The Penang state government has made a commendable move to launch a green citizens initiative.
It launched a one-month registration drive on Saturday to register Penangites who would have to pledge to adhere to 10 green initiatives:
- work to save water,
- conserve electricity,
- support the anti-smoking initiative,
- reduce plastic bag usage,
- stop open burning,
- stop littering,
- work to reduce one’s carbon footprint,
- cut down the use of polystyren
- help create a caring society and
- observe the 3Rs – Reduce, Recycle, Reuse.
This initiative comes on the heels of the criticism over what is going on in the Botanic Garden.
This initiative, however, is not enough. You are not green unless your food is green.
A study of the population in Cardiff, Wales has shown that the biggest impact on the environment comes from the choices we make in the following areas (in this order):
- the food and products we buy
- the energy we use
- our mode of travel
- the infrastructure which surrounds us
- the waste we produce
Most of our food supply comes from far away – a high carbon footprint – so it cannot be considered green.
Just as important as a green citizens initiative, we also need a green government initiative. Many government decisions and policies affect the environment in a big way over the long term. Such a green government initiative would:
- resist the urge to pour concrete and tar and erect concrete structures everywhere (e.g. Botanic Garden) and instead allocate more space for greenery,
- introduce a sustainable agriculture policy that promotes self-sufficiency and food security, encourages people to grow their own food, and facilitates the setting up of community organic gardens,
- introduce more effective and independent procedures for environmental and social impact assessment and traffic dispersal studies for all significant projects,
- stop all land reclamation that results in erosion and sedimentation/siltation,
- promote public transport and create a more conducive setting for pedestrians and cyclists (rather than putting in place infrastructure for highways and ring roads for private motor vehicles),
- ensure that developers abide by density and zoning requirements (especially under the Local Plans) that do not result in Penang becoming a concrete jungle,
- improve the rubbish disposal system (for a start, separate organic waste from non-organic waste),
- penalise all polluters (including large corporations) that discharge their untreated waste into drains, waterways and the sea and foul the air,
- turn Penang into a centre for renewable (especially solar) energy research.
These will have a major impact on efforts to turn Penang into a leading centre for green initiatives and sustainable development in the region.