Asian thinker recently caught up with Sivakumar Packirisamy, the President of the Green Earth Society (GES) in Johor. It tries to go behind the scene to better understand some of the challenges and responsibilities of GES especially when it comes to tackling environmental deprivation and ensuring a sustainable environment that would be conducive for the people of Johor and Malaysia.
Can you tell us more about the origins of Green Earth Society Johore? Why was it started and who was the main architect of this movement? What are its objectives ?
Green Earth Society (GES) initiated just two and half years ago by a group of concerned citizens. It is registered under the Register of Societies with myself as the President of the association. GES works independently acting as a link between the state Government and the people and doing more of a repair work due to some quarters, who have been exploiting natural resources for economic prosperity.
It is funded by individuals who are in business and some who are concerned about environment. GES with all the limitations of people and funds. it however continues to remain active with quarterly activities with the main objective of creating public awareness regarding environmental issues. GES wants to instil the following values through awareness education via talks forums and seminars especially targeting the young school children :
- Respect the power of environment and apply it for the benefits of humankind.
- Place the highest priority on health, safety and environment protection, while using environment products.
- Be sensitive to ethical and social issues regarding the environment.
Green Earth Society Johor has 6 pillars:
- To nurture awareness among members on the preservation & conservation of the environment.
- Sowing a love for the environment among the members of the organization.
- Help nurture a generation which appreciates nature through activities organized for such purpose as well as through the dissemination of information on the importance of preserving natural resources.
- Encourage, enhance and help maintain good environmental management in the national development process.
- Ensure that the uniqueness, diversity and quality of the environment is maintain to secure the well-being, safety and comfort of the present and future generations.
- Generate and spread the information of the environmental stewardship so that it does not become extinct in the near future.
What are some of the milestones of the movement since its origins?
We have managed to establish acknowledgment and support through working together with stakeholders from government agencies such as Iskandar Regional Development Authority, UPEN (Economic Strategic Planning Unit), KEJORA (Central Johor Development Authority), SWCOrp and also working together with NGOs such Global Environment Centre (GEC) and Malaysia Nature Society (MNS).
What has been achieved so far? Have you raised the public consciousness regarding safeguarding the environment? Do you reach out to specific audiences? Students, Corporates, other communities etc.?
So far we have been received positive feedback from our audience which cover a variety of people from different stages of life (students, stakeholders and also communities both urban and village). We do programs such as public forums, workshops example DRH2O and River Ranger, environmental talks in schools.
What are some of the challenges working to achieve your objectives? Has there been resistance from private businessmen or corporates or other institutions or bodies?
Our main challenges are:
- To get cooperation from local community
- Funding for our program
- To get technical expertise from local authorities, NGOs and related parties for our program success.
Has your membership grown over the years? Also do you work with other NGOs and organizations in Malaysia?
Yes indeed it is growing, our family has become bigger over the years. Through partnership programs with such as GEC, MNS and Wetland Malaysia to learn from their experiences.
How do you fund your activities? Do you have patrons or seek funding from the local government or corporates to achieve the Green label or Green environment?
It was initially largely funded by myself. However recently we have been receiving funds from other NGOs and donations from our members. We also received request from companies to do their CSR program such beach clean-up and achieving the 100th tree planting.
Do you work with other organizations outside of Malaysia? Like Greenpeace or other such movements? Or the international media?
We have collaborated with Go Green China on programs in Malaysia. For example one program that we work together with Go Green China is tree planting of 100 sapling of rhu (casuarina) trees in Kampung Sungai Kapal, Taman Bayu Damai, Pengerang, Johor for beautify the environment as well as to protect the area from strong wind and to serves as important component for carbon cycle. Through this program, we also educate the community of Kampung Sungai Kapal, Taman Bayu Damai, Pengerang Johor on their role in the environment. Furthermore, we also received a request from Belmond Eastern &Oriental Express, a luxury train service that provides train journeys in a very exclusive experience in Southeast Asia (Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia and Singapore) for CSR programs such as a beach clean-up in Public Punggai Beach in Pengerang, where we not just clean-up the beach but we also planted 12 rhu saplings in the area which protect the area from beach erosion. Whenever we do our programs, we always convey messages on the importance of protecting the environment to our participants.
Can you share some of the lessons or achievements? How do you measure your success so far?
We are still working towards to achieving our target of halting environmental degradation and to enhance society awareness on the importance of the environment. We started from humble beginnings and limited funds. I would say we did pretty well in our environment endeavours. We managed to do almost 4 activities in 1st year of formation and 6 in our 2nd year and this year 9. We managed to reach out to the environmentally affected areas like rivers that are polluted. Fishermen villages who have lost their incomes or with reduced income owing to development as well as School students to educate and create awareness in environment etc.
What would you like to tell our readers in Asia? Any specific key messages?
- We have to instil the value of the environment at the very young age because the generation that we have today is not capable of appreciating the quality of environment. We can see that waste separation as the burden and all the policies that regulates our environment are seen as merely decorations without the proper weight of thought that goes behind it.
- We have to take responsibility for our action because climate change is real and we are experiencing it today!.
- It is in our hope that Malaysians are able to value our natural resources because it is a gift from God that is uniquely given to Malaysia. You can’t find the same environment in Malaysia as experienced anywhere else. We have been gifted by nature with a unique environment. So join us in our efforts! Let’s join hands and move towards a more sustainable future.