the ground was miserably very contrasting.
Despite the haze enveloping the country for weeks as a stark reminder that we were at the mercy of the “adults” whom Thunberg framed as a “betrayal” for their broken promises, there was virtually no 3Fs action reported.
In fact, I was with a group of local students a day after 3Fs — but disappointedly none could recall the worldwide event when asked what it was all about.
More disappointingly still is that the discourse was intended for “Young Global Leaders”.
And the lacuna cannot be more glaring especially when quizzed about the subject.
Few could say anything meaningful about it and link it with the global agenda of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which in turn is intimately intertwined with the ongoing haze and the larger call of the 3Fs!
Surprisingly, many of them are more familiar with the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) which has been our buzzword ad nauseum.
But not in the context of SDGs, leaving a huge doubt whether we are going to get it right.
For example, is 4IR sustainable?
More so when drafting about the 12th Malaysia Plan which is also themed sans SDGs.
In other words, the entire Malaysian community seems quite contented with what is conceptualised by the leaders and policy-makers as a document for the nation to lead (if not survive) beyond the next five years.
This is crucial as the SDGs are targeted to end in 2030.
Yet for the last five years nothing substantial was crafted in the 11th Malaysia Plan.
And this is likely to be repeated in the subsequent Malaysia plan.
To quote Thunberg: “How dare you pretend that this can be solved with just business as usual and some technical solutions,” ending up with a note that the leaders were “still not mature enough to tell it like it is”.
In summary, when it comes to the crunch about which further threatens the “Blue Planet”, the mindset is an obselete and failing one. Evidently, the Arctic sea ice has melted for the past 41 years ever since satellites started to measure its size.
Still scientists continue to warn on the urgency to prevent a “climate crisis” that has intensified ever since the 2015 Paris accord.
But we are nowhere near to averting the catastrophic global warming.
In fact, the UN secretary-general was spot on when he warned governments before the summit that they would have to offer action plans before they are allowed to speak.
Enough of betrayals. No more empty promises.
It is in this context, that my presence at the inaugural launch of the Unesco Institute of Sustainable Development and Learning (ISDL) at the iconic Leuphana University, Hamburg offers some cautious optimism.
The university through ISDL “sought to develop innovative approaches to establish mutual processes of learning between science and society in order to address fundamental challenges such as climate change, species extinction or social injustices”.
It emphasised that in our globalised world, this applied especially to learning processes between the Global South and the Global North.
According to the ISDL Declaration of Inception, it is acknowledged that “we are living in a time of transformation” and hence business education is irrelevant since it “does not only threaten a number of ‘planetary boundaries’ in the long term” but also “raises the question of inter and intra-generational justice”.
That such a heightened sense of awareness comes from a country where 4IR originated gives comfort to the 3Fs relevancy and global viability.
In fact, we are back at full circle to where Thunberg started!
And it is time to be deeply involved.
For this could our own Greta Thunberg please stand up to provide the leadership forward?
The writer is an advisory board member of ISDL