Environment & Sustainability

Of SUKE and Lynas : Back to Basics

Of SUKE

It was not until I watched the news coverage by Buletin AWANI that I know about the plan to build a new highway shortnamed SUKE (Sungai Besi – Ulu Kelang Elevated Expressway). It is a plan aimed to reduce the massive traffic nightmare motorists have to face in MRR2 everyday . When we were looking for a house, we had to cross out a few options because  of the traffic problems we might have to face to get to work if we choose to live there – we heard Jalan Ampang is almost a no-go during rush hours, and even an empty parking space at Ampang LRT station would be a rare find on working days. It is just common sense that the authority, upon receiving complaints, will take the step to build another expressway that would reduce the commute time from these areas –Sungai Besi, Alam Damai, Cheras-Kajang, Taman Bukit Permai, Taman Putra, Taman Permai Jaya, Taman Dagang, Taman Kosas, Ampang and Taman Hillview before ending it in Ulu Kelang.

The authority has came out with good stakeholder engagement initiatives, and many turned out to its public briefing sessions. But it was not at all roses – many opposed the idea of building another highway citing potential environmental problems, safety issues, and some even claimed that having SUKE will only increase the traffic in certain areas instead of reducing it.

Of Lynas

I have not been following the issue of Lynas rare earth plant very closely, but I do know the basic arguments for and against it. Rare earth, as some might have known, are elements used in most of our electronic devices (that includes your iPad and mobile phones, flat panel displays); also used in defense and alternative energy industries. It is only recently that we saw thousands came out and protested on the construction of the rare earth processing plant for its radioactivity, and other associated risks, citing the example of Bukit Merah plant in Perak, a similar plant which allegedly cause severe birth defects and leukemia cases in the local community.

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When I ponder about these two issues, I found many similarities that I can’t just ignore.

Both touch the rights of the people for safety – which is basically human rights. Many raise environmental concerns too – and this is definitely applaudable. It shows that at one level, Malaysians do not only care about themselves. For the case of Lynas, think about the money pocketed by the state government and federal government, which some portions of it (the leftover of what’s being given to corrupted individuals if there’s any) will go back to the mass, also the employment opportunities that come with the plan.

Nevertheless, I found it hard not to take this to beyond the environmental and safety concerns.

For both cases, the authorities approved the plans for both, I supposed, because both manifest development. And fundamentally, that is what we have been asking from them – we explicitly mention having the ability to bring physical development as a key criterion for one to be voted to be in the office. We hear this every now and then, especially when the election is nearer. The authorities are only giving us what they thought what we demand of them, hoping that the votes will go to them again next time.

And what we object now, in both cases, are somehow not parallel with what we are currently doing. It is a mixed signal that we sent.

We object another highway built in our backyard – but we never shut up from complaining about bad traffic. While some specifically suggest building better public transport systems instead of a new expressway, many of us (including me) still choose to drive to our destinations, and not even carpooling at that.

We object having a rare earth plant in our homeland, but did it ever cross our mind that essentially without the demand from the mass (all of us consumers, not only Malaysians of course), there will be no need for a supply of rare earth elements? If there is less need for more iPhones, iPads, LCDs, and the likes of it, there is no business case for a whole new processing plant.

I am a culprit myself, no denying to it. My household has two cars we might actually not need, we are thinking of upgrading our CRT to a flat screen TV, and bought a house which space is considered excessive for three occupiers.

But in a world where owning physical items become more than a mean to improve our quality of life, but also to satisfy one’s need to be seen as better than their contemporaries – we tend to be happy with consuming more. Less doesn’t equal more satisfaction. We are constantly upgrading our phones, laptops, cars, houses etc. We are taking more than what we need – and now we are complaining about our rights for safety and better environment being violated.

This is very contradictory from sustainability point of view, and essentially from my view, the root cause of the problem.

Playing safety and environment cards, I guess, can only go so far, but just remember, though as basic as it is,  it is this simple economic law of supply and demand that governs this world.

Only what you need

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Women empowered?

When I was home yesterday evening after a long, tiring (but fairly interesting) day visiting the company’s rubber operations and conducting a briefing, I was exhausted. Absolutely flat. Nothing was left of me.

Then my mind started wondering – is this the only downside of feeling empowered as a woman, or there is a lot more to come?

Let me put it here as a disclaimer: I am married, very contentedly at that, and safely into my 27 weeks of pregnancy.My career path is in a line that I love and purposely chose.

Career-wise, yesterday was a milestone. I have been tagging along with the third-party hired to set up our carbon inventory (in seven countries, covering hundreds of business units – if you’re to get some idea on how huge this is), and this was sort of the first session handed over to me to do it with my internal team. If we are to look at it this way; that I am doing what I am most passionate about, being trusted with such a task to handle, I should have felt very excited – accomplished even, maybe.

It felt that way at first, but then it gets me thinking about the aftermath – I am doing all this, but at the same time I am flat tired – is it worth it?

I could barely open my eyes throughout the 2.5-hour journey back to KL, let alone move my hip freely (It has become so painful after a long day walking in one estate and two factories).

The Partner picked me up at our meeting point, and as I kissed his hand thanking him for braving through the 7pm rush hour in KL, my heart was crying. I am too tired to even say some nice words to him, and I wonder how worse could it be if I have a child begging for my attention at that very point in time.

I don’t choose to have a day job to feel empowered. I have long abandoned that notion. If you want to work, for God’s sake go, and stop bullshitting about women needing to have important outside job to feel empowered. I feel just as powerful in my home (I know this could sound VERY wrong indeed! =P), and should I leave the company and become a stay-at-home wife and mother, there are plenty of other channels through which I could make myself useful for a circle larger than my family.

I read news on a research conducted in several developed and emerging nations on their women – and the headline of the news on this says ‘Nielsen: Women empowered yet stressed’.

It could not be any truer than that, I thought, even without reading the whole news.

Here is an excerpt of its media press:

‘Nearly 80 percent of women in developed economies indicated they believe the role of women will change and of those, 90 percent believe it will change for the better. While female respondents say they are pressured for time and feel stressed and overworked, women in emerging countries indicated they feel the pressure even more so than women in developed countries. Women across the world are managing multiple roles, but a contributing factor in the higher stress levels reported by women in emerging markets is that there is little spare cash remaining after the basic essentials to spend on themselves or take vacations.

Among female respondents in emerging markets, women in India (87%), Mexico (74%) and Russia (69%) said they were most stressed/pressured for time; while among developed countries, women expressed feeling this pressure most in Spain (66%), France (65%) and Italy (64%).’

Women empowerment has been in the agenda for quite some times. I don’t disregard it as pointless. As fortunate that I am living in Malaysia to be able to figure out by looking around me on what are the roles of women in the society and having the freedom to choose, there are many of my sisters who are deprived of this choice, due to the cultural tradition which degrades women – think about genital mutilation, honour killing and such.

However, looking at commonly used dimensions of women empowerment in broader arenas, I feel sick looking at things such as ‘Women’s representation in high-paying jobs’, ‘Women CEO’s’ etc. If this is what defines empowerment at its highest level (above household and community), I guess somehow this points towards the wrong direction.

It could simply means that the absence of such in a nation means that the women of the nation are not yet empowered. That’s why the government comes up with regulation to have x% of women on board of directors for examples.

It looks fine in a micro way. But from a bird-eye view of the whole system, I suppose this creates imbalances. Look at it first in a household, than imagines these households turning into communities then nations, then multiply all the problems due to imbalance of roles in a household to the scale of a nation – you’ll see potential magnified numbers of child-abuse and neglect, stress-related diseases, increased healthcare cost…and so the list goes.

At one level, it is all about having choices.

And at another level is what choices do you actually make.

I think, if I have a choice, I would like to homeschool my child.

If I have the choice.

I am no powerpuff girl!

Word-less Friday : Common Sense

I just choose to ignore it!

I think it’s either you don’t have common sense, or like Calvin, you choose to ignore it.

I’ve learned recently that some people just lack common sense in working life.

You know, simple things like you shall not bypass the chain of command, always refer to your superior first (even if you are given the independence to figure it out on your own – well, unless the organisation you are working for operates on a more liberal basis. And sometimes lacking this kind of common sense costs you your job. I believe it is more about respecting them and for the fact that our superiors are accountable for most of the things that we do.Perhaps what we termed as ‘common’ (i.e. derived from common experience) is not common at all. So maybe we should not judge that much?

And by the way, my partner said I DO lack common sense too. But I guess my answer is like Calvin’s : I have plenty, I’m just too lazy to use them!

The Unproductive You

I am in my office – the ultranice, post-modern office which might turns others into green-eyed monsters.

I have a nice cup of hot tea on my desk, that most often will get me working.

And most importantly, I have a seemingly endless to-do list which I am yet to find the courage to make even the first step towards doing it – 3 deck of presentation slides, one board memo, a lengthy paper and presentation slides to accompany it.

Maybe I should turn on to the ’15-minute rule mode’, i.e. divide my hours into 15-minute blocks, and focus on doing works to fill in each of the block – somehow tricking the mind into thinking that 1 hour is nothing but 4 blocks of period (which is shorter and more relaxing).

The point is I don’t know if it’s going to work.

Probably I should take a break, perform 2 raka’ah of Dhuha and things might get better?

After all, emotional downtime can be caused by low iman.

'Tis

http://productivity-gettingmoredone.blogspot.com/2008/07/productivty-15-minute-rule.html

Racist?

One of the managers in the office was rather a low-key person, pretty easy to be stressed up. But one day he, a Chinese guy, actually got the chance to get out of his room, and walked in front of me to and fro. I suspect he was a bit tense, then he asked me a question:

‘Afni, what do you think about Ms P?’

For your information, Ms P was a rep from a foreigin consultancy company who has been to our office a few times pitching for business partnership. Well, a strange business model I supposed, and didn’t really make sense to us. I joined one of the many meetings, and developed some sort of inklings or first impressions about her and the team she was bringing.

So my skeptical, uncontrolled mouth answered the question:

‘I don’t know, I don’t like (the company name) people anyway.’
‘Really?’
‘Yeah.

Well, of course my boss won’t ask for further justification. We girls have this illogical, but most of the times, correct first thought about things. Or so I think.

‘Why? Why are you asking?’
‘She is very pushy about the partnership. Pretty annoying you know…bla..bla. Anyway, what is she?’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Her surname is peculiar. She’s not British for sure?’
‘She’s a Jew.’

I admit I am a bit of a stalker. Her profile was in Linkedin and I checked her background and it was there – she graduated from a university in Israel then pursued a prestigious MBA course somewhere else. What’s the chance that she’s not a Jew?

But the response of my colleague was the funny bit.

‘Ah, really? No wonder. No wonder she’s like that.’‘

Then he continues babbling about how the Zionists treated the Palestinians and all the lopsided peace treaties and agreements and related it to the attitude of the person we were discussing about. And this lasted for a good five minutes.

I reckon everyone is just racist at some point.

Sitting Kills

Sitting is Killing You
Via: Medical Billing And Coding

I don’t normally do this, you know, copy and paste, but I figured out that this is quite important.

I am on the edge of being unhealthily overweight. My BMI is normal, all right, but my body fat percentage is NOT good. It exceeds the healthy level by 1-2% and that means losing 6kgs, if none is converted into muscle. Not an easy feat I’d say.

You see, I maintain a healthy weight of maximum 50kgs during my students years despite me having 4 meals of rice per day , but that won’t work here. Take nasi lemak into account (the one right down the stairs at Sultan Ismail LRT Station is my favourite, my desk job, and my lack of exercise – I gain weight through fat buildups almost in a blink of the eye.

That’s the reality, anyway. I walked to school back then in the UK, now I rarely do such.

You see, it’s a struggle to be healthy. It is a choice we have to make.

 

Of Daylight Savings

Oh yeah.

Above all, I am sorry for the long hiatus.

I had a good laugh reading the above FB conversation. I got that from Failbook website, which is my favourite to release office tension and boredom (lucky it is not blocked, yet!).

In case you are not familiar with the term ‘daylight savings’, you can check it here. Though you can take this as a joke – well, converting to daylight savings mode doesn’t literally and directly means you are melting the icebergs, but if you refer to this campaign by Climate Action, you might see the relationship, albeit indirect:

http://www.sustdev.org/news/daylight_saving_could_reduce_co2_emissions/

Daylight saving could reduce CO2 emissions

A legislative move on Friday (3rd December 2010) could lead to the UK’s clocks being shifted forward in a move to make evenings lighter while reducing CO2 emissions.

An important parliamentary hurdle was passed, which could lead to a three year trial movement of UK clocks forward by one hour-in which time the impact of the change would be evaluated.

The private members bill championed by Conservative MP Rebecca Harris cleared its second reading by 92 votes to 10, and will now proceed to committee stage. The Lighter Later Campaign Manager Daniel Vockins said: “Britain may be blanketed in snow today, but the nation is one step closer to having more sunshine in our lives. This bill is proof that you can tackle climate change whilst making society better and happier.

If passed, the bill would require the government to perform a cross-departmental analysis into the potential costs and benefits of moving the clocks forward. Campaigners believe it would lead to a reduction in energy use and CO2 emissions, cut road deaths, and boost tourism.

Caroline Lucas, the Green Party leader and MP for Brighton Pavilion, said: “The problems of climate change and fuel poverty mean that the arguments for bringing the nation’s clocks into closer alignment with the hours of daylight are stronger than ever. Moving our clocks forward by an hour would bring a range of benefits.”

She added: “I would like to draw particular attention, again, to the substantial reductions in energy consumption and carbon emissions that would result from the simple and effective measures in the bill.

The coalition behind the bill still has some parties to convince, including the Scottish Government, which has been hostile towards the proposal. Dr Eilidh Whiteford, Scottish Nationalist MP for Banff and Buchan, said regarding data on the potential impact of the change: “It is speculative, and is not based on empirical data. It does not take into account other relevant attendant factors that can influence this process, such as the weather.”

Whiteford also said that her constituents were “worried about the impact of the proposals on their quality of life.” She said that people are worried that the measure could compromise their safety.

The move has been supported by many people and organisations throughout the country. In a speech, Harris told MPs: “The fact that daylight saving has been championed by people all over the country and across the political spectrum suggests that it is not a party political issue.” She said that more than 300 organisations have backed the bill as part of the Lighter Later coalition, with advocates including the Beer and Pub Association, Greenpeace, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, the AA, Parentline Plus and the Football Association.

With high majority support thus far, the passing of the bill appears likely, although further investigation into the impacts of the changes and other factors may be required to convince some Scottish MPs. It is anticipated that further evaluation now, as well as over the potential three year plan, could provide figures which are optimistic both in the fight for climate change and for society.

Author: Marianna Keen | Climate Action

In case you can’t see how this directly impacts the iceberg, I’d give you this simplified relationship: Daylight savings –> Reduce energy consumption e.g. lighting –> Reduce coal consumption (if it’s coal based)–> Reduce carbon emissions –> Less global warming potential –> Ice won’t melt easily. OK, you skeptics out there can laugh at this oversimplified, debatable correlations, but that’s the direction.

I have not updated myself with the latest verdict, but I’m pretty happy with the justification given, that this move will not only tackle climate change somehow, but also makes people happier.

I think that’s the essence of sustainability – increase quality of life by taking care of the environment among others. I must tell you, that though many have pretty much labelled me as an environmentalist, I am now a happily retired environmentalist. I have converted to be a proponent and advocate of sustainability, which is more holistic (relative to environmentalism, I have to stress) in approach.

You see, my point is, this person whose name and profile pic are safely concealed in green paint may be silly, but the relation is there.

Whatever you do, you might as well wonder whether it is giving a positive net change to the environment, or not. In case you don’t care, you have no right to complain about the heat.

With that, I thank you! =D