Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Deal or No Deal...

It’s been a long, very long past two weeks or more. The trip took a lot out of me. Long hours in the save the world conference drained the mind. The mind which was already on slow snail tortoise like speed due to the cold weather. It was very very cold. Temperatures in the capital of Legoland were below zero at times. Had multiple layers of clothing on. Add to that gloves, long johns and a silly hat. Silly it was but good to keep the ears warm. It was snowing too. Well after many years not seeing snow, some of us were so sakai about it. Took pictures in the middle of the night with some of the locals looking amused at our antics. They must be thinking who are these sakai lot.

Saving the world is not easy task. Even when the world agrees we are facing catastrophic future if we continue our lives business as usual. With 192 countries involved, all with differing agendas and priorities, it was very difficult, almost impossible to come to an agreement. So there we were, 192 countries; more than 110 heads of states or governments in attendance from various background, culture, style of government. Hearing them, one by one from small island nations to major powers. Some inspirational, some brought tears to the eyes and some brought disappointment. But as in many things in this world, the strong dictates the weak. Here is no exception. The major powers tried to dictate. Fortunately, we are under the United Nations where one country has one vote. Not so simple for them to steamroll their wishes. In the end, after marathon sessions, they came up with an agreement where only few countries signed up. The rest just took note. Was it a good deal? It seemed to bring all, everyone, to agree to a deal was impossible. Even more so if each country put their self interests first, which is understandable.

But all is not lost. We, the ordinary people can contribute. We can reduce our carbon footprint in our everyday lives. Little by little, here and there, maybe we can help reduce our carbon emission and save the world.

Picture this: on the radio, quiz session, the DJ asking the question, the caller supposes to answer. Then at the start, the DJ asked the caller 'are you ready WITH the question?'. I didn’t know the format is the caller is asking the question. Very creative indeed. Or maybe they want to make it into a hilarious show. Funny indeed. Listening to the supposed to be number one radio station always brought surprises and unearths gems like this.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cold & Expansive......

It’s cold. Legoland is definitely cold. It even snowed as we walked out of the airport’s door. Excited to see the snow, acted like ‘orang sakai’. Well, it’s been years since I had my last encounter with snow. The cold breeze made me regretted not taking my ‘Made in Brunei Darussalam’ baju sajuk. Ah! Baju sajuk. What a contradictory term. Isn’t it suppose to be baju panas? To keep you warm?

Not surprising. We are living in a world full of contradictions. Take this Climate Change Conference we are in now. Almost everyone, every countries represented, agreed the earth is warming, heating up to a disastrous future. Warming due to human’s actions. Yet, a big number especially the major countries, the ones with their agendas and interests, is acting as if it is not so. Some people, especially from the world’s civil society who represents the public, the ordinary people, say we are playing politics with our future, our survival, our existence.

Here we are. Thousands and thousands representing the humanity. Sitting down, discussing, negotiating, trying to save the world from the predicted disastrous future courtesy of our own actions, the global warming. The civil societies from all over the world doing their bits. Lobbying to save the world in their own ways. Singing, demonstrating, dramatising. Some are so moving you can’t help having tears in your eyes. Even more so in seeing their honest convictions.

Pressure is building up here. Time is running out to come up with a meaningful outcome. An outcome that is “Fair, Ambitious, Binding and Comprehensive” that is demanded by ordinary people. As set out eloquently by a few speakers at the opening ceremony last night, “We can negotiate about the climate, but we cannot negotiate with the climate. We cannot ask the climate for more time...” Despite a lot of the pundits are not hopeful of a successful outcome, let’s hope by the end of the week a miracle will happen. After all we must have hope. Without hope, there is no point in being here.

It is so cold. We will do anything to keep warm even having silly hats on! It’s also so expansive here. A packet of mentos which cost not even a dollar back home, caused three times more expansive!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

10 signs .....

Tomorrow, 7 December, the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference will kick off. Brunei, as a party to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol will be among over 190 countries at the table. Each country with their own agenda, concerns, worries, positions, negotiating to achieve an historic agreement which many pundits say the biggest, most historic agreement mankind has ever seen to date. It is definitely a monumental task. Some people dare not think what failure will mean to humankind.

Most, if not all scientists, says it is unequivocal the climate change and the warming of the earth is the direct result of human activities. This is despite the stories going around now about the leaked emails from some scientists purportedly exaggerating the effects of the greenhouse gases and the climate change. We, the so called layman, the non scientist, have to rely on what the scientists say. But there must be some things we have experienced, we heard, we watched, we read that points to effects of climate change. The Straits Times in its 5 December2009 edition listed 10 signs of Climate Change:

  1. Rising Temperatures: average global temperatures forecast to rise by an additional 1.1 to 6.4 deg C this century affecting weather patterns, the environment and human life.
  2. Rising Sea Levels: sea levels up to 15 – 20 cm in the last century. The pace is quickening and by 2100 sea levels may rise by as much as 2 metres threatening coastal communities and low lying islands.
  3. Melting Ice: Glaciers are retreating at unprecedented rates. Together, Antarctica and Greenland has lost 2.5 trillion tonnes of ice since 2002. The meltdown contributes to rising sea level. Loss of Arctic Ice also frees methane – a greenhouse gas – from seas and soils, worsening global warming.
  4. Dying Seas: the seas absorb CO2 emissions but increasing output is turning the waters more acidic, threatening marine life. Warm water also contributes to death of about a quarter of the world’s coral reefs.
  5. Severe storms: the frequency of downpours as well as the power of hurricanes have increased dramatically that “100 year storms” are striking some areas once every 15 years.
  6. Parched Earth: more intense heatwaves in the past 50 years. El Nino weather pattern associated with droughts appearing in shorter intervals.
  7. Smaller Harvests: this year farmers in India, Indonesia and the Philippines are reporting harvest up to 50 percent less than the usual yield due to extreme weather of dry spells punctuated by downpours. It would only take a metre of rise in sea level to cover half of the rice fields in Bangladesh, inundate much of the Mekong Delta, and submerge parts of Asia’s rice growing deltas.
  8. Earlier Springs: Japan’s cheery blossom came five days early this year and a week earlier than the average for the past three decades. Changes in the onset of seasons could lead to animals dying because the food they depend on is no longer appearing at the expected time.
  9. Spread of Diseases: diseases and their carriers are travelling to new pastures because of warmer temperatures.
  10. Endangered Species: the most high profile victim of global warming may yet be the polar bear. The US Geological Survey predicts if the Arctic sea ice keeps melting, two thirds of the 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears would be gone by mid century. Countless other creatures and plants worldwide are under threat.

I am sure we have experienced some of these signs. The unpredictable weather especially and not forgetting the flash flooding it brings. And off course the El-Nino effect we hear year in and year out.

Hope by 18 December2009, the end of the Copenhagen Conference, the world will see an historic agreement to save the earth and eventually humankind....

What can we do? Apparently agriculture and food industry is one of the major contributors of greenhouse gas. Some experts say production of red meat especially is extremely intensive in emitting greenhouse gases. May be it is about time we listen to our doctors and dieticians. Go on a diet. Eat less red meat. Not only we will be healthier, our doctors happier, wallets thicker, we will also be helping to save the earth.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Being Responsible .....

In general, as a country, when it comes to our kids, we are very protective, very responsible. The practice of sending and picking the kids up from schools especially primary and pre-school levels is a good indicator how responsible we are. Most parents will only trust themselves to send and pick up their kids. Obviously safety is the main consideration. Safety when transporting them, safety from them being picked up by unwanted and dangerous strangers with criminal intent.

Often we see some, quite a high number actually, of government staff arriving late to work or goes off from work early especially lunch time. 745am in the morning, car parks at the government office complexes are not even a quarter full. The normal excuse given is sending their kids to school. Despite being late to work can be seen as a form of indiscipline, thankfully being late due to sending the kids are tolerated. In fact, there are some bosses who are so kind and thoughtful, they even go to the extent of telling their staff to leave meetings if they have kids to be picked up from schools.

Now that school holidays are here, it is only fair to expect the scenes at the carparks and arrival time to office to be different. Carpark full by 745am. A high percentage arriving to work on time. Yet, the scenario remains the same, school holidays or not. Carparks still empty, arrival time still beyond the expected time, empty work stations.

Why? May be a number of the staff is on leave. Or maybe the parents are having their well deserved break from waking up early, from their normal day in day out torturing routine stuck in endless traffic jams. May be they are taking in the scenery that would normally be missed in rushing here and there. May be they are enjoying the pleasure of driving smoothly on roads almost with no traffic jams. May be some are busy attending to the kids at home, having breakfast with them at home for a change instead of in cars. May be......

Talking about being responsible, there is an interesting article on Climate Change by REHMAN RASHID titled “2 degrees of separation from disaster” which appeared in the New Straits Times on 29 November 2009. Here are some excerpts from the article:

“....On the two key facts underlying all this, the scientific consensus is in. Firstly, global warming is clear, present and "locked in" (even if all fossil-fuel burning stops today, what's already out there is going to keep raising temperatures for years to come). Secondly, we are to blame. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change holds that post-industrial human activities are "90 per cent likely" responsible for global warming, due both to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from commerce and industry, and the deforestation that has shrunk the planet's "carbon sinks" for soaking up carbon dioxide and turning it into something we can breathe. Before the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, the concentration of GHG in the planet's atmosphere was a stable 280 parts per million, most of it from vulcanism, bio-metabolism and other natural processes. It is now 387ppm..... That would hardly mean a lovely Edenic world for humanity; we might only hope that climatic catastrophes won't get much worse than they are now. But it would still be a tremendous achievement for mankind; greater, indeed, than anything we've ever done. The builders of the Pyramids and Angkor Wat couldn't pre-empt climate change. But that's what this generation of planetary citizens is going to do, or roast, drown or starve trying.... On the baseline of a century ago, our present +0.7 degrees and the +2 degrees we do not wish to reach are on a scale where +6 degrees would extinguish life on Earth as we know it.....”

In short, global warming is real and here to stay and WE , humans, are to be blamed. So, let’s do something about it. Let’s be responsible ......

Dr Rajendra Kumar Pachauri, Chairman of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said “We do not have to go back to living in caves, but we do have to reduce, re-use and recycle.”