Are we warming or warning ourselves?

HOT! No, it is not the political situation. It’s the weather, literally.

Since few weeks ago, we have experienced hot weather throughout the country. The heatwave is causing uneasiness towards everyone. Plants are dying due to the heat and dehydration. Fields of green have turned into fields of brown. After shower, we aren’t even sure whether the drips of water are pipe water or it is our sweat. This is how serious the heat is in Malaysia.

According to the Meteorological Department, it’s the El Nino phenomenon that has struck us which was very similar to what has happened in the year 1997-1998. Some has argued that this is caused by the change of the Earth’s climate system or better known as global warming. Either causes of the heatwave that is warming us up, studies have suggested that both El Nino and global warming are linked with each other.

Last Saturday, many were excited over the annual event of switching off the lights for an hour. Earth Hour, which it is. For those who are not aware, it is an event where people switch off non-essential lights for an hour to create an awareness of not wasting power for the sake of preventing global warming. The awareness itself is not only about urging us to turn off non-essential lights when it is not in used. It shows how important and urgent it is for us to show concern for our environment.

Greenhouse gasses, fossil fuel burning, deforestation, tree-cutting and over-development have been the few major causes of global warming. 185 nations have signed the declaration and committed towards the prevention of global warming in the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris last year. Major cities have been taking actionable steps to prevent global warming.

Studies have been made and it is a common fact that developing a city causes global warming. The factories release toxic wastes and greenhouse gases. Forests have to be destroyed to make way for development of industrial areas, residential buildings and high rise towers. The influx of people into a city increases the need of faster transportation which emits more carbon monoxide.

Many developed cities have given us lessons and taught us on the effects of over-development. By taking developed cities as case studies, we should know what we must not do to prevent global warming and destruction of the environment.

Despite the ‘Cleaner, Greener Penang’ slogan, unfortunately, it seems that Penang is not learning from experiences of the others.

Deforestation and vanishing of hills is happening in many places in Penang to make way for developments. It is an obvious scene that anyone can witness brown patches of the earth in many parts of the hills.

Trees with the age of more than a century are being chopped off to widen the road. Some may argue that trees can be planted. But how long do we need to grow a tree in such a size to be an effective carbon sink, to provide shelter and clean air for the people. Furthermore, it is not easy to make sure that young trees survive in the long term in our environment today.

Without a doubt, I believe everyone craves for development in the city that they live in. But we ought to remember that development must be made to give us comfort and a better place to live in. If development causes us the heatwave as we are suffering today, then probably we should think twice on the state’s development planning. Is it for a better place to live in or is it purely for monetary gains?

However, there are proven ways that we can enjoy the luxury of development and at the same time protecting the environment. Sustainable development has been a main agenda in many parts of the world. We must not neglect the environment for the sake of development.

Sustainable development is not only the responsibility of the government or the corporates. It is the responsibility of every single one of us in ensuring it. We can take small steps to protect the environment as urged in the Earth Hour; play a role in community efforts; put pressure and making sure that the government makes the right decision. There are certainly many ways to inspire a better place for us to live in.

Let us ask, are we warming or warning ourselves?

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